April, 2020 - I think I'm going to shut From My Bookshelf down for a while; maybe for good. I've been putting this together for quite a few years now and it's starting to feel a bit more of a chore. I'll keep my Goodreads connected, but with the state of the world right now, I just want to read without worrying about making sure I post something about it. Who knows - when the world starts to make some semblance of sense again, I may start actively posting here again. Until then, as always, happy reading!

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire

Book 11/100

Come Tumbling Down Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Holy shit, Seanan McGuire doesn't disappoint in the fifth volume of her Wayward Children series. Picking up Jack and Jill's story from their introduction in Every Heart a Doorway and their backstory in Down Among the Sticks and Bones, we are returned to the Moors this time, and we are given a much wider view of this dark, terrifying, and beautiful world. This time out, there is another quest, even though Eleanor West continually forbids them, as Kade, Christopher, Cora, and Sumi help Jack take back something dear that Jill has stolen from her.

The continuing beauty of McGuire's Wayward Children, apart from her always fantastic narrative, is her inclusiveness with her characters. She makes such an important part of what makes these characters themselves, yet it doesn't feel forced. Sometimes I feel like authors have a checklist that they use to make sure they tick off all the important or proper points to show representation, and while this is needed in so many ways, it still comes off clumsy. McGuire writes her characters with such ease and understanding, it simply feels natural.

There is so much under the surface of Come Tumbling Down: what makes a person uniquely that person, and how devastating it can be when something happens to make that person not feel like themselves, however insignificant it may appear to others; how important it is to have people understand that every single person is unique, and surrounding yourself with people that understand you for who you are can make you so much stronger. It's OK to need help and to ask for it.

These characters are so near and dear to my heart. Sumi is becoming a favorite; her no bullshit view on life hides such a powerful caring for those around her, I think she's become one of the strongest characters in the series. And of course, Jack and Jill... I adore these girls and their crazy duality. I want to always see more of Kade, he's just so interesting to me.

As with all the books in this series, there is an overwhelming sense of hope throughout, but there is always a sense of sadness and loss that underlines this hope. We lose people in our lives, things are taken from us, life takes unexpected turns, but we can still find our way out of that loss.

This will always be the series that I push on my friends. I have reread the entire series before the release of each book next year, so some of the earlier are like dear friends I'm catching up with after a while. Another part of the magic of McGuire's writing: even after multiple readings, these books have not lost any of their magic.

I dearly hope that McGuire can continue writing these stories for years to come. There is so much potential, so many stories, so many characters that I want to learn more about: Kade & Christopher, Sumi's continuing story, more worlds to explore, Eleanor's finally going home. It will be a sad day when these stories come to their close, but it will also have been one hell of an adventure getting there.

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Monday, January 11, 2021

In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire

Book 10/100

In an Absent Dream In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Seanan McGuire's Wayward Children series of books gets better with each addition, with the latest, In an Absent Dream, by far being the strongest story to date. Following the established every other book sequence, this volume tells Lundy's portal story, as she finds her door to the Goblin Market. McGuire offers up some serious ideas to ponder, such as idea of fair value for everything and what that means to either the recipient or the giver. It's some heavy ideas, and after finishing Absent Dream, I had to take some time to really mull over the notions that are put forth, and it really made me think about my own interactions with those around me and how the idea of fair value can applied to our real world.

McGuire doesn't just write one hell of an amazing book, but she pushes us, the readers, to consider how we can actually be better people by understanding how we can, and should, be fair to each other. It's really quite a remarkable book. And her writing; it's more beautiful with every book. There are so many potential stories to be told, I hope deep down that she never leaves this series and continues to offer us such amazing books forever.

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Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire

Book 9/100

Beneath the Sugar Sky Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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Sunday, January 10, 2021

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

Book 8/100

Down Among the Sticks and Bones Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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.

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Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Book 7/100

Every Heart a Doorway Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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 of those children. When she found her door to the Halls of the Dead, she thought she'd found her true home. But when 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.

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Friday, January 1, 2021

Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 by David Petersen

Book 1/100

Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 by David Petersen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

To be honest, the only reason I picked up David Petersen's MOUSE GUARD, FALL 1152 originally is because I've read the REDWALL series by Brian Jacques for years, and since this dealt with mice as well, I thought that I'd give it a try. Happily, I wasn't disappointed.

Originally published as 6 separate comics, I initially felt that the story was played out better in that serial format. On my first reading of the collected edition, there didn't seem to be too much meat to the actual story. I thought that the collected edition actually hampered the story-telling process, as each individual issue would have had a month or 2 break to whet the appetites of those reading for the next installment. However, as I've gone back on several more occasions to revisit the lands of MOUSE GUARD, I can honestly say that the story has grown on me, and I can see the subtleties both in Petersen's story as well as his artwork.

The artwork on MOUSE GUARD, FALL 1152 is stunning. Handling all art chores himself, Petersen has created a beautifully rendered and colored world, with an almost hand-painted yet organic feel to the entire story.

Taken as a whole, the entire book is quite an achievement. I'm anxiously awaiting the release of its sequel, WINTER 1152.

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