Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Beautiful Darkness

A friend at work recommended this to me.  Well, indirectly.  She wrote a blog post talking about the 2014 comics of the year and listed Fabien Velhmann and Kerascoet's Beautiful Darkness as one of her favourite reads of the year.  So I put it on hold and she left me a note telling me to let her know how it is.  So when I finished reading Paragon Lost, I decided to give Beautiful Darkness a shot, especially since I knew it would be a quick read.

Beautiful Darkness is a strange tale.  It's about a princess named Aurora who lives inside a girl.  Something happens and the girl dies, so Aurora and her people escape and live in the woods.  Aurora takes care of everyone, helping them find food and make shelter.  But over time, you see that her people are taking advantage of her.  And so Aurora sets out on her own, only to be followed by those she left behind.

I finished reading Beautiful Darkness in an hour or two.  And when I was done, I was left wondering what I actually THOUGHT about it.  Part of me wanted to reread it, to see if I got something else out of it a second time.  But the other part of me doesn't want to because there's a lot of other books I'd like to be reading.  Even now, several hours later, I'm still not really sure.  The artwork is beautiful.  But the story itself is deeply disturbing.  From the dead little girl Aurora's people came out of, who remains a fixture of the setting as she slowly rots, to the macabre ending where Aurora reminded me of the witch from Hansel and Gretel, I just don't know.  I didn't dislike it, but I don't think I really liked it either.  I guess I'll sleep on it before giving it a rating on Goodreads.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Paragon Lost

I read Dave Duncan's King's Blades trilogy many years ago and really, really liked them.  Over time, I acquired book five in the series (Impossible Odds) without realizing it was book five.  So when I went to read it, I decided to read book four first, which luckily the library had.  Apparently I didn't have to because books four, five, and six are standalone stories which can be read in any order.  But once I had my hands on Paragon Lost, I decided to read these three in order anyway.

Paragon Lost is the story of the disgraced Blade Beaumont.  Beaumont has been working as a fencing instructor at Gossip's Corner, an inn.  The Blade's Grand Master discreetly pays him a visit, telling him that a Blade has been stolen and Beaumont is the only one who can get him back.

At this point, the narrative goes back to the past, showing what led to Beaumont's disgrace.  Beau and two other Blades, Arkell and Oak, were given to the King's trusted friend Lord Wassail for a secretive and dangerous mission.  They were to travel across the world to Skyrria to bring back the new queen of Chivial.  Unfortunately the new queen is the sister-in-law of the autocrat of Skyrria, Czar Igor.  Igor is a mad ruler, given to kill people on a whim.  And Igor wants to know the secret of how the Blades are bound because he wants to make his own. And he may not let the four leave his country without giving him that secret.

Unfortunately, Paragon Lost wasn't as good as the original trilogy, at least as I remember them.  I had a really hard time getting into Paragon Lost, rereading a couple of early pages several times.  It was only after I realized that the Grand Master who had come to call on Beau was the same Durendal from the previous trilogy that I became a bit intrigued.  It still took about halfway through the story before I really felt like I was getting into it.  And once the story of what happened to Beau in the past sort of ended, the remainder of the book was just ok.  Hopefully the remaining two will be a bit better!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

In Real Life

I don't really remember what attracted me to In Real Life, the new graphic novel by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang.  I've read some stuff by Cory Doctorow and liked it, so when In Real Life finally showed up at the library, I was more than happy to read it.

In Real Life is the story of Anda, a girl who falls in love with the new MMORPG Coarsegold Online.  Her mother lets her play under the stipulation that she only hang out with girls her age, something relatively easy because of the guild Anda has joined.  But one of her new friends, Lucy aka Sarge, talks Anda into killing gold farmers for real world money.  Anda agrees and life is good until she meets Raymond, a gold farmer from China.  Raymond is the first gold farmer to actually talk to her.  And so she starts to learn about his life and the horrid conditions under which he lives (he farms gold for hours every day, and is suffering from a back injury but doesn't have a doctor or coverage to get it treated).  Things come to a head when Anda's mother discovers the money coming into her Paypal account and Sarge discovers Anda's friendship with a gold farmer.

In Real Life was a really interesting story about economics, video games, and bullying (sort of).  It was also a really interesting look at how we take our lives here in the West for granted (and what it's like elsewhere in the world).

Monday, December 1, 2014

Krampus: the Yule Lord

Back in 2009, I read Brom's The Child Thief.  I absolutely loved it and wanted to get a hold of more books by him.  A few years later, I stumbled upon Krampus: the Yule Lord.  I've been meaning to read it, but just never got around to it.  But when I realized I had both an article and book review due for work, I decided that Krampus was the perfect compliment to my article on Santa Claus.

Krampus is the story of the Yule Lord.  He was imprisoned by Santa Claus five hundred years ago.  With the help of his Belsnickels, demonic-looking people he has chained to his will, he is finally ready to break free.  All he needs is Santa's magical sack.

Jesse Walker has the misfortune of observing the Belsnickels make their grab for the sack, which falls into his trailer.  When he discovers the sack's magic, he thinks his money trouble is over.  But both Santa and the Belsnickels are after him.  And when the Belsnickels find him first, he gets caught up with Krampus and his ancient feud with Santa. 

I had a hard time getting into Krampus; it took until about half-way through the book before I started really caring about what was going on.  But make no mistake: after the initial set-up, this book gets awesome!  The Yule Lord is Loki's grandson, and Santa Claus is actually Baldr.  Their feud was really interesting, seeming to be started from a difference in both opinion and viewpoint.  The Belsnickels were really interesting people, being made up of Native Americans from 400 years ago, a surveyor from the turn of the century, and Isabel, a woman with the heart of a lion.  Krampus was a really fun but dark romp through Christmas traditions.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Santas of the World

Continuing with the research for my Christmas I themed article, I read George Ouwendijk's Santas of the World. This is another kid's book, meaning it was a really easy read. It goes through mostly European and North American countries, explaining the differences in what people believe concerning Christmas ideas on gift-givers. I found the book really interesting (although a lot of the facts were similar to the ones in The Truth About Santa Claus). Together, both books were good reads, particularly for the article I'm writing. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Truth About Santa Claus

I decided to write a Christmas-themed article for work.  So that meant I needed to find some books on Christmas.  One of the ones I found and read is The Truth About Santa Claus by James Cross Giblin.  This is an older book (from 1985), but it still seemed pretty good, giving a great history of how the Santa Claus we know today evolved.

The Truth About Santa Claus is divided into seven chapters.  It starts off looking at St. Nicholas, both the man (what little we know of him), and the saint who was a miracle-maker.  There was a really neat story about St. Nicholas anonymously giving money to a poor man for his daughters' dowries so the man wouldn't have to sell one (or all?) of them into slavery.  It was stories like this that led to the idea of St. Nickolas as a gift-giver.

