Mini Reviews: Snow White, Camelot

Oh, blog. I know I have neglected you. Come to think of it, I’ve been neglecting many things lately. In lieu of the end of the year shenanigans, I’ve been generally swamped with grading, exam writing, teaching, and more grading. I’m behind on my Goodreads goal, I’ve not written a blog post since the end of May, and I’ve completely dropped off the face of the editing and short story writing circuit.

Buuuut…

I needed to get out of this slump/hiatus. And it’s ALMOST the end of the school year. And I have a ton of catching up blogging-wise, so hang onto your, uh, figurative hats, yeah?

Anyway, got a few blog posts I need to write for the next few weeks, I just need the actual time to write it now!

So first, a couple of graphic novel reviews. I went back to reading some Fables goodness because it was high time I finish reading this series once and for all. My goal this year is to at least finish a couple of completed series, novels and graphic novels included!

** Note: These two graphic novels are Volumes 19 and 20 of the Fables series by Bill Willingham, so while I do attempt not to spoil the story so far, there is a bit of a jump.

Have you read either of these books? What did you think?

Mini-Reviews: A Brief History of Time, A Life in Parts

Alright, I’ve got a number of reviews and mini-reviews on the backlog, as well as some updates about what I did all of spring break (which will probably come in the way of me nerding out to some of my favorite literary places). But since I’m going to need more than an hour or two off an evening to compile my shmat together, mini-reviews it is!

These were some audiobooks I’d listened to prior to me traveling abroad, but pretty good to listen to, considering.

Have you read these? What did you think?

Prancing in Prague || Silence Fallen Review

Initial Thoughts: 

I mean…I reread Mercy Thompson stories so often, particularly little snippets, but holy hell, this one was definitely something I would reread again DIRECTLY AFTER I just finished it. So. Damn. Good. And omg. SO MUCH ADAM AND MERCY POV.

Sigh. When can I expect the next book?


SILENCE FALLEN

by Patricia Briggs
Ace Books, March 2017
Urban fantasy, adult
Rated: 5 / 5 cookies

Attacked and abducted in her home territory, Mercy finds herself in the clutches of the most powerful vampire in the world, taken as a weapon to use against alpha werewolf Adam and the ruler of the Tri-Cities vampires. In coyote form, Mercy escapes only to find herself without money, without clothing, and alone in the heart of Europe…

Unable to contact Adam and the rest of the pack, Mercy has allies to find and enemies to fight, and she needs to figure out which is which. Ancient powers stir, and Mercy must be her agile best to avoid causing a war between vampires and werewolves, and between werewolves and werewolves. And in the heart of the ancient city of Prague, old ghosts rise…

*As this is book #10 of the Mercy Thompson series, expect spoilers.*

You know, I read the title of the book when it was first released to the public and I did think briefly: “Hah, like the Silence in Doctor Who? Is this a play of words based off that? ‘Cause that would be awesome!”

And, you know, a lot of DW references do come up in the book, and the whole Matt Smith reveal thing was just…I cannot with Briggs sometimes.

“Silence will fall!”

So normally I wouldn’t be reviewing a book that’s part of a super-long series. Normally this would have just been another mini-review with slight squee-recaps of what I absolutely enjoyed of the Mercy Thompson book. And, ya know, so far, I’ve been loving this series more and more after every installment.

So what makes Silence Fallen any different?

Prague, for one. I must have gushed about the fact that I love, love, love Prague. It was just such a quaint little city, and I was blessed to have been able to visit it for a couple days when I was on vacation a while back. (I even wrote about it in terms of visiting it through the eyes of Karou!) So when I caught wind that the next Mercy Thompson book was going to send Mercy over to Prague as the next destination, I was over the moon with excitement. And once I opened the book and saw the map of the places I traversed, I was done for. The setting was already one thing I was going to love about this book.

