Review: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

everyheartadoorwayEvery Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: Wayward Children

Date Published: April 5th, 2016

Publisher: Tor

Pages: 173 pages

Source: Purchased

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children; No Solicitations, No Visitors, No Quests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else. 

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter. 

No matter the cost.

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This is a spoiler-free review.

I loved this novel even more than I thought I would. It feels like a modern fairytale, complete with a dark and gritty subplot that lingers in the background. It is a weird and unusual story—the perfect amount of weird and unusual in my opinion. It involves the types of worlds that we all grew up reading and daydreaming about, but the book centers around the aftermath of being in those places. It deals with the harsh contrast between reality and fantasy, and how difficult it can be to immerge from that perfectly constructed fantasy back into a rather unaccepting reality.

The concept for this novel drew me in immediately, as it is by far the most unique take on fantasy and alternate worlds that I have ever heard of. Reading it felt like reading a fairytale retelling—even though it’s not—and it took me back to my childhood love of fantasy worlds in literature. The atmosphere and tone is a perfectly executed mix of eerie haunting, and whimsical whit and humor. In other words, this novel was totally written for me.

In this novel, we follow a young girl named Nancy during her first days at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. It is a special school that works to help reintroduce children who have visited fantastical worlds back into the real one. Nancy has a tough time adjusting to her new life, constantly believing she will once again find the door to her beloved world—the world where she felt that she finally fit in.

It is tough at first, but she realizes that the other students share many of her feelings, the only difference dividing them being their specific experiences and worlds. However, very soon after joining the school, a gruesome mystery begins to unfold—a darkness that has never fallen over this safe shelter. There is someone right under their noses with a malicious and twisted mind, carrying out horrifying acts, and Nancy and her friends are targeted as suspects by the other students. The group will have to work together to unravel this cryptic case before things get worse.

In a way, this novel feels sort of like a broken fairytale. It feels as if it is trying to subtly portray that transition in all of our lives as we grow into young adulthood. We always remain enchanted by inventive and mystical stories, but our world view is much less sugar coated. We can’t get quite as lost in fantasy, and at first, all we want to do is run back to that period of time where we could. Yet, however bleak it seems, we do come to terms with it, and find new life in those fantastical worlds.

I really liked the characters McGuire created for her story. Jane had a solidly depicted personality right from the start, and she slowly evolved throughout the course of the novel, which is no simple task in a story this size. All of the personalities of the side characters were very well defined as well. They each reflected the world, the home, from which they had been pulled. It was a subtle detail that truly fleshed out the plot and made the story more tangible for the mind of the reader.

There was also some great diversity in this novel. For example, the main character, Jane, is asexual, and one of her friends is transgender. The characters all come from different backgrounds and heritages, all joined together by a common experience. This also added further dimension and complexity into the characters and their parts in the plot as a whole.

McGuire’s writing style was very easy to read and flowed incredibly well throughout the entire narrative. Her words are deceptively simple. It was amazing how she managed to pack so much depth and feeling into such a small amount of pages. She delves into some important themes, like human behavior and how society deals with people they label as outsiders.

When writing a story that has a shorter than average number of pages, it is incredibly easy for characters to come across as bland and one-dimensional, and for the narrative itself to feel quite rushed and overloaded. At no point was this the case in McGuire’s story, which is a testament to her great writing talent. The novel is a short and fast-paced read that leaves you partially satisfied, but also extremely eager to spend more time in the world that she has created.

McGuire has produced a quirky, unique, and engrossing little story that is surprisingly captivating. It will come as no surprise that I highly recommend giving this novel a try. I don’t see how I will be able to stand the wait for the sequel, even though its release date is only a few months away.

5.0 TARDISes

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Review: A Chosen War by Carly Eldridge

achosenwarA Chosen War by Carly Eldridge

My Rating: 2/5 TARDISes

Series: A Chosen War Series

Date Published: April 25th, 2017

Publisher: REUTS Publications

Pages: 500 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Author’s Website | Publisher’s Website

Synopsis: Nineteen-year-old Maia has spent her life haunted by dreams of a man with uniquely brilliant blue eyes. She never expected she’d actually come face-to-face with him, or that he’d be the harbinger of a chaotic new life. But as shocking as meeting Blake is, it’s less unsettling than her sudden ability to adversely affect electronics and seemingly control—even heal—plants.  

Before she can figure out what’s happening, Blake’s cryptic warning about the impending approach of something big manifests as a freak earthquake, destroying Maia’s home and killing her parents. Devastated, Maia has no choice but to turn to Blake, where she learns that the earthquake was not as natural as it seemed. The reigning Terra guardian, or Mother Earth, has gone rogue, wiping out her replacements in a series of orchestrated natural disasters around the world—and Maia is next.

