Ember and the Ice Dragons by Heather Fawcett – A Review

Ember and the Ice Dragons by Heather Fawcett
Middle Grade | Fantasy
Published by Balzer + Bray
Released 11 August 2020
Goodreads | Amazon

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I will read any book with dragons in it. It doesn’t matter what age group it’s for or what popular opinion on the book might be – if there’s a dragon, I want to read it.

While looking through lists of new releases back at the end of July, I came across a synopsis for Heather Fawcett’s Ember and the Ice Dragon. It sounded too cute to pass up.

Our main character, Ember St. George, is a dragon-turned human and goes on an adventure to Antarctica to stay with her aunt. Once there, she discovers that a group of aristocrats partake of an annual hunt of the region’s ice dragons.

Heather Fawcett

Horrified, Ember, along with two of her new friends, join the hunt. Their plan is to sabotage it from within and save the ice dragons. Neither of her new friends are aware that Ember is a dragon as well, however; it’s her deepest secret and she struggles to hide it from everyone.

The entire story was super cute and fun to read. It definitely reads like a middle-grade novel (which is appropriate, since it’s the book’s targeted audience), but the reader isn’t talked down to like I’ve seen in other middle-grade books. At times there are a few difficult topics that are addressed, such as the death of Ember’s parents, but are handled very well and in a way that is age-appropriate.

I really enjoyed Ember’s journey of self-discovery and learning that it’s okay to be herself. She’s had to keep her true self from the world for so long that she’s terrified of how she would be treated if anyone were to find out that she’s a dragon. However, she doesn’t count on how powerful the unconditional bond of friendship can be. Ember has lived most of her life solo, not allowing herself to make friends, but she learns how much happier she can be with friends by her side.

Along with friendship, family also plays an incredibly important role in this book. Ember’s father adopts her when she is very young and in need, and their bond is powerful. (This isn’t a spoiler, by the way; it happens in the very first few pages of the book.)

The book’s antagonist, Prince Gideon, certainly comes across as “the bad guy,” but I really appreciated the depth of his character. In the novels I read in middle grade, there usually wasn’t that much depth to the books; one character was good, one was evil, the good one won, and so on. I don’t read many middle-grade books these days, but I hope good character development like this is the new trend.

I listened to the audiobook of Ember and the Ice Dragons, and I would definitely recommend the format.

If you’re looking for a slightly unusual take on classic fantasy tropes, along with dragons and magic, give Ember and the Ice Dragons a chance. It would have been a favorite had it been around when I was in middle school, especially the parts with the quirky penguins!


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New Andrzej Sapkowski Trilogy To Be Released in English

Tower of Fools Andrzej Sapkowski

Great news for Andrzej Sapkowski fans, or for anyone that enjoys fantasy based on real history!

If Sapkowski’s name sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because he’s the genius behind The WitcherI recently read the first book in The Witcher series, The Last Wish, and I loved it. I’m stoked for this new-to-us fantasy series.

Tower of Fools is planned to be released on October 27, 2020. Here’s the official blurb from Orbit:

Andrzej Sapkowski, winner of the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement, created an international phenomenon with his New York Times bestselling Witcher series. Now, he introduces readers to a new world, and a new hero–a young magician and healer on an epic journey across a war-torn land.

When a thoughtless indiscretion finds Reinmar of Bielau caught in the crosshairs of powerful noble family, he is forced to flee his home.

But once he passes beyond the city walls, he finds that there are dangers ahead as well as behind. Pursued by dark forces both human and mystic, it’ll take all his wits, his skill in healing, and his knowledge of magic to survive.

If you’re like me and feel that October is way too far away, head over to Gizmodo to read an excerpt!


How excited are you about Tower of Fools! Let me know in the comments!




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Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore – A Review

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Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore
Magical Realism | Fantasy
Published by Del Rey Books
Released August 22nd, 2017
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars

“Perfection is being happy with what you are right now.” 

I apologize in advance for this review, because I have no idea how to even start reviewing this incredible piece of literature. Days after finishing this novel, I’m still thinking about it constantly. I already want to read it again, in fact. It made me want to read everything Michael Poore has ever written. Yes, it’s that good.

My brother, who is also an avid reader, recommended this book to me some time ago, but unfortunately, it took me months to actually get around to reading it. While I wished I had read it a long time ago, I’m just thankful that this story is now in my life.

I hope I’m not building this book up too much for you guys. Actually, I kind of hope I am, because you should read it.

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Michael Poore

Reincarnation Blues is about Milo, a man who has been reincarnated almost 10,000 times. He’s told by his afterlife handlers (I don’t know how else to describe them), Mama and Nan, that he’s only got a few more chances to reach perfection, or he will become nothing. His goal doesn’t become just reaching perfection however; he tries to help his girlfriend, Death (aka. Suzie), to be able to live the life she wants (or, afterlife I suppose).