Dual POVs. One of the things I had extremely enjoyed from Frost Burned was Adam’s point of view. I know, I know, it’s a Mercy Thompson novel, and Mercy narrates the story in first person. However, I thought adding Adam into Frost Burned was rather brilliant, and I loved seeing his side of the story just as much as I loved seeing Mercy’s. But while Mercy largely dominated the narration in FB–and still does for the most part–the narration in Silence Fallen was a healthy dose of Mercy and Adam. Honestly, I’ve shipped them since book 1. But egads, they truly are mated, considering both of them have death wishes looming over their horizon. I also sort of giggled at the end of the book, because I swear I saw their reunion more along the lines of:

“Honey, I’m home! Guess what? I obliterated a powerful vampire. With plates. What did you do today?”

“I laid siege to a city while I was stuck naked in a cage.”

“That’s my mate! I love you.”

“I love you!”

*hugs*

Okay, so that’s rather simplified, but if they were a normal couple, they would totally be discussing their exploits over the drone of the TV while they’re sharing a plate of chocolate chip cookies. Hell, I’m pretty sure that is exactly what they did when they got back to their house. Only they’re not so normal, being a werewolf and a coyote. Um.

There was also one other thing I enjoyed about having an Adam and Mercy POV, and that’s from the diverging plot. Once the overall kidnapping portion was over with, the plot no longer stayed in Milan. Adam had his own set of troubles to deal with while Mercy ended up surviving on her own through another plot. Yes, both their POVs started to converge once more, and yes, those mother-effing vampires were largely behind most of the story, but I absolutely loved that Adam and Mercy had to find their own way without each other’s backs.

I’ve seen Mercy deal with problems without Adam in the early books, but I took for granted that she can handle herself even without the brunt of the Columbia Basin and Aspen Creek packs protecting her from the sidelines. And I do love the combination of Adam and Mercy working through a problem together (like they did in the previous book), but them being forced apart is just as good. It really does give Adam a chance to shine, and I love him even more now!

The vampire dynamics. I will admit, I have little interest in the vampires of the Mercy Thompson books, and I found fae-related stories more riveting. HOWEVER, on occasion, the vampire-centric books do have awesome stories; Bone Crossed and Silence Fallen are prime examples. (I also did love Blood Bound.) I did love reading about Marsilia’s old haunting grounds, and the Lord of Night finally made his appearance, which is fabulous. Not so very fabulous was Bonarata’s crazy obsession with female werewolves. I would have done what Honey did, too, had I been there in person to see what the Lord of Night did.

And, um, can I have a spinoff of Bran stories, too? I just…there’s always so much the werewolves and vampires and every other supernatural creature say about Bran, and I just want more stories of him, because he’s so effing badass! I mean, I could also ask for Elizaveta spinoff stories, but I’m pretty sure Briggs is already working on a witch-wolf spinoff in the same universe, so I’m fine with that.

5 out of 5 cookies! I could seriously reread this again now, just to see how I completely missed that reveal at the very end. Kudos, Briggs, for another delightful book in the Mercy Thompson universe.

Silence Fallen counts as #8 of my Flights of Fantasy Challenge!


Have you read this book? What did you think?

Anoshe || A Conjuring of Light Review

Initial Thoughts:

Anoshe.

Oh god. Stop. STAHP. These are not tears. I am not crying, you are.


A CONJURING OF LIGHT

by V.E. Schwab
Tor Books, February 2017
Adult fantasy, adventure, romance
Rated: 5 / 5 cookies

THE BALANCE OF POWER HAS FINALLY TIPPED…
The precarious equilibrium among four Londons has reached its breaking point. Once brimming with the red vivacity of magic, darkness casts a shadow over the Maresh Empire, leaving a space for another London to rise.

WHO WILL CRUMBLE?
Kell – once assumed to be the last surviving Antari – begins to waver under the pressure of competing loyalties. And in the wake of tragedy, can Arnes survive?

WHO WILL RISE?
Lila Bard, once a commonplace – but never common – thief, has survived and flourished through a series of magical trials. But now she must learn to control the magic, before it bleeds her dry. Meanwhile, the disgraced Captain Alucard Emery of the Night Spire collects his crew, attempting a race against time to acquire the impossible.

WHO WILL TAKE CONTROL?
And an ancient enemy returns to claim a crown while a fallen hero tries to save a world in decay.

Honestly, it’s still pretty difficult for me to be writing this review without tearing up from time to time. And it didn’t help when the last few chapters practically begged for me to let go of the story.