People in England stopped worshipping St. Nicholas in the 1500's, in part thanks to people like Martin Luther, who denounced the St. Nicholas Day holiday (which is December 5th).  So new gift-givers sprung up, including Father Christmas (who is actually based off the Roman god Saturn), and the German Christkindl, who was the Christ child, believed to bring gifts to children.The Dutch kept worshipping St. Nicholas, but they added Black Peter, a frightening creature believed to serve St. Nicholas; it was Black Peter who carried a trunk full of presents (for good children) and birch rods (for bad children).  As a historical side note, Black Peter was often depicted as a sixteenth-century Spanish official, because the Dutch were occupied by the Spanish but drove them out.  Dutch children called St. Nicholas "Sinter Claes" for short; this eventually evolved into "Santa Claus."

From there, these various gift givers merged and became the figure of Santa Claus (for example, "Christkindl" eventually became another name for Santa, "Kris Kringle").  His image slowly became the jolly old elf, in no small thanks to Clement Clarke Moore's poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" ("'Twas the night before Christmas...") and Thomas Nast's cartoons for Harper's Weekly.  Other characters entered the Santa Claus myth, including his helper elves, Mrs. Claus, the eight reindeer, and later Rudolph.

The Truth About Santa Claus was a really interesting read about Santa Claus's history.  It might be old, but it's still well-worth the read.

Friday, October 31, 2014


I don't have a lot to say about Michael Cho's Shoplifter. I saw it while I was working one day and decided to take it out. Shoplifter is the story of Corrina, a girl who finds herself, several years later, in the same job she took right after graduating. The only time she feels alive is when she steals a magazine from the corner store. But then a series of events lead her to question her entire life.
This was a story that I thought would speak to me. It's about a young woman deciding to go and live life, rather than just waiting for something to happen. But for some reason, the story just didn't really work for me (possibly because I'm not at the waiting for life to happen stage anymore myself). I did enjoy the art though - the style is different from most comics and graphic novels that I read.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


The last several books I've read have been things I've had to read, for one reason or another.  So after finishing Between Gods, I decided that I was going to read something I wanted to read.  After deciding not to start a trilogy (meaning Terry Brooks' Dark Legacy of Shannara was out for now), I chose Robin McKinley's SunshineSunshine was a book that caught my eye recently, in no small part thanks to Neil Gaiman's endorsement "Pretty much perfect."  So I jumped in.

Sunshine is the story of Rae "Sunshine" Seddon, a girl who loves baking and feeding people at her step-father's coffee shop.  But she's restless one night and drives out to the lake by herself.  While there have been no incidents at the lake in a long time, on this particular night she finds herself surrounded by vampires.  They kidnap her and bring her to one of the old mansions on the lake as a meal for their "guest," a powerful vampire held captive by their leader.  It is during her captivity that Rae rediscovers the power of her father's blood and frees the both of them.  Of course, no one survives a vampire attack.  And even more importantly, no one saves a vampire.  Particularly by walking with one for miles through direct sunlight.  But she can and did.  And now she has to live with the consequences, dodging the questions of the SOF ("Special Other Forces"), dealing with a power that refuses to be forgotten, and hiding from the vampire master who imprisoned her.  Will her life ever be able to go back to how it was before she drove out to the lake?

I really enjoyed reading Sunshine.  It was a rather different take on vampire (particularly the way humans can tell exactly how Other they are just by being around them).  This is the first book by McKinley that I've read, but I'm sure it won't be the last!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Between Gods

I was recently given the chance to interview the three authors who are coming to the IFOA event in Thunder Bay.  One of those authors is Alison Pick.  I'm not at all familiar with her work, so I put her newest book, Between Gods on hold.  Between Gods is a memoir, a genre I don't normally read.  But it sounded interesting, so I decided to give it a try.

Between Gods tells the story of a dark time in Alison's life.  While working on her novel Far to Go, she was going through a really dark depression.  It is also the story of secrets: Alison's family survived the Holocaust, but told no one they were Jewish.  And so Alison finds herself drawn to Judaism, almost on a cellular level.

But Alison is Jewish only through her father (Judaism is passed through the matrilineal line).  And she is going to marry a Gentile.  So the road to Judaism is a tough one.  She finds a rabbi who will sponsor her, but there is a catch: to become Jewish, her husband must convert, too.  While he is supportive of her desire, Degan does not want to convert.  And so this is the story of Alison's struggle to find her way back to the light (and back to the religion that feels so right to her).

Between Gods is a powerful story with beautiful (and at times haunting) text.  I loved every minute of reading it, and am now very interested in trying some of her fiction (particularly Far to Go).

Sunday, October 19, 2014


As I mentioned last time, my brother recently had a book published.  And that book is LuciferLucifer is the story of the angel Lucifer, who is given the chance of a lifetime: God will promote him, but he has to rebel against the creator in order to get the promotion.  And so Lucifer must navigate his way through God's office building, clashing with marketing and the other departments, all the while trying to figure out how to rebel against the all-knowing creator.

This is not the first time I've read Lucifer; I read a couple of early drafts for my brother while he was writing it.  Right from day one I loved this idea (and how can you not, with an opening like this?)  Going back to it, a few years later, I still absolutely love the concept.  And I have to say, I really like the changes that several drafts have brought: the ending flowed really nicely (although the flashback scenes were a little jarring because the tense changes).  I like that Lucifer has a very strong voice - I could hear my brother in these words.  His characters were all interesting and well thought out.  Setting God as the CEO of an office building and the angels as his employees made the well-known story of Lucifer rebelling against God fresh and fun.  But don't be deceived by the lighthearted tone of the first chapter: Lucifer is a story about finding oneself and becoming the person you were meant to be, even if it means leaving your old self behind.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Dolphin Dreams

My brother's book was recently published, so I was planning on reading that. But then he asked me to drop everything and read Lyle Nicholson's Dolphin Dreams, which is what I ended up doing. Dolphin Dreams is a novella, so it really didn't take me long to read. If I hadn't been so busy this weekend, I would have finished it in one sitting.

Dolphin Dreams is the story of Niklas Okkenon, a Finnish professor who arrives at a conference in Cancun, Mexico to deliver a speech. The conference is held in a hotel which has captive dolphins. Niklas soon finds the dolphins invading his dreams, requesting that he free them. As an ex-navy diver/demolitionist, Niklas knows how he could do it. But will he risk destroying his life to save them?

Dolphin Dreams was an interesting enough read. It was unfortunately rather predictable, (I pretty much knew exactly how the story would play out once I started reading it). And I didn't really get the motivations of many of the secondary characters throughput the book, particularly the patron of Cancun (why didn't he just buy the dolphins and set them free?) That being said, I thought Dolphin Dreams was a good effort for a first book.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Close Encounters

A work friend lent me local author Sharon Irvine's newest book, Close Encounters.  Sharon Irvine has published poetry before, but I believe this is her first book of short stories.  There are 15 stories in total, following a variety of people as they deal with relationships made out of chance circumstances.

The collection opens with "Road Kill," a story about two people travelling the Trans-Canada Highway between Sault Ste Marie and Thunder Bay.  The keep running into one another as they stop along the drive.  But their encounters escalate to tragic consequences.  I really noticed the rather poetic descriptions in this story (which isn't surprising - Irvine is a poet).

Next was "Einstein: A Sighting."  This was a cute story about inquisitive children.  The narrator was given the only bed left in the hospital, which was in the children's ward.  There she makes some new, younger friends who are curious about the gastric tube she had inserted to clear a blockage.