While I was reading Reincarnation Blues I kept getting strong Salman Rushdie vibes due to the magical realism and the type of dark humor that Poore wove into the story, but this is very much a unique novel that I’ve never encountered before. Poore has a unique writing voice and a story-telling technique that made me fall in love with the book pretty much immediately.

We get to learn the stories of Milo’s last few lives, along with shorter tales of his previous lives. I particularly loved the stories following Milo during the end of life on Earth, as one of the Buddha’s disciples, when he makes a powerful sacrifice on another world, and then his experience as a juggler in the afterlife.

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The Italian edition of Reincarnation Blues

His lives are lived in a non-linear chronology, as time doesn’t matter as much in the afterlife and in choosing his next life. We jump back and forth in time, but no worries if time travel isn’t your thing – you barely even notice it.

The love story between Milo and Suzie (aka Death) was well-done and left my heart breaking at times and smiling at others. Both of their characters were well-developed and had their own goals. Milo needed to find a way to reach perfection, while Suzie wanted to be more than Death.

There’s so much dark humor, along with wisdom about making the most of our own lives. Filled with plenty of joys and tragedies, this book will make you feel so many different emotions as you turn each page, making the experience of reading this novel quite powerful.

I don’t use the term masterpiece often, but Michael Poore’s Reincarnation Blues is a masterpiece. It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year and has easily forced its way into my top ten favorite books of all time. It’s been ages since I’ve read something as unique and imaginative as this, and I recommend that everyone read it.


Have you read Michael Poore’s Reincarnation Blues? What were your thoughts about it? Let me know in the comments!




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The Emperor’s Railroad by Guy Haley – A Review

The Emperor's Railroad - Guy Haley

The Emperor’s Railroad (Dreaming Cities #1) by Guy Haley
Post-Apocalyptic | Fantasy
Published by St. Martin’s Press
Released April 19, 2016
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

My boyfriend often gets bored when we’re at the library. He’s not really a reader, so while I’m spending an exorbitant amount of time walking between the shelves, piling up books until I reach my maximum checkout limit, he gets a bit antsy. Last time we went together, he decided to help me pick out some short books to read because I’m way behind on my Goodreads challenge.

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Author Guy Haley

Fortunately for me, he came back with The Emperor’s Railroad, a book I had never heard of but wanted to read as soon as I saw the first paragraph of the synopsis on the back cover:

“Global war devastated the environment, a zombie-like plague wiped out much of humanity, and civilization as we once understood it came to a standstill. But that was a thousand years ago, and the world is now a very different place.”

That is everything I need in a book. Post-apocalyptic fiction has long been my favorite genre, so I started reading it that same night.

This book is very short – just 176 pages – and I was able to finish it in a single day. I enjoyed the setting right away. Most post-apocalyptic fiction is mixed with elements of science, such as nuclear war, bioengineered viruses, EMP attacks, death from the cosmos, that sort of thing. In this book, however, author Guy Haley has written a post-apocalyptic fantasy book, complete with knights and talking dragons.

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I can’t recall ever reading a book that featured both zombies and dragons, so that was an aspect of the book that I really loved.

The story (at least in book one of the series) is told from the point-of-view of a twelve-year-old boy named Abney. He and his mother meet up with a Knight named Quinn on the road, and he agrees to help them travel the dangerous roads to a village in the north where they have a relative.

The first twenty or so pages, the way the story was told annoyed me a little, but I got used to it. Abney’s voice is undeniably young and imperfect, especially since there’s not much education left in this world. Abney grew on me a lot though, and by the end, I was glad that the story was told from his perspective.

The most fascinating character in the book is definitely Quinn. He’s a Knight, appointed by Angels, although he chooses not to wear his badge showing which city he is from. Quinn is quiet and mysterious, and by the end of The Emperor’s Railroad, I found myself both intrigued and a little confused. In a good way, though – I’ve already reserved the second book in this duology from the library.

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As this is a fantasy story, there’s some world-building, but I’m still a little unsure of the specifics of it. We learn quite a bit in The Emperor’s Railroad, but I hope it’s heavily expanded upon in book two. There were several times in the book where I wasn’t sure if the characters were referring to something literal or figurative; for example, the Angels that are frequently discussed are never shown in this book, and I feel there’s an equal chance that they’re either actual Angels or that they’re just people posing as angelic beings. I also found myself wanting to learn more about the politics of this world and the hierarchy of the rulers.

There are very few authors who can pull off something like combining zombies with dragons in a post-apocalyptic world, but Guy Haley definitely succeeded.

I’m thrilled to have discovered this duology via my bored boyfriend randomly pulling books from our library’s shelves. I can’t wait to read book two, The Ghoul King. If you enjoy genre-bending fantasy stories with mysterious characters and good suspense, do yourself a favor and pick this series up.


Have you read Guy Haley’s Dreaming Cities duology? If so, let me know what you thought!




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Quichotte by Salman Rushdie – A Review

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Quichotte by Salman Rushdie
Fiction | Contemporary | Magical Realism
Published by Random House
Released September 3rd, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

Note: I received a free ARC of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects my opinions.

