Tag Archives: Fantasy

monstercalls

Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Next time you need either a) a good cry, or b) a reminder that you do in fact have a heart, read A Monster Calls. I’m not kidding when I say I don’t think I’ve ever cried as hard from a book. Not even when reading A Man Called Ove. It took me a good 30 minutes to stop blubbering. (And, I’d like to mention, the dogs didn’t even care.)

Lest that turn you off, please please please take my word that A Monster Calls is one of the most beautiful books you’ll ever read. Devastating, but beautiful.

The basic premise is that Conor’s mom has cancer. His dad isn’t really in the picture, and he doesn’t really want his grandmother around. It’s always been Conor and his mom, and he’d like it to stay that way thankyouverymuch. One night, after waking from yet another nightmare, Conor sees that the yew tree in his yard has turned into a monster, and is beckoning him. Turns out, the monster is there to tell Conor 3 stories, and then, Conor will tell him a 4th. That 4th story will be Conor’s “truth” – though Conor has no idea what that means.

At least, that’s the surface story. A Monster Calls is an allegory for grief, really, and done in such a way that anyone who’s ever lost someone will appreciate. Throughout the story, the Monster walks Conor through the stages of loss and grief, eventually bringing the story to a heartbreaking – yet uplifting and even cathartic – ending.

A Monster Calls is one of those books that will stay with you long after you read it. I keep thinking about the book my mom hated reading to me as a kid – I’ll Love You ForeverIt wasn’t until I was in my teens that I understood why she cried so hard every time I asked her to read it. To me, the book was a sing-songy story about having a mom – to her, it was a painful reminder that some day, we’d say goodbye. For me, A Monster Calls one was similar, but there’s a comforting aspect there too. I hope someday I have my own monster holding me.
A Monster Calls was made into a movie last year, with Liam Neeson as the yew tree. Much as I love Neeson, this is one adaptation I think I’ll pass up. Too many feels.

Hardcover: 216 pages    Published: May 2011 by Walker Books    Source: Library via Overdrive

Buy it on Amazon

A Monster Calls on Goodreads

An unflinching, darkly funny, and deeply moving story of a boy, his seriously ill mother, and an unexpected monstrous visitor.

At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting – he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd – whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself – Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.

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lilacskully

Review: Lilac Skully and the Haunted House by Amy Cesari

First of all, how gorgeous is that cover?

When Amy reached out to me and asked if I’d be interested in reviewing Lilac Skully and the Haunted House, I already had a pretty full plate. I’d just posted my Haunting October list, and I had a backlog of 10-12 book reviews on deck. (I’m still learning how to not overextend myself!) But the cover called to me.

I know, I know – don’t judge a book by its cover. I thoroughly disagree with this. A bad cover is not going to make me want to read your book, but a good cover will. But anyway, the book.

Lilac Skully and the Haunted House is so much fun, guys. It’s the kind of book that almost makes me wish I had a kid to read it to. For one thing, it’s got the potential for great sound effects. For another, Lilac is a really likeable character. She reminds me some of Serafina from Serafina and the Black Cloak, because she doesn’t let her fear stand in her way. She’s plucky and tenacious and utterly adorable.

And Lilac Skully is funny. Not in the ha-ha, that’s a funny story way, but in the tongue-in-cheek way that only adults will pick up on. To a kid, Lilac’s fears and thoughts are totally understandable – it makes perfect sense that Lilac is going to “meet a painful, tragic end to her short life” when she falls off the roof. It’s only as adults that we can appreciate the humor.

As for the story, the ghosts are great. The action is great. The setting is great. It’s short enough to read in one sitting, but good enough to spread out over several, if that’s your thing. The second one comes out later this month and is titled Lilac Skully and the Carriage of Lost Souls. You can bet I’ll be picking it up!