INTERESTING LANGUAGE FACT: The word anoshe really resonated with me because of many things, but none stronger than the thought that, funnily enough, I’d been recently thinking about foreign words and how people said goodbye to each other. According to Schwab, Arnesians didn’t have one word to say goodbye, and that anoshe isn’t truly saying goodbye, but rather it was a way of saying that those parting from each other would see each other again. Which is GREAT, because I’ve always liked the idea of a “next time we meet” kind of ending. Anoshe became a special word for me, much like when I had Japanese students last year, and when a few left the school for good, it wasn’t sayonara or sarabada or any other form of definitive farewell that the parents uttered to me and to the fellow children, but mata ne, which roughly translates to see you soon.

Anyway, enough of the obsession with the word and onto the story itself.

I have to hand it to Schwab. She pulled all the punches in A Conjuring of Light, because it was damn near perfect as a conclusion to an already brilliant trilogy. ACOL picked up the shredded cliffhanger pieces that A Gathering of Shadows left me in by continuing directly after. It then proceeded to take my emotions and drown it in a large body of water, only to bring it up again, dry it up, and continue the process. I quite literally bawled my eyes out several times throughout the book, and the last 100 pages sent me to tears every. effing. chapter. I was a mess, and Schwab is to blame.

But hell, by the end of it, I was crying not because my heart had broken. I was crying because the story ended and, as Schwab mentioned in the final bits, it’s just really hard to let go, and as a reader, I was fighting against my commitment issues and being asked to let the world and characters of Red London go by getting to the end of the book. And that was pretty much the main reason why I am still having a hard time writing up this review, because having reviewed it once pretty much confirms the fact that I’ve read the book, and the magic of reading A Conjuring of Light for the first time has trickled out of the pages.

That isn’t to say I won’t re-read this trilogy again. And it certainly isn’t to say that I am ready to face the emotional turmoil that I found in the books. I’m pretty sure if I read it multiple times, I’d still cry the same amount, and I’d still squee the same amount. The only difference is I know when to expect them.

Feelings out of the way, just some character developments I absolutely adored in ACOL (and this is where my SPOILER ALERT comes in):

Rhylucard, Kellila – The chemistry between the pairings and the chemistry between each other were always some of my favorite bits in A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows. The fact that there was more going into ACOL, and the fact that there is resolution in the ships (one way or another) made me so happy.

Maxim and Emira – Just, hold your fort, we get the entire Maresh line POV? Hell yes. I simply loved these brief breaks out of the four main characters, and the only thing I would have loved to see was more of the Steel Prince at work! I know a prologue may not be in the picture, but holy shit, can there be a novella plsthx? I’d have loved to know more about Maxim Maresh before he became the king! And Emira! Gosh, I’d give my left kidney for a story in the past, in any shape or form.

Holland – Seriously, ever since I started seeing the Avatar: The Last Airbender vibe in the trilogy (which started at the end of ADSOM for me), I saw Holland as the Zuko of the series. Which meant I had high hopes that he would also undertake his own suffered journey towards redemption. And, while Schwab hoped that she could change her readers’ mind about Holland (I suppose to a more positive light), she really didn’t have to do much on my part. I already loved Holland in my own way. I mean, he isn’t Kell, but who is? All the same, I was absolutely loving that Holland’s story comes full circle.

I mean…this is how I pictured all the fighting to have been happening with Holland…WHICH IS TOTALLY SPOT ON.

Rhy and Lila – I throw these two in together because I thought their character development followed a similar route. For Rhy, we see him grow from a prince that did not like confrontation to one who stood for his people as a shining beacon of hope and comfort. It made me tear up whenever he walked his darkened city, often alone, and often with sadness. As for Lila, well…she, too, changed for the better. Like Rhy, when the going got rough, often her first instincts were to run. However, by the end of AGOS, she’s running towards danger, and the fact that she stayed to fight for a London that wasn’t her own made me ultimately love her. I was admittedly on the fence with Lila for a long time, but ACOL cemented my love for her, and it’s really no wonder Kell gravitates toward her. She’s effing badass.