Worse, she’s the only one who can stop the Terra guardian from destroying not just Earth, but the fabric of the universe itself. Now, thrust into a world of celestial beings charged with the protection of the universe, Maia must come to terms with her new powers, and the idea that her destiny was shaped long ago. And she must do it all before she faces off with the woman who controls nature itself.

Intelligent and thought-provoking, A Chosen War takes the idea that everything is connected and wraps it in globe-spanning adventure with just a tinge of romance.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

Sadly, I have to admit that I did not end up enjoying this novel as much as I thought I would. I tried so hard to get into this story—to connect with the characters—but I had absolutely no luck. This was quite a struggle to get through, and there were many times where I wished to put it down. There was very little that motivated me to keep coming back to this story—to this world—and continue on, because it felt like a battle I was losing. The more I pushed through it, the more confusing it became, and the less rewarding it was to my attempts to carry on.

The pacing is incredibly slow, not helped by the extremely confusing plotline and under-explained elements, which are the key to the understanding that the reader desperately needs. In a story like this that is so character driven and centered around such fantastical beings and powers, the pace becomes bogged down when the reader cannot mentally connect with any aspect of the narrative.

There were so many instances of info-dumping in this novel, and yet I felt that they did not make anything clearer, at least not anything of importance to what was transpiring in the plot. This slowed down what could have been a fast paced story immensely. I had to go back and review parts over and over again because I felt that I was missing the main point the author was attempting to convey.  But in my frustration, I eventually reached a point where I just had to push on through these moments and give up any hope of trying to truly understand what was happening.

This is a third person narrative that follows a young woman named Maia as she attempts to navigate a whole new way of life, as well as come to terms with who she is. After a morning of inexplicable events—some of which include the sudden healing of dying plants and explosions of electronic devices—the day turns worse as Maia loses her family to an earthquake that seemingly comes out of nowhere.

Maia is thrust into a world that has been existing silently among humans for years, intervening in many aspects of the life—even the planet—she thought she new. There is a whole other life that has been waiting for her, lingering in the depths of her thoughts as she grew up. In a world of celestial beings that guard Earth with their unique powers, Maia has to come to terms with her own power, while simultaneous taking on the role of being the strongest and only one of her newfound group of friends that can stop the destruction of the universe caused by the reigning Terra guardian.

I wanted so badly to love this novel. I thought the synopsis sounded very intriguing—I am totally a sucker for any story that involves a unique magic or power system. However, this may have just been me, but I found it impossible to understand what was going on from one page to the next. As I said, even the information dumps that regularly occurred throughout the story served only to make things more confusing for me.

This novel was also sort of hovering slightly toward the heavy side of the romance spectrum. Though I am not the biggest romance fan in the world, I do enjoy a little bit of it on the side in a story. I am usually very tolerant of it, and I absolutely do not mind reading a bit of it. I have no problem when it begins to become particularly intense, or even very graphic. However, this novel not only made the romances feel really uncomfortable to read about, it also took up a huge part of the beginning and middle of the story.

Romance took center stage instead of an explanation of just what on earth was happening and how we had gotten to this point. While still confused about the plot, I had to sit there and read page after page of people hanging onto and pawing all over each other. Aspects of it could have been sweet if only they had taken the chance to answer some questions first. Maia sometimes seemed equally as confused as I was, but somehow fell into her new role with ease. She seemed to know exactly what to do, even as she groused at everyone about not giving her any helpful answers. I definitely connected with her on the latter.

The characters were actually one of the best parts of this story, in my opinion. They were interesting and engaging, and they helped to drive the narrative forward a bit better. Eldridge’s characterization was very three-dimensional, and she really brought the characters to life. They all had a unique personality that was clearly defined right from the start. I did end up feeling moderately invested in some of them, and one of the only reasons I continued on with this story was my urge to see what their fates would be in the end.

Another one of the high points in this novel was Eldridge’s writing. She very clearly has a wonderful talent for stringing words together and painting detailed mental pictures for her readers. Her descriptions and the language she used were beautiful, and her words flowed well despite the slow pace of the novel. She has a very lyrical style of writing, which suited the atmosphere and setting of the story quite well.

The only complaint that I had about the writing style and the text itself was something that I have been mentioning all throughout this review. Info dumps. Very long, very confusing info dumps. Despite this, the writing was still very engaging, which only added to my conflicting feelings about the novel as a whole.

As always, I enjoyed the reading experience even though this turned out to be a book that was not really my cup of tea. Though these opinions are my own and clearly may not reflect the general feelings of other readers, I personally cannot recommend this novel. However, this is only based on my experience with the novel, so yours may be very different. I would definitely encourage anyone who thinks the synopsis sounds interesting to give it a try. For me, at this point, I do not think I will be picking up any of the upcoming books in this series.