"Anna" was an interesting (but unfortunately predictable) story about an elderly lady who became friends with the narrator.  The elderly lady, Anna, is a fiercely independent woman who takes care of her pet friends (who are all named after literary figures).  When Anna breaks her hip, her children want her to move into a home closer to them, which means the fiercely independent woman will have to give up her entire life in Thunder Bay.

"Turkeys 0, Beavers 6" is about a farming family who go out to deal with a beaver dam.  The beavers keep rebuilding their dam, flooding the family's best farming field.  This was the first story where the narrator was noticeably different; rather than a middle-aged woman, this story was told by a younger boy.

I didn't really like "In the Waiting Room."  This was a story about the different people who come into the waiting room of the cancer centre.  The end was really unemotional and unattached, which seemed kind of odd with a story like this.

"Dead Dreams" made me particularly mad.  It involves a veterinarian (a man, making this another story that stood out due to the difference in narrator) and his alcoholic wife.  His wife has diabetes, presumably Type 1 (although she may have been a Type 2 who was insulin-dependent).  The husband finds out that she has been having an affair on him; she ends up dying in a hotel room from insulin-overdose while he is off with friends.  My issue with this story is that contrary to the author's repeated pronouncement that alcohol raises blood sugar levels, it actually lowers them.  So if you were drinking something like vodka or gin straight, you need to eat something to avoid going low.  The wife in this story is drinking gin and orange juice.  In this case, she would need some insulin to deal with the orange juice, not the gin.  So she should not have been pumping herself full of insulin (she actually uses like whole vials!!!  It's crazy!!!!)  Because of this knowledge (I myself have Type 1 diabetes), I had a really hard time with this story.

"The Loneliness of the Long Distance Swimmer" was a weird tale.  I think it was about the crazy things your brain does while bored (in this case while swimming).  But the end made it seem like all the craziness actually happened, so I'm not really sure what to make of this story.

"No Exit" was about an elderly couple who end up taking care of their grandson while his mother gets her life back on track.  It was a pretty heart-wrenching tale.  Other than the expository dump at the beginning, I really liked it.

"Second Chance" was a story about a woman who got stuck taking care of her younger, mentally handicapped brother.  She dreams about having a life free from him, but couldn't bear to leave him alone in a home.

"The Tunnel" was a story about two girls who travel to Norway to bike.  One of them is claustrophobic and gets scared of a tunnel through a mountain.  They make it through just to be confronted with another one.

"Detour" is the story about a young man who grapples with the realization he has to take over the family now that his father has passed away. This story wasn't really anything special because it seemed kind of too similar (at least in themes) to "Second Chance."

"Close Encounters" is about a teacher who teaches a "special" group of boys (most of them are in trouble with the law).  One of her students tries to kill her after she sends him to the office for not doing his school work (he will lose his car and pass to go to school).

"Sisters" was a story about two elderly sisters who are complete opposites.  But that doesn't stop them from coming together to save a puppy who was cruelly thrown into the river to die.

"The Grief Tourist" is about a mysterious lady who keeps showing up at funerals.  Another woman recognizes the lady, and so sets out to discover who she is and why she keeps seeing her at funerals.

The final story, "Lost," was probably the best story of the entire collection.  It's about an elderly woman dealing with dementia.  She uses post-its to remember everything.  She picks up her mentally-handicapped daughter to go to church, but on the way home doesn't recognize their stop.  She stays on the bus while her daughter goes for help.

So those were the fifteen stories of this collection.  I noticed that a lot of the stories revolve around death and the aftermath of death.  I guess that's because death changes things in your life unexpectedly, often in ways you cannot control. Overall, I thought these stories were okay.  Unfortunately in a lot of cases it felt like the stories ended rather prematurely, which was a real shame; had they gone further, I think they would have all been much stronger.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Road

Cormac McCarthy's The Road has been on the List for a very long time.  I don't remember exactly why I wanted to read one of his books (and this one in particular, although it may have had something to do with the movie coming out).  But I did.  So continuing with trying to just read books on the List (particularly those that I want to read once then send on their way), after Daughter of Hounds, I chose The Road.  Well, that's not exactly true.  I went through another spell where I was starting things and failing to finish them, one of which being Peter S. Beagle's Tamsin, which I had trouble reading because my cat passed away.  But I'll get back to it one day.  So after a few false starts, I started The Road.

The Road tells the story of a father and son who are trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world.  You never know what exactly happened, but the world is a dead place, where no plants grow.  Ashes routinely rain from the sky and cover the sun.  There's no real mention of how long the world has been like this but you know it's been awhile - everything is ransacked and it's very difficult to find food.  Knowing that they won't survive another winter up in the north (wherever they were - I was guessing somewhere like Seattle or Minnesota), the Father decides they need to head south.  And so they take their cart and their dwindling supplies, hiking along the roads, scavenging for supplies, and trying to avoid the other people on the road out of fear.

I honestly thought The Road was doomed to be another false start.  I started a few weeks ago, got about 50 pages in and then lost interest.  But after watching some Walking Dead with a friend (and said friend making the comment that the survivors there have to be eating tons to stay physically fit enough to fight zombies), I found I had a new interest in The Road.  Here was a more realistic portrayal of a post-apocalyptic world, one where people don't routinely go to the bra store for clean underwear (it's a running joke my friend and I have while watching The Walking Dead - all the girls have immaculate undergarments!)  I had a hard time getting into it, but I am definitely glad I finished it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Daughter of Hounds

Daughter of Hounds is the first novel I've read by Caitlin R. Kiernan (although I did read the graphic novel Alabaster: Wolves in the spring).  I've had Daughter of Hounds on The List for a long time (I bought it several years ago at Chapters).  And now that I'm trying to clear out books that are taking up space (by which I mean I just want to read them but don't really want to keep), it was high time to read Daughter of Hounds.

I'm going to give a spoiler warning here.  I know I wrote on the side bar that I won't bother doing that anymore, but I'm planning on being particularly spoilery with this book.  You have been warned.

I had a really, really hard time reading this book.  Daughter of Hounds is split between two characters, Emmie Silvey, a strange yellow-eyed girl, and Soldier.  Soldier was a human child, stolen from her parents to be raised by the ghouls (so she's a Changeling, aka one of the Children of the Cuckoo).  And Emmie was quite obviously a child left in place of a human child.  I knew from pretty early on that Emmie was switched for Soldier, even though their ages didn't seem right; I give the book props for what happened to Soldier (her childhood was stolen, so she looked older than she actually was).

I was really torn as I read the majority of the book.  I found Soldier's chapters interesting.  There was a lot going on with the ghouls and Soldier's Changeling existence that was really interesting.  But every second chapter followed Emmie, an 8-year old girl whom I had no real reason to care about.  Sure, stuff was happening around her.  But nothing really drew me in.  It wasn't until the Daughter of the Four of Pentacles (Pearl) actually made her leave the house before she got interesting (and even that wasn't me being interested in her so much as being interested in the story a bit more). 

