Monthly Archives: January 2014

Flashback Friday Review: The Titan’s Curse (Percy Jackson & The Olympians #3)

Flashback Friday is a meme hosted by Fic Fare and Swoony Boys Podcast, featuring reviews of books that have been out longer than two years but are no less awesome and deserving!

The Titan’s Curse

by Rick Riordan

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians #3

Source: Purchased

Book Summary:

When the goddess Artemis goes missing, she is believed to have been kidnapped. And now it’s up to Percy and his friends to find out what happened. Who is powerful enough to kidnap a goddess?  They must find Artemis before the winter solstice, when her influence on the Olympian Council could swing an important vote on the war with the titans. Not only that, but first Percy will have to solve the mystery of a rare monster that Artemis was hunting when she disappeared’a monster rumored to be so powerful it could destroy Olympus forever.

book thoughts

(spoilers if you haven’t read the first two books)

So I was really enjoying this series so far. Then I read this book and completely fell in love with it. Those high-stakes and high emotions I mentioned in my review of The Lightning Thief, those aspects I’m always on the lookout for? Here they are!

We get a nice injection of female power in this one, with the arrival of the Hunters of Artemis, partly perhaps to clam the sting of Annabeth being largely absent from this installment.

The Goddess Artemis herself shows up here, and is generally awesome and actually relatable and not just snobby and power-mad as many of the Gods are portrayed. She appears as a twelve year old girl, and at one point declares “If this is Olympian justice, I will have no part in it!”, after an impassioned speech in favor of the Gods rewarding and not punishing the various assorted demigods. To which her brother, the ego-inflated, but otherwise refreshingly relatable Apollo, in the form of a teenage guy, suggests “Chill out, sis.” Seeing the Gods as real people – a bickering, squabbling family, who just happen to also control the world, is one of the most appealing and well-done aspects of this series.

After the revelation at the end of the second book, I was really looking forward to meeting Thalia. It seemed kind of quick to me, that they just fast-forwarded to six months later from the end of that last book, but we got some helpful catch-up info at least. Thalia is a great character infuriating at times but always interesting. It was nice getting a winter adventure here, the only one in this series. Especially when it is incorporated into the story, such as when Percy battles “Santa’s evil twin”. (I love the author;s chapter titles. I totally miss them in the Heroes of Olympus series.)

I love the little things in this series, like Nico playing a card game based on the Greek Gods, and telling Dionysus that he still thought he was cool, even if most players thought he was the weakest God ever, and Percy hoping Nico wouldn’t ask how many hit points Percy had. Great stuff.

The various myths that were incorporated in this installment definitely worked, and were surprising to me. I also loved the little seeds planted here and there for future installments. (view spoiler).

I can’t say exactly why this one made me fall in love. Even with little Annabeth involvement (and I love Annabeth) the character interaction was just top-notch and the plot had the perfect amount of peril and tension. Also, the villains accidentally grew zombie saber-toothed kittens and just sort of let them wander around the National Mall. Which is awesome.

5paperhearts


Grabby Paws: Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd

Grabby Paws

“Grabby Paws” is my version of the Waiting on Wednesday meme hosted by Breaking The Spine that highlights upcoming releases that I can’t wait to get my paws on. 🙂

(Grabby Paws is free for anyone to use, with a link back to me)

Today I have grabby paws for…

To defeat the darkness, she must first embrace it.

Months have passed since Juliet Moreau returned to civilization after escaping her father’s island—and the secrets she left behind. Now, back in London once more, she is rebuilding the life she once knew and trying to forget Dr. Moreau’s horrific legacy—though someone, or something, hasn’t forgotten her.

As people close to Juliet fall victim one by one to a murderer who leaves a macabre calling card of three clawlike slashes, Juliet fears one of her father’s creations may have also escaped the island. She is determined to find the killer before Scotland Yard does, though it means awakening sides of herself she had thought long banished, and facing loves from her past she never expected to see again.

As Juliet strives to stop a killer while searching for a serum to cure her own worsening illness, she finds herself once more in the midst of a world of scandal and danger. Her heart torn in two, past bubbling to the surface, life threatened by an obsessive killer—Juliet will be lucky to escape alive.

