Fantasy · fiction · FrighteninglyGoodRead · YA

FGR #8: Scythe by Neal Shusterman

I am going to confess something. I didn’t want to read this book. I believe that I purchased it two years ago and started it only to quit three chapters in and shelf the book. If not for a combination of Frighteningly Good Reads and my 2018 Resolutions I probably would never have forced myself to read what turned out to be a phenomenal story.

scythe
A figure in a hooded red cape holds a scythe looking like a futuristic grim reaper.

Scythe by Neal Shusterman takes place in a world without hunger, disease, general misery or even death. Unfortunately, without natural death the world’s population must be controlled. Scythes are the only ones with the ability to take a life and Citra and Rowan have just been selected as apprentice Scythes. Now, only one can rise to the rank of a full Scythe. Citra and Rowan must master the “art” of death. As they do so they learn that living in a perfect world comes with a price.

Initially, I didn’t really find any of the main characters appealing. Which is why I put the book away for so long. However, as the story unfolded I began to comprehend the apathy to which these people must be acclimated in a world where there is no reason to worry, no purpose in hard work and the ability to die only to be whisked off to a revival center and brought back to life. If there is no threat of old age then do you lose the thirst and hunger of youth? Certainly when Citra and Rowan are faced with a permanent cessation of their lives their personalities change dramatically into characters that I grew to love and genuinely cared about.

And there in lies the magic of this story. At first glance I believed this was another annoying futuristic tale and the cautionary story of a world without death. Instead, I became slowly aware along with the characters of the importance of death in giving life value and purpose. As I watched Citra and Rowan struggle with that realization and the lengths they would go to in order to continue to live, even if that meant taking lives, I found myself completed immersed in the story. And now, as so frequently happens, a book I thought I would enjoy has become a series I cannot wait to continue!


Tell me, please!

Have you ever started a series determined to hate it only to be won over?

Fantasy · fiction · FrighteninglyGoodRead · Middle Grade

FGR #6: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

This book came into my hands highly recommended and I only wish I could, in turn, place it directly into your hands. The characters alone have me cuddling the book tightly in my arms as I type. But the story…this story. Sigh. Well, there is a reason this book won both the Newberry Medal and the Carnegie Medal.

graveyard
A blue cover with gold writing featuring an antique headstone and a golden Newberry sticker.

The Graveyard Book gives us the story of Nobody Owens and, much The Jungle Book, Nobody Owens is as unique as Mogli because his home is unique. He is being raised by ghosts, taunted by ghouls, and protected by magical beings. Bod, to his friends and family, has the blessings of the graveyard and many of the unusual gifts of his long dead family and friends. In short, Bod is the very coolest of characters.

It is why he is in the graveyard that matters. He doesn’t belong there but he is only safe while he remains inside. But safe from what? Or who? And for how long?

Neil Gaiman is a prolific and talented writer. I have enjoyed several of his other books. But I doubt that any other story of his will remain with me the way The Graveyard Book is sure to from this day onward. I loved it like so many others before me. It is, without a doubt, a perfect Frighteningly Good Read.


Tell me, please!

Have you read this book or others by Neil Gaiman? Which is your favorite?

Classic · Fantasy

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

lastunicornThe Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle is classic fantasy reading on par with The Once and Future King. Here, Beagle tells the tale of a unicorn who lives in the safety of her lilac forest. Death and age cannot touch her and so she has lived a peaceful life since before memory began. But now, she hears whispers that she is the last of her kind. And so she ventures of the safety of her home to find others. Along the way she meets those who would do her harm and two who vow to aid her: the ridiculously inept magician Schmendrick and the unyielding and stalwart Molly Grue. Will the trio be enough to confront the creature that seeks to drive her kind to extinction?

I struggled for the first few chapters of The Last Unicorn. This is most likely because I have become accustomed to the fast pace and immediate action of current YA writing. However, even a measly three chapters into the story and you will know the most important aspects of the tale. More importantly, you will have met the delightful Schmendrick. Soon, Molly Grue joins the journey and, truthfully, I loved the book because I adored these two supporting characters. The unicorn struck me as insipid, but necessary, while Molly and Schmendrick were akin to Inigo and Fezek.

There is an often quoted saying regarding friendship, “Sometimes people come into your life for a moment, a day, or a lifetime. It matters not the time they spent with you but how they impacted your life in that time.” Peter S. Beagle captured the essence of this saying in this wonderful classic story.


