Tag Archives: fantasy

Curioddity | Review


Curioddity by Paul Jenkins

If you were to take Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere and blend it with a bit of Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore then throw in the quirkiness of All My Friends are Superheroes, you’d get Curioddity. It’s a fantastically weird novel in all the best ways.

Life is pretty bland for Wil Morgan, and has been since he was 10. He trudges through life (trudging being one of his favorite activities), is haunted by the clock tower that can’t seem to work correctly, and has a daily battle with the teenage barista over his morning coffee. Nothing seems to go right for him. When Mr. Dinsdale of the Curioddity Museum shows up and enlists his help, however, Wil learns to unlook at things to see them truly.

The main theme of Curioddity is “your eyes only see what your mind lets you believe,” which I absolutely love. Only when Wil allows himself to let his imagination take control, to go off the one-way road, does he find himself and happiness again. It’s a great message.

Curioddity is smartly written, with metaphors for today’s society cleverly interwoven. Wil is harassed by a QVC salesman, his too smart Lemon phone, and Pan’s robust statue; and consumerism and laziness means spending more money just to avoid the red tape.

My only complaints were the pacing (I tended to read it in chapter chunks rather than binging it, though it does pick up towards the end) and some of the objects and events were hard to picture purely because of their strangeness.

At times, things felt too easy, but I suppose that was the point. There are even moments when the characters look at one another and address this, so while it was intentional, I would’ve still liked to see a bit more struggle at times.

Paul Jenkins’ history of writing for video games and comic books has helped flesh out his debut novel. It’s well structured, well written, and a fun adventure. Curioddity is very much in the realm of Neil Gaiman: a quirky and inventive magical realism that helps you see the world upside down.

*I received an ARC of this book from the publisher for an honest review*


Harry Potter and the Cursed Child | review


Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling, John Tiffany, & Jack Thorne

First off, let me preface this by saying (for those who don’t know): I LOVE Harry Potter. Like so many others, I grew up reading the books, wanted to be Hermione, went to as many midnight releases as I could (both books and movies), instilled a “Harry Potter week” at the camp I used to work for, and even have a Harry Potter tattoo. Harry Potter is life.

Some people hate the continued content J.K. Rowling has put out since publishing the final book but I eat up every little bit, wanting to devour as much of the Wizarding World as I possibly can. Did I think she made a mistake in some of her history of the wizarding world in America? Yes, absolutely. Do I hate that she said (spoiler) Ron and Hermione shouldn’t have ended up together? 100% (R/H is my OTP and I even named my wedding table after them – they were all named after literary couples, so this isn’t as weird as it initially sounds). BUT, any additional information about her fantastic world is welcome to me.

Despite that, I was hesitant to pick up Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I still bought it at midnight (here’s the link to my vlog of that night: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESwSguiwfLQ) and read it first thing in the morning, but I was apprehensive going in. Would she break up my OTP? Did I really want to read about Harry’s humdrum life at the Ministry, about him adulting? Was I ready for adult issues from my favorite, golden trio?

11adf1b0-fd14-0133-805a-0e31b36aeb7fHarry Potter and the Cursed Child picks up with the epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (a section many fans dislike), with Harry sending off his eldest two children to Hogwarts, and a young Albus is nervous about the sorting.

Here’s where things start to veer from the books, however. The Albus in the Deathly Hallows epilogue seems quiet, nervous, but overall a happy and well adjusted kid. The Albus in Cursed Child is not. This eleven year old boy is conflicted, troubled, and living in a heavy shadow of his father.

And so Cursed Child begins.

The story itself is a fun throwback to Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire (sometimes a little too on the nose), and it’s classic Harry Potter adventuring: kids think they know everything and make decisions that affect the entire wizarding world without consulting adults. We get to explore the effects of the decisions Harry and co. made so many years ago, and see how some of our favorite characters have fared post-Voldemort.

2333The hardest part for me, however, was seeing the trio as adults. It’s been nine years since the last Potter book hit the shelves, but we’re catching up with Harry in today’s timeline. When I read the books growing up, I was aging with Harry (I was 10 when the first book came out and 20 when the final one did), but now, Harry is way past me. He’s in a different stage of life than I am, and I found it harder to relate to him. I’ve never been 40, never had kids; I don’t know the struggles of parenting yet.