Alucard – You know what, I would have loved to have seen Luc’s story fleshed out even more. Which is weird, considering we see enough of his past to fully develop him as a character. And boy, that shit was depressing. Still, I wanted more, and he was pretty much the only one of the characters in the main four that still had some secrets to unravel at the very end.

Kell – I don’t really need to point out I’m still in love with this guy. I’ve said it often enough in my previous reviews of ADSOM and AGOS that I’ll leave it at that.

A few other tidbits that made this book fabulous:

Three Antari and a pirate traipse into a boat… You’d see this as a running joke, too, but egads, the boat scenes made me oh so happy. Particularly the image of irritated and drenched Alucard. And Kell teaching another Antari a few blood spells (can Kell teach me, too?! *cough*).

Death comes to Red London. It was difficult to read about so many characters dying, and I had expected some casualties, but not in the scale that I’d care for almost all of the ones who did die. You’d think someone who’s read G.R.R. Martin and gotten desensitized to main character deaths would have expected this from someone writing a high fantasy. But egads. The deaths in Schwab’s books hit me much harder than any of the A Song of Ice and Fire deaths to date. And that’s saying something.

A darker shade of character study. Once again, Schwab shows mastery in her character-driven story. Everything was alive and personified. Even the big, bad villain–a magical entity that technically didn’t even have a corporeal form for the most part–had become personified as a creature with a particularly singular motive: to devour and recreate the world in his image. Yes, the four Londons still feature prominently as the backdrop, and description has always been vivid with Schwab, but she’s always shined where her characters are concerned, and this book is no different.

So yes. This is me gushing over this book. Because honestly, it was practically perfect in every way.

5 out of 5 cookies! Now excuse me while I find the tissues.

This counts as #7 for the Flights of Fantasy Challenge.


Have you read this book? What did you think?

Peter Peter and Sky Eater || Tiger Lily Review

Initial Thoughts: 

For a retelling based off a children’s adventure story, this was kind of a snorefest. Kudos for the transgender Tik Tok at least?


TIGER LILY

by Jodi Lynn Anderson
HarperCollins, July 2012
YA fantasy, retelling, romance
Rated: 2 / 5 cookies

Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair. . . .

Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn’t believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.

Peter is unlike anyone she’s ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland’s inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she’s always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.

With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it’s the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who’s everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.

Okay, so I admit I expected to be writing a very squee-ful review of A Conjuring of Light by now, but my commitment issues got in the way and I’ve been refusing to read the last two hundred pages of Schwab’s book because I DO NOT WANT IT TO END. So I picked up this book that I’d stopped reading in the middle of February for various reasons, and I finally finished it in one sitting.

Unfortunately, the feeling I had for the entire book was really just…meh?

(I’ve tried real hard not to turn this into a rant, but I swear my fingers have a mind of their own…)

So Tiger Lily is a retelling of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, a story about a flying boy who never grows up. In the original source, Peter takes the Darling siblings on a grand adventure in Neverland, only to find themselves in trouble with Captain Hook and his band of pirates. There’s a lot of shenanigans happening, and in the end, the story takes a cyclical turn, staying true to Peter’s everlasting boyish persona: that everything goes round and round, and will always stay the same where Neverland is concerned.

One of the secondary characters that show up in Barrie’s work happens to be Tiger Lily, the daughter of a tribal chief in Neverland. She is often pitted as the foil to Wendy, because she, too, loves Peter, and has eyes for no one else. Now, the Barrie original has an image of Tiger Lily walking onto Captain Hook’s ship with a knife in her mouth. And honestly, that image alone made this girl the most interesting character in Neverland to date. That’s saying much, considering there are mermaids and pirates and fairies to contend with!

I won’t get into an argument about the depiction of the Piccaninny tribe in the Disney movie, but honestly, I do remember loving what glimpse I had of this feisty little girl!

A lot of the book blurb hinted at some fast-paced, love-at-first-sight adventure romance. I mean, it’s a retelling of Peter Pan, and what wouldn’t be a retelling of Peter Pan if it didn’t have a magical Neverland brimming with mermaids and dangerous pirates and its indigenous, non-colonized people? The entire selling point was that the focus would be on Tiger Lily, one of the most interesting characters in the stories.