Tell me, please!

Have you read this story?

Am I the only person that erroneously thought this was the basis for the Tom Cruise movie Legend?


Fantasy · series · YA

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

thepiratekingEveryone knows that women aboard pirate ships are unlucky. When I first saw Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller I assumed, erroneously, that the daughter from the title would be another left-behind maiden yearning to travel the sea with her father. I could not have been more wrong.

Seventeen year old Alosa has been raised by her father aboard his ship. She is deadly, demanding, strong, and smart. She has her own ship, a crew of mostly women to which she is deeply dedicated. But, when ordered by the Pirate King to locate a piece of a legendary map she doesn’t balk in getting herself captured aboard a rival’s ship. The only thing between Alosa and successfully completing her mission is Riden, the clever and attractive first mate aboard the infiltrated vessel.

It took me a few chapters to be truly drawn into this story. The capture is exhilarating but then there is a fairly boring cycle of being fake captured, escaping, and being re-captured that quickly grew stale. Still, like most series books, the action increased dramatically in the second half of the story and the culminating chapters left me excited for the next book.

Most of all, Alosa is a wonderful character. Strong, both physically and mentally, she has been raised by her father to be a weapon. As a Princess and a Pirate she must follow his command but she longs for equal independence. Further complicating her life is the legacy gifted to her by her mother. The real question is whether Riden will be her equal in this journey or just another complication? My hopes are pinned on him letting her continue to kick ass. All I know is that I cannot wait to see more of Alosa’s story.


Tell me, please!

What makes a strong female character real to you?


Fantasy · YA

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

“We are all children of blood and bone.”

bloodandboneTomi Adeyemi’s debut novel Children of Blood and Bone came into my hands riding a tidal wave of hype. It has been fraught with comparisons bent on convincing readers that this book is similar to something else they enjoyed. Truthfully, you will see some themes that are familiar to other books in the fantasy realm. But, as a whole, this book is uniquely its own and as I closed the back cover the word that sprang to mind was “necessary.”

So many book lovers speak of Harry Potter with reverence. Some readers love the series because they were able to step outside of their lives and revel in the idea of magic. Others found kindred spirits in the fantastic set of characters. For me, Harry Potter, was and always will be essential because it created a whole generation of readers and launched an entire genre of books.

To be clear, Children of Blood and Bone may contain magic and a fascinatingly unique culture and history but it is absolutely not Harry Potter. It is very well written with just a small slump in the middle. It has characters that you will love, characters that will question your initial allegiance and ones you will abhor. There are struggles against tyranny, the rising to the promise of one’s fate, and personal sacrifice. But where Harry Potter inspired hope and allowed escapism, this book ignites questions and spurns investigation. We want to travel to Hogwarts to experience the magic. I want to go to Orisha to fight.

That is because Children of Blood and Bone is predicated on the notion that a whole class of people is less simply because of abilities obtained at birth. The King sees them as a threat and therefore they must be suppressed. At the onset of the story the suppression is in full swing. The older generation of magi has been killed en mass and the children are referred to as “maggots” and taxed heavily until they or their families end up in the stocks.

Many reviews have remarked on the representation in this book. Representation is essential. And this book is fantastic in that regard. However, I believe that to say this book is good or important solely because of representation is an overly simplistic viewpoint. Rather, this is an essential book on what happens when one group seeks to dominate another. How do you live your life when you are afraid everyday? And what happens when you have an opportunity to overcome that fear and fight back?

The Children of Blood and Bone is a well written multi-viewpoint fantasy story. I have characters that I have already let into my heart. And after the heart-stopping ending I can hardly wait to read more. But more than anything else, I cannot wait to talk about this book and the issues it confronts.


Tell me, please!

What are your thoughts? What issues do you see in representation in books?


all ages · Fantasy · fiction

Bob by Rebecca Stead and Wendy Mass

One of my 2018 challenges was to not purchase any books until I had read my already owned whole shelf of books. I did really well in January and February and then fell off the wagon….hard. I wrote down my newly purchased books for some of March but then I just couldn’t even keep track. Now I am not even trying. Recently, I went into Barnes and Noble to wander around (the lie all book lovers tell themselves upon entering a book store). I stumbled across an a few must-purchase books and I could not resist the sweet premise of Bob by Rebecca Stead and Wendy Mass.