I also associate these three as teenagers saving a world that’s bigger than them, so to see them in their boring Ministry jobs and home lives, away from Hogwarts and Voldemort and the thrills (and anguish) that came with it, was difficult. I miss the precarious attitudes and adventures of youth.

The other thing that Cursed Child suffers from is the play format, which did it a bit of a disservice because the limits of the story are constrained by the time and scale, and reading it left something to be desired. Novels allow for nuance, slow build up, strong character development, thoughts, emotions, and details, but plays rely on the actors’ performances and set designs. Cursed Child is already a two part play, and I still feel like so much was skipped over or left out. Plays are meant to be performed, and I think this one is no different. On stage, it’s probably magical and a theatrical wonder, but on the page it’s lacking that dynamic layering that performances can give.

On to spoilery thoughts:

I wasn’t a fan of the reveal that Voldemort secretly had a child. I thought it was way too simple and also out of character for He Who Must Not Be Named, a loveless shell of a man who never cared for anyone other than himself. I just didn’t buy it.

tumblr_oawwevXdqo1uhoadvo1_1280Albus’ sorting into Slytherin and friendship with Scorpius made me happy, however. I thought it could’ve been simple for her to put him in Gyffindor and struggle to live up to Harry’s legacy in his own house, but putting him in Slytherin shook things up. It showed not all Slytherins are evil (finally) and allowed him to sort out his own legacy (even if he made some stupid decisions and I just wanted to shake him half the time). Scorpius is my new favorite character, though, and I’m glad Malfoy got to redeem himself.

The time travel element felt cheap to me, but it was a good way to bridge the stories of Harry and Albus together, to bring readers/viewers in, and it also allowed for the idea that every death and detail in the original story is important, that without each of those elements, time would have moved in a very different way. Death, particularly of the innocent, is hard on those around it, and sometimes we can’t get over it, but that might be the reason the war is won.

This meddling with time also just proved how much Ron and Hermione are right for one another, despite Rowling’s later admission. Every time time tried to rip them apart, they always found one another in the end (even if Ron’s character was very much a comic relief and pushed to the side for Harry and Hermione to run the world… he read more like Steve Kloves’ version of Ron rather than Rowlings). As this was one of my biggest concerns going into the book, I’m grateful Rowling kept with the canon, despite her misgivings.

End spoilery thoughts

Overall, it’s Harry Potter. Although I may not have felt that same rush I felt when reading the original seven, I was still giddy and excited to return to the world and characters I love so much. The characters – old and new – were wonderful, and the story was a reminder of why I fell in love in the first place.

Harry Potter has always been about relationships, being true to yourself, and finding a light in the darkness, and Cursed Child is exactly that.

So despite my misgivings, I absolutely loved it and am happy to have another Harry Potter story on my shelf.

Can someone buy me tickets to the stage show (and a ticket to London)? Now I really want to go. 😉

5/5 stars

The Regional Office is Under Attack! | Review


The Regional Office is Under Attack! by Manuel Gonzales

The premise of The Regional Office is Under Attack! is very exciting: a secret underground organization of badass warrior women who save the world, is under attack. It’s Die Hard with cyborgs and angsty teenager girls, with Oracles in turtle bathtubs and orange macbooks; what’s not to like? Or so I thought.

It starts out well enough; one of the assassins, Rose, is counting down the minutes until she can give the infiltration signal, before she can descend the mile underground to the Regional Office under stealth, before things go wrong.

But soon enough, the story gets lost in the spiraling backstories of characters I can’t find myself liking and the confusing narration, and it loses that initial spark.

The story follows two main characters: Sarah, the Director’s right hand, who has a mechanical arm and a broken past; and Rose, the newest and youngest recruit, but who is also rash and angry and doesn’t quite fit in.