Here’s the problem with the blurb, though: it’s another unfortunate, inaccurate write-up. The most accurate it could have gotten was that the focus is on Tiger Lily. However, insta-love doesn’t happen (thank goodness). Tiger Lily is her own character for a majority of the book, and she does fall in love with Peter Pan, but her realization doesn’t even come about until halfway through the book.

Here’s the other problem: there wasn’t much “risk” involved on Tiger Lily’s part. Not once did I feel the need to worry about how the Sky Eaters would react to Tiger Lily’s involvement with the Lost Boys. There was clear and present danger, yes, but nothing immediate, and when dealing with a story where most people already know the ending (heck, the friggin’ fairy already prefaced the story as something that would not end happily for the two lovebirds), it was already predictable that Tiger Lily and Peter would come out unscathed. Probably heartbroken, but largely whole.

And to top it off, meeting Wendy Darling was pretty much the last fifty pages of the book. Honestly, I was half-hoping the entire scene had gone the pirates’ way in the end, because at least that would have been a trifle more exciting. Also, I didn’t think Wendy could get even more boring than the usual persona she is often depicted as, but she did. She got even less interesting in this book, and frankly, even Tinker Bell had developed more personality within the last fifty pages than Wendy did (and that’s saying something, because I swear Tink didn’t have an opinion in her little fairy body either).

It’s gotta be said, Wendy.

My biggest gripe of the story was probably the narration itself. It was hard trying to sympathize with any of the characters when the storyteller kept changing tenses and perspectives on me. The whole book is seen in the eyes of Tinker Bell, a mute fairy whose sole purpose in the book was really just to watch and observe things unravel before her. While I do not mind plot-driven books, the addition of Tink as the unreliable narrator made the storytelling clunky. There were too many POV changes in one scene, and it was sometimes difficult to determine whether or not it was Tink thinking some things or if it was Tiger Lily or another character whose mind Tink can view.

And honestly, Tinker Bell’s limited, single-minded view pretty much distorted the story to revolve around what she wanted to see. Everything else was white noise for her, and unless it dealt with the well-being of Tiger Lily and Peter Pan, Tink pretty much just glazed over things. This in itself is irritating when there were darker, grimmer issues surrounding the story that had nothing to do with Tiger Lily and Peter’s doomed romance. At one point, a rape took place, and Tink’s narration of it lasted a couple paragraphs, like it was just some sort of pitiable thing she happened to have come across. Instead of feeling any sorts of disgusted or worried, she doesn’t even bring this shit up to Tiger Lily. Oh, but Tink has time to prank Wendy Darling, though!

(In Tink’s defense, I doubt she would have been able to say much to Tiger Lily, who was also unfortunately too wrapped up in her own miseries to be paying attention to what was happening to her own damn friends. Ugh, shame on you, Tiger Lily!)

That said, it could have been worse. Tink could have had a voice…

That all said, there were a few things I liked about Tiger Lily.

The writing had its moments, for sure. I thought the prologue and the first few chapters were the best parts to read, because it had a poetic feel to them, and it was easy to forget that Tinker Bell was narrating the story for the most part. The letter at the end was probably one of my favorite bits, too, it was bittersweet and a bit sad. If I sympathized with the relationship more, I might have cared more, but Peter was kind of a jerk for the most part, and only the letter really indicated how much he changed when he got older.

Tik Tok, Pine Sap, and Moon Eye. Honestly, there were some really good characters written into the story. I thought Smee was characterized rather well, though I found this an interesting take on Hook’s most notorious lackey. Pine Sap and Moon Eye were great secondary characters, though I will say that Tik Tok was my absolute favorite. Honestly, Tik Tok’s and Moon Eye’s storylines were the most compelling for me in Tiger Lily, both of which dealt with darker issues. Hell, I was sad for Tik Tok. I was not sad that Peter chose the other woman.

2 out of 5 cookies! It got one extra cookie for Tik Tok and the conclusive situation with Giant. Yeah.

This counts as #6 of my Flights of Fantasy Challenge.


Have you read this book? What did you think?