2.0 TARDISes

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Review: Bitter Roots by C.J. Carmichael

bitterrootsBitter Roots by C.J. Carmichael

My Rating: 1.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Bitter Root Mysteries

Date Published: April 25th, 2017

Publisher: Tule Publishing

Pages: 174 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: Dispatcher Zak Waller prefers working behind the scenes in the Sheriff’s Office of Lost Trail, Montana, but when a newcomer to the sparely populated town is brutally murdered—and the Sheriff is quick to pin the death on an unknown outsider—Zak starts his own private sleuthing.

On the surface Lost Trail is a picture-perfect western town, offering a simple way of life revolving around the local ranches and ski hill, but Zak knows the truth behind the façade. When his old school friend Tiff Masterson, whose family owns a local Christmas tree farm, moves back to town, the two of them join forces to get to the truth about the murder.

Bitter Roots is the first of four Bitter Root Mysteries.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

This is my first experience with C.J. Carmichael’s work, and sadly, I really did not enjoy Bitter Roots at all. You could potentially say that it left a “bitter” taste in my mouth. The synopsis sounded fantastic when I first found this novel—and it was an extremely quick read—but the plot was rather poorly executed. There was no aspect of this novel that was particularly memorable or that made me feel motivated to continue reading. Thankfully, this is a short novel, so I did manage to make it to the end, but there was really no payoff for my efforts once I got there.

First of all, I will admit that I had the wrong impression of this novel from the very start. I believed it to be a mystery/thriller novel, however I did not realize that the author is known primarily for writing romantic suspense novels until I looked it up on Goodreads. At this point, I had already agreed to read and review it, so I decided to give it a fair chance. And I did in fact go into this novel with no bias, lowered expectations, or belief that I would end up disliking it. The overall idea sounded intriguing, so I was still eager to give it a try.

This novel is a third person narrative that predominately follows the lives of three characters—Tiff, Zak, and Justin—as they navigate their experiences and relationships in the small town of Lost Trail following the murder of a young woman. Tiff, an accountant, has just made the difficult choice of moving back to her family’s ranch after her life in Seattle falls apart. Zak is the dispatcher at the local sheriff’s office who seems content with his life behind the desk, but uses his talents to inspect the murder case on his own time. Justin is a lawyer who is settling down with his wife and her daughter, though there are many unresolved issues floating around behind the scenes of this seemingly perfect marriage.

Tiff is still struggling to find closure after the deaths of her father and brother years ago, and to come to terms with her mother’s mental health, which seems to be spiraling even more out of control than it was the last time they were together. Tiff becomes involved in the search to find the killer, as the murdered young woman had been under her family’s employment, working on their Christmas tree farm.

Zak, with his inquisitive mind, cannot help but work on the case of the murdered woman, even though it is really not his place to do so. On top of this, he is rekindling a friendship with Tiff and dealing with his confusing feelings toward the new deputy at the station. And lastly, Justin’s storyline mostly focuses on his home life with his family, leaving him less involved in the crime solving area of the novel.

Sadly, the murder mystery aspect of the story took a backseat to the troubles, fractured relationships, and sometimes perverted musings of the main characters. Now don’t get me wrong, I always enjoy some family drama in novels, but I hated the fact that everything overshadowed a murder and the obviously shoddy detective work surrounding the case.

The plot was exceedingly slow and repetitive as well. The main characters spent most of their time being suspicious of one person and never even considering anyone else. Tiff and Justin also met up every few chapters and basically recapped, in great detail, everything that had just been read. It felt like we were never getting anywhere, until the last three chapters when Carmichael slammed down on the accelerator and plowed into the conclusion.

Comparatively, the plot wrapped up uncannily quickly and was far too rushed.  The big twist was not very impressive—it was a surprise, but that was not enough to salvage the rest of the plot. It seemed very out of the blue, as the reader only gets to hear the most important information in these last few chapters. So while it is unexpected, it is unexpected due to lack of any information in prior points of the novel.

The characters and their personalities really fell flat for me. They were incredibly one dimensional throughout the entire narrative, and I found it hard to connect with almost all of them. I spent a lot of the novel feeling quite fed up with them and their choices. The only character I felt at all invested in was Justin. He was the most genuinely kind human being, and his relationship with his family really pulled me in.

Another positive factor of the characterization was the relationship between Tiff and Zak. Prior to even knowing there would be elements of romance to this novel (if you can even call them that), I assumed that this friendship between them would probably end up turning into something more. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that they maintained a strong companionship throughout the narrative without falling for each other. This is honestly something that I personally see becoming much rarer in novels these days, so I commend Carmichael for making this choice.

One of the other positives about this novel was the writing. I didn’t have any real complaints about the style itself. I thought that Carmichael was a strong writer, and her experience and talent still shine through. This was one of the only things that pushed me to finish off the book. Her words flowed very well and this is what carried me so quickly through the narrative. Her descriptions, for the most part, were very detailed, but I wish there had been a bit more of them, and that she had gone about them differently.