160418_BOOKS_miller-regional-office.jpg.CROP.promo-xlarge2Alongside them are a handful of other secondary character that are perhaps more important to the plot than the two main protagonists are: Henry, the Recruiter on whom Rose has a crush, and who is perhaps behind this attack; and Mr. Niles, who, along with Oyemi, created the Regional Office and broke Sarah’s life. The men are the ones pulling the strings, despite the womens’ best efforts.

The story is told in sections based on each of the female characters, with chapters flip flopping between the past and present; in between these character sections are dissertation accounts on the Regional Office and it’s history and what could have happened to it. Much of it is speculation, but it does add backstory to the Regional Office and offers an outsider viewpoint on what happened.

Basically, this story is weird. I appreciate the tongue in cheek narrative about heroes and hero plots, but I had a really hard time getting through this. I didn’t particularly care for any of the characters, and had a hard time getting past the writing style (there’s a lot of “I could have done this, then I would’ve done this, and watch this… except I didn’t do any of it”) and a lot of it is left up to the reader’s interpretation of events.

I thought the premise was cool, but didn’t enjoy this nearly as much as I wanted to.

A Gathering of Shadows | Review

A Gathering of Shadows Final

A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2) by VE Schwab

Minor Spoilers Below

The second installment picks up a few months after A Darker Shade of Magic left off, with Lila fulfilling her pirate dreams and Kell and Rhy experiencing some new setbacks in their relationship. Their lives magically tied together, they can feel each other’s pain and emotions, and it’s starting to take its toll on the boys.

Kell is frustrated and can’t seem to expel the energy he has pent up inside, and Rhy is conflicted over feeling grateful he’s alive but wishing he’d had a choice in the matter.

Meanwhile, Red London is gearing up for the Essen Tasch, a magical tournament between the three neighboring kingdoms (a la Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) which pits twelve magicians from each kingdom against one another in four rounds of fighting.

While this is happening in Red London, White London is mending itself, and the darkness from the first book is slowly creeping its way back into control. A Gathering of Shadows, indeed.

The characters are what made me love the first book so much, and they continue to astound me and captivate me here, as does the newcomer, Alucard Emery, who is contesting to be my new favorite. He’s charming, magical, has secrets, and he’s a Captain, what’s not to like?

tumblr_nw8mfvX7nT1qaryrmo1_500I also really like the relationships between this cast of characters, and how they’re all varying and intricate. Not to mention, the romantic relationships that start blooming set my ships asail. My favorite ship from the first book totally sunk, but was replaced with one I may even like better. Also, yay! gay/bi characters! and Schwab’s light touch on the romance aspect. This is a fantasy, after all, NOT a romance. There’s some light kissing, but that’s about the extent of it.

The pace was about on par as the first book for me, which is to say, it’s a bit slower, but I attribute that to the rich writing and detail and my desire to savor the moment rather than rush it. Also, Schwab’s writing never feels very rushed or particularly fast-paced, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t exciting.

The Essen Tasch itself was really cool. I liked seeing how the magicians used magic as a weapon and learning more about the magic system itself. My only complaint is that I wish there’d been MORE! I do love tournaments and games though, which is why Goblet of Fire is my favorite of the Harry Potter books.

I also kept thinking more was going to happen with the neighboring kingdoms that were visiting. There were some subtle, throwaway lines about that, so my mind kept predicting massive slaughters and backstabbing during the Games. The ending is “catastrophic,” (it’s the name of the chapter), but not in that way. The book overall kind of feels like too much of a setup for the next book, as not a lot of major plot happens, but there’s some cool stuff and development along the way.

That catastrophic ending was close to what I’d predicted it would be, and I’ll be anxiously awaiting for the third (and final?) book next year.

4.5/5 stars

Quintana of Charyn | Review


Quintana of Charyn (The Lumatere Chronicles #3) by Melina Marchetta

The third book in The Lumatere Chronicles picks up where Froi of the Exiles left off, with a pregnant Quintana hidden, Froi nursing his wounds after being left for dead, Finnikin and Isaboe plotting against Gargarin, and Lucian starting to become the leader the Monts need.

This entire series has just escalated and broadened throughout. We started with just Finnikin and his quest to break the curse on Lumatere, and we’re ending with Quintana and Froi fighting to take back Charyn, a country we hated in the first book.