Series: The Supernatural Adventures of Lilac Skully #1    Paperback: 178 pages

Published: September 2017    Source: Author Provided

Buy it on Amazon

Lilac Skully and the Haunted House on Goodreads

Home alone in a haunted house. What could go wrong?

Lilac Skully is afraid of ghosts. And a lot of other things, too. After her father’s mysterious disappearance, Lilac must find a way to deal with the notorious ghosts that haunt her home—or better yet—get them to leave.

But when intruders break in, Lilac realizes there’s a danger far worse than her spooky old house. No longer safe, Lilac will need to face her fears, trust herself, and make new friends that will change her life forever.

Lilac Skully and the Haunted House is the first book in the Supernatural Adventures of Lilac Skully, a series of fun, spooky stories with a lot of heart. If you like books about ghosts and awesome little girls—you’ll love this imaginative, haunted tale!

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Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Do you ever read a book and wish the world (or worlds, in this case) was real? That you could just pack a bag and travel to the place you’re reading about?

That’s how I felt listening to A Darker Shade of Magic. 

Sure, the story was interesting, and Kell and Lila certainly captured my attention. But it was the worlds of Red London and White London and Grey London that had me wishing the story was real. I mean – three parallel cities, each with their own characteristics and….personalities? Where only the outline is the same? Sounds like a wonderful set of adventures just waiting to happen.

I suppose that’s how Delilah Bard felt when Kell described it to her.

Speaking of Lila, she was really the star of the novel. Oh, Kell’s fine – if a little boring. Lila is the interesting one, and the reason for Kell’s eventual character growth. Their interactions are a lot of fun, though I’ll be honest and admit that I couldn’t decide if there’s a romance budding or if it’s more of a brother-sister kind of camaraderie. Either way, it works.

For most of the story, Kell and Lila are trying to return a dangerous magical artifact to Black London, which was long ago sealed off because it was deemed too dangerous. Items from Black London either destroy or corrupt the people who wield them – yet, strangely, Lila – who has no magic at all – seems unaffected. What follows is a fast-paced tale of carrying the artifact through the different Londons, all in an attempt to return it to Black London and therefore render it useless. Complicating matters is the fact that a handful of people (understandably) want the powerful item for themselves.

V.E. Schwab’s series gets a lot of love, and after finishing A Darker Shade of Magic it’s easy to see why. She’s created an incredible world, full of magic, but also realistic – it’s not too terribly far-fetched to imagine such things in our world, even if the thought of parallel Londons is a bit out there. Schwab has also written two vastly different, yet incredibly similar characters – characters that as a reader, you want to root for. Or want to be.

Stylistically, A Darker Shade of Magic reminds me of a cross between The Magicians and The Name of the Wind. While written for adults, I think it’s accessible enough that younger readers would easily enjoy it too. Definitely give this one a try if you’re a fantasy fan!

Series: Shades of Magic #1    Hardcover: 400 pages    Audio: 12 hours

Published: February 2015 by Tor Books    Source: Purchased via Scribd

Buy it on Amazon

A Darker Shade of Magic on Goodreads

Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

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Review: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

About American Godsamericangods

Hardcover: 635 pages
Audio: 19 hours
Published: June 2011 by Harper Audio
Source: Purchased

Buy it on Amazon

Goodreads DescriptionFirst published in 2001, American Gods became an instant classic, an intellectual and artistic benchmark from the multiple-award-winning master of innovative fiction, Neil Gaiman. Now, discover the mystery and magic of American Gods in this 10th anniversary edition. Newly updated and expanded with the author’s preferred text, this commemorative volume is a true celebration of a modern masterpiece by the one, the only, Neil Gaiman.

A storm is coming….

Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the magic day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life. But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow’s best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself.

Life as Wednesday’s bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined. It is a job that takes him on a dark and strange road trip and introduces him to a host of eccentric characters whose fates are mysteriously intertwined with his own.