There was a big downside to the descriptions, in my opinion. This was the aspect of the novel that left me feeling a bit offended. The only characters who really got any sort of detailed description were all the young and implausibly attractive ones. These people were mostly women, and everyone was “tall and slender” with unrealistically perfect appearances. This is another part of the novel that overshadowed not only the severity of the situation, but also the intelligence and capability of the females in this narrative. Overall, I was taken aback at this and quite unimpressed and annoyed.

I thought this might possibly be due to the fact that I am unaware of the common conventions of romance novels, but that is still something I’m unsure of. It doesn’t really excuse the moments of sexism and perverted thoughts that really angered me. For example, most of the men in this novel—especially Zak—were extremely focused on and judgmental of the appearances of women, and way too focused on leering at them.

Unfortunately, I would not recommend this novel or series. It was not at all what I was expecting given the promising synopsis. The story is very repetitive and lacks depth, and it is even mildly offensive at times—at least it was for me. Despite the writing itself being relatively good, there was nothing, in my opinion, redeeming about this novel, nor was there anything worth reading plot-wise. I would definitely be willing to try another one of Carmichael’s novels, but I don’t think I will be continuing on with this particular series.

1.5 TARDISes

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Review: The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco

thegirlfromthewellThe Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco

My Rating: 3/5 TARDISes

Series: The Girl from the Well

Date Published: August 5th, 2014

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Pages: 304 pages

Source: Purchased

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: You may think me biased, being murdered myself. But my state of being has nothing to do with the curiosity toward my own species, if we can be called such. We do not go gentle, as your poet encourages, into that good night.

A dead girl walks the streets.

She hunts murderers. Child killers, much like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years ago.

And when a strange boy bearing stranger tattoos moves into the neighborhood so, she discovers, does something else. And soon both will be drawn into the world of eerie doll rituals and dark Shinto exorcisms that will take them from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Aomori, Japan.

Because the boy has a terrifying secret – one that would just kill to get out.

The Girl from the Well is A YA Horror novel pitched as “Dexter” meets “The Grudge”, based on a well-loved Japanese ghost story.

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This is a spoiler-free review.

I am finding that giving voice to my thoughts about this novel is a far trickier task than I was expecting. I liked many aspects of the novel and had a pretty good time with it. However, I never got caught up in the plot the way I hoped I would. It took me forever to get through this novel because I was not overly motivated to keep coming back to read it, despite wanting to know the fate of the characters. At the heart of my struggles with the story were both the writing style and the fact that I was not at all scared while reading.

However, just because I personally didn’t find it scary doesn’t mean that it isn’t, or that others won’t. This may be exactly the creepy book you are looking for. There are some fantastic scenes with Okiku exacting her revenge on those who deserve it—parts that are very eerie and pretty gorey. Those were some of the best chapters to read as they were action-packed and fast-paced, while the rest of the novel went at a much slower pace.

I have to admit that I was a little disappointed at not being too scared while reading. I don’t scare very easily at all, but I had heard plenty about how terrifying this book was. And I completely agree that it was much different than a lot of American “horror” or “thriller” novels—it was a very different sort of narrative. But unfortunately it still didn’t creep me out.

I absolutely do not want to focus completely on negatives either, because there was plenty to love about this book, and I really did enjoy it overall. It reads exactly like watching a horror movie—and not just any sort of horror movie, but the kind that I really love. Honestly, that was my favorite aspect of the whole thing. It reminded me of the scary movies I have watched with my family and friends over the years

In this novel, we follow the main characters—cousins Tark and Callie—through the eyes of Okiku, a ghost that has taken an odd interest in Tark. Okiku is a l300-year-old spirit, unable to leave Earth and determined to take revenge on those who murder innocent children. She moves around the world freely and frequently.

However, when she witnesses a malevolent spirt that appears to be part of Tark, related somehow to the strange tattoos that are scrawled all over his body, she remains. Though she has never taken enough of an interest to stick around any particular human for very long, there is something unusual about him, and that keeps her attention.

Okiku is a unique character, and makes an interesting narrator for the novel. The main thing I noted about her was how she referred to the people she was around. She counts everyone and everything she comes across in her environment, and always distances herself from the living by referring to them by something like a job title or a distinguishing physical feature. The only people she regularly refers to by their names are Tark and Callie. I thought this added a lot to the story, showing the importance of her connection to them.

I liked Tark and Callie, but will admit that they are very one-dimensional characters. In fact, pretty much everyone but Okiku is. There is not a lot development in their personalities, even after some of the painful and traumatic experiences they go through. It was highly unbelievable that they would not have been changed or affected more than they were. And though I liked Okiku, I also felt that she didn’t do nearly enough. She mainly just watched things happen—I was expecting her to intervene more than she did. This is part of what took away from the creepiness of the narrative.