I also didn't like how things would be mentioned, but never really shown in any detail.  Like Emmie's step mother had something wrong with her hand.  I'm really not sure what happened to her, but it was a detail the book mentioned and then didn't bother to explain.  Also, Deacon Silvey (Emmie's dad) was a drunkard who I thought drank because he lost his wife, but might have started because he wanted to dull his psychic powers.  That seemed odd, especially when he kept drinking rather than using his psychic powers to go find Emmie once she left the hose.  I didn't find this out until after I'd already read the book, but apparently Daughter of Hounds is the third book in a sort of series, so that's probably where some of this came from.  But there was a lot that I'd wished Kiernan had gone into more detail with.  Which made me laugh in a way, because this book was over 400 pages long.  There was room to go into more detail, but it just never really happened.  

I don't want to say much more.  But this book really wasn't for me.  As I've already said, I had a hard time reading this book.  Even when it got more interesting (which was around page 200), I still wasn't very invested in the story.  So I'm just going to say that this book really wasn't for me, and leave it at that.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Naked Face

Wow. Sidney Sheldon's The Named Face is the first book I've read in a long time that's actually on The List. Everything else I've been reading has been library or Kindle books. But hopefully that's going to change over the next while because I'm hoping to stick with mostly books that are in my room taking up space.

So anyway, The Naked Face. This is an older Sheldon book and it really shows: in some ways The Naked Face is quite dated (in language and the idea that homosexuality is something that needs to be/can be cured through psychology/psychiatry). But it's still a Sheldon book, and I have generally liked his books, so I wanted to give it a try.

The Naked Face is about Doctor Judd Stevens, a successful psychoanalyst. When one of Stevens' patients is killed, almost immediately followed by his receptionist, one of the detectives assigned to the case (a man whose partner was killed years ago in a case where Stevens' examination allowed the killer to live) believes that Stevens is the one responsible. Stevens has to figure out who the real killer is before the detective arrests him for murder.

The Naked Face was a really fast read (it's about 300 pages long and I finished it in a day AFTER reading Jonathan Livingston Seagull). It was also a lot of fun trying to figure out who the killer was, although that was tough - you don't actually get the full story until near the end, when Stevens himself figures it out. This is made even harder because you don't actually MEET the killer until near the end of the book. But I was happy that the plot wasn't predictable, and overall I really ended up enjoying The Naked Face.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

A friend told me that a mutual friend had read Richard Bach's Jonathan Livingston Seagull and absolutely loved it.  It sounded interesting, so I was going to add it to my to-read list on Goodreads.  But apparently I just put a hold on it at work instead, and the book showed up for me a few days later.  I wasn't really planning on reading it immediately, but after flipping through the book, I decided why not?  It of course helped that the book was short (about 95 pages) and half of those pages were pictures of seagulls (taken by Russel Munson).  So I read it this afternoon, finishing it in maybe one hour (it's short!)

Jonathan Livingston Seagull is a story in three parts, following the main character (the seagull of the title).  Jonathan is a seagull quite unlike any other.  Rather than simply chasing after food like the rest of the Flock, Jonathan wants to be the perfect flier.  But after an almost disastrous landing, Jonathan is named Outcast and sent to live out the rest of his days outside of the Flock.  The story is split into three parts: part one is when Jonathan is Outcast, but spends the rest of his days trying to perfect his flying in his physical (and somewhat limited) body.  Part two is when Jonathan goes to the next level, a sort of Heaven-like place where seagulls like Jonathan who have transcended their desire for food go to learn the next level of flying.  Given a more aerodynamic body, Jonathan is finally at home with other seagulls who are like him (and willing to teach him more of flying!)  By the end of this part, Jonathan understands his nature, and is now ready to bring Enlightenment to the seagulls of his old Flock (and in particular, any fellow birds who may have been cast out like he was because they wanted to learn to fly better).  So part three is Jonathan doing just that - he becomes the teacher for seven other outcast birds, then talks them into bringing Enlightenment to the rest of the Flock, before going on to teach birds from other Flocks.

While I was reading, particularly in the last part, Jonathan Livingston Seagull really struck me as a Christ-allegory (although that wasn't really fitting - Jonathan repeatedly said he was nothing special. So I guess it was more of an enlightening/empowering every-man narrative?)  It is a very inspirational narrative, so if you like that sort of thing, you will like Jonathan Livingston Seagull.  Personally I didn't mind the story, but I didn't find it really life-changing (and so feel like it wasn't really meant for me).

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Unicorn Sonata

So apparently continuing my Peter S. Beagle kick, I read The Unicorn Sonata.  This is the story of Joey, a girl who follows some hauntingly beautiful music into another land (called Shei'rah).  While full of many dangers, like the swarms of ravenous perytons, it is also a land of satyrs, water nymphs (called jallas), and the Eldest - the Unicorns. Joey discovers that it is from the unicorns that the music comes.  But all is not well with them - for an unknown reason, the Eldest are going blind. 

The Eldest were very interesting in this book.  There were three "tribes" of them: one described as solid and earthy, one sea-like, and the other was like the sky.  They came in a myriad of colours, sizes and shapes, while all remaining unicorns.  Their blindness was also interesting, as they could still "see" physical objects in their minds, but they were lessened because they were not whole.

The Unicorn Sonata was an interesting story about a girl torn between two worlds: the magic that is Shei'rah, and the mundane world where her family (particularly her beloved grandmother, Abuelita) is.  It is also the story of a talented musician struggling to write Shei'rah's soul into musical notation.  While I didn't like The Unicorn Sonata as much as The Last Unicorn, it was still a very interesting and fun read.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

An Exchange of Gifts

I saw Anne McCaffrey's An Exchange of Gifts when I was at work.  I've read another one of McCaffrey's novellas a long time ago and liked it; this one sounded interesting, so I decided to give it a read.

Meanne (aka Princess Anastasia de Saumur et Navarre y Cordova) has a Gift entirely unsuitable to a princess: she can make plants grow and create healing potions and salves out of them.  So rather than being denied her birthright (and being forced into marrying someone she does not know), Meanne runs away, faking her death so no one will come looking for her.  She makes her way to an abandoned cottage she remembers visiting as a child.  Unfortunately she didn't realize just how much work living on her own would be.

Luckily, a young boy named Wisp comes to her rescue.  He has run away from who knows where, having the scars on his back as a memento.  Wisp befriends her, helping to teach her how to survive.  Together, the two build an idyllic life, caring for Meanne's plants and snaring small animals.

But after Wisp talks Meanne into going to the local village's monthly market, Meanne's past catches up with her.  She faked her death too well, and her father has sent his men throughout the kingdom to find her murderers.  But now Wisp knows who she is, too.  Things come to a head between them as he finally reveals who he is, what exactly happened to him, and what incredible Gift he has.

An Exchange of Gifts was an excellent read.  I loved it enough to buy my own copy from Amazon (along with another of her novellas, If Wishes Were Horses).  I can't wait to get them!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Dance for Emilia

I've been wanting to read more books by Peter S. Beagle ever since finishing (and falling in love with) The Last Unicorn.  So the other day, I went looking for what my local library had.  A Dance for Emilia was short (being novella length), so I decided to read it first.