Along the way, Shadow will learn that the past never dies; that everyone, including his beloved Laura, harbors secrets; and that dreams, totems, legends, and myths are more real than we know. Ultimately, he will discover that beneath the placid surface of everyday life, a storm is brewing – an epic war for the very soul of America – and that he is standing squarely in its path.

Relevant and prescient, American Gods has been lauded for its brilliant synthesis of “mystery, satire, sex, horror, and poetic prose.”

My Review

I finally finished!!!! Whew, that was long.

I’m really, really torn about American Gods. I really liked some of it, and I really hated some of it. I’ve heard that you either love the book or hate it, but that’s not really true for me. I just sort of…read it.

No doubt, that statement just lost me serious street cred from some of you.

But seriously, I understand why so many people love American Gods. And why so many hate it. For me, all the fantasy God-related stuff was…boring. Hard to follow. Hard to care about. And yes, I realize that’s the whole point of the book.

But it isn’t, really. Sure, in some ways American Gods is a fantasy novel, a metaphor for American culture. But it’s also a travelogue, an ode to America. That’s the part that I loved – Shadow’s time spent traversing the country, the people he met, and the circumstances he found himself in. I didn’t care about Laura, I didn’t care about most of the Gods, but I did care about the people of Lakeside. I also cared about Wednesday, about Jackal and Ibis, and about Czernobog, oddly enough.

This review is all over the place, but that’s kinda how I felt reading it. A lot of the “talkable” stuff was lost on me, simply because I couldn’t focus on half the story.

Jimmie read American Gods right before I did, and he enjoyed it but also didn’t care much for the Gods. I told him that I was somewhat sad American Gods was his first taste of Gaiman, and perhaps that’s the best thing for me to say. The book isn’t terrible, by any means, but I don’t think it’s the kind of book that everyone will love. To me, The Graveyard Book is a lot more accessible, and Norse Mythology is a much better look at mythology.

If you’ve read American Gods, where did you come down on the love it/hate it spectrum?

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Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

About The Bear and the Nightingalethebearandthenightingale

Hardcover: 322 pages
Audio: 11 hours
Published: January 2017 by Random House Audio
Source: Purchased (Scribd Audiobooks)

Goodreads DescriptionAt the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

My Review

It took me nearly two months to read this, mostly because I didn’t do a whole lot of driving. That said, though, I wasn’t super engrossed in The Bear and the Nightingale, much to my dismay. I was super excited when it came out, and I’ve seen a lot of great reviews for it. More on that in a minute.

The Bear and the Nightingale is more or less a fairytale set in the Russian wilderness. Vasilisa is a young girl who loves the woods – and who can see and interact with the house spirits. Either of those things alone would make her different, but both together make her feared and misunderstood. As the story progresses and the demons come closer, Vasilisa’s gifts become her strengths.

It’s actually a bit difficult for me to describe the story, because truthfully, there’s not much of it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Where The Bear and the Nightingale shines is in the world-building. Arden brings the Russian wilderness to life in a way few other writers can. Listening to this, I could easily picture the setting, even though I’ve never been to Russia and have certainly never been to Russia in the wilderness in whatever time period this book was set. (I couldn’t figure it out, but assumed it was sometime in the 1600s.)

The Bear and the Nightingale is the kind of book I’m glad I read, simply for it’s beauty and style. The best part of the book was the last hour or so (not sure what that translates to in pages, sorry!). Is it one I’d heartily recommend? Perhaps, if you’re looking for something graceful and atmospheric. If you’re looking for something gripping and thrilling – no.

Review: Snow Blood Season 4 by Carol McKibben

snowbloodseason4About Snow Blood Season 4

• Series: Snow Blood (#4)
• Kindle Edition:
 102 pages
• Published: December 2016 by Troll River Publications
• Source:
 Purchased (Amazon)

Goodreads DescriptionContinuing the paranormal adventures of Brogio, the First Vampire, and his kindred dog, Snow Blood…

Just as Snow Blood secures Nova’s love, a dark stranger in the forest warns of impending danger. The vampire clan is forewarned of new approaching threats. This time two daunting enemies return for blood, threatening both Brogio and his beloved children.

