A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah Maas

thornsAn exciting faerie book that felt steeped in traditional elements of storytelling, especially fairy stories, but was sexy and exciting.  Feyre is so poor her family barely survives, yet she is the only one who does anything about it. She’s a hunter and that’s how they manage to live.  One day she shoots a wolf, but it was no ordinary wolf. Feyre is taken into the faerie world where she lives with Tamlin in a court where magic is changing and everyone has a mask fused to his face. It’s mysterious and she knows there is more going on that she is told. This felt very Beauty and the Beast like to me, but then there was much more to it. Political machinations, revenge, and of course a love story. I thought this was marvelous, vividly created, and can’t wait to read the sequel.

Armada by Ernest Cline

armadaI’ve been waiting with much excitement for this because of how much I loved Ready Player One. And it was great! I had managed to not read anything about what it is about so went in totally blind (which is hard to do with big new books, but lots of fun if you can manage to know nothing about it.) So I’ll avoid saying anything except that it was exciting, fun, plenty of pop-culture, plenty of video games (I don’t even really like playing many video games, and definitely not mmorpg stuff, so I’m not sure why I really enjoy reading about them). Overall it felt like a fresh homage to sci-fi adventure films, in a rather meta way. I had a nice chat with a Game Stop employee who was also excited about reading it, which was nice. Oh, and definitely a movie ready type of book.

Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger

I’ve had such a slow start to the year, in part because it’s taken me forever to read this despite being super excited to get it. It’s #3 in the Finishing School series.  Somehow I found it a bit slow? Less compelling? Sometimes it’s hard to get invested in a story where so much is made up and strange. Specifically, the aetherosphere that the Picklemen and vampires seem to fighting and plotting over. I can’t get that caught up in it because it’s all strange and makes no sense. Nonetheless, I still enjoyed all the details of things like Sophronia’s skill with the bladed fan and how all the Intelligencer girls act.  This one barely took place at all up in the air, as most of the story was land bound. Also, specifically, moving train bound! Everyone loves a story on a moving train.  The romantic triangle between Felix, Soap, and Sophronia continues (I’m rooting for Soap.) And there’s also a fair amount of backstory on werewolves which sort of went over my head.

However, I did enjoy this latest installment and hugely admire Sophronia for all her skills.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

hp2See everything I said about Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone for the set-up of rereading these books.  Ditto the pleasure of the re-read and getting to read from the beginning when you know some things about how it all turns out. I read this one in the two days following seeing the movie, so I was really doing a lot of movie/book comparison as I read.  I loved the movie, but it was very satisfying to read the book right after because I found the book had a much better timeline. Which, it would because she has many pages to write in while a movie only has about 2 hours. So, lots of events that happened apparently quickly in the movie, were very drawn out in the book. Sometimes weeks would go by.  It definitely added to suspense, a build up of emotions, and the boarding school/school year aspect.  One important aspect that was in the book that they really overlooked in the movie, was Ginny’s role in helping Tom Riddle gain his strength.  Fantastic and I’m looking forward to continuing on the series. (I love being able to just go grab the next book! The first time I read these  it was as they came out-a suspenseful wait!)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

hpIt almost seems silly to write my thoughts about this here and now. I mean, don’t we all know what it’s about? What happened? But, the series has been on my “to re-read” list for this year. I haven’t read the books since they came out, it was just this year that my son read the first four books in the series himself, and last week we all watched the first two movies together for the first time. (Well, Paul and I have seen all the movies, but the kids hadn’t.) While Clark was reading the books I was dying for him to share some excitement with me about the stories, but he really couldn’t say much about what he liked or didn’t like, just that he liked them.  So, it was very satisfying to watch the movie with him and see his excitement, and also see, as he obnoxiously kept saying “oh I know what happens…”, that he did remember a lot of the books. Anyway, it made the time right for me to pick up the first book and begin my re-read. And o! what a delight it was! You know, when they came out (and I was working as a librarian at the time) and the crazy phenomena swept the world I did often wonder why so many people loved them. It was clear to me why I loved them: boarding school + magic=something I like. But, guess what? There are plenty of other very good magical boarding school, orphans and adventures, magical fun, etc. books out there. (that then people “discovered” afterward.) Well whatever.  I found it just as delightful the second time around and was quite swept away into the world of Hogwarts and getting to know Harry and all the Weasleys and the professors and so on.  This time around I had the added satisfaction of knowing that there would be a big story arc and which relationships would be important and so on. And of course there’s more in the books than the movies, so that was fun to remember and rediscover those things.  Super fantastic, and I have extra added pleasure of having all the books published already so I can read the series not spread out over years.

After the End by Amy Plum

end2Oh my God, did I love this. A girl lives in remote Alaska in her village that relies on old-fashioned survival ways, even though it’s the current time.  The elders of the clan moved there in 1984, at the outset of World War 3.  They’ve lived peacefully and successfully there, despite assuming that probably some other survivors roam the outside world.  When Juneau returns from a hunting trip to discover her entire clan vanished she is determined to track them down. And when she does she finds out that there never was a WWIII-the outside world is exactly as it is right now for you and me!! So first you’ve got that wonderful time-travel/culture clash of discovering modern and contemporary society (cell phones, skyscrapers, etc.).  Everything she knows about the world comes from a 1983 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica, so wandering Seattle in her furs and buckskin pants is quite shocking.  Not to mention finding out that apparently she’s been lied to her entire life.
Now, on to the other interesting bits. Like all the children in her clan Juneau has a gold starburst in her eye.  It shows how at one with the Yara she is. The Yara is basically every thing in the world-plants, flowers, animals, humans, nature.  She can connect to it and find out things, and even make things happen. This mystical element seems so at odd with modern society, but it is very real.  An oracle tells her she must find a certain boy to guide her-it turns out that the boy is the son of a man who is determined to get Juneau.  But to what end? It’s an exciting mystery with crazy turns of events that find this book ending in a very different way than it began.  Her starburst and mystical abilities made me think for a bit of Firestarter, though fortunately Juneau doesn’t use her Yara abilities for bad.  I absolutely cannot wait for book #2 as this really left you hanging.

Hero by Alethea Kontis

After a promising start to the new year of reading, according to Goodreads I’m already one book behind schedule! That’s because I was trying to read a book for review that I just didn’t enjoy and felt too guilty to read other books during that time. Given dispensation to stop reading it I was able to turn my attention to a book I was eager to get to-Hero, the sequel to Enchanted. (and btw, I’ll next be turning my attention to the YA reissues Paul bought me a subscription to-Me and Fat Glenda here I come!)

heroI really loved Enchanted and was excited to read the next story of a Woodcutter sister-this one is about Saturday, who is strong and tall and not blessed with magic of her own. Saturday’s big adventure begins when she accidentally uses magic to flood the land. Various things happen and she ends up in the tallest mountain in the world, locked inside it with a boy who’s been held there under a curse for years. This is where the heart of the story takes place and, unfortunately, I just couldn’t warm to it. It’s like I felt as claustrophobic as they might, living inside a mountain that smells of brimstone. It could be that I just couldn’t picture it as a living space or how they managed to stay alive? It could be that in the beginning I thought it was but one stop in a series of adventures but it turned out to be the whole adventure? Or maybe I didn’t really understand what they all needed to do to escape.  However, I did love the characters she was with-Peregrine (the cursed boy) and Betwixt, a chimera who could change form.  Like Enchanted it was well written and Saturday was a terrific strong character.  So much so, that I’m hoping the next story will be from her point of view, but I assume it will be from the view of another sister.  I really like how these books are all tying together so cleverly and look forward to more!