With inspiration from Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, this is a tantalizing mystery about the hidden natures of those we love and how far we’ll go to save them from themselves.

Why I have grabby paws…

So silly me I thought this book was released a while ago, and now I find out it comes out January 28th. I’ve had the cover as my computer wallpaper since the cover reveal because it’s the most beautiful cover I have ever seen. It looks like a John William Waterhouse painting.

Yes?

Plus, it’s a retelling of classic gothic horror, which I love. I don’t have The Madman’s Daughter yet, but I hope to have both of them soon.


Quote-Tastic: Steampunk Poe

“Quote-Tastic” is a meme hosted every Monday by Herding Cats & Burning Soup, where participants share a favorite quote from a current read (or any read, really) and then link up.

This week’s quote is from my current read, Steampunk Poe
“And thus, as a closer and still closer intimacy admitted me more unreservedly into the recesses of his spirit, the more bitterly did I perceive the futility of all attempt at cheering a mind from which darkness, as if an inherent positive quality, poured forth upon all objects of the moral and physical universe in one unceasing radiation of gloom.”
– The Fall of The House of Usher
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I love this line, but when I finished reading it I couldn’t help but laugh a little at just how Poe it is. My husband, sitting next to me reading Divergent, gave me a quizzical look so I read it out loud to him. His response:
“That is the most goth thing I have ever heard. No wonder all the goths are into Poe.”
I just thought that considering I read the line whilst at an appointment trying to apply for Medicaid benefits, it was the most appropriate description possible.
Bureaucracy is pretty much  one unceasing radiation of gloom.
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P.S: do not read if blood makes you queasy
***
So I had this post all scheduled and ready to go for today, and then Saturday night I was viciously attacked by a penguin coffee mug and this happened:
Poe bleeding
I thought it was kind of appropriate. 🙂

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Things I’d Make Writers Write About If I Could

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

 This week’s theme is topics you would make authors write about if you could. This could be a specific type of character, an issue tackled, a time period, a certain plot, etc.

I worked forever on this post! I hope you like it. 🙂

So I’m cheating just a bit here since, as a writer, I’ve got some ideas that I won’t be sharing, because I plan to write about them myself.  But that’s okay, because it forced me to stretch my brain for yet more ideas for the post. Yay! Here we go:

1) Number one, because it must obviously be said that, above all else:

I want more Harry Potter involving the main cast, preferably right after book seven. Seeing Hermione, Ginny and Luna’s last year at Hogwarts would be awesome. And then maybe following Luna Lovegood’s application to work in the Department of Mysteries. (Yes, I know officially she becomes a kind of naturalist but COME ON the Department of Mysteries has got to be the best place to work in all of Potterdom.) I will also settle for a next-generation series involving the Potter-Weasley kids. I’m not one of those clamoring for a Marauders series (please don’t hit me!) , even though I’d read it and love it, and my husband really wants one, so I’ll ask for it on his behalf. 😉 I’d just rather have a new Harry Potter series that still incorporates the main cast.

2) More Gemma Doyle. Or at least something to alleviate my Gemma-withdrawl

While we’re on the subject of series that ended way too soon, I need more Gemma Doyle. The Sweet Far Thing is one of my very favorite books, but that ending seriously killed me. I need more. I need to know what happens next. I’m still holding out hope that maybe the illustrious Libba Bray will grace us with another Gemma installation, but in the meantime, I petition all writers of the world to please pen me a Victorian gas-lamp fantasy full of feisty feminists. I’m desperate.

3) A Positive Depiction of the Goddess Hecate

Yes, Hecate is considered a “dark” goddess in many ways, but she’s also my Goddess, and there is so much more to her than just being the “dark” goddess. She’s goddess of the witches, yes, but YA (and non-YA) readers nowadays know that “witch” does not equal “evil”. So how about our luminous Goddess of Magic be given the same treatment? I griped a bit at Rick Riordan for casting Hecate on the side of the bad guys in the first Percy Jackson series, but her redemption and entertaining appearances in The House of Hades definitely made up for it. His son also wrote a quite moving short story featuring Hecate in The Demigod Diaries.