A Kresnick hunter, out for revenge, is dead-set on Brogio’s destruction and places Snow Blood’s pack in the crosshairs. All the while, another familiar force of evil threatens Brogio’s kindred. As the family comes together to strategize ways on how to overcome this new menacing threat, Snow Blood is led to another intriguing path. He discovers a heavenly interest in the continuing evil that haunts his loved ones.

Trying to discover secrets to help in the defeat of the new foes unravels the role of Kane’s friend, Seth. What part does he play in the returning evil? Along the way of these new journeys, he is surprised to discover the white witch’s true nature.

Relentless and merciless enemies plague our favorite vampire family at every turn. Snow Blood again fights to protect all of those he loves against destruction. A dangerous plot to draw out the elusive enemy could save innocent lives, as well as their own. All the while, the future of mankind hangs in the balance.

My Thoughts

I make no secret of that fact that I’ve fallen 100% in love with Carol McKibben’s Snow Blood series. I got a review copy of Snow Blood Season 1 last year (here’s that review), and enjoyed it so much that I purchased Seasons 2 and 3, and then pre-ordered Season 4. Season 4 came out in December, but I totally forgot about it. Two pages in, and I was immediately sorry I’d waited so long to read it.

Snow Blood Season 4 picks up right where Season 3 leaves off, which, since I haven’t reviewed won’t mean much to you. In a nutshell, Snow Blood is a husky-turned-vampire who serves Brogio, the first vampire. Oh, and Snow Blood has his very own vampire wolf-pack. Together with Brogio and his ladylove Selene, Snow Blood and his pack (plus all their friends and progeny) fight evil. Sometimes that evil is ancient Greek gods and goddesses. Actually, most of the time it’s ancient Greek gods and goddesses. In Season 4 there’s even a winged horse.

Believe me, I know. It sound absolutely absurd. I won’t even pretend that’s not the case. But the series is SO.MUCH.FUN. Seriously – I love these books. I’m anxiously awaiting a new installment, and I’ve tried to convince everyone I know to fork over the 99 cents for the first book, because it’s truly just a joy to read. (And hey, if you have Kindle Unlimited it’s free, so READ SNOW BLOOD.) Rarely do I push a book as much as I push these.

Truthfully, Season 4 wasn’t quite as great as the first three, but that didn’t matter in the slightest.

3 stars

Review: Joyful Trouble by Patricia Furstenberg

joyfultroubleAbout Joyful Trouble

• Kindle Edition: 180 pages
• Published: April 2017
• Source: Direct from Author

Goodreads DescriptionA humorous read about an incredible dog and how he had found his true, yet unexpected calling. A dog. A friendship. A purpose.
When a Great Dane arrives in a navy base nobody expects him to win everybody’s hearts, although breaking some rules along the way. But things soon turn sour as somebody threatens to put him to sleep. Who will stand up for this for-legged gentle giant? Tackling universal themes and voicing animal rights and the importance of fighting for what is right.

About Patricia Furstenberg

Patricia Furstenberg writes children stories about real and imaginary dogs and about animals in general. She believes each creature has a story and a voice, if only we stop to listen. He first children’s book Happy Friends, is also available from Amazon. You can read more animal stories and poems on her author website, Alluring Creations.

She is a winner of the Write Your Own Christie Competition.

My Thoughts on Joyful Trouble

When Patricia reached out to me about reviewing her book, I made it as far in her email as “Joyful Trouble is based on the true story of the only dog….” and knew I was going to read it. (This should come as no surprise if you’ve been here a while.)