“Every quest takes place in both the sphere of the actual, which is what maps reveal to us, and in the sphere of the symbolic, for which the only maps are the unseen ones in our heads.”

There’s nobody else in the world who writes quite like Salman Rushdie. No matter what topic he’s writing about or which of his characters the words are coming from, his words are poetic and profound.

My brother was the person who introduced me to Rushdie and inspired me to read The Ground Beneath Her Feet, a book about a famous singer lost after an earthquake. I still consider that novel one of the most beautiful I’ve ever read. I quickly followed that up with what has become my favorite Rushdie novel, Haroun and the Sea of Stories

Salman Rushdie.jpgQuichotte is a story told from the point of view of Sam DuChamp, author of spy thrillers. Within that story, we also meet the characters of the newest book that DuChamp is writing, about a character named Quichotte.

Quichotte is a former salesman obsessed with television, particularly a TV personality named Miss Salma R. Quichotte is in love with her, and in order to meet her and have her reciprocate those feelings, he travels through “seven valleys” to make her more attainable and himself more worthy.

I don’t want to say too much more about the plot because I really think that this is a book that you need to go into not knowing too much about it. I love this part of Random House’s official synopsis for the story because it’s what initially made me want to read this novel:

Just as Cervantes wrote Don Quixote to satirize the culture of his time, Rushdie takes the reader on a wild ride through a country on the verge of moral and spiritual collapse. And with the kind of storytelling magic that is the hallmark of Rushdie’s work, the fully realized lives of DuChamp and Quichotte intertwine in a profoundly human quest for love and a wickedly entertaining portrait of an age in which fact is so often indiscernible from fiction.

A quick note before getting into my thoughts:  You do not need to read Don Quixote in order to read Quichotte. 

The story carried me along, enchanting and baffling me at the same time. Rushdie’s talent for weaving the fantastical with what’s real is easy to see here, just as it is in many of his other novels.

While Quichotte isn’t my favorite novel of Rushdie’s that I’ve read, I enjoyed the story very much and rated it a high four stars. I loved the dual narratives. Sam DuChamp is going through a midlife crisis while telling a story through Quichotte, a semi-autobiographical character on a quest for love.

The story takes on a variety of topics related to familial and romantic relationships, such as that between Quichotte and his imaginary yet real son. Estrangement, sexual abuse, drugs, and more are touched on, in a manner that is well done and serves to make the characters relatable. Their backstories also explain a lot about their personalities when we meet them in the story as well as their motivations. Few of the characters are good, they all have dark sides and make questionable decisions.

There were passages in this book that got a little bit repetitive. It was definitely a stylistic choice made consciously by Rushdie, which I was fine with the first few times I encountered it, but eventually, I started to dread sentences like this one:

“He devoured morning shows, daytime shows, late-night talk shows, soaps, situation comedies, Lifetime Movies, hospital dramas, police series, vampire and zombie serials, the dramas of housewives from Atlanta, New Jersey, Beverly Hills and New York, the romances and quarrels of hotel-fortune princesses and self-styled shahs, the cavortings of individuals made famous by happy nudities, the fifteen minutes of fame accorded to young persons with large social media followings on account of their plastic-surgery acquisition of a third breast or their post-rib-removal figures that mimicked the impossible shape of the Mattel company’s Barbie doll, or even, more simply, their ability to catch giant carp in picturesque settings while wearing only the tiniest of string bikinis; as well as singing competitions, cooking competitions, competitions for business propositions, competitions for business apprenticeships, competitions between remote-controlled monster vehicles, fashion competitions, competitions for the affections of both bachelors and bachelorettes, baseball games, basketball games, football games, wrestling bouts, kickboxing bouts, extreme sports programming and, of course, beauty contests.”

See what I mean?

This novel was very much worth the time it took me to read it. It’s by no means a short book, and due to passages like the one I shared above, at times it can be a bit daunting. It was wonderful, and I was enchanted by the settings, characters, storytelling, and Rushdie’s writing style.

I’m not sure if I would recommend Quichotte to a reader who will be reading Salman Rushdie for the first time. Instead, maybe read The Ground Beneath Her Feet or Midnight’s ChildrenHowever, if you have read any of Rushdie’s other works and found yourself loving his witty, fantastical, surrealist stories, definitely read Quichotte.


Have you read Quichotte? What’s your favorite Salman Rushdie novel? Let me know in the comments!




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A Hero Born by Jin Yong – A Review

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A Hero Born (Legends of the Condor Heroes #1) by Jin Yong
Fantasy | Martial Arts
Translated from Chinese
Published by St. Martin’s Press
Released September 17, 2019
Originally Published in China in 1957
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars

Here’s a thing you guys should know about me: I tend to plan out hardcore, impossible-to-do ideas and then quickly abandon them. Now that I’m receiving mental health treatment, I know that it’s one of my bipolar disorder symptoms. A perfect example of this random urge I get was the idea I had last year to dedicate each month to a different country and only read books from that country, calling the challenge “Read the World.”

