Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan Maguire

“Every Heart A Doorway” by Seanan Maguire was a light, fun read but really rather disappointing. Even though it won like a billion fantasy awards. It has a really awesome premise. The main character is attending a school for those children (mostly girls) who find themselves drawn into- and then out of- other worlds, and helps them learn to cope with life in our world afterwards. And of course there’s lots of delicious little tidbits about the other worlds which is very interesting. So, with the premise being that tantalizing, your mind is racing and you’re like WOW, there’s so much amazing stuff that you could do with this, you want to know more, you want to read all about the other cool worlds and you’re really impressed by the vision and how the worlds are categorized. There’s High Nonsense, High Logic, High Magic, etc, like every possible fairyworld is possible to get to. And I mean, from a mental health standpoint, what DOES happen if you go to Narnia and you can’t ever go back? But the story ends up being just a basic murder mystery, so you’re like.. Eh…

The main character doesn’t even go through much of a journey on her way to the end of the book. I can’t REMEMBER HER NAME right now and I read it like three days ago. Lydia? Sarah? I honestly would have to find the book. So the main character is probably the least interesting of the cast, and doesn’t develop like, at all, but the other characters were various shades of cliche, and only Jack seems to make any forward progress. Every Heart A Doorway did have a diverse cast in the way of having one trans character (who was kicked out of a fairyland when they discovered he wasn’t a princess), the main character is asexual, and some other characters cross-dress. (And one of them has a girlfriend who is a skeleton ……???) It ends up being like a buddy-buddy team up to uncover the mystery, (and dispose of some bodies), and then at the end (TOTAL SPOILERS), Lydia/sarah/main girl, ends up going back through her doorway (fairyland portal or whatever) to the Halls of the Dead where she will be happy(?).  I even feel kind of guilty ragging on the book, like maybe I should just appreciate it for what it was? But you’re like OMGGG, the potential, the whole time you’re reading it.

So even though it’s like a quick light romp (if you don’t count the brutal murders), there’s obviously some heavy themes as people are coping with being totally unable to return to a place that really resonated with them.Mostly their parents think they are actually insane after their experiences, so that’s pretty rough. But the themes were presented heavy handedly imo so you’re like rolling your eyes.

It reminded me of heavily of The Invisible Library series, with their ordering of different worlds as High Reason/High Chaos, and obviously of the Magicians, and Quinn’s obsession with returning to Fillory. The Invisible Library is of a similar quality (like- just not that good? but still enjoyable?) and The Magicians is much better but not YA. Every Heart a Doorway is like YA quality/text but .. brutal murders, lots of ’em, so I’m not even sure how to classify it.

 

Still interested in  Every Heart a Doorway? Find it on Amazon

Rather delve into the epic world of The Magicians & sequels? —> Click here

Ooo, the Invisible Library sounds good?! —> Find it here

A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne

A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne was fun to review. I am a lover of urban fantasy so I’ve been familiar with Kevin Hearne for his super long Iron Druid series. I have to admit that I wasn’t a big fan of Iron Druid. It felt like a less interesting Dresden Files.  Anyways, given my previous lack of interest for Hearne’s most famous work I was a bit leery of A Plague of Giants but I shouldn’t have worried cuz it was a-maaaaazing.

The basic premise is that a bard is telling a city of refugees after a bloody war the story of how they got there, all the key players who contributed to them overcoming not one, but two invasions by giants from across the sea. The bard tells his story through several people who played key roles in the war, so there are several POV’s. Usually the problem I have with multiple POV’s is that there is always one character who is much more interesting than the rest. Abbi quickly grew to be that character even though he was a very boring pacifist at first. Fortunately all of the characters were interesting in different ways so you weren’t like “UGH, a Cersei chapter”; you wanted to read them all. I also love that the cast was diverse and it wasn’t just all young hot straight warriors. There are scholars, merchants, stoneshapers, warriors, bards, warlords and viceroys among the POV characters. I was most excited to read about Abbi, a boy on the cusp of a huge discovery, and Nel, because she is Nel and she is amazing.

The magic system in A Plague of Giants is basically that there people can receive kennings or blessings which grant magical powers. To get them, seekers go to a place where they believe the god is testing them. There’s a good chance of catching death, but if you don’t die you can get some sweet powers. The first kenning, mastery of fire, can be gained from jumping into lava pools. The second kenning you get by throwing yourself into an underwater tunnel/cave, if you don’t drown, congrats you’re blessed. Throw yourself off a cliff to get air blessed, etc.  Surrender yourself to the roots of a tree which will either eat you or bless you.  Within each  kenning there is specialities, some better suited for war and some better suited for building/healing/transportation/what have you. Within the water kenning for example, you can be a hygienist, who can purify water, detect and cure infections and diseases; a “rapid”, who can manipulate water and swim extremely quickly by becoming part of the water, or a tidal mariner- super strong warriors who can manipulate water and possesses great destructive power.