Joyful Trouble tells us the story of the Great Dane, Trouble, the only dog to enlist in the Royal Navy during WWII. Everyone loves Trouble, and the enlistment comes about as a way to save him from certain death – you see, Trouble has a tendency to ride the train without a ticket, and the Railway Authorities are none too pleased. The soldiers who come to know Trouble on the train just can’t let this happen.

We learn Trouble’s story by eavesdropping on a Grandfather’s story to his grandchildren. Joyful Trouble is a simple story, and as an adult reader I’d have liked a little more about what Trouble did after enlisting – however, I don’t think that’s necessary for the young audience. If you’re like me and want to know more, here’s Trouble’s – aka, Nuisance’s – Wikipedia page.

This is a quick read that lends itself well to a parent reading to their own children. There’s no fluff here, though – we get Trouble’s story without smoothing over any of the less savory details. However, it’s told well, and we’re left with a warm fuzzy feeling after reading it.

Thanks to author Patricia Furstenberg for the review copy!  

Blog Tour: Blue’s Prophecy by Emily Ross

bluesprophecyAbout Blue’s Prophecy

• Series: The Canis Chronicles (#1)
• Kindle Edition:
 230 pages
• Published: May 2017 by TitleTown Publishing
• Source: Publisher via YA Bound Book Tours

Goodreads DescriptionTwo genetically altered dogs, two different fates. One is Robo, a beloved Great Dane, who is tricked out of the embrace of his human family and then is horribly altered by an evil scientist who rebuilds him with robotic parts, weaponizing the dog for money from the military. But that s not all the scientist does the experiments he conducts leave Robo a genius, almost immortal and with powers beyond explanation. But the horror Robo experiences at the scientist’s hands changes him, driving him insane with the sole mission to destroy all humans, especially those who have tortured and hurt dogs.

Meanwhile, a scrappy alley husky sits in a shelter, when she with her blue eyes and tough wolf-like features captures the attention of another group of scientists desperate to stop Robo from his path of destruction. This dog, called Blue, could be the chosen one to fight and defeat Robo. She is also genetically enhanced and left with glowing turquoise eyes before being released to face Robo’s vicious dog army. Her mission: save human civilization and the packs of dogs she’s grown to love.

About Emily Ross

Emily Ross, 13, is a fifth generation writer and an owner of three dogs, Balta, Buddy and Zoey. Her prose exceeds her years, with Emily starting work on Blue’s Prophecy, a science fiction/fantasy book for pre-teens and teens, when she was 10. Living in Atlanta, Emily is also an animator and a skilled archer, and relaxes by playing the double bass in her middle school orchestra.

WebsiteTwitterFacebook

My Thoughts on Blue’s Prophecy

It’s a well-known fact that any book with a dog on the cover or featuring a dog is going to make it onto my “must-read-now” list. So it’ll come as no surprise that I literally jumped at the chance to participate in the blog tour for Blue’s Prophecy. I mean, look at that cover. Go ahead, look. I’ll wait.

Plus, the idea for Blue’s Prophecy is pretty unique – genetically engineered robot dogs? Yes, please.

The story focuses on Robo, a Great Dane who’s been ripped from his family and turned into a half-robot dog. Robo has, among other “improvements,” a metal leg and implants in his brain and eye that make it possible for him to shoot lasers and speak English. Then there’s Blue, a husky who’s lived on the streets her entire life, and who’s just fine being on her own. Until, that is, she saves a couple of abandoned puppies from one of Robo’s cronies. All of a sudden, Blue finds herself thrust into a fight to save humanity from Robo’s warped sense of justice.

Blue’s Prophecy was so much fun. If you’ve read any of the Survivors books, it’s a similar feel – dogs against the world. I loved the pack dynamics, and the way Blue really grew from a lone wolf to a pack leader. And I’m honestly blown away that this book was written by someone as young as Emily Ross. The only thing that gave her away as a new writer was the story’s timeline – I had a hard time keeping up with where in time things happened. I think that’s an easy fix, solved by simply giving the reader a few “the next day” type markers. I expect we’ll see a little more of that in Emily’s next books, along with a little more backstory for the characters. As a first novel, however, this one is a solid, enjoyable read.