A Dance for Emilia is about losing friends and loved ones.  Jacob and Sam were best friends from forever ago.  Their planned escapades in old age are cut short when Sam passes away unexpectedly.  Sam's girlfriend, Emilia, is also left behind.  She quickly bonds with Jacob as they share their memories of Sam over the course of two years.  But unbeknownst to them, their sharing has been calling Sam back from the dead.  He inhabits the body of Millamant, his old Abyssinian cat.  While they are happy to have him back (even in this strange form), Sam isn't able to stay.  And so he performs one last beautiful dance for Emilia before leaving her and Jacob forever.

A Dance for Emilia is based off of Beagle's real life struggle to cope with losing a friend.  I didn't know that at the time I started reading it, but it was the perfect thing for me to read right now.  As I mentioned in my last post, my cat recently passed away; I found myself feeling like Emilia does in the book, wanting Sam to come back (and not wanting to let him go once he does come back).  While I didn't think it was as good as The Last Unicorn, I really enjoyed reading A Dance for Emilia and am looking forward to reading more of Beagle's work.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Chinese Whiskers

I spied Pallavi Aiyar's Chinese Whiskers last year at work when it was on the new book shelf.  I marked it as something I wanted to read, but then forgot about it in my rush of reading other books.  But after my cat passed away last week, I was in the mood for a cute cat story. And luckily Chinese Whiskers didn't disappoint!

Chinese Whiskers is the story of two cats, Tofu and Soyabean.  They come from very different backgrounds: Tofu was a dustbin cat, the middle of five kittens; Soyabean was the spoiled only child of a rich cat.  But both are adopted by a foreign couple and end up the best of friends, growing from kittens to adulthood in one of Beijing's hutongs.  Soyabean and Tofu couldn't be more different: the male Soyabean is a friendly cat who loves to eat; Tofu is a small female who takes a long time to trust anyone and anything. 

A chance remark lands Soyabean as the star of a cat food commercial.  But his stardom comes at a bad time: this is when the SARS outbreak was being blamed on cats.  And then Tofu gets locked out of the house and kidnapped by someone who has been murdering pets.  Luckily her older brother, a tough alley cat from the Ghost Street Gang, saw and tells her to escape; he tells her he'll find her no matter what happens!

Meanwhile, Soyabean blames himself for Tofu's disappearance.  If he hadn't been watching his commercial instead of watching out for her, perhaps none of this would have happened!  But while he is moping around the house, he discovers that the people he is modelling for have been poisoning the cat food he's been helping to sell.  Unfortunately he finds himself at a loss when he is unable to communicate this to his owner.  But once Tofu makes it back home, the two hatch a plan to reveal that the food is poisoned to the humans.  It'll take all of Soyabean's talents at acting and more than a little bit of luck to pull off.

Chinese Whiskers was a really cute story.  These two cats reminded me of my two (except that Soyabean and Tofu actually got along).  My one complaint is that the book seemed to wrap itself up about a chapter before it actually ended.  If not for that, I would have given it five stars on Goodreads, instead of the four I ended up giving.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Pineville Heist

I first heard that a local author, Lee Chambers, had written a book that hit the Amazon bestseller list a few years ago.  I bought the book and intended to read it, but never really got around to it.  But a few weeks ago, a friend from work asked me to read it.  So I grudgingly did; The Pineville Heist was by no means high on my list and I really wanted to read something else.

So I started the book on Wednesday.  I went to Grand Marais with my brother for the day, and started reading it while we were hanging out on the beach.  When I started it, I thought it was going to be an absolutely terrible read.  The writing seemed awkward (for example, one character "waltzed" into the room, then got snippy, turned around and stomped out.  It was a very jarring scene).

But then something happened. I started getting sucked more and more into the story.  Things that I thought were predictable weren't (although I admit, I thought the main character was someone else, so it helped that I kept waiting for a character that never arrived).  And even if the writing remained a bit awkward at times, I stopped noticing it as I got drawn into the story that is The Pineville Heist.

The Pineville Heist is about Aaron.  Aaron is the rich kid in town, unpopular because everyone thinks his father is just getting richer from everyone else's money.  His father is a single parent, too busy to give Aaron much attention.  They get into a fight and Aaron is forced to walk to school.  He cuts through the woods, inadvertently spying the bank robbers who stole his father's money.  After overhearing the local cops talking about the robbery, he brings his two best friends to go recover the money.  Unfortunately they're around when the robbers are murdered in cold blood.  Grabbing one of the bags of money, Aaron makes it back to the school.  Unsure if his friends are alive or not, he ends up running for his life from the cold-blooded killer is after him and the money.

The Pineville Heist ended up a really enjoyable read.  I'm also now really excited for the movie to come out (it was filmed locally back in June).

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Under the Empyrean Sky

I started Chuck Wendig's Under the Empyrean Sky about a month ago. I got it from the library at the time, thinking that as a YA book it would be an easy read. But I couldn't get into it at all. So back to the library it went.

I wanted to try again a few days ago. So I bought it on my Kindle and started reading. To my amazement, I was now into the story and didn't want to put it down!

Under the Empyrean Sky is the tale of Cael McAvoy. Cael is the captain of the Big Sky Scavengers, the second best scavenging crew of Boxelder. Cael's crew flies over the corn fields of the Heartland, looking for anything useful that they can sell to support their families. Cael's tired of being bested in the scavenging game by the mayor's son, the captain of the best scavenging crew in town. But when he spends the crew's ace notes on new panels from his ship just before his ship gets trashed, he's not sure what to do. To make matters worse, he's worried about losing his first mate (and love of his life) when the Empyreans announce their arranged marriages (Obligations) in a few days. And with his mother sick, his sister running off again and his father barely able to scrape by, Cael isn't sure how he'll keep his family afloat. But that's life in the Heartland.

Under the Empyrean Sky was a really interesting book. The world reminded me of The Hunger Games, with the Heartlanders being like the districts, and the Empyrean controlling the world and making the rules from above (quite literally - the Empyrean live on flotillas, flying around above the earth, closing schools and generally making life miserable for the "unenlightened" Heartlanders below them). The Empyrean have outlawed all crops except the corn, which ravages the earth, spreading and killing all other plant life. Their one consolation to the Heartlanders is the Lottery; once a year, a Heartland family is selected to live on the flotillas with the Empyrean.

Cael's crew was pretty great. There's Lane, Cael's helmsman, who lost his family and now lives alone. Lane isn't looking forward to the arranged marriages because he doesn't want to marry any of the girls. The third mate, Rigo, has an abusive father who has sucked the boy's confidence from him. But even though he's afraid, he still manages to find his courage when he really needs to. And Gwennie, the first mate, is the brains of the entire organization. Unfortunately we don't get to see a whole lot of her (spoiler: she's Obligated to the mayor's son; Cael spends a lot of time pining for her or fighting over her, but we don't get to see a whole lot from her perspective). And Cael's dad, Pop, is pretty awesome (another spoiler: he's growing an illegal garden with the help of hobos!)

