Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

Down Among the Sticks and Bones
Wayward Children, Book 2
by Seanan McGuire
Published by Tor.Com Publishing • June 13, 2017
176 Pages • ISBN 978-0765392039 • Hardcover



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Book description:
Winner: 2018 Alex Award
Winner: 2018 ALA RUSA Fantasy Award

Seanan McGuire returns to her popular Wayward Children series with
Down Among the Sticks and Bones―a truly standalone story suitable for adult and young adult readers of urban fantasy, and the follow-up to the Alex, Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Award-winning, World Fantasy Award finalist, Tiptree Honor List book Every Heart a Doorway.

Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.

This is the story of what happened first…

Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter―polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline.

Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter―adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you've got.

They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted.

They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and
choices.


Down Among the Sticks and Bones, the remarkable follow-up to Seanan McGuire's Every Heart a Doorway, tells the story of twin sisters Jack & Jill, and how they found their door, and how they were forced back to the real world. Raised to fit the perfect ideals and preconceived notions of children that their parents have, Jacqueline and Jillian are never allowed to be children. They are told how to behave, how to dress, how to act, but never how to love or be loved. One day, the sisters decide to do something dangerous; they are going to break a rule and play in their grandmother's former room (Gemma Lou being the only person in their entire world who tried to encourage them to be individuals). They find an old steamer trunk in her room that contains costume jewelry and outfits for dress up, and underneath the clothes they find a stairwell in the trunk that shouldn't be there. Determined not to ruin their adventure, the sisters decide to follow the stairs down, their 12 year old minds not quite comprehending the impossibility of this event. At the bottom of the stairs they find a door, and that door holds a sign that reads, Be Sure.

This door leads them to The Moors, a dark and sinister world of vampires and werewolves, mad scientists and other things that go bump in the night. Here, the sisters discover their true selves. Here, they also discover that they have choices, and those choices eventually come with consequences.

Most portal fantasies always have a darker tone under their magic and whimsy, but on The Moors, all the magic and whimsy is stripped away to reveal just how dangerous and stark some worlds can be. Brutal and fierce, this book is the perfect follow up/companion to Every Heart a Doorway.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Every Heart a Doorway
Wayward Children, Book 1
by Seanan McGuire
Published by Tor.Com Publishing • April 5, 2016
176 Pages • ISBN 978-0765385505 • Hardcover



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Book description:
Winner: 2017 Hugo Award
Winner: 2017 Alex Award
Winner: 2017 Locus Award
Winner: 2016 Nebula Award
Nominated: 2017 World Fantasy Award
Nominated: 2017 British Fantasy Award
2016 Tiptree Honor List

"A mini-masterpiece of portal fantasy ― a jewel of a book that deserves to be shelved with Lewis Carroll's and C. S. Lewis' classics" ―NPR


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 things.

No matter the cost.


This is such a fantastic idea for a story: a "home" for those who have come back from a portal world (think Wonderland, Narnia, or Oz), but can't accept that they are unable to go back to that portal world. Eleanor West (who has a portal all her own, and knows where it is, and is just biding her time until she can return) runs such a home, taking in the children who can't cope with the normalcy of the "real" world and who yearn to return to their true "homes." Some do find their way back, but many don't, and are in constant turmoil as a result.

Nancy is one such child. When she found her door to the Halls of the Dead, she thought she'd found her true home. But when then the Lord of the Dead sends Nancy back to the real world so that she can be certain that she wants to stay in the Halls of the Dead, she is unable to re-acclimate herself, and her parents send her to Eleanor West's School as a last resort.

As the new girl in the school, Nancy feels immediately out of place but is able to make friends with her roommate Sumi, Kade, a young man banished from his portal world, and Jack, who was apprenticed to a mad scientist. After one of the students is found murdered, suspicion immediately falls on Nancy as the newest arrival, but through the help of her friends they are able to discover the identity of the true murderer.

This is the fourth time I’ve read this book, as I do a complete reread when a new book is released in the series, and I’m still struck by the power of McGuire’s writing. The books are sinister and dark and beautiful and I can’t recommend them enough.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

The Curious Case of the Werewolf That Wasn't: (to say nothing of the Mummy That Was, and the Cat in the Jar) by Gail Carriger

The Curious Case of the Werewolf That Wasn't: (to say nothing of the Mummy That Was, and the Cat in the Jar)
by Gail Carriger
June 29, 2014
32 Pages • ISBN 978-1944751036 • Kindle



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Book description:
A short tale of mummies, werewolves, and well-preserved felines set in the world of the Parasol Protectorate.