Obviously, this didn’t work out for a few reasons. First, finding translated literature, especially from some small countries, can be an incredibly frustrating endeavor. Second, it was going to be damn near impossible to read only translated books, especially with so many amazing books coming out in the U.S. that I wanted to read. And third, it was just going to be too much.

However, for the one month when I somewhat tried to stick with the plan, I settled on reading Chinese books. What I did read that month was really fun, plus I had a guest post from the amazing Meonicorn.

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The first Chinese edition

Since fantasy is my favorite genre, I obviously started off my search for books to read by looking for original Chinese fantasy novels. I discovered the Legends of the Condor Heroes series, written by Jin Young in the late 50s/early 60s. It sounded amazing – a martial arts generational saga taking place during the Song Empire and featuring Genghis Khan? Yes, please.

Unfortunately, though, finding an English translation was so difficult that the search was one of the reasons I quickly abandoned the whole “Read the World” endeavor. I added the book to my Goodreads TBR and, sadly, gave up the search.

And then, a few months later, I saw a new English translation for the first of the novels, A Hero Born, on Edelweiss!! I reached out to the publisher and was ridiculously excited when I received an ARC of this book in the mail.

I’m so thrilled that this series is getting a new English translation and being released. The first book was incredible. I couldn’t put it down and gave it a solid five-star rating. I can’t believe I have to wait until 2020 for the second book. I can say with confidence that A Hero Born will be on my top ten books of 2019 list.

Jin Yong
Jin Yong

Whew, I guess that’s enough backstory. Let’s get to the book itself.

Legends of the Condor Heroes is an epic Chinese martial arts fantasy series. It was originally a serialized story published in the Hong Kong Commercial Daily, but eventually was published in novel form.

The story starts off by the reader meeting two sworn brothers, Yang Tiexin and Guo Xiaotian, who pledge to one another that their children will be bonded just as they are. If the children are both of the same gender, they will become sworn siblings; if they are not, they will be married.

After a tragic event occurs, the children are separated, and Guo Xiaotian’s son, Guo Jing, ends up being raised in Mongolia, the best friend and sworn brother of Genghis Khan’s son. He is taught martial arts from a group known as the “Seven Freaks of Jiangnan.” Unbeknownst to Guo Jing, however, he has been entered into a martial arts contest which he’ll fight at 18 years of age. By the end of the novels, he’s making his way into China and has to put both his courage and skill to the test.

This novel was extraordinary. The fight scenes were so well-written and intense. In many novels, fight scenes are difficult to describe, but author Jin Yong wrote it in such a way that you can easily visualize every step taken amongst the warriors.

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Genghis Khan

The antagonists in the story were conniving, manipulating, and, in one particular case, downright terrifying. About halfway through A Hero Born, we encounter a monstrous pair of martial artists known as Copper Corpse and Iron Corpse. Together, they’re known as Twice Fowl Dark Wind and they’ve perfected what is called the Nine Yin Skeleton Claw, a horrible move that slaughters their victims and leaves holes in the skull, right through the bone.

If you’re familiar with martial arts and Kung Fu literature, then the paragraph above won’t be shocking. When Chinese names and martial arts techniques are translated into English, they often end up with descriptive names that seem unusual to Western readers. If you’re not used to these sorts of names, please don’t let it put you off from the story; stick with it, and it’ll quickly lose its strangeness.

I enjoyed watching our protagonist, Guo Jing, grow up throughout the novel. We follow him from being in his mother’s womb to when he’s grown and ventures into China, and it’s fascinating watching his character development. Many of the other characters are just as amazing, but you don’t get to know any of the others as deeply as you do Guo Jing. I’m hoping that in the rest of the novels we get to know even more characters as intimately.

There’s a little bit of everything in this book, from love, war, betrayal, and friendship to amazing scenery, fight scenes, and dialogue. The only thing that I disliked about the book is that I have to wait a little longer before reading the second book in this series.

Legends of the Condor Heroes is the most famous fantasy martial arts series in China, and author Jin Yong has been compared to J.R.R. Tolkien and George R.R. Martin. Reading A Hero Born, I understand these comparisons. There’s a good reason for it. If you’re looking for a new series to lose yourself in, or if you’re a fan of martial arts, this series is definitely one that you should check out.


Do you think you’ll be reading the Legends of the Condor Heroes series? Let me know why or why not in the comments!




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Monstress by Marjorie M. Liu – A Review

Monstress Volume 1 Marjorie M. Liu

Monstress, Volumes 1-3 by Marjorie M. Liu
Art by Sana Takeda
Fantasy | Science Fiction | Comic Book
Published by Image Comics
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_and_a_half_stars

I have no idea where I first heard of Marjorie Liu’s Monstress series, but it’s one that I’ve had on my mind for a few years. While I usually stick to Marvel or Star Trek comics (big surprise, right?), occasionally something from Image (which is a publisher that has some truly stunning titles) will catch my eye.