I guess I was just in the wrong frame of mind when I started reading Under the Empyrean Sky the first time. But I'm super glad I gave it a second chance. And now I can't wait for the second book, Blightborn, which comes out later this month!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Scotti and 'Fairies Don't Exist'

Here we are with The Scotti and 'Fairies Don't Exist,' the third Fairly Stillwart Chronicle from Scott Butcher. The Scotti picks up just after A Pixie Pilgrimage left off: Stillwart and company are still trying to make their way to the Northern Fairies in Ireland. They've managed to go from Vancouver to Montreal, but here they've been stopped by customs because they don't have the proper paperwork. Rather than wait around for weeks, they decide to bust out of the airport and find another way to Europe. Luckily the two daughters of their human friend, Phoebe and Lucy, live in the city; with a bit of convincing that fairies really are real, the gang is on their way to Newfoundland to catch a chartered flight to Dublin.

But along the way, Fairies Don't Exist, the feral fairy Stillwart and company picked up in Vancouver, tells them that a Thorn Tree is calling to her. Following her directions, the company finds a group of fairies named the Scotti. The Scotti's Thorn Tree was damaged by human hands long ago; with its magic blocked, the Scotti have been slowly dying. It's up to Stillwart and company to save the day!

Like the other Fairly Stillwart Chronicles, The Scotti and 'Fairies Don't Exist" is another quick and enjoyable read. Just be warned: this book ends on even more of a cliffhanger than A Pixie Pilgrimage did.  I can't wait for book 4 to read more of Stillwart's adventure!

Friday, June 27, 2014


Hunted, book six, is the last Iron Druid Chronicle I'm going to read for awhile.  I know that book seven, Shattered, is out now (it came out about a week ago).  But I would like to go and read some other things in the immediate future (plus that will hopefully bridge the gap between books seven and eight, whenever eight comes out, a bit better).  So with that in mind, I'm going to be giving tons of spoilers in an attempt to record (and help me remember) the story thus far.

Hunted really started with a bang!  It starts exactly where Trapped left off - after defeating Fenris, Atticus, Oberon, and Granuaile were doing a "druid world tour," checking out the world and all the ways to Tir Na nOg.  But when they returned to Europe, Diana and Artemis, the Roman and Greek immortal goddesses of the hunt, are lying in wait for them.  The Morrigan appears and battles the two goddesses of the hunt, buying Atticus, Oberon, and Granuaile time to run away.  But as she is fighting them, she also talks with Atticus.  It's a moving, beautiful conversation (the Morrigan confesses she loves Atticus and that she was trying to change her ways but discovered that being a goddess made that impossible).  The conversation is abruptly cut off when she dies.  Yes, the Celtic goddess of death is killed in battle.

From that point, Atticus, Oberon, and Granuaile must flee across Europe.  Following the Morrigan's last instructions, they are running as fast as they can to England; according to the Morrigan, getting to Hearne's Forest is the only version of events where Atticus manages to live.  Along the way, they are being attacked by vampires, Svartalfar (dark elves), and an arcane life leech.  The gods have decreed that this is a contest between Atticus and the goddesses of the hunt, so no other gods are able to directly interfere.  Of course that doesn't stop Neptune and Poseidon  from stirring things up when the party has to swim.

Also along the way, Atticus gets shot in the head.  Granuaile and Oberon believe him to be dead and bury him in the earth; luckily his untested soul catcher charm works, keeping his soul in his body until he is healed.
Once they make it to Hearne's Forest, they become the guests of the ghost, who helps them deal with the Olympians.  While they cannot be killed, Atticus was able to dismember them with his sword (he traded Moralltach for Fragarach from Manannan in the previous book) and them "store" them in the earth.  He uses this to catch the two goddesses and force Jupiter and Zeus to come down and speak with him.  From here they are able to settle their differences, meaning the immortal gods will no longer be after Atticus.

After this point, Atticus goes to confront Midhir, a member of the Tuatha De Danann whom he believed was orchestrating these events.  When he arrives, he is nearly killed by some very hungry fairies (he calls them pie-mouths), discovers Midhir dead, and has to get by a manticore who was left to kill him.  This was a really long chapter, made doubly so because he was almost torn apart by the pie-mouths and couldn't heal (and was literally shambling around Midhir's house).  He learned that Midhir was high up in the conspiracy against him, but clearly not the leader.

One last thing: Loki was running around too.  On the run through Europe, Lokie showed up in Poland.  Atticus bargained with Malina's coven (who has relocated to Poland) to charm him - in return he would clear Poland of vampires.  Loki managed to get free, but before he did any major damage, his daughter, Hel, brought him to her world.

Oh yes, and as a parting gift, Atticus went to the time islands and discovered his arch-druid was very much alive.

So that was the events of Hunted.  It wasn't my favourite Iron Druid book, but it had some pretty crazy moments.  I'm looking forward to Shattered when I eventually go and read it.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


So here we are with the fifth book in Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid Chronicles, TrappedTrapped takes place twelve years after Tricked and about six years after those short stories ("Two Ravens and One Crow," "The Demon Barker of Wheat Street" and "The Chapel Perilous").  Most of the world believed Atticus was dead, giving him the time he needed to train Granuaile.  But train her he did. And now as they're searching for a good place to bind Granuaile to the earth, the Tuatha De Danaan have discovered that Atticus is still alive.  And unfortunately they're not the only ones.  Word has gotten out to Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, merrymaking and ritual madness.  Bacchus swore he would kill Atticus back in Hexed.  And as one of the Olympians, Bacchus is truly immortal.

Unfortunately for Atticus and Granuaile, a new druid can only be bound to the earth on the Eurasian Plate (meaning only in Europe).  And something has closed off all the routes from Tir Na nOg to Europe except one; that one exception is Greece in the vicinity of Mount Olympus. So now Atticus will have to bind his apprentice under the very noses of the Roman gods, all while the entire world realizes that he is actually still alive. 

Trapped was an incredibly good read.  And with gods, vampires, and dark elves (of the Norse variety) all hunting after Atticus, Trapped really kicked things up a notch from Tricked.  The ending (particularly the epilogue) really made me excited to read book six, Hunted - I can't wait to start it (which I'm doing right now)!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

In the Beginning

Earlier today, I was discussing books on Twitter. I had asked Philippa Ballantine if she was going to write anything else in her Books of the Order world; she directed me to "In the Beginning," a short story that also takes place in that world. It tells a story about the first day that the geists broke into the world. "In the Beginning" is a really fast but enjoyable read. It was neat to see the world not from the Deacons's perspective.

The Chapel Perilous

After loving "The Demon Barker of Wheat Street," I decided to read "The Chapel Perilous" before jumping into Trapped. Since "The Chapel Perilous" is available on Kindle, I started reading it right after finishing writing my review of "The Demon Barker" (but I went to a friend's house soon after, so I didn't finish reading it until now).

"The Chapel Perilous" takes place after the other two short stories (according to the author's note, it's four years before Trapped). Atticus, Oberon, and Granuaile are taking a break from training to go camping. They're sitting around the campfire and ask him for a story. And so Atticus tells them about when he recovered the Holy Grail as Sir Gawain. Of course, it wasn't known as the Holy Grail at the time, but was Dagda's Cauldron, which was never emptied of food. Atticus was sent to retrieve the Cauldron by Ogma of the Tuatha De Danann. The cauldron was stolen by a Pict, who had hidden it beyond the Tuatha De Danann's sight. And so he journeyed into the realm of the Fisher King to retrieve it.

While not as good as "The Demon Barker of Wheat Street" and "Two Ravens and One Crow," "The Chapel Perilous" was still very interesting. I learned a bit more about Atticus's history and the Tuatha De Danann, so in my mind this was definitely a story worth reading!