Alessandro Tarabotti and his valet, Floote, are on a mission in Egypt when they encounter visiting tourists and the situation turns to mummies. What is Alessandro’s real mission and will his Aunt Archangelica approve of his treatment of her cat?

In this short story,
New York Times best selling author Gail Carriger uses her comedic voice to delve into the history of her beloved steampunk universe.

If you have ever wondered about Alexia’s father, this will give you a glimpse into his adventures, character, and romantic interests.


First "book" of the year is actually a short story, but Gail is hosting a Parasolverse readalong leading up to the release of Reticence this summer, and the first story in the reading list is this short story about Alexia Tarabotti's father, Alessandro. It's a very fast read, and a much too short introduction to Alessandro Tarabotti, but Carriger manages to drop several clues about plot points that eventually show up in all three of her main series.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Once Upon A River: A Novel by Diane Setterfield

Once Upon A River: A Novel
by Diane Setterfield
Published by Emily Bestler Books/Atria Books • December 4, 2018
480 Pages • ISBN 978-0743298070 • Hardcover



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Book description:
On a dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the river Thames, an extraordinary event takes place. The regulars are telling stories to while away the dark hours, when the door bursts open on a grievously wounded stranger. In his arms is the lifeless body of a small child. Hours later, the girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life. Is it a miracle? Is it magic? Or can science provide an explanation? These questions have many answers, some of them quite dark indeed.

Those who dwell on the river bank apply all their ingenuity to solving the puzzle of the girl who died and lived again, yet as the days pass the mystery only deepens. The child herself is mute and unable to answer the essential questions: Who is she? Where did she come from? And to whom does she belong? But answers proliferate nonetheless.

Three families are keen to claim her. A wealthy young mother knows the girl is her kidnapped daughter, missing for two years. A farming family reeling from the discovery of their son’s secret liaison, stand ready to welcome their granddaughter. The parson’s housekeeper, humble and isolated, sees in the child the image of her younger sister. But the return of a lost child is not without complications and no matter how heartbreaking the past losses, no matter how precious the child herself, this girl cannot be everyone’s. Each family has mysteries of its own, and many secrets must be revealed before the girl’s identity can be known.

Once Upon a River is a glorious tapestry of a book that combines folklore and science, magic and myth. Suspenseful, romantic, and richly atmospheric, the beginning of this novel will sweep you away on a powerful current of storytelling, transporting you through worlds both real and imagined, to the triumphant conclusion whose depths will continue to give up their treasures long after the last page is turned.


Once Upon a River is a return to form for Diane Setterfield. Bellman & Black, her followup to the astounding The Thirteenth Tale, fell far short for me; one of the rare occasions that I simply did not finish a book. I believe Setterfield was hard pressed to come up with something as incredible as The Thirteenth Tale and could not be pressured into a new story, and it shows in Bellman & Black. However Once Upon a River, while an entirely different creature from The Thirteenth Tale, has the same unputdownable pull. Read over the course of 3 sittings (the last keeping me up until the wee hours of the morning, reading the entire second half of the book), I was enthralled by the threads of story that she weaves throughout the book and had to find out how everything would come together in the end.

A tale told just as much through stories as the action itself, the reader follows the plight of three families as they all lay claim in one form or another to a mysterious child who was found dead but miraculously comes back to life. No once knows for sure who she is, but the child becomes the crux of the story and through her, secrets are brought to light that threaten to pull some families apart, while also bringing some families back together. Can the folklore of the region explain her away, or can the budding science of modern medicine give a reason to her miraculous resurrection? Who will finally lay claim to the child? These are questions only Setterfield can answer, and she answers them beautifully.

I received an eARC of this title from NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Star Wars: Thrawn: Alliances by Timothy Zahn

Alliances Alliances by Timothy Zahn
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The story is all over the place; Double Vision is obnoxious; how many times can Vader question Thrawn's loyalty, only to back off almost immediately, and then repeat the cycle all over again; does Thrawn ever get anything wrong, ever? To be honest, I don't feel like this book did anything to further along the SW literary galaxy, even tho I'm pretty sure we still haven't heard the last of Thrawn.

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