I suppose I’m breaking my own stipulation here, since I said I wouldn’t mention topics I myself planned to write about, since I do plan to write a novel or three involving Hecate, but honestly? She is so complex and cool a goddess that I’ve no doubt there is enough of her lore to go around. Let’s flood the market! 😉 I’m very much looking forward to Daughter of Chaos by Jen McConnel, in which Hecate makes an appearance. She’s described as a “dark goddess” but hopefully, as I’m trying to point out, “dark” doesn’t have to mean “bad”.

And while we’re at it, how about a positive representation of modern Wiccans? I mean, I get that if you’re going to write a book involving Wiccans you might as well just write about witches, but I’d actually read a contemporary (I know – gasp!) if it had something like a normal Wiccan family in it. Or a supernatural story that nonetheless featured Wiccans-as-normal-not-remotely-scary people. Inroads are being made, it’s true, but I don’t have an illustration for this suggestion and that’s kind of my point! Let’s just have another of Hecate, then.

(click the image to visit the artist’s webpage)

4) A Disabled Character (Preferably Main) Who Isn’t Just There To “Inspire” The Non-Disabled

I’m disabled. I broke  my back when I was seventeen and now I walk with a crutch (yes, just like Tiny Tim 😉 ) and have chronic pain and a host of health problems. Yet it seems that the very few disabled characters we get in YA (and even literature in general) are less-than-realistic about the difficulties involved. We don’t all climb Everest, folks. Most of us struggle just to stay healthy. Sure, that’s a bit of a downer, but doesn’t literature kind of exist to explore emotions and struggles? I suppose it could be argued that people can’t take reading about the stark realities of the lives of disabled people, but I have more faith in people than that. We have had horrifying yet beautiful YA novels tackle the subjects of rape, child abuse, eating disorders, drug addiction and a whole host of others. I think it’s about time for disabilities to be added to the list. So why don’t I write one myself? I don’t know. Maybe I will some day. But I needn’t be the only one.

There are exceptions. Ashes on the Waves has a disabled main character, and his condition is depicted realistically, with all its inherent tragedy. And while for much of the book she is able-bodied, the time the main character of The Sea Inside spends in the hospital following her injury very accurately depicts the feelings of loss, isolation, and numbness that commonly accompany such an injury.

5)Doctor Who Novel With Doctor 10.5

There have been numerous Doctor Who novels involving the new Doctors, but as far as I know, no author has yet tackled the adventures of 10.5 and Rose in the parallel universe. (spoilers?) To my knowledge, there’s enough fan fiction on the subject that I’m quite confident an authorized novelization would sell. But then they need to get David Tennant to do the audio-book recording. If somehow this could happen, then, maybe, I’ll finally be able to get over Journey’s End. *sigh*

6) More Obscure Mythology

I love mythology. All kinds. It fascinates me. And I love discovering brand-new myths that I’ve never heard of, such as the fate-spinner seikona that appeared in Maria Dahvana Headley’s Queen of Kings. I want to know more about them, and I want to know more about other interesting myths. Ancient belief systems are flickering out all over the world and it’s a tragedy. I want to learn from them all.

7) More Poe Re-tellings

Since I absolutely loved and gushed over Mary Lindsey’s Ashes on the Waves and have no doubt that Bethany Griffiths’ Masque of the Red Death duology is likewise superb, I am putting in a request for more Poe re-tellings. The Fall of the House of User, perhaps?

8) The Lady of Shallot

The Lady of Shallot by Alfred Lord Tennyson is my very favorite poem and I desperately need both a modern and classical novelization of it. It’s beyond beautiful. If you’ve never read it, you should click here to read it, or listen to the Loreena McKennit song version of it below. I’m not going to spoil what happens for you, other than to say that it is the best metaphor ever constructed concerning the artist’s dilemma of observing the world and recording it, or becoming a part of it and risking the loss of yourself within.