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Demon Barker of Wheat Street

As I mentioned last time, I bought the Carniepunk anthology on my Kindle to read Kevin Hearne's story "The Demon Barker of Wheat Street."  I didn't really want to buy the anthology because I'm really only interested in Kevin Hearne's story, but since it's currently the only place to get it, I sucked it up and bought the whole anthology.

"The Demon Barker of Wheat Street" takes place a couple of weeks after "Two Ravens and One Crow."  Even though Granuaile has faked her death, she wanted to see how her mother was dealing with things.  So Atticus, Oberon, and Granuaile find themselves in Kansas.  While there, they attend a local wheat festival which includes a carnival.  Seeing a large crowd gathering by a dwarf on stilts who is selling people on his freak show, they get curious and head in.  But the freak show isn't at all what it seems - and Atticus has his hands full saving his hound, his apprentice, and the many innocent victims of this ghoulish attraction.

I absolutely loved "The Demon Barker of Wheat Street."  This story alone was well worth what I payed for Carniepunk!

Two Ravens and One Crow

After finishing Tricked, I decided to follow along with Kevin Hearne's chronology and read "Two Ravens and One Crow" next.  Luckily it was available on Amazon as a Kindle Single, so I snagged it from there.

"Two Ravens and One Crow" takes place six years after Tricked.  Atticus has finally had the peace and quiet to focus on Granuaile's training.  But Atticus's peace and quiet is shattered by the Morrigan's arrival, who demands that he come with her.  For one thing, he needs the tattoo on the back of his hand healed (and has needed it healed for the last six years, since the final battle with the skinwalkers left it damaged).  But the Morrigan also arranged a meeting with a certain god who most definitely wants Atticus dead...

"Two Ravens and One Crow" was a fantastic novella.  I'm really glad I read it (and am now looking forward to "The Demon Barker of Wheat Street," which I ended up buying as well).

Friday, June 6, 2014


Last night I finished reading Tricked, the fourth book in Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid Chronicles.  Tricked was a bit different from the previous books because Atticus, Oberon, and Granuaile have left Tempe, Arizona.  Atticus bargained with Coyote; Coyote would shapeshift into the druid and die convincingly (to trick the Norse and other gods into thinking Atticus is dead), and Atticus would help Coyote out with a project.

The project sounds pretty straightforward: convince the earth to move some gold into Navajo territory.  But Coyote neglects to mention that his gold mine is in skinwalker territory; Coyote wants Atticus to help deal with them as well.  Meanwhile, Atticus checks in with his werewolf lawyers.  They tell him that politics have changed in the (local) vampire realm.  So Atticus arranges to meet with Leif to see how the vampire is doing after almost dying in Valhalla (and to find out what's going on with the vampire politics).  There's trickery and betrayal all over the place in this fourth installment in the Iron Druid Chronicles!

A friend warned me that Tricked wasn't as good because there aren't many of the characters from the first three books in it.  But I still enjoyed it all the same.  I'm looking forward to reading "Two Ravens and One Crow," as well as the fifth book, Trapped, soon!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

A Test of Mettle

I actually read "A Test of Mettle" a few days ago.  Originally I wasn't going to blog about it, but then I changed my mind.

"A Test of Mettle" actually takes place during Hammered.  This is what happened to Granuaile while Atticus was heading off to Asgard.

Granuaile was sent to help the elemental Sonora clear the East Verde
River of invasive crawdads.  But Flidais and Brighid decide to administer the Baolach Cruatan (the Dangerous Trial) with no warning to her.

This was a really short story which is available for free on Kevin Hearne's website.  It was fun to get Granuaile's perspective before I start reading Tricked.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Book Thief

My mom and I both wanted to read Marjkus Zusak's The Book Thief, so we picked it up from a local used bookstore.  She read it first, then gave it to me.  The book's a bit long (550 pages), but I thought I'd get through it pretty quickly because it's YA.  Obviously that didn't happen - I started it just after finishing Teeth, and just finished reading it now.

The Book Thief is the story of Liesel Meminger as told by Death.  Liesel stole her first book at her little brother's funeral.  From there, she went on to steal several other books between 1939 and 1943 while living in Molching, Germany with her foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann.  While Rosa is extremely gruff, Liesel immediately takes a liking to Hans (her papa), the accordion-playing painter who has a kind soul.  Liesel and the boy next door, Rudy Steiner become best friends and partners in crime, getting into all kinds of mischief together.

Life changes when Max Vandenburg appears. Hans had made a promise to Max's mom years ago that if she ever needed anything, he would help.  That promise comes back to haunt him during the Nazi's reign of terror when she asks Hans to help her Jewish son.  While this puts their family at risk, Hans and Rosa unquestioningly take Max in, hiding him in their basement.

While I liked The Book Thief, I ran into problems reading it because I felt like it dragged at times.  It didn't help that the narrator (Death) would often say what was coming, but then take his time to get there.  But that aside, The Book Thief was an excellent story about the 10% of Germans who did not agree with the Nazis during World War 2.

Saturday, May 17, 2014


A friend of mine told me I should read Hannah Moskowitz's Teeth quite awhile ago.  According to her, Teeth was one of her favourite books of 2013.  I finally got around to reading it (in its entirety today.  And wow, she was right: Teeth was an amazing read!

Rudy's little brother has cystic fibrosis.  In an effort to cure him, Rudy's parents have moved their family to a little island where eating the fish is purported to cure anything.  While a diet of fish seems to be doing his brother wonders, Rudy finds himself growing lonelier and lonelier on an island full of adults.  But then he meets Diana, the only other teenager who lives on the island, and Teeth, the half-human, half-fish secret of the island.

Slowly, Rudy starts spending more and more time with Teeth.  He's frightened by how he feels while hanging out with the fish-boy, because no one has made him feel this way.  Yet Teeth has dedicated his life to saving the island's fish from the fishermen.  As Rudy finds out, loving Teeth may mean sacrificing his brother's life.

Teeth was an absolutely fantastic read.  I am so glad my friend recommended it to me!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Dragon's Bait

Vivian Vande Velde's Dragon's Bait caught my eye several weeks ago at work.  I finally sat down and read it today.  I read most of it this afternoon, then finished it off after work.

Dragon's Bait is the story of Alys, who is accused of witchcraft by her neighbours.  Her neighbour was after her father's land, and accused Alys of witchcraft after her father refused to sell.  During her trial, her father passed away, leaving no one to defend Alys (some of the villagers tried, but the Inquisitor confused them into believing she really was a witch).  Rather than burning her at the stake, she is sentenced to be used as a sacrifice to appease a dragon that's been seen in the area.  But rather than eat her, the dragon decides to help her get revenge on the people who accused her of witchcraft.

I honestly don't have a lot to say about this book.  While I liked Selendrile (the dragon), I found the book to be entirely too predictable. I also thought it was taking place on another world, and so got disappointed at how very Earth-like the setting was.  That may not be a fair criticism, but it's still how I felt.  That being said, Dragon's Bait was a fast read.  And I'm probably not the intended audience for it (it felt like more of a kid's book, even though the library marked it as young adult).