The characters are all lovely and wonderful, complex and layered. Some of them are rash and impatient, others are stoic with hidden passions, and there are a lot of hurt feelings and recovery. I love getting multiple characters’ perspectives, and that the side characters are at times more interesting than the mains. Who knew I’d love Lucian and Phaedra’s story so much?

tumblr_m81txjrE7Y1r3ibgko1_1280While Quintana isn’t my favorite character, and being in her head can at times be too much to handle, she definitely has a lot of interesting and captivating things about her, and you can’t help but wish her happiness.

I loved the overall growth of the characters throughout the series, whether it was Isaboe going from the feisty novice Evangelin to the Queen Isaboe who offers her hated neighbors help; the street rat Froi to the patient and respected Dafar of Abroi; or a Finnikin who’d given up hope to the queen’s consort trying to do the right thing by his people and his queen.

The plot isn’t as strong as it was in the first two installments, but the characters are put through a lot more emotional and internal dilemmas, and they struggle with where they belong and who they’re meant to be. Heavy, beautiful stuff, but slower to read at times. There are still some pretty cool action sequences (a particular one on ice sticks out in my mind), and some nuggets of information are dropped to broaden the story even more, but the best part is how the story and all the plotlines were wrapped up. It didn’t feel cheap, it felt right.

The Lumatere Chronicles doesn’t feel like YA, and it’s a beautiful, epic fantasy of love, faith, acceptance, growth, and hope.

The Walled City | Review


The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

Jin, Mei Yee, and Dai all live within the labyrinth of the towering buildings and lawless streets of The Walled City. Jin, a girl dressed as a boy, is the fastest runner and uses it to her advantage to stay alive, all the while searching for her long lost sister. Mei Yee, that very same sister, was sold at a young age and works in a brothel for the biggest druglord around. Dai is a boy with secrets of his own, secrets that could tear everything apart.

The Walled City is a story of friendship, family, survival, and learning when the survival of others is more important the survival of oneself. It’s about hope and a failure to give up, even when everything is at its bleakest.

It’s fantastic.

The three main characters are each central and integral to the story and the plot, to the development and understanding, to the themes and the unraveling. Each one brings a different personality, a different desire, a different secret. Each has their own story to tell.

The real Kowloon Walled City 

The setting, inside the walls of the Hak Nam Walled City – a place based on the very real Kowloon Walled City that used to exist outside of Hong Kong until the late 80s when it was torn down – is unique and desperate and richly layered. It’s a place of criminals, exiles, lawlessness, and savagery, but it’s also a place people cling to and call home. Not everyone is bad, some are there just trying to make an honest living in a dishonest city.

The plot is whirlwind. The first half I had no idea where the story was going, what the secrets were or how the story would end, just that I had a lot of pages left and no morsels of information to cling to and build theories off of. Then the secrets are revealed and the plot moves. Fast. The last 100 pages move in a blur, a race against time, a page turning dash to find out what happens, how it all comes together, how it ends.

It’s refreshing to read a Young Adult novel that doesn’t focus on the romance, that doesn’t fit into a clearly defined genre, that ends after just one book. And while there is romance, it’s not cheesy, it’s not defined, and there isn’t a love triangle; it’s there as a symbol of hope and escape. It’s not historical fiction, and it’s not a dystopian or a fantasy, but it includes elements of each.

And of course, there’s a cat. I love cats, and even more so when they’re as snarky and awesome as Chma. He stole the show, and his pain hurt me more than anything else I’ve read in awhile. Chma = my heart.

Finally, the fact that this book features Asian characters is another win.

All that being said, this book is not perfect. Some may find the writing style choppy, a problem I didn’t have but can see how others would. Parts of the plot are too convenient as well, and I wish more time could’ve been spent on some of the larger issues at hand: human trafficking, dehumanization, etc.

Overall, a really great, can’t-put-it-down read!

4.5/5 stars – the 1/2 star is for Chma!