9) Eurydice & Orpheus

While on the subject of re-tellings, I’d love to see my favorite Greek myth and one of my all-time favorite love stories, that of Eurydice and Orpheus, novelized, in either a modern or classical telling. In the myth, the bard Orpheus loses his bride Eurydice, and travels to the underworld to use his musical talents to move the hearts of Hades and Persephone enough for them to release her. They decide that Orpheus may lead Eurydice out of Hades, so long as he never once look back to be sure she is following. But Orpheus, mad with worry and suspecting a trick, looks back at the entrance to our world, and so loses Eurydice forever.

So, naturally, it’s the kind of thing I love and need a novel version of. If you want to learn more about the myth, click here:

9) Linda Bergkvist’s Dark Faery Tales

Linda Bergkvist is an immensely talented digital painter and my favorite modern artist. Tragically, she no longer posts her work online but thankfully she produced a number of magnificent paintings before her retirement. For a while she was working on a book of dark faery tales to accompany her illustrations, and I am forever saddened that I may never hold this book in my hands. I want to know the stories behind her masterpieces.

Her work has greatly inspired my own writing, and even if Linda herself never releases her book, I’d love to see how other writers interpret such breathtaking works as these.

Check out more of Linda’s artwork here.

10) Nightwish Novels and Within Temptation Tales

I have an immense love for symphonic gothic metal and find it enormously inspirational. I can’t be the only one. So where is the lush high fantasy epic based on Within Temptation’s Deciever of Fools?

or the sprawling, century-spanning tragic love story of Nightwish’s Ghost Love Score?

Make note of these requests, oh valiant writers of the world! 😀

Also, keep doing what you’re doing. You’re awesome.

 

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What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Have my wishes already come true and I just don’t know about the book(s) yet!? Let me know!


2013 End of the Year Bookish Survey

This is a fun bookish survey created by The Perpetual Page Turner. I know I’m a bit late to the party, but I’m doing it anyway. 🙂

1. Best Book You Read In 2013? 

This series just keep getting better and better. It’s becoming ridiculous.

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

I guess since this was the fifth book in a series I was continually disappointed with, I shouldn’t have been surprised, but it kind of goes for the whole series. Really thought I’d love Wicked Lovely and I just…didn’t.

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2013? 

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I ended up loving this one.

4. Book you read in 2013 that you recommended to people most in 2013?

I feel the need to tell most everyone I meet that Vampire Academy, despite its tragically unfortunate name, is an amazing series, as is it’s sequel series, Bloodlines.

 5. Best series you discovered in 2013?

I wouldn’t have discovered this one if it weren’t for the Percy Jackson books, but I like the Heroes of Olympus better.

 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2013?

Quite a few really, but I’ll say Rick Riordan.

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?

I don’t really read contemporary (I just find fantasy and the paranormal much more interesting), but this book was stunning.

 8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2013?

I had to force myself to stop reading a few times just to make it last longer.

 9. Book You Read In 2013 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

Soon as I get my hands on The Fiery Heart I’ll re-read this one for a refresher. And because it’s awesome.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2013?

11. Most memorable character in 2013? 

Percy is so awesome and bad-ass and hilarious.

But then there’s Adrian who’s just…Adrian. I refuse to pick.

 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2013?

Believe it or not, the writing is even more beautiful than the cover.

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2013? 

This book has made editing my manuscript so much less hellish. I highly recommend it.

 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2013 to finally read? 

I’m so glad my husband insisted I finally read this one.

 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2013?

“Briefly, the nymphaeum glowed with a softer light, like a full moon. Piper smelled exotic spices and blooming roses. She heard distant music and happy voices talking and laughing. She guessed she was hearing hundreds of years of parties and celebrations that had been held at this shrine in ancient times, as if the memories had been freed along with the spirits.
‘What is that?’ Jason asked nervously.
Piper slipped her hand into his. ‘The ghosts are dancing.”

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2013?

was the shortest

was the longest

 17. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc. etc.) Be careful of spoilers!

 Arrrrgggh that ending!

18. Favorite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2013 (be it romantic, friendship, etc).

Definitely Sydney and Adrian, the friendship and the romance.

19. Favorite Book You Read in 2013 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

Richelle Mead’s awesomeness just keeps increasing.

20. Best Book You Read In 2013 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:

21. Genre You Read The Most From in 2013?

Middle-grade fantasy, it seems. 🙂

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2013?