I was in the mood to re-read volume one and catch up the rest, so I picked up volumes 1-3 from my local library. I ended up only reading the first two, and this review will be discussing both.

To start, let’s talk about the story. There’s no way I can put it better than the official synopses:

Set in an alternate matriarchal 1900’s Asia, in a richly imagined world of art deco-inflected steampunk, MONSTRESS tells the story of a teenage girl who is struggling to survive the trauma of war, and who shares a mysterious psychic link with a monster of tremendous power, a connection that will transform them both and make them the target of both human and otherworldly powers.

How perfect is that? This is exactly the kind of comic book series that I need in my life.

The art in the series, done by Sana Takeda, is gorgeous. I love the art deco vibes, and the dark color scheme fits it really well. The look and style of the characters, especially the arcanic characters, are stunning.

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Now, let’s talk about the story itself and the writing.

I read a lot of high fantasy and science fiction, most of which contain a lot of new world-building. In fact, great world-building is one of the things I look for in fiction. It’s why authors like Brandon Sanderson and Leigh Bardugo are some of my favorites. The world-building in Monstress, however, was jumbled and very often confusing. There are also places where there’s quite a bit of info-dumping, which I feel shouldn’t be necessary for a comic book series.

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Writing stories for comic books isn’t easy. The majority of issues are around 22-25 pages and mostly images, which means that the writer needs to be able to craft a compelling narrative that readers can grasp easily and quickly. This doesn’t mean that the story needs to be simple; in fact, many comic books today, even from established publishers like Marvel and DC Comics, are releasing stories that have a lot of depth to them. When I read Monstress, though, I found myself having to flip back and forth multiple times in order to figure out what was going on and to make sense of this new, very complicated world.

The story that Liu has created is absolutely entrancing, and I would love to read more of it. I just don’t feel that a comic book series was necessarily the right way to tell this story. There’s almost too much world-building and lore, especially for a medium where there’s not a lot of room to explore it.

Despite the stunning art, the story was too hard to follow and I found myself no longer enjoying it. I hate that I’m saying this because I really wanted to like this series. It should be one of my favorites, just based on the idea behind it. The execution, though, and the fact that it’s a comic book rather than a novel (which I think would have worked so much better for a story as complicated as this one) made me realize that it really isn’t the series for me.


Have you read any of the Monstress series? If so, what did you think? Let me know in the comments!


Looking for some other great fantasy comic books to read?

The Realm | Skyward | Black Bolt | Doctor Strange: The Oath




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Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman – A Review

Snow Glass Apples Neil Gaiman

Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman
Illustrated by Colleen Doran
Retellings | Fantasy
Published by Dark Horse
Released August 20th, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

Many readers of this blog will know that Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors. I love the whimsy and darkness that permeate his stories. I had never heard of this Snow White reimagining before it was re-published by Dark Horse back in August, but the cover art immediately caught my eye.

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Snow, Glass, Apples is a reimagining of the Snow White fairy tale, where the step-mother isn’t the evil one, but the young girl, Snow White, is. I love that this is a horror-reimagining of the fairy tale, something I’ve never seen done before. The story was delightfully dark and twisted.

As wonderful as Neil Gaiman’s writing for this was, however, the art by Colleen Doran stole the spotlight. It’s gorgeous. I’ll be buying a physical copy of this before long just so I can look at the artwork whenever I want to. It’s perfect.

If you’re looking for a Snow White story with a happy ending, this isn’t for you. It’s very dark, there’s no happy ending, and the story involves vampires. For example:

“If it were today, I would have her heart cut out, true. But then I would have her head and arms and legs cut off. I would have them disembowel her. And then I would watch, in the town square, as the hangman heated the fire to white-heat with bellows, watch unblinking as he consigned each part of her to the fire. I would have archers around the square, who would shoot any bird or animal who came close to the flames, any raven or dog or hawk or rat. And I would not close my eyes until the princess was ash, and a gentle wind could scatter her like snow.

I did not do this thing, and we pay for our mistakes.”

It probably won’t happen, but I would love to see this story turned into a film or television show.

If you like Neil Gaiman or dark fairy tale reimaginings or just amazing art, definitely pick up this book.


What is your favorite Snow White retelling or reimagining? Let us know in the comments!




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The Land of the Beasts by S.F. Claymore – A Review

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The Land of the Beasts by S.F. Claymore
Fantasy | Novella
Self-published
Published
Goodreads
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_1_and_a_half_stars

Note: I received a free ebook of this novella from the author in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects my opinions.

I’ll read pretty much any book that includes dragons, so when S.F. Claymore reached out to me to review this fantasy novella, I immediately said yes. It’s a prelude to his novel Champion’s Rising (Champion of Psykoria Book 1)

I wanted so badly to like this, but it didn’t work out. This is a novella, so it’s a very short read, and obviously, novellas are not going to be as detailed as a full-length novel. Despite that, I just found myself thinking that the story felt unfinished.