I have always found Japanese folklore—in fact, folklore from any culture—extremely fascinating to study. That made it even more exciting when I found out that I already knew a lot about the story this novel is based off of, and the terms that are used frequently throughout it. Even if you don’t have previous knowledge of these things, they are addressed well enough throughout the story that readers will not be at all confused or be left feeling like they lack important information. I really liked the inclusion of Japanese culture into the plot—it added a lot to the atmosphere.

The plot progressed rather slow in my opinion, particularly toward the middle of the novel. I think this was due in part to the writing style, not just the overall plotline. It’s a bit difficult for me to pinpoint my feelings about Chupeco’s writing and narration style. On the one hand, it was very unique, but on the other hand, I felt that it did not flow well and was sometimes hard to follow. I believe that the choppiness of her writing style was suppose to add to the tone of the novel, but it was just challenging and sometimes tiring to get through. For me, it didn’t add anything to the story, it just pulled me further away from it.

The narrative style is different from anything I’ve read before, however—it is first person omniscient, which is a point of view rarely seen in novels. Okiku tells the reader what she observes, but she also has insight into people’s thoughts to a certain degree. This goes to the point where the narration takes on a third person omniscient feel, then pulls the reader back into Okiku’s point of view. There may have been some limits, making it first person limited omniscient, but I couldn’t quite tell. So while it was not my cup of tea, I do commend Chupeco for utilizing this unusual style.

Overall, this novel did not quite live up to the hype for me, but I still found it to be an enjoyable read. It was one of those novels that was simply good—not bad, not mind-blowingly wonderful, but good. I would definitely recommend giving it a go, and I’ve already picked up a copy of the sequel, so I do plan to continue on sometime soon.

3.0 TARDISes

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Review: The Wingsnatchers by Sarah Jean Horwitz

thewingsnatchersThe Wingsnatchers by Sarah Jean Horwitz

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: Carmer and Grit

Date Published: April 25th, 2017

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Pages: 368 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: A stunning debut about a magician’s apprentice and a one-winged princess who must vanquish the mechanical monsters that stalk the streets and threaten the faerie kingdom.

Aspiring inventor and magician’s apprentice Felix Carmer III would rather be tinkering with his latest experiments than sawing girls in half on stage, but with Antoine the Amazifier’s show a tomato’s throw away from going under, Carmer is determined to win the cash prize in the biggest magic competition in Skemantis. When fate throws Carmer across the path of fiery, flightless faerie princess Grit (do not call her Grettifrida), they strike a deal. If Carmer will help Grit investigate a string of faerie disappearances, she’ll use her very real magic to give his mechanical illusions a much-needed boost against the competition. But Carmer and Grit soon discover they’re not the only duo trying to pair magic with machine – and the combination can be deadly. 

In this story perfect for readers of the Lockwood & Co and Wildwood series, Sarah Jean Horwitz takes readers on a thrilling journey through a magical wooded fairyland and steampunk streets where terrifying automata cats lurk in the shadows and a mad scientist’s newest mechanical invention might be more menace than miracle.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

I just finished this novel, so I’m still having a bit of trouble settling my thoughts down so I can put them into actual words. Over the years, it has become much rarer for me to give out a full five-star rating to a book, but I absolutely adored this novel. After only the first chapter—maybe even the first few pages—I was already completely hooked and in love with everything about it. It is one of those books that is written for a younger audience, but ends up transcending those limits, creating a magical tale that can be enjoyed by anyone.

This is truly a heart-pounding book. Horwitz quickly makes her readers fall in love with her characters from the very start, causing us to feel a huge range of emotions through all the trials and successes, funny moments and those that break our hearts. I laughed so hard. I deeply felt the moments of fear, pain, and sadness. And I have to admit, I even shed some tears, primarily at the nostalgic feelings this novel evoked for me. I tore through these pages, finding it so hard to put down. I just had to know the fates of these characters I had come to love so much.

Full of mystery, magic, industry and mechanical science, from start to finish it is a compelling tale full of captivating steampunk goodness. It has been a long time since I have been so drawn into a novel. It threw me back to my childhood, to all the years I spent dreaming up fairytales and magical worlds. To all the years of constantly hoping to reach a point where I am able to spend the rest of my days bringing these stories to life for others on paper and in their minds, the same way they came to life for me—the same way they have given me life all these years. This particular tale is most definitely going to stick with me for a long time.

In this novel, we follow the adventures of a young boy named Felix Cassius Tiberius Carmer III (Carmer for short) and a one-winged fairy princess of the Seelie realm named Grettifrida (but always call her Grit). Carmer, a magician’s apprentice and aspiring inventor, and Grit, a sassy, flightless fire fairy, are thrown together as a chance meeting evolves into a race to save the entire fae realm—as well as themselves and the city of Skemantis—from a mad scientist.