Froi of the Exiles | Review


Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta (The Lumatere Chronicles #2)

When I saw the title of the second installment of The Lumatere Chronicles and quickly realized we would be spending most of our time with Froi rather than Finnikin, I was slightly disappointed. I loved Finnikin in the first book, and wanted more of his story. But how wrong I was.

While we still get some Finnikin, and Isaboe and Trevanion and all the others from the first installment, I found myself not missing them as much as I thought I would. By the end of Finnikin, Froi had already begun the transformation from mannerless thief to someone they could trust, and by the time Froi begins, he is well positioned in the kingdom of Lumatere and has grown tremendously. As part of the King’s Guard, he’s been trained in combat and stealth, but also in how to control his rage and respect others. As a farmer, he’s learned patience and a desire to earn his living and work with his hands.

Three years have passed since the events in Finnikin and the kingdom is slowly coming together once more. In neighboring Charyn, however, things have taken a turn for the worse. The fate of one kingdom affects the others, and there are a lot of side plots regarding both the growth of Isaboe and Finnikin as leaders and the people of Lumatere and how they’re coping. Not to mention the unease and tension caused by neighboring strifes.

tumblr_m81txjrE7Y1r3ibgko1_1280Just as a curse had afflicted Lumatere in Finnikin, Froi features a curse on Charyn, one that has left the kingdom childless for 18 years, and Froi must slowly confront his own personal battle of doing what is right versus doing what he’s bound to do.

Marchetta has a way with characters, and Froi is no different. Quintana is legitimately crazy, the twins Gargarin and Arjuro are broken, mean-spirited, and brilliant, and Phaedra slowly captured my heart, along with the rest of Lumatere.

At almost 200 pages longer than Finnikin, Froi is a chunker of a book, and while most of the time I didn’t notice it, other times I had no idea where the story was going to go and was ready for it to pick up. Specifically the middle section, when there’s a lot of introducing of characters and answering of questions and not so much of a plot. Towards the end there’s quite a bit of wandering from province to province and a lot of angry teenage angst that I could’ve done without.

That being said, I love putting little pieces in the story together, and Marchetta does that so well. And the ending! It rips at me, it makes me desperate to pick up Quintana of Charyn even though I said I was going to take a break from the binge-reading of the series.

There’s a lot of mystery and hidden connections, and we get to explore the kingdom of Charyn and its inhabitants, and maybe find we don’t hate them as much as we did before.
There are multiple sides to all stories, you’re not quite sure who to believe or trust at times, and the cliffhanger at the ending is setting the finale up to question what is right and what is evil, and characters will need to make choices between blood, love, pride, duty, and honor.

Finnikin of the Rock | Review


Finnikin of the Rock (The Lumatere Chronicles #1) by Melina Marchetta

I didn’t know what to expect about Finnikin of the Rock going into it, only that I’d heard about it from other BookTubers almost a year ago, where it had promptly sat on my amazon wishlist, and then my library checkouts shelf until it was either read it or return it. So I read it. And how I wish I hadn’t waited an entire year.

When he’s just a boy, Finnikin and his friends, the Prince of Lumatere and the Prince’s cousin, make a pledge to protect their country. Soon after, the country is wrecked, the royal family assassinated, and a curse placed over the land. Ten years later, when the main story takes place, Finnikin wanders the Land, learning everything he can and recording the fates of the other exiled Lumaterans until one day a name is whispered into his ear and he finally finds the strength to fight for his home.

The characters are complex and haggard and layered and wonderful. The women are not there as foils to the men, and there are clear arcs and growth taking place. I loved both Finnikin and Evanjalin, but also Sir Topher and Trevanion and even Froi by the end.

The story begins with a confusing and mysterious prologue of the evil events that set the story in motion, and then the reader is catapulted ten years in the future. The backstory is told in snippets rather than all at once, told when needed or as a bit of foreshadowing, which I loved. Info-dumps felt natural, as did dialogue and the actions of the characters (for the most part). Additionally, there is a twist around the 3/4 mark that I should’ve predicted, but perhaps my blindness helped me relate more to Finnikin in that moment.