There were several issues I found with this story that prompted me to give it just a 1.5-star rating. First, I felt like I was reading a first draft or an outline of a story, not something finished. The story progressed quickly, but at the price of sacrificing any kind of character development and world-building.

As a result, this story was very one-dimensional and flat. I had no connection to any of the characters, and King Breetor was just a generic fantasy king on a quest – a quest that made little sense due to the lack of world-building. Essentially, to prove his worth to his council, he has to find a dragon and bring back proof of their existence. Despite dragons helping them in a previous war. Despite his having soldiers that he could send so that he wouldn’t have to leave his kingdom for several years. The story just didn’t make sense to me.

Perhaps in the novel, Champion’s Rising, the story and world-building will be better. However, based on how I felt about this novella, I probably won’t be reading it.



Looking for some fantasy books to read?

Roar | The Tea-Dragon Society | The Way of Kings | An Ember in the Ashes | The Boneless Mercies




Don’t forget to follow me on social media:

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If you would like to support Read Yourself Happy, you can donate through Ko-Fi!

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – A Review

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Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Fantasy | Mythology
Published by Del Rey
Released July 23, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

I was inspired to pick up Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Gods of Jade and Shadow for the #MythTakeReadathon hosted by Ashley at A Frolic Through Fiction. This novel is based on Mexican folklore, which is something that I’ve never read before and was excited to get into. When I saw that Book of the Month was offering it as one of their July selections, I knew I needed to buy it.

The story takes place during the early 1900s in a small town in Yucatan. Casiopea Tun lives with her grandfather and extended family, but she’s forced to work hard to tend to the rest of the family and clean up their messes. She dreams of bigger things and escaping into the city, but doesn’t know how she’ll manage to get out of the frustrating role she’s currently in.

One day she’s left behind during a family outing and decides to open a mysterious locked trunk that her Grandfather keeps in his bedroom. In opening it, she accidentally releases a Mayan god named Hun-Kamé. The god was trapped there after having his head lopped off by his twin brother, and now that he’s free he’s set on taking back his throne and getting revenge. Since Casiopea opened the trunk, she is bound to him, and as he gets stronger, she becomes weaker. They have to win back the throne in order for her to survive.

There were so many aspects of this novel that I loved. I’ve always enjoyed novels set in the 1920s (after all, The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite books of all time), but I’ve never read a book that was set in Mexico during that time period. It was so exciting to read about, and will definitely inspire me to seek out more books in 1920s Mexico.

The romance in the novel is slow-burn and wonderful, and I really loved the way that the story was tied up in the end regarding that romance. It was more realistic than a fairytale, which is a quality that I wished more fantasy stories had.

Casiopea was a strong, delightful, and snarky character, and I liked her from the very start. She knows that where she’s at in life, in terms of basically being a servant for her family, is not what she wants, and she’s determined to get out and make a new life for herself. I think feeling like we’re not where we’re meant to be is something that a lot of us can relate to.

One last note – I’ve heard from several people that Gods of Jade and Shadow is a Cinderella retelling, but I did not get that vibe or see any of those qualities in this book.

Gods of Jade and Shadow was my first book written by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, but I have a feeling that it won’t be the last. She writes in a smooth, full style, and there’s always something going on without being excessive. I was hooked on the story from beginning to end.


Have you read Gods of Jade and Shadow? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!



If you’re interested in fantasy based on mythology and folklore, here are a few other books you may enjoy:

Once & Future | A Shifting of Stars | The Boneless Mercies | The Light Between Worlds




Don’t forget to follow me on social media:

Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest | Instagram | Amazon Wishlist

If you would like to support Read Yourself Happy, you can donate through Ko-Fi!

Vicious by V.E. Schwab – A Review

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Vicious (Villains #1) by V.E. Schwab
Fantasy | Science Fiction
Published by Tor Books
Released September 24, 2013
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars

Vicious was one of the first books that the online book community turned me on to; it just took me a couple of years to finally read it. And oh my my, I loved it.

This is the second Victoria/V.E. Schwab book that I’ve read and reviewed on Read Yourself Happy, the first being City of Ghosts, which was incredibly enjoyable.

Vicious is the first book in a duology and is about two roommates at university who are both brilliant and strange. They decide to experiment to find out if it is possible to become an EO, or ExtraOrdinary – basically a superhero. They discover that an important part of the process is having a near-death experience, and they both take their turns. Things don’t turn out quite as they imagine, however.

I was pretty much hooked on this novel from the start, as the first chapter involves a mysterious man and a dead girl walking through a graveyard for some nighttime gravedigging. Sure, it’s dark, but so is my taste in books.

We see the story from both Victor and Eli’s perspective, and I enjoyed how different the two characters are, from their desires and personalities to their goals and motivations. There are also a couple of sidekicks – Victor’s prison buddy Mitch, and Sydney, a teenage girl with an extraordinary gift that Victor picked up on the side of the road.