Well, I can’t put Adrian Ivashkov because I read Vampire Academy prior to 2013, but I think I’ve probably got a slight crush on Percy. I wouldn’t be the first.

23. Best 2013 debut you read?

Contemporary or no, I’ll likely eat up anything else this author releases.

24. Most vivid world/imagery in a book you read in 2013?

The imagery was incredibly lush while also fast-paced and readable. It really drew me into the story.

25. Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2013?

This whole series was lots of fun to read.

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2013?

Definitely cried.

27. Book You Read in 2013 That You Think Got Overlooked This Year Or When It Came Out?

This was a self-publish that I wish more people read, because it was really fascinating.

Looking Ahead

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2013 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2014?

I already have it, but I’m saving up to get Insurgent and Allegiant and then I’m going on a Divergent binge. 🙂

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2014 (non-debut)?

Since I’m already putting The Blood of Olympus as most anticipate series-ender. I definitely need more Adrian and Sydney.

3. 2014 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

Yay! A book about a witch who’s a devotee of Hecate. This book looks amazing.

 4. Series Ending You Are Most Anticipating in 2014?

I don’t want it to be over but I still need to read it badly!

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging In 2014?

Well, I have all of my challenges listed here, and aside from those I hope to just succeed as a blogger, to do it more regularly and maybe make some publishing contacts. Fingers crossed!

Thank you so much for reading! 

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Grabby Paws: Infinite by Jodi Meadows

Grabby Paws

“Grabby Paws” is my version of the Waiting on Wednesday meme hosted by Breaking The Spine that highlights upcoming releases that I can’t wait to get my paws on. 🙂

Today I have grabby paws for…

DESTRUCTION
The Year of Souls begins with an earthquake—an alarming rumble from deep within the earth—and it’s only the first of greater dangers to come. The Range caldera is preparing to erupt. Ana knows that as Soul Night approaches, everything near Heart will be at risk.

FLIGHT
Ana’s exile is frightening, but it may also be fortuitous, especially if she can convince her friends to flee Heart and Range with her. They’ll go north, seeking answers and allies to stop Janan’s ascension. And with any luck, the newsouls will be safe from harm’s reach.

CHOICE
The oldsouls might have forgotten the choice they made to give themselves limitless lifetimes, but Ana knows the true cost of reincarnation. What she doesn’t know is whether she’ll have the chance to finish this one sweet life with Sam, especially if she returns to Heart to stop Janan once and for all.

With gorgeous romance and thrilling action, the final book in the Incarnate trilogy offers a brilliant conclusion to the compelling questions of this fascinating world, where one new girl is the key to the lives of millions.

Why I have grabby paws…

I just got Asunder a few days ago from a giveaway, but I need this one so I can go on a binge and read all of them back-to-back! I’ve been forcing myself not to read Incarnate since I first got it almost a year ago because I knew if I couldn’t read them all at once I would probably go crazy. It comes out January 28th, so hopefully my wait will not be much longer!

*fingers crossed*


Dusty Bookshelf Challenge 2013 – Completed!

This was a fun challenge! It was all about reading books that have been gathering dust on our shelves. I exceeded my goal of :

Grungy – Read 20+ books

by 1 book! Yay!

Books read for this challenge:

1.) Darkest Mercy by Melissa Marr

2) Beta by Rachel Cohn

3) The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman

4) Mesmerized by Julia Crane

5) Nobody by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

6) Reaper by L.S. Murphy

7) The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

8) Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

9) The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan

10) Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan

11) The Demigod Files by Rick Riordan

12) The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan

13) The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

14) The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

15) The Demigod Diaries by Rick Riordan

16) The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

17) Mermother: An Account of What Happened In The Sea by Elizabeth Jane Wolfe

18) Faery Tales & Nightmares by Melissa Marr

19) Queen of Kings by Maria Dahvana Headley

20) Ashes on the Waves by Mary Lindsey

21) If You Could be Mine by Sara Farizan

Phew! That was fun. 🙂

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Review: Ashes on the Waves by Mary Lindsey

Ashes on The Waves

by Mary Lindsey

Genre: YA Fantasy, Paranormal, Gothic

Series: Standalone

Source: Gift from my amazing husband, who knows there is nothing more romantic than Annabel Lee

Book Summary:

Liam MacGregor is cursed. Haunted by the wails of fantastical Bean Sidhes and labeled a demon by the villagers of Dòchas, Liam has accepted that things will never get better for him—until a wealthy heiress named Annabel Leighton arrives on the island and Liam’s fate is changed forever.