And that cover.

Check out the rest of the Blog Tour stops below, and show your fellow readers some love!

May 8Zerina Blossom’s Books and Reading for the Stars and Moon and 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, & Sissy, Too!  

May 9The Avid Reader  and The Silver Dagger Scriptorium and Crystal’s Chaotic Confessions 

May 10She’s All Booked (that’s me!!) and The Cover Contessa

May 11Adventures thru Wonderland and Books,Dreams,Life

May 12SolaFide Book Club and Diane’s Book Blog

May 15I Read Indie and Shh, I am Reading

May 16: Two Heartbeats

May 17Haddie’s Haven and Booklove

May 18Booker T’s Farm: Books & Nails & Puppy Dog Tales and Lukten av trykksverte, and YA Book Divas

May 19: CBY Book Club and Loves Great Reads

Big thanks to YA Bound Book Tours and TitleTown Publishing for the chance to participate in this tour! 

Review: Zodiac by Romina Russell

zodiacAbout Zodiac 

• Series: Zodiac (#1)
Paperback: 480 pages
• Published: November 2015 by Razorbill
• Source:
 Purchased

Goodreads DescriptionBook 1 in the breathtaking sci-fi space saga inspired by astrology that will stun fans of the Illuminae Files and Starbound series.

At the dawn of time, there were 13 Houses in the Zodiac Galaxy. Now only 12 remain….

Rhoma Grace is a 16-year-old student from House Cancer with an unusual way of reading the stars. While her classmates use measurements to make accurate astrological predictions, Rho can’t solve for ‘x’ to save her life—so instead, she looks up at the night sky and makes up stories.

When a violent blast strikes the moons of Cancer, sending its ocean planet off-kilter and killing thousands of citizens—including its beloved Guardian—Rho is more surprised than anyone when she is named the House’s new leader. But, a true Cancrian who loves her home fiercely and will protect her people no matter what, Rho accepts.

Then, when more Houses fall victim to freak weather catastrophes, Rho starts seeing a pattern in the stars. She suspects Ophiuchus—the exiled 13th Guardian of Zodiac legend—has returned to exact his revenge across the Galaxy. Now Rho—along with Hysan Dax, a young envoy from House Libra, and Mathias, her guide and a member of her Royal Guard—must travel through the Zodiac to warn the other Guardians.

But who will believe anything this young novice says? Whom can Rho trust in a universe defined by differences? And how can she convince twelve worlds to unite as one Zodiac?

Embark on a dazzling journey with ZODIAC, the first novel in an epic sci-fi-meets-high-fantasy series set in a galaxy inspired by the astrological signs.

My Thoughts

In Zodiac, we’re introduced to a galaxy made up of 12 planets, one for each of the constellations in the zodiac. Each planet is different, and the people who live on each planet embody their zodiac’s qualities. Each planet’s guardians serve as political leaders, ensuring the well-being of their planet, their people, and the entire galaxy.

Rho is a 16-year-old girl from Cancer, splitting her time between reading the stars and playing drums in her rock band. When Cancer is suddenly devastated by an asteroid attack and Cancer’s guardian killed, Rho is named as the new guardian despite her young age and complete lack of experience. Rho quickly determines Ophiuchus, the guardian of the fabled 13th house, caused the attack. Unfortunately, the only person who believes her is her best friend – the rest of the galaxy is convinced Ophiuchus is nothing but a children’s story. What follows is roughly 300 pages of Rho traveling across the galaxy trying to convince the rest of the guardians to band together to fight Ophiuchus, all while finding herself falling for two very different boys.