This is a revenge story more than anything, as we learn right away. Something happened between the former best friends, and the story starts off with Victor hinting that he wants to get back at Eli.

Vicious is the perfect book for comic book fans, as it deals with characters with superhuman powers. Also, just like a lot of our favorite superheroes, neither Victor nor Eli are good people. They both have many qualities that make them just as much a villain as a hero, and that quality adds so much dimension into the overall story.

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I’m so glad I loved this book because I went into it wanting to love it. I follow Victoria Schwab on Instagram and Twitter, and she just seems like such a genuinely wonderful human. I look forward to having the opportunity to meet her at the end of August at a signing at the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival, and I’m going to try to hold back my fangirling as much as possible.

If you’re a comic book fan, like dark sci-fi/fantasy, or just want to read something complex, interesting, and beautifully written, you might want to run to the bookstore and pick Vicious up. It’s damn near perfect.


Have you read Vicious? What were your thoughts? Let me know in the comments.


Want more Victoria/V.E. Schwab? Check out her other books:

Vengeful | City of Ghosts | A Darker Shade of Magic | The Near Witch | This Savage Song

Here are a few other similar titles you might be interested in:

Six of Crows | Once & Future | Roar | The Ocean at the End of the Lane | An Ember in the Ashes | The Boneless Mercies | The Price Guide to the Occult




Don’t forget to follow me on social media:

Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest | Instagram | Amazon Wishlist

If you would like to support Read Yourself Happy, you can donate through Ko-Fi!

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – A Review

Review of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus

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The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Goodreads | Amazon
Fantasy | Historical Fiction | Magical Realism
Published by Doubleday
Released September 13, 2011
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_and_a_half_stars

Note: This is a repost. This review was originally published on February 4, 2019. 

I first heard of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus through one of the videos of my favorite booktuber, Hannah at A Clockwork Reader. Since I seem to have very similar reading tastes to her, when she described it as the best book she’d ever read, I figured I’d give it a shot.

While it didn’t end up being my favorite book, I still thought it was absolutely amazing. The best word to describe this novel would be whimsical. Erin Morgenstern’s writing was beautiful without being over the top or too flowery. Everything flowed so nicely.

The synopsis I’m going to share might be a little bit vague, but I truly believe this is one of those books you should go into without knowing too much. I also want to avoid spoilers.

The story follows a traveling circus which is only open at night. No one knows ahead of time where the circus is going to be – it just appears mysteriously one day. The circus is filled with amazing tents of all variety, along with acrobats, fortune tellers, illusionists, and so much more.

The circus is much more than it seems, however, since it serves as a sort of playing field for two magicians, Alexander and Prospero. Each magician raises their “player” who are bound to one another in a competition, even though the players aren’t aware of each other at first and they aren’t even sure what they’re supposed to be doing to win this “competition.”

That’s all that I feel comfortable saying about the plot itself without giving too much away, but you can always read the publisher’s synopsis over on Goodreads.

I want to talk about the atmosphere of The Night Circus, as it was definitely my favorite aspect of the novel. The circus itself sounds beautiful, with everything in shades of black, white, and gray. Then you have the individual tents at the circus, my favorite among them being the Ice Garden. Morgenstern is very talented at making you feel as though you’re standing right in the middle of her landscapes. It’s always so easy to imagine, even when the setting itself is full of magic.

The characters were great, and I found myself loving so many of them. Celia and Marco, for sure, but also Bailey, Poppet, Widget, and so many more. I would say the main draw of this book is the setting, but it’s still just as much a character-driven novel, and most of the characters are well-developed.

The only (very tiny) complaint I had with this novel was that there were times when I felt that things were moving a wee bit too slow. It wasn’t so bad that it hurt the story, but I could understand other readers getting a bit annoyed with the pacing.

From what I’ve read on Goodreads, The Night Circus seems to be a very polarizing book, with people either loving it or hating it. I tend to love slow-paced but beautiful books, so I’m not surprised that I was one of the people who ended up loving it.

Ultimately, while I wouldn’t recommend this novel to everyone, I would recommend it to people looking for something fantastical and whimsical.


Have you read The Night Circus? What were your thoughts?




Don’t forget to follow me on social media:

Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest | Instagram | Amazon Wishlist

If you would like to support Read Yourself Happy, you can donate through Ko-Fi!

2019 Hugo Award Finalists

2019 Hugo Award Finalists

The finalists for the 2019 Hugo Awards were announced today at the Dublin 2019 sci-fi convention.

Here are the lists for best novel, novella, and graphic novel, with links to their Goodreads pages. For the full list of award finalists, click here.