With Anna, Liam finally finds the happiness he has always been denied; but, the violent, mythical Otherworlders, who inhabit the island and the sea around it, have other plans. They make awager on the couple’s love, testing its strength through a series of cruel obstacles. But the tragedies draw Liam and Anna even closer. Frustrated, the creatures put the couple through one last trial—and this time it’s not only their love that’s in danger of being destroyed.

Based on Edgar Allan Poe’s chilling poem, “Annabel Lee,” Mary Lindsey creates a frighteningly beautiful gothic novel that glorifies the power of true love.

book thoughts

I didn’t think it possible, but this book actually exceeded my expectations. The expectations of a hopeless romantic goth girl poetess, mind you. So they were exponentially high. A book based on one of the best (and definitely the most romantic) poems ever written? I had to have it. Add on the ridiculous gorgeousness of the cover? No question.

I think the author took just the right amount of liberties with Poe’s ideas, not just Annabel Lee, but a number of Poe’s works. A Poe quote accompanies each chapter and sets the tone for the events that unfold. Lindsey understands well Poe’s use of setting as almost a character itself, and the choice of Dochas,  a remote island off the coast of Maine, free of modern conveniences like electricity and full of superstition and prejudice, is perfect. Even though these events technically unfold in a contemporary setting, the book has a definite old-world feel, and the contrast is superb.

Annabel (called Anna in the novel) is herself a member of the modern world, and understandably bewildered and horrified by the ways of the villagers of Dochas. A place where “husband throw their wives off of cliffs and no one does anything about it”. She is a breath of fresh air, with no tolerance for injustice or superstition. At first I expected Anna to be more of an archetype than a person, a flesh incarnation of the narrator Liam’s fantasy, but I am so glad that she turned out to be a real, authentic person in her own right. Liam, on the other hand, is a tragic victim of circumstance. He suffers paralysis of the left arm in a place where his disability is seen as a symptom of demonic possession, and he never questions this assertion. His childhood friendship with Anna was the one bright spot in his life, and he clings to it ever after, until the day the ne’er-do-well heiress is exiled to the island and long-ago friendship ignites into love.

I was also expecting insta-love (which I don’t have a problem with, as a general rule. I’ve experienced love at first sight) but I appreciated that the author let the relationship develop in its own time. It was fast and intense, but it was easy to understand the motivation behind the emotion. Anna is the affection and escape Liam has never allowed himself to wish for, and Liam cares for and respects Anna in a way no one else in her life ever has. But their budding romance is overshadowed by the villagers’ hatred of Liam, and by the supernatural creatures who hold dominion over Dochas: the Bean Sidhes, whose warning screams of murder interrupt the young lovers’ embraces, and the Na Fir Ghorm, whose malevolent tricks and beckonings serve to stir the villagers’ hatred ever more. The two competing groups make a wager on the strength of the couple’s love, with devastating consequences.

Sometimes-narrator Muireean, the young selkie whose selfless love for Liam leads her to try to help the couple, provides the comic relief, as she marvels at the strangeness of humans and human form. Her breezy narrative was a striking contrast to Liam’s intense, tortured narration. I never felt that Liam was over-the-top or too emotional – indeed, it was refreshing to see a male character embrace his feelings. Considering what a misery his life was, he could have been even more dramatic than he was. I especially appreciated how the author was realistic about his disability. I’m disabled myself so I can tell she did her research. When Liam descends a ladder while holding a candle, the difficulty with which this is done is touched upon, rather than skirted over. Liam has rudimentary assistive devices in his home and place of employment as well, which made his condition much more realistic.