I picked up Zodiac in the bookstore because I was in the mood for a space opera, and the cover immediately caught my eye. Plus, I liked the idea of 12 different planets representing the zodiac. I read about a third of the book in one night – then it languished on my nightstand for about two months, waiting for me to finish it. When I finally picked it back up, I knocked it out in two more nights. Needless to say, it’s a pretty quick read.

That said, while I enjoyed it, I’m not sure I’ll be rushing to pick up the next book in the series. I didn’t actually like Rho a whole lot. Or rather, I didn’t dislike her, but I found her somewhat….useless? There just wasn’t enough action on her part to keep me rooting for her. In some ways, that’s to be expected from a 16-year-old character, and I don’t really fault Russell for that. I think she wrote her well, actually, but YA these days has conditioned us to want more from our main characters. Much of the “doing” is actually done by other characters, and to be perfectly honest, other than Mathias and Hysan, I had a hard time keeping all the secondary characters straight.

Speaking of Mathias and Hysan, have I mentioned how much I hate love triangles? No? Well, I despise them, and I REALLY despise them in YA novels. Thankfully, it’s not too intense in Zodiac, so I was able to ignore it even if I did find it lazy and predictable. I also don’t think the love triangle is *actually* resolved, but I don’t care enough to find out.

Seriously, though – why do YA authors think love triangles are necessary? And why is it always a girl stuck between two boys? Can’t we just have a strong female character who doesn’t need boys? (Feel free to leave me your suggestions – I know there’s gotta be books out there!!)

3 stars

Review: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

About Norse Mythology

• Hardcover: 299 pages
• Audio: 6 hours
• Published: February 2017 by W.W. Norton and Company
• Source: Purchased (Scribd Audiobooks)

Goodreads DescriptionNeil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales.

In Norse Mythology, Gaiman stays true to the myths in envisioning the major Norse pantheon: Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki, son of a giant, blood brother to Odin and a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator.

Gaiman fashions these primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds and delves into the exploits of deities, dwarfs, and giants. Once, when Thor’s hammer is stolen, Thor must disguise himself as a woman, difficult with his beard and huge appetite, to steal it back. More poignant is the tale in which the blood of Kvasir, the most sagacious of gods, is turned into a mead that infuses drinkers with poetry. The work culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and rebirth of a new time and people.

Through Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerge these gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to duping others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again.

Why Norse Mythology?

I will admit to picking up Norse Mythology simply because I kind of love Neil Gaiman and I’ve seen a lot of people reviewing the book lately. That’s not to say I wasn’t interested in it – while it’s true it wasn’t high on my list, I knew next to nothing about Norse myths, and Neil Gaiman is such a great storyteller that I figured it’d be worth the listen.

And it was.

My Thoughts on Norse Mythology

I flew through this audiobook – it’s only about 6 hours, and the chapters are roughly half an hour each. Gaiman himself narrates it. For me, listening to the myths really enhanced the experience. After all, these kinds of stories have been handed down for centuries, and listening to them (rather than reading them) felt a little like sitting around a campfire telling ghost stories.

As with any collection, there were myths I enjoyed more than others. The Children of Loki was probably my favorite, and I doubt there’s any other writer in the world who could make me teary-eyed over Fenrir, the giant wolf-monster.

I thought Gaiman did a great job organizing Norse Mythology. While it’s not chronological (or at least, I don’t think it is), the myths are combined in such a way that characters are introduced in one myth, and then featured in a later one. That way, you get familiar with the characters instead of struggling to keep track of them. Same with story lines and elements – the context builds, so you’re first introduced to, for example, the world tree, and then later read more about it. It’s intuitive.

I should also mention that Jimmie was very excited when I told him that one of his video game weapons was actually a Norse weapon. Destiny fans, rejoice.

Definitely pick up Norse Mythology if you’re at all interested in mythology/gods and goddesses/Thor and Loki (though be warned, you’ll keep thinking of Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston – not necessarily a bad thing!), if you like Neil Gaiman, or if you want a short, enjoyable audiobook experience.

4 stars