Best Novel

Best Novella

Best Graphic Story

  • Abbott written by Saladin Ahmed, art by Sami Kivelä, colours by Jason Wordie, letters by Jim Campbell (BOOM! Studios)
  • Black Panther: Long Live the King written by Nnedi Okorafor and Aaron Covington, art by André Lima Araújo, Mario Del Pennino and Tana Ford (Marvel)
  • Monstress, Volume 3: Haven written by Marjorie Liu, art by Sana Takeda (Image Comics)
  • On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden (First Second)
  • Paper Girls, Volume 4 written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Cliff Chiang, colours by Matt Wilson, letters by Jared K. Fletcher (Image Comics)
  • Saga, Volume 9 written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Fiona Staples (Image Comics)

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo – A Review

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Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
Young Adult | Fantasy
Published by Orion Children’s Books
Released September 27, 2016
Goodreads
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Thriftbooks
Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Tumblr
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars

Crooked Kingdom is the second book in the Six of Crows duology. As such, I won’t be able to say too much about the plot of this book, due to spoilers. However, this novel is somehow even better than Six of Crows, and it absolutely crushed my heart.

If you’ve read Six of Crows, you’ll already know all of the characters in this book. The whole gang is back, and they’re still trying to get their due rewards from Wylan’s father. We follow them on new adventures and watch as deeper bonds continue to form between the members of the group.

Just like in the first book, I love Leigh Bardugo’s writing style and world building. This story takes place in the Grisha Verse universe established in her trilogy that was released before these ones. However, it isn’t necessary to have read those books in order to understand what is happening in the Six of Crows duology. I will definitely be reading that previous trilogy now (I’m actually picking the first book up at the library on Friday!), but I didn’t feel as though I had missed out on anything.

Kaz and Inej are still my favorite characters, and I love both of them even more after this second book. They’re both so deeply scared and watching as they struggle to overcome their terrible pasts is a heartwarming thing to see.

Leigh Bardugo has a way of writing perfectly flawed characters that you love no matter what they’ve done. Every single character in this duology is fully fleshed out and believable. Their pasts are extensive, and since the story is told from multiple points-of-view, you come to understand their motivations and thinking processes, which I adore. It makes you feel as though you’re right there with them, and with their backgrounds, you feel sorry for them for everything that has happened to get them to where they are today.

It was obvious early on in Crooked Kingdom that I would be rating this book five stars. Everything about it was perfect and I definitely feel that it deserves all of the hype it garnered around its release. If you haven’t read this duology yet, it’s never too late! Start reading!

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman – A Review

“It’s like the people who believe they’ll be happy if they go and live somewhere else, but who learn it doesn’t work that way. Wherever you go, you take yourself with you.”

The Book

The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Middle-Grade | Magical Realism | Supernatural | Fantasy
Published by HarperCollins
Released September 30, 2008
Goodreads
Author Links: Website | Twitter | Tumblr | Facebook

Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Thrift Books

Synopsis

An infant accidentally escapes the murder of his entire family and finds shelter in a nearby graveyard. The ghosts in the graveyard adopt the child and name him Nobody Owens, or Bod for short.

Bod is raised by the ghosts, along with his guardian, Silas, who’s not quite dead and not quite living. Bod is given the freedom of the graveyard and learns many tricks, including how to fade into the background and visit dreams.

Bod is kept from leaving the graveyard because dangers lurk outside of the gates. Namely, Jack, the man who murdered Bod’s original family, is still out to get him.

Growing up in a graveyard certainly isn’t boring though. Bod has a ton of adventures with both the living and dead. Ultimately, he must confront the man who is responsible for his family’s demise.

Review

I’ve mentioned several times on this blog that Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors and that The Graveyard Book is one of my favorite books of all time. I have no idea how many times I’ve read this book, but it’s a pretty high number. I’ve also listened to the audiobook, narrated by Neil Gaiman, a couple of times.

There are so many reasons I adore this novel as much as I do. First, it’s a fun adventure story that deals with complicated subjects, such as murder. One of the best things about The Graveyard Book is that Gaiman writes in a concise, casual way, which is striking against the backdrop of violence. The best place to see this is in the opening chapter when Jack is murdering the family.

Bod is a very well-written character who learns to live despite being surrounded by the dead. He wants to see the world and meet people. Growing up in a graveyard only makes him want to live more, and I love that about Bod. He’s also an immensely likable character.

So many of the side characters in the book are just as enjoyable as Bod; we’ve got Silas, Bod’s mysterious guardian; Liza, who was drowned for witchcraft; Miss Lupescu, Bod’s teacher that has more to her than meets the eye; and a trio of nasty ghouls: the Duke of Westminster, the Honorable Archibald Fitzhugh, and the Bishop of Bath and Wells.

Another reason I enjoy this book so much is that I’ve always been the sort of person who hangs around in graveyards. In fact, when I lived in Asheville, NC, much of my free time was spent at Riverside Cemetary, where I would go to get away from people, read, meditate, have picnics. Graveyards are very peaceful places, and I loved reading a book set in one that wasn’t your standard horror story.

This book will make you smile and you will like Bod so much that you really want him to succeed in life. It’s well-written and just lovely. This book would be a great place to start if you’re new to Neil Gaiman.

Verdict

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This story is perfect. I have zero complaints, and I know I’m going to continue to reread this book frequently.