Wiki-backgroundThe world is rich and full and beautiful, with each nation having its own identity and characteristics. People acted as they did for a reason, and I found it to be incredibly well thought out. I did find some of the names of the countries to be similar and confusing at first, but the map in the front definitely helped me get a sense of where the characters were.

Although it’s YA, it’s high class YA. Some of the actions and emotions of Finnikin are those typical of a doubt-ridden, angsty teenage boy, but I didn’t feel like they harmed the narrative in any way, and there are so many other, more adult, themes happening that sometimes it’s nice to revel in the idiocies and naivete of our youth.

It’s a fantasy with betrayal, dreamwalking, love, fighting, blood pledges, relationships, and finding strength, faith, and hope even when there is none.

4.5/5 stars

Lies of Locke Lamora | Review


The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard #1) by Scott Lynch

Locke Lamora, the head of a gang of thieves calling themselves the Gentleman Bastards, is one of the most gifted con artists the city of Camorr has ever seen – if not the very best. Channeling his inner Robin Hood, Lamora only steals from the rich, and his band of Oliver Twist orphans become his family at an early age. When a dark force starts following him and threatening everything and everyone he knows, however, his life of elaborate schemes becomes a quest to stay alive.

Lynch has painted an incredible world with a rich backstory and culture, shown to the reader through side chapters and Lamora’s playing characters from a variety of places. Camorr itself is a city built on water, with dangerous canals and sharks making rickety dwellings all the worse. I loved the way magic and alchemy were used for the fantastical aspect, but they weren’t accessible by anyone, and those who possessed magic weren’t your nice Hogwarts students.

The structure is a split narrative, with chapters alternating from the present to the story of Locke as a young boy and how he got involved with the Gentleman Bastards. As the novel reaches its apex, the flashbacks turn into brief history lessons served to help the reader better understand the actions and consequences of the coming events. These flashbacks helped further flesh out the character of Locke, but also of his fellow Bastards and those relationships. While not everything is answered, (how did Locke come to meet Bug? What happened to Sabetha?), I can only guess some of these answers might come to light in future books in the series.

1186011The plot is mysterious, interweaving, and, especially at the end, fast-paced, especially for a 700+ page book. There are so many layers that Lynch does a wonderful job interweaving, and I do love a good twisting plot that keeps me guessing. While the climax was slightly predictable, I still felt the rush of angst over whether or not Locke would save the day, and I appreciated that it wasn’t all too easy for him in his attempt. Lynch isn’t afraid to kill some of your favorite characters, and won’t make it easy for them to escape peril.

And oh, the characters. How I love them. Some of my favorite characters are the ones who are clever and sassy, and Locke fits the bill. I couldn’t wait to read about/figure out how he’d escape each situation, but I also loved his love and compassion for his friends and his pride in his work. I love Jean like a big giant teddy bear, even though he’s nothing of the sort. And I want to take Bug into a big hug.

I wish there were more women; towards the end those included start to play a bigger part, but, again, where was Sabetha? I could do with a strong woman, though did appreciate those that were there, and that they all weren’t just used as flower pieces.

It’s long, but it’s captivating, and the only reason I didn’t finish it sooner was because I didn’t have the chunk of time available to do so (and had to start back at work, which drained me mentally for a good two weeks).

Brilliant, complex, and I can’t wait to pick up the next one.

Also, this was a FIRST NOVEL? I’m floored.

All My Friends are Superheroes | Review


All My Friends are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman

What a wonderful, beautiful, heartbreakingly romantic little book.

I don’t want to say too much about this book, because knowing too much about it ahead of time would ruin a first time reading. What I will say is this book is simple and quick (120 pages) and something everyone should read.

In it’s essence, it’s a love story; a perfect, wonderful little love story told in a unique way, which also praises individuality and personality quirks and fighting to hold on to those things which are real.amfas_banner2Don’t be put off by the “S” word in the title if that’s not your thing; it’s moderate and creatively done, and these aren’t your cape-wearing crime fighters.

Like ginger after sushi, this is a really great palate-cleanser, and is silly and quirky and fun, and will fit in between two larger reads with ease.
It’s harder to find in the States, but well worth the scavenge.