The author uses every line of the poem, and the story unfolds with a pervasive sense of dread, even through lighter moments. As readers, we know what is coming and that it cannot be stopped. The addition of a mystery or two served to ratchet up the tension even more. The ending is tragic and beautiful, and allows for multiple interpretations. This is just as it should be, in my opinion, and I think Mr. Poe would be pleased.

5paperhearts


Review: Queen of Kings by Maria Dahvana Headley

Queen of Kings

by Maria Dahvana Headley

Genre: Adult Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Mythology

Series: Queen of Kings #1

Source: Won copy from The Secret Writer blog. Thank you!

Book Summary:

There’s more than one path to immortality…

A thrilling, chilling reimagining of the story of the most famous woman in history.

Once there was a queen of Egypt…a queen who became through magic something else…

The year is 30 BC. Octavian Caesar and his massed legions are poised to enter Alexandria. A messenger informs Egypt’s queen, Cleopatra, that her beloved Mark Antony has died by his own hand. Desperate to save her kingdom, resurrect her husband and protect all she holds dear, Cleopatra turns to the gods for help. Ignoring the warnings of those around her, she summons Sekhmet, goddess of death and destruction, and strikes a mortal bargain. And not even the wisest of Egypt’s scholar could have predicted what would follow…

For, in return for Antony’s soul, Sekhmet demands something in return: Cleopatra herself. And so Egypt’s queen is possessed. She becomes an immortal, shape-shifting, not-quite-human manifestation of a deity who seeks to destroy the world. Fighting to preserve something of her humanity, Cleopatra pursues Octavian back to Rome: she desires revenge, she yearns for her children…and she craves human blood.

It is a journey that will take her from the tombs of the Pharaohs to the great amphitheatres of imperial Rome and on, to Hell itself where, it seems, the fate of the world will finally be decided.

Blending authentic historical fiction and the darkest of fantasy, Queen of Kings is a spectacular and spellbinding feat of the imagination that fans of Neil Gaiman, Diana Gabaldon, George R.R. Martin, Patricia Briggs, Philippa Gregory, and Ridley Scott’s Gladiator won’t want to miss.

book thoughts

My husband: What’s your book about?

Me: Cleopatra becoming a vampire.

My husband: Oh. So the most likely of scenarios, then.

I am deeply indebted to The Secret Writer blog for holding a giveaway for this book. Otherwise I probably wouldn’t have known it existed, or else wouldn’t have tried it out because I tend to stay away from adult fiction (I’m allergic to casual sex – symptoms include cursing, inability to connect with characters and hurling book at the wall), but I’m so so glad I took the chance.  I love vampires and I love mythology so I was very curious to see how the author handled the mingling of the two.

Turns out, “vampires” are older than you think! Desperate to save her kingdom (and then the life of her beloved Antony), Cleopatra performs an already-ancient spell to summon the goddess Sekhmet, who appears to be the first vampire. Cursed by her father Ra, the sun god, her skin burns in the light. Goddess of death and Lady of Slaughter, she drinks the blood of her enemies. The goddess sees the potential in Cleopatra, and takes the Queen’s promise of “anything” in exchange for the goddess’ help as an invitation to possess Cleopatra.

In a cruel twist of fate, Antony dies again, and Cleopatra finds herself unable to die. Augustus Octavian suspects that Cleopatra has not truly died, and is coming for him. So he enlists the help of a cast of assorted sorcerers: Usem, leader of the Psylli tribe, assisted by his bride, the Western Wind; Chrysate, priestess of the goddess Hecate; and Auor, a seikona, or fate-spinner, from the unknown north. Octavian and his sorcerers, plus a few other characters, supplement Cleopatra’s narration, and far from being confusing, I felt that this technique truly enriched the narrative and gave the reader a more complete picture of the characters’ motivations and actions. The author even used the dreaded “head-hopping” in a way that was masterful and clear. I loved hearing the perspectives of the other mystical characters, especially Auor. Seikonas should be standard supernatural fare, if you ask me, because they are awesome. Octavian’s love-hate relationship with Cleopatra also adds  deeper level to the book. The writing itself is rich and descriptive, but never over-the-top. The historical aspects are meticulously researched and informative in a way that only serves to anchor the story more firmly in reality.