When fairies begin to go missing, captured by an unknown evil they have named “The Wingsnatchers”, it is up to Carmer and Grit to get to the bottom of the mysterious disappearances. And what is the connection of these odd events to the unexplainable ones simultaneously occurring in the human world? Mixing science with fantasy, real magic with the closest replications that humans can accomplish, this is an enchanting and fast-paced modern fairytale that will leave readers on the edge of their seats, wanting more.

The depiction of the characters—both the main and the side ones—was one of the standout points of the book for me. Every single one of her characters are fleshed out quite well, and even the most minor of characters are memorable. Carmer and Grit have such a lovely friendship, even though they are each struggling through plenty of their own troubles.

Carmer is attempting to take control of his future and leave behind his past as an orphan, and Grit is trying to make others understand that her disability does not define her—that she is as strong and capable as anyone else, despite what people may think. Though they have some extreme—and understandable—differences and find themselves at odds occasionally, once they learn to trust one another, they end up making a brilliant duo.

This is Horwitz’s first novel, but it reads as if she has been writing for decades. Flawlessly executed and incredibly beautiful, her writing is fluid and easy to fall into. It grabs hold of your imagination, your senses, and hangs on long after the final page has been read. Her vibrant descriptions and world-building are solid, showing her talent for weaving her stories into the minds of her readers.

I truly had an enjoyable time using Horwitz’s vivid narrative to put myself into this unique setting. I felt like I was there watching these events unfold right alongside the characters. She also relates this book to our present world by dealing with some themes that are very common in society today. Horwitz handles every aspect of the novel with care, meticulously unfolding an action-packed narrative. This was just such a fun adventure I did not want to pull myself out of it until I ran out of book.

I will reiterate—though I know I don’t have to at this point—that I completely fell head over heels for this novel. And unsurprisingly, I would highly recommend it to anyone and everyone. It is a beautifully crafted tale of family, friendship, and how two exceedingly dissimilar groups can set their differences aside and team up to fight a threat that affects them all.

Overcoming obstacle after obstacle—even those their own families and sometimes they themselves place in the way—Carmer and Grit unite in a heart-warming friendship that withstands the forces that test it. This is a fantastic beginning to a promising series. Though I don’t quite know how I am going to stand the wait, I am extremely excited to get my hands on any and all future novels.

5.0 TARDISes

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Top Ten Tuesday – April 18th, 2017

toptentuesday

Happy Tuesday, everyone! It’s time for another Top 10 Tuesday list. This is an original weekly blog meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, there is a new bookish topic for bloggers to create a list about. If you want to know more about Top 10 Tuesday, click here!

This week’s Top 10 Tuesday topic is the top ten things that will make you instantly want to read a book. It was a little tough thinking up ten things that turn me on to a book, which is odd considering I will read just about anything I can get my hands on. I guess that goes to show that I will give any book a try, but I somewhat rarely feel that need to instantly pick up a novel. However, there are a few cases where this is true.

Time Travel or Parallel Universes – Anyone who knows me knows that I am absolutely addicted to books about time travel and/or parallel universes. Honestly, this is one of the only cases where there is practically no hesitation on my part. I will literally read anything I find that involves either time travel, parallel worlds, or (preferably) both!

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Books About Books – I think many book lovers out there can relate to this one! I love reading books in which reading and literature plays a huge part. This can come in the form of the characters being book nerds like myself, the setting being somewhere like a bookstore or library, or a storyline that is shaped around either a real or fictional book within the book.

Recommendations – I’m not one who typically gives into major hype about books—I have been disappointed many times when I get sucked into that. However, if a friend that I trust and share a similar reading taste with highly recommends something, I will pick it up straight away. People like my best friend Lizzie, and my awesome blogger besties Heather and Anna, are to blame for much of my ever increasing TBR pile!

Retellings – I am a complete sucker for retellings. Whether it’s a retelling of a classic novel, folklore, or fairytale, that’s pretty much all I need to know before I pick it up. This can occasionally amount to me reading a really crappy version of a story I love. But many times I have discovered some absolutely wonderfully crafted retellings with their own unique twist.

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Interesting Magic System – I love love love fantasy novels! This is the primary genre that I read, but I do get a bit picky with them, at least in recent years. There are a lot of novels that deal with the same subjects over and over again, and those don’t make for the best reading experience. However, any fantasy novel with a unique-sounding magic system will instantly pique my interest.

Modern Fairytale – As I mentioned, I love fairytales and folklore, and I love present-day novels that give off that fairytale or folklore feeling. I find those types of stories to be absolutely beautiful and captivating. I really hope I can write a story like that one day.