BobFive years ago Olivia (Livy to her friends) visited her Gran in Australia. Now that she is back she can’t help but feel that she is forgetting something. Something really, really important. Maybe it is the little green man dressed in a handmade chicken suit hiding in her closet. His name is Bob and he has been waiting for her all this time. She promised to help him and now its time to keep that promise.

This sweet little book left me sighing with pure happiness. Olivia and Bob’s friendship is pure and wrapped in the protective bubble of childhood that seems to disintegrate slightly during adolescents. The mystery of what Bob is and why Livvy struggles to remember him only adds to their bond.

This adorable book is well written and sweet. For adults, this is a one hour read. I can imagine this book would be a one week to ten day read aloud. Either way, it really make me think about memories, friendships, and how childhood adventures can sculpt our future lives.


Tell me, please!

Was there a childhood moment that defines magic to you?


Fantasy · fiction · YA

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

The Cruel Prince has been everywhere. I love Holly Black and I was thrilled that she had a new book. But, I made a New Year’s Resolution that I wouldn’t buy any new books. Sigh. I resigned myself to waiting until after the backlog of books was taken care of and then I would zoom out and purchase it right away.
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Then, I received an OwlCrate Subscription for Christmas. And in one of my delightful boxes…The Cruel Prince! I put it aside to read after my test and it was well worth the wait. Plus, just look at the gorgeous OwlCrate exclusive cover. So pretty.

I have loved Holly Black since The Spiderwick Chronicles and I will pick up anything with her name on it. She has a way with magical stories that never fails to engage and surprise me. Her tone varies depending on her target audience but her writing is always tight and masterful. There have been books of hers I have adored and there are others than I appreciated but did not fall in love with completely.

The Cruel Prince is difficult to discuss without spoilers and, truthfully, it has been so hyped that at this point I will be surprised if anyone doesn’t know the basic plot line. Still, for readers venturing outside of their preferred genre into YA – here goes.

It is safe to say that the main character, Jude Duarte, and her twin sister Taryn are human. Their older sister Vivi is half human, half fae and the three of them are taken from their human home and spirited away to live with the Fae by Vivi’s Fae Father. There Jude and Taryn are raised among the Fae with access to the Court but their humanity always sets them apart. They are humans under the protection of the same powerful man that stole them from their home. They are commoners being educated amounts royalty. They live in fear of their present safety and neither girl has any guarantee of a future at all.

Admittedly, for at least the first half of the book I was unengaged. Wait, that is not right. Rather, I felt removed from the action. I felt apart from the story and off-kilter. Approximately half way through the book the threads started to weave together and I realized that my off-kilter matched Jude’s inner turmoil. And when Jude found her purpose I was with her stride for stride.

In the end, I loved The Cruel Prince because it was so much more than a dark Fairy Tale.


Tell me, please!

If you read the book, which character was your favorite?


 

Fantasy · FrighteninglyGoodRead · Halloween2017 · series · YA

Frighteningly Good Reads #15

I know, I know. I’m falling further and further behind! But, you know whose fault it is? (Mine, really, because I apparently lack literary self control.) But some blame needs to be laid at Maggie Stiefvater’s door for writing an engaging and epic series.

ravenboysIt all started on October 15th when I started reading The Raven Boys. I was completely engaged from the tag line onward.

 

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve. Either you’re his true love…or you killed him.”

 

 

Hello. More please.

The Raven Boys features a female lead, Blue Sargent, whose mother is clairvoyant and their home is filled with women who trade in predictions. Blue does not have the sight but she has the ability to intensify the gift in others. On St. Mark’s Eve she accompanies her mother every year as the soon-to-be-dead walk past. She has never seen them until this year, when a boy emerges and speaks to her. The boy wearing the uniform of the prestigious and affluent Aglionby school known to many as The Raven Boys. This experience is further complicated by Blue’s life-long knowledge that she will cause her true love to die.

Now, all of this seems like a lot to cover in one book which is why I should have suspected that this was actually a series. Also, a careful look at the cover would have tipped me off since it says, “Book 1 of the Raven Cycle.” I’m sorry! I was excited.

Occasionally, when this happens I am livid. Picture me tearing through the last 20 pages of the book muttering, “How on Earth are they going to wrap this up?!?” only to find a cliffhanger ending and the need to buy the next book. I am not even a little miffed that this is a series. I needed to spend more time with these characters on their creepy adventures.