Cleopatra’s struggle to control Sekhmet’s blood-lust in the face of her own anger and agony is fascinating to watch. The reader even comes to understand and sympathize with the dark goddess. Cleopatra’s longing for her children is profound as well, but the emotional heart of the novel is her relationship with Antony and her struggle to be reunited with him. The most beautiful and moving scenes in the book detail  Antony and Cleopatra’s journey through the underworld to appeal to Hades and Persephone. The contrast of their love in a landscape of death and despair is gorgeously wrought. The ending is intense and even horrifying, and sets the stage for the next installment. I eagerly await it.

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So this is my new thing! Sometimes I will include a theme song for a book I read, one I think fits the story really well. My “theme song” for Queen of Kings is Sahara by Nightwish.

A ballad of a dark queen echoes through night

As he flees the curse of gods, the pharaoh`s wrath.

One thousand one nights unseen,

The philosopher and the queen.

Ancient mariner in a sea of sand, 

The burning beauty his tomb to die for…

May he now rest under the aegis of mirage

As the sands slowly turn to Elysian fields.


Review: If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

If You Could Be Mine

by Sara Farizan

Genre: YA Contemporary

Series: Standalone

Source: Won ARC copy from The Fake Steph book blog. Thank you!

Book Summary:

In this stunning debut, a young Iranian American writer pulls back the curtain on one of the most hidden corners of a much-talked-about culture.

Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were six. They’ve shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love—Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed if their relationship came to light.

So they carry on in secret—until Nasrin’s parents announce that they’ve arranged for her marriage. Nasrin tries to persuade Sahar that they can go on as they have been, only now with new comforts provided by the decent, well-to-do doctor Nasrin will marry. But Sahar dreams of loving Nasrin exclusively—and openly.

Then Sahar discovers what seems like the perfect solution. In Iran, homosexuality may be a crime, but to be a man trapped in a woman’s body is seen as nature’s mistake, and sex reassignment is legal and accessible. As a man, Sahar could be the one to marry Nasrin. Sahar will never be able to love the one she wants, in the body she wants to be loved in, without risking her life. Is saving her love worth sacrificing her true self?

book thoughts

The problem with this book is that when you’re done with it, you can’t look at the cover without wanting to tear up a bit. You get the book, you see the cover, and you think “okay, it fits the title – she’s grasping, trying to hold on, etc.”, and then you finish the book and you realize that the meaning of the cover is so much deeper and profoundly emotional than that, and the meaning of the title shifts along with it. And then you’re crying.

That said, this is actually kind of a fun book. Especially if you’re a nerd like me and love getting to think “Wow. Most affluent young Iranians get nose jobs, and the Iranian version of a Happy Meal usually includes a bootleg DVD as a prize? Yay random facts I would probably have never learned otherwise!” while reading. I felt like I was learning a lot, but not in an info-dump, thinly-veiled lecture way. The facts blended seamlessly with the narrative, and served to anchor the story in reality, and forge a deeper connection to the characters.

I can’t be the only one who noticed that the names of the two main characters are an almost-anagram for the name of the author. I think she really did put a lot of herself into this book, being of Iranian descent as well as LGBT, even though she grew up in the U.S. I didn’t have any trouble connecting with Sahar. She has serious self-esteem issues that she attempts to hide with humor, and you can tell she cares deeply about the people in her life. Nasrin was a spoiled brat, it’s true, but I still understood why Sahar loved her. Everyone did. Some people just have that charisma. I’ve met a few. And I think that’s why Nasrin loved Sahar back – because Sahar loved her for herself, the real Nasrin, not just the image of Nasrin. They were the only people they could be themselves with, not just because they were gay, but in general.

The supporting characters were well fleshed-out, and I was touched by the development of the relationship between Sahar and her father. Scenes with Nasrin’s mother as well do a great job exploring the various ways we respond to loss and grief and love. Sahar’s cousin Ali and his transexual friend Parveen round out the cast and offer Sahar a way to understand herself and her place in Iran’s strict cultural system. The ending was satisfying, realistic, but definitely a tear-jerker. I highly recommend this book. I very rarely read contemporary and yet I rate this one five stars.

5paperhearts