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Highly Praised Classic – I am a huge fan of classic literature—I was always that weird kid in English class that loved almost every book they made us read! So if a classic is highly praised, either by people I know or just in general, I will most likely pick it up. I won’t say I always like them, but I’ll at least give them a try!

Little to No Romance – I’ve talked about this many times before, that, despite being a hopeless romantic, I actually really do not like reading about romance in novels. Sometimes a little bit is nice, bit I find that there are so many instances where it completely overshadows the actual plot. So if a novel boasts little to no romance, that’s definitely a plus for me.

Noir or Gothic – I love noir and gothic everything! Books, movies—you name it, I love it! So of course, these are major turn-ons for me when it comes to finding books. If it has a noir or gothic setting, I’m getting my read on! 😛

Sounds Like Sherlock Holmes – And finally, the most embarrassing book turn-on I have to admit. I typically don’t go for books that are compared to other books I love because ninety percent of the time, I end up feeling disappointed in a book that may have been great if I weren’t holding it to the highest possible standard. However, the one thing that gets me every time is when a novel (or a character in a novel) is compared to Sherlock Holmes…or Doctor Who (hence my love of the Jackaby series!).

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Honorable Mentions

Gillian Flynn, Neil Gaiman, Patrick Ness, Victoria Schwab – …Enough said… 🙂

What are some things that make you instantly want to read a book? Let me know in the comments, and stay tuned for next Tuesday when I talk about my book turn-offs!

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Review: Doctor Who: The American Adventures by Justin Richards

doctorwhotheamericanadventuresDoctor Who: The American Adventures by Justin Richards

My Rating: 3/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: October 25th, 2016

Publisher: Penguin Random House (UK)

Pages: 192 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Travel through time and space with the Twelfth Doctor in these six brand new adventures, set in a host of locations across the US and eras from throughout US history.

An invisible spacecraft turns up at the Battle of New Orleans, an alien presence is detected at the 1944 D-Day landings, and ghosts take over New York’s subway tunnels as they’re being dug in the early 1900s…

Filled with mystery, excitement and the Doctor’s trademark wit, these timeywimey stories will delight any Doctor Who fan.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

I always love reading any Doctor Who tie-in stories, especially when we are all anxiously waiting for a new season to be released. I have also read a number of Doctor Who novels authored by Justin Richards, and I tend to consistently enjoy his writing style and his depictions of the various Doctors over the years. This is only my second experience with stories written about Peter Capaldi’s Doctor, and I had a fun time reading these short tales of his adventures. While this is targeted at a younger audience, I still feel that this book is something that can be universally enjoyed by Whovians of all ages.

These stories follow the Doctor’s journeys through various notable time periods in American history, as well as in present day America. Because of that, I found it to be a very unique read due to the fact that he is somewhat rarely portrayed traveling through the United States, particularly in the tie-in novels. It was great to see how he insert himself into many historical moments that I grew up learning about.

Though this was not the best collection of stories and I had very mixed feelings about them, I still found them to be solidly written. Creating a compelling story in a very small number of pages is incredibly difficult—it is an entire art in itself. There is not much time to flesh out the plot and the characters. This can make everything feel very rushed, as well as make characters come across as being a little bit flat. I found this to be somewhat true of this collection at times, but overall, I think Richards did a decent job with the length of each text.

Richards’ writing itself was a high point for me. His narration style is very fluid and not at all hard to find yourself getting pulled into. It is wonderful to see these skills in the tie-in stories, as they are generally simple reads, still composed using quality storytelling. I have found—in my personal experience with his work—that Richards’ is also a master at capturing the personality of whichever Doctor he is writing about. Even in this shorter format, it truly feels similar to watching an episode starring the twelfth doctor.

Now, I’ll talk about each individual story and my feelings on them. This will also remain spoiler-free.

All That Glitters (Rating: 3/5)

This story takes place in California, 1849, during the gold rush. Josh Langham is panning for gold in the Sacramento River when finds an odd metallic object. As he begins to pick it up, fatigue overtakes him and he passes out. Suddenly, he begins terrorizing the nearby town and townspeople, breaking in to homes and attacking his people who have all known him as a kind and gentle man. We follow the Doctor as he attempts to figure out what has caused Josh to act in this most unusual way.

I found this story to be just alright. It was a very simple plotline without much action, so it felt a little too slow-paced for my liking. Despite this, it was still intriguing to read, and there was a good amount of mystery. The build-up was a bit too much compared to how the story ultimately ended, but it was a decent read.

Off the Trail (Rating: 3.75/5)

The Doctor finds himself on the Oregon Trail, 1846, in this story. Hattie and her family are traveling the Oregon Trail in a large wagon train when suddenly, they begin to encounter strange noises and unnerving sightings of a creature outside their wagon one night. When they emerge the next morning, they find themselves exactly where they were but completely alone—the other parties in the wagon train have disappeared without a trace. It’s up to the Doctor to rescue the family from a deadly enemy and return them to the missing train.