Monday, May 12, 2014


There seems to be a hold war going on at the library for Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid Chronicles.  I managed to get my hands on Hammered pretty quickly, but I only got it for a week (which wasn't a big deal seeing how I read it in two days).  I may have to wait a few weeks for the fourth book, Tricked (but we'll see!)

Hammered begins roughly where Hexed left off.  In exchange for Laksha's help in killing 12 of the Bacchants, Atticus has to steal one of Idunn's apples from Asgard; the apples preserve the gods' youth, and so Laksha wants one for herself.  Atticus also promised to help the vampire Leif kill Thor in exchange for some more help, and so the druid is treating the apple-snatching mission as a reconnaissance one as well.

Unfortunately things go horribly wrong right off the bat.  Using a hidden entrance into Asgard (which bypasses both the Bifrost Bridge and the god Heimdall) and befriending Ratatosk, the guardian of the back way, Atticus is attacked by the Norns upon entering Asgard.  The Norns accidentally kill Ratatosk and try to kill Atticus, but he slays them with Moralltach (Aenghus Og's sword).  From that moment on, Atticus knows he has to hurry; once the other Æsir discover the Norns are dead, they will start looking for their killer.  

Atticus manages to get the apple without incident.  But on his way back to his escape route, he discovers Odin and some Valkyries are chasing him.  He manages to get away (and is happy to realize that the Valkyries' death powers do not work on him thanks to his amulet).  

Back in Arizona, Atticus makes plans to leave town, knowing that thanks to his adventures in Asgard (and the planned killing of Thor), there are going to be a LOT of people and gods after him.  After making all of the arrangements, he meets up with Leif and Gunnar.  The three of them make their way to Siberia (where the backdoor to Asgard is located on our plane), where they meet up with the remaining three members of their group: Vainamoinen (a Finnish folk hero), Zhang Guo Lao (an immortal wizard) and Perun (the Russian Thunder god).  Together, the six of them recruit the help of the frost giants, then storm Asgard (even though both Jesus and the Morrigan have warned Atticus to abandon this foolish plan).

Just before Atticus and company meet the frost giants, they sit around a fire and tell each other stories to strengthen the bonds between them (this is so Atticus can move them all between the planes).  This was my favourite part of the entire book.  All five of Atticus's friends tell the story of why they want to kill Thor.  Hearne's writing here was absolutely amazing: all five characters spoke in their own voices and had very compelling (yet different) reasons for wanting to kill Thor.  I think my favourite was Vainamoinen's story; he befriended a sea monster, which Thor showed up out of nowhere and killed.  I really wish these five stories were available as standalone short stories on Kindle or something because I would love to reread them all.

Hammered was, in many ways, a very different book from the previous two in the Iron Druid Chronicles.  My one complaint was that there weren't a whole lot of women in the book (his apprentice Granuaile is in it for a bit, as is the Morrigan and Mrs. MacDonagh).  But no one in the group who wants to kill Thor is a woman).  Other than that though, I really enjoyed it.  And now that Atticus is on the run once again, I can't wait to see where book four takes him!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Pixie Pilgrimage

Today I read the second book in Scott Butcher's The Fairly Stillwart Chronicles, A Pixie Pilgrimage.  Like Stillwart and the Southern Fairies, book 2 was a super fast read.  I think I finished reading it in less than an hour.

A Pixie Pilgrimage picks up where the first book left off.  A pixie knight from the Northern Pixie Queen has arrived, informing Stillwart that she is a princess.  The Pixie Queen needs the fairies' help because her people are dying.  When pixies and fairies live together, both are strong.  But the Pixies have been without fairies since Fiona left them to track down the missing fairy grains.  Unlike fairies, pixies mourn their dead; without the presence of the fairies, these mourning pixies are following their loved ones into the afterlife.

Bellinda, Appleblossom, and Stillwart agree to help the pixies by bringing several new fairy grains to the Thorn Tree.  And so, along with the pixie knight and Mr Sooty the owl, they set out to save the Northern Pixies.

I really, really liked this story.  Where Stillwart and the Southern Fairies was more of an introduction to Stillwart's world, A Pixie Pilgrimage was a faster-paced adventure., feeling very much like where the story really begins.  Unfortunately it ends on a sort of cliff-hanger, meaning I need to wait for book 3 to find out what happened to the group on their adventure!

Stillwart and the Southern Fairies

Scott Butcher, the local author who asked me to review An Eagle's Heart, sent me copies of the first two books in the Fairly Stillwart Chronicles, Stillwart and the Southern Fairies, and A Pixie Pilgrimage.  I've had Stillwart and the Southern Fairies for a couple of months now, but just found the time to read it today. 

Stillwart and the Southern Fairies is the story of Still, a pixie found by Fiona, the mother and old Queen of the Southern Fairies.  As a pixie, Still is considered to be an ugly girl, particularly when compared to her cousin, Appleblossom.  On her first day of school, the other fairies nickname her 'Stillwart' because she is so much uglier than them.  But while Stillwart may not fit in with the fairies, she has an affinity for animals; Stillwart makes friends with the owl Mr. Sooty, and ends up in charge of neighbour relations on the fairy council while only a teenager. 

The whole book is narrated by Stillwart's aunt, Belinda, who is chronicling the first part of Stillwart's life.  Belinda tells the story from her perspective, freely admitting that there are events she found out about after they happened.  Overall I thought this was a really interesting way to tell the story, especially since Belinda was able to revisit her feelings, often admitting that at the time she may have been wrong about Stillwart.  But there were a couple of her asides that I wasn't fond of because they knocked me out of the narrative; my least favourite was chapter 10's "oh, I've dropped my glasses...hold on one sec, where have they fallen to" because there's no reason that someone writing a story down would have written that.

Stillwart and the Southern Fairies is a very quick and enjoyable read.  I'm looking forward to starting the second book in the Fairly Stillwart Chronicles, A Pixie Pilgrimage.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy: Angela

So I managed to read the second volume of Guardians of the Galaxy today, too.  I was really looking forward to this one because it features Angela.  I'm not super familiar with her from Spawn, but I was interested to see what she would be like in Guardians of the Galaxy.

To that end, I wasn't disappointed.  Angela was pulled through some sort of temporal disturbance.  She gets into a fight with the Guardians of the Galaxy, who discovered her charging towards the Earth.  It turns out that she was amazed at the Earth's existence; she's heard stories of the Earth (much in the way we on Earth have heard stories of Heaven), and needed to see it with her own eyes (I thought that was an awesome story idea).  She ends up joining forces with the Guardians; in turn they are trying to help her get home.

I also really like how Gamora and Angela become friends.  They start off fighting one another, but in the end grow to respect each other.  That was a pretty fun story arc, too.

But like Cosmic Avengers, Angela suffered from some disjointed storytelling that made it a bit hard to follow.  I think what happened is that parts of the story took place in other comic lines.  So this graphic novel had only the specific Guardians of the Galaxy stories, which did not include those other parts.  That was really disappointing to me because I had no idea going in that parts of the story would be missing (especially since I'm not a huge Marvel Comics reader). 

But other than that, I enjoyed reading these two volumes.  I'm now quite excited for August when the movie comes out!