So, for FGR #15 I give you The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. This creepy story presents the reader with multiple points of view as Blue and the Raven Boys try to solve one piece of an enormous mystery while avoiding becoming romantically entangled. The fourth and final book Now, please excuse me, the next two books in the series have arrived and I have hot cider to drink.


Tell me, please!

When you find out a book is actually a series are you thrilled or annoyed?


 

Fantasy · FrighteninglyGoodRead · Halloween2017 · Middle Grade · Mystery

Frighteningly Good Read #14

I know, I know. I’m running behind. There have been some big changes to my life outside this blog that have created a little hiccup in my schedule. But, I have all day today to get caught up!

So, lets start with the FGR for Saturday, October 14th. I have been reading some terrifying books during the day. At night, I just can’t do it. I have enough trouble with insomnia. So, I have been lulling myself to sleep with delightful children’s books that lean toward spooky or other wordly. This one is just too cute!

supernaturalsleuthingThe Supernatural Sleuthing ServiceThe Lost Legacy by Gwenda Bond and Christopher Rowe is the story of Stephen and his father moving to New York City to live in an unusual hotel, The New Harmonia. This hotel has a resident dragon and his hoard living in the basement. Bigfoot, creatures of the night and the fae are all frequent guests. And, my favorite side character, Elevator, torments riders with his big personality while he carries them up and down.

As is typical of books for grades 3-8, Stephen is dealing with moving to a new city, mysterious and magical artifacts and the self-discovery and social learning that is unique to children his age. This, as I have reiterated again and again, is what makes children’s literature so special. These characters don’t know who they are yet and they have to figure that out, deal with social norms and solve a big mystery. I will never stop reading them and recommending them because I think adults are constantly readjusting our self-knowledge. Except, we aren’t supposed to talk about it.

Stephen makes new friends and foes and together the story is simply adorable. With the characters including those of the night category I felt safe declaring it today’s (well, the 14th’s) FGR!


Tell me, please!?

Can you read truly scary stories right before bedtime?


 

Fantasy · FrighteninglyGoodRead · Halloween2017 · historical fiction · SeriousSeriesLove

Frighteningly Good Reads #10

For today, my Frighteningly Good Read recommendation is The All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness. Beginning with A Discovery of Witches, adventuring through Shadow of Night and culminating in Book of Life, the adventures of Diana the Witch and her Vampire soul mate Matthew were thrilling and fascinating. And, since it is soon to be a BBC television series (*squeal!*) it is right at the front of my mind this Halloween season.

Much like Diana Galbadon’s sweeping historical fiction series Outlander, Deborah Harkness utilizes fascinating historical details to bring the story depth. This is not a surprise, really, since Ms. Harkness is a historian herself. I quite enjoy that she describes herself as, “A history profession who tumbled down the rabbit-hole and wrote the Internationally best selling All Souls Trilogy.

If you follow my blog then you know that, for me, it is often the supporting characters that take a book from enjoyable to obsess-able. And All Souls Trilogy has a cast of supporting characters that I adored. A tremendous time is spend on Diana and Matthew and their budding (forbidden!) romance. But, I loved the Demons in the books, the third category of non-humans who were incredibly and diversely talented. They reminded me of all the wonderfully productive adults I knew who were told to “slow down” as children.

I appreciated that there were several LGBTQA+ characters in the book including Diana’s adoring aunts. I also revealed in the rich addition of history and scenic details. To be in a library like the ones Diana visits is a dream of mine. Visiting them through this book is as close as I am going to get this year.

Several reviewers have called this Twilight for grownups. There may be some truth to this but I would add that it is a smarter, stronger and more grownup story. And I liked Twilight! I will say that there is a scene that involves all three magical species together practicing Yoga. I enjoyed the scene but it appears to be the Jar-Jar Binks of this book. If you can accept that Witches, Demons and Vampires might get together in a human-free environment and downward facing dog then the rest of the series will be magical.

matthew goode

So, the FGR for today is really this delightful trilogy. I don’t know when the BBC plans to give us the television version but it is going to be difficult to top these books! Well, Matthew Goode as Vampire Matthew might help.

 

 

 

 


Tell me, please!

How much would you love doing yoga with a bunch of supernatural beings?