I liked this story quite a bit—I think that it was my second favorite of the collection. I’ve always enjoyed stories about the Oregon Trail, and this science fiction twist was very captivating. Richards did a good job of building up the suspense to a heart-pounding climax. This story was also one of the more fleshed out ones in terms of both the setting and the characters. Everything was well-described, and I feel that he really utilized his writing talent to create a developed story in a short amount of time. Overall, it didn’t completely blow me away, but it was still a fascinating and unique narrative that I would have loved to see as an actual episode of the show.

Ghosts of New York (Rating: 4.5/5)

Taking place in New York City, 1902, this was by far my favorite of the short stories. This story involves the construction of the New York City subway tunnels, with a nice helping of ghostly activity. Soon after a tunnel roof collapses, killing three workers, a man named Pete begins seeing the ghost of one of his deceased coworkers. Other workers begin to experience this strange paranormal phenomenon as well. Then, of course, the Doctor swoops in, ready to discover the source that is causing these ethereal figures to appear. With many of the other workers too afraid to follow him, only a young man named Tom is brave enough to join in the quest for answers.

I absolutely loved this story. Anything containing ghosts and spookiness is right up my alley. One of the interesting realizations I had while reading this one was that the side character and the Doctor were much more well-developed. This may be due in part to the fact that there is only one sidekick on this particular mission. The only issue I had with the plot was that, when they found the source causing the ghosts to appear, it was not very well explained—I had an extremely hard time picturing it in my head. Nonetheless, this was an absolutely fantastic story and I very much enjoyed it.

Taking the Plunge (Rating: 3/5)

The Doctor comes into the present day in this story that takes place in Florida, 2017. Strolling through a theme park named Adventure World, the Doctor is simply people-watching when he comes across some peculiar occurrences. He meets a family as they first come into the park—two parents and their highly energetic and excited son. They are headed to the popular ride, “Space Plunge”. But when he runs into them again coming back from the ride, they have lost all energy, and look tired and empty. It’s time for the Doctor to inspect “Space Plunge”, and figure out what is sapping the liveliness out of all of its riders.

Though it was not one of my favorites, I still quite enjoyed this story. It was fairly unique and unpredictable in many ways. However, this was one story were the length really was a detriment to the plot. It felt as though not much happened, and that the problem was solved far too easily. This is a story that could have been expanded upon a lot and made into a more complex tale. I think it was just not right for this format, but I still liked aspects of it.

Spectator Sport (Rating: 2.5/5)

Set in New Orleans, 1815, this was unfortunately one of the stories that fell a bit flat for me. The Doctor lands the TARDIS during the Battle of New Orleans, and watches from the sidelines, upset at the idea of humans waging war against each other. All of a sudden, a woman using a perception filter comes rushing up to where he stands on a hill, stating that she has been looking for him all over. She takes him back to what she calls the “safe area”, which turns out to be a ship where people travel back in time in order to watch various battles throughout history.

This story was my least favorite—I found it rather hard to get in to and I did not like the idea of the plot. Not that much really happened, aside from the Doctor reprimanding everyone for getting enjoyment out of the fighting. Of course, there was a bit more depth to the plot other than that, with an assassin being loose on the ship, but this did not take up enough of the story. I could see the potential in this narrative, but is just didn’t reach it.

Base of Operations (Rating: 2.5/5)

Transpiring in the United States, 1944, this story just did not click with me, and unfortunately ended the collection on a slightly sour note. This story is set on an army base during World War II, right before the D-Day landings in Normandy. The TARDIS picks up signs of a rouge transmat system coming from inside the base, and he decides to infiltrate it in order to find the source. Along the way, he encounters some unusual activity, and finds out that not everyone within these walls is who—or what—they appear to be.

I’m not quite sure exactly what it was about this story, but I had a hard time getting into it. I wasn’t particularly interested in most of the characters and the story felt far too rushed. Once again, it was too expansive a topic to try to cover in a story as short as this one. The aliens were sort of interesting, but again, there was not enough time to really connect with the story and understand them. It was not bad by any means, but I just personally didn’t get quite as much enjoyment out of it.

Overall, I am very glad that I had the chance to read these stories. Despite my tepid feelings when it came to parts of it, this book was still great for a Whovian like myself. I also love seeing authors producing stories for a younger generation of fans. All the novels are relatively easy and straightforward reads, but this one is particularly well suited for early readers.

Richards fluidly sweeps readers up into the action-packed adventures and quirky antics of the Doctor, and I think these short stories make the show and the characters widely accessible, and will draw in more of a following that will stay strong through all the coming years of the show.

 

3.0 TARDISes

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