Each blessing site is in a different country, and their societies have been shaped around these different kennings. This was reflected in the choice of language of the PoV characters and was a nice touch. The writing is great- moves fast, describes enough, each character felt unique. The POV characters all mostly drift together into two groups around two major events which shaped the “victory” of the war, but there are rumblings that a civil war may be happening and that the plague of giants might not be totally eradicated. This sets you up perfectly for another book, which I can’t wait to read because I really want to read more about the way Hearne imagines the magic system operating. Altogether, I give this book the highest possible rating.  This is another book that made my poor cats orphans.

MOMMMM

Check out A Plague of Giants on Amazon.

Another win for dragons: The Sky is Yours, Chandler Klang Smith review

Chandler Klang Smith’s The Sky is Yours (see on Amazon \\ see on GoodReadsis a bizarre, almost genre-bending novel set in a abandoned city set perpetually ablaze by the two dragons overhead who never leave and never sleep. We follow three young people thrown together by a series of machinations, tragedies, and coincidence as they journey deeper into the city. I am not entirely sure what genre I would call this book. I’m also unsure what the message is supposed to be. I’m also not sure whether I liked it.

There are undoubted strengths to this book:  I really enjoy Chandler Klang Smith’s writing style, so much so that I was reading this book on my phone on the elliptical at the gym, which no doubt made me look like a crazy person. Her style is at once insightful and full of beautiful imagery, which is great for things like setting up novels or chapters, but not so great for like… scenes of every day life. Unfortunately, because of this, the pacing of this book for the first half is almost unbearably slow. This is my biggest complaint about this book, hands down. If you are someone who really likes action, this is probably not the book for you, because it feels as though we spend way too much time getting to know the setting and the characters. I like that she immerses us in the world and culture, but sometimes it’s like… I just wanna know what happens next, ok? I don’t really care about this boring history crap that doesn’t really affect my understanding of the characters’ situation, like… at all. It does pick up toward the end once our protagonists make it into the city but it’s a long haul getting there.

On that note, the world-building is vivid and unique, at least insofar as the combination of previously seen ideas is new. The dragons appeared out of the sea and perpetually terrorize/burninate the city, in particular the ghetto where criminals are segregated to, creating a very strange urban landscape and culture shaped by fire.

the sky is yours

The context is somewhat futuristic and I think that the author is attempting to make some sort of commentary on technology and society, but for the life of me I can’t figure out what that commentary is.

The other major issue I have with this book is that almost none of the characters are likeable. In fact I would classify our main character, Duncan, as being downright abhorrent. I get that it’s intentional and part of the novel is supposed to be him learning not to be a misogynist piece of garbage. But unfortunately, it kind of feels like… he doesn’t? At least not enough that I would ever be able to relate to him or like him. Of the other characters, the one I found the most interesting is Katya Ripple, Duncan’s mother who doesn’t really get enough screen time for me to form any opinions on her other than I wish I had seen more.

I feel like Chandler Klang Smith has a lot of really great ideas with The Sky is Yours, but fails to execute them in a way that does them justice. The storyline that develops around Abby in the latter half of the book should have been introduced far sooner, as it’s the most interesting portion of the plot and is that bit that’s most relevant to the world, in my opinion. Instead the reader is kind of dragged along for pages focusing on things like Duncan’s TV show or interminably boring family politics. Ultimately I’d call this book good, but certainly not great and certainly not as good as it could have been. Final rating: dollar store cat toy you spent 3 bucks on and your cat did play with it, but like… not for a very long time, and only half-heartedly.

 

I received a copy of this book through Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review.

The Boy on the Bridge, M R Carey

Cece-bookz

The Boy on the Bridge (link goes to Amazon) is an excellent sequel that will answer some questions about the previous book, “The Girl With All the Gifts” (which I have also reviewed on this site) and enlarge the world that M R Carey so brilliantly brought to life in the last novel. There are a few things which really challenged me while reading and kind of distracted me from the experience, but I still enjoyed it.  (Slight spoilers for first book follow- please just read it, it’s amazing!)

One of the most challenging things is that the bulk of this book takes place before the events of The Girl With All the Gifts; the scientists that it centers around are travelling in “Rosie”, which you will remember from the first book. So straight away you’re suspicious and you’re like, I’m totally on guard and I won’t let myself get close to ANY OF YOU because I know you are all dead.  The main character, Samrina, is revealed to be pregnant, so you’re like, I know you’re double dead. Does everybody actually die? Ehhh…. You’ll find out.

There is a surprising amount of action for a book that mostly features driving around in a huge armoured science lab/bus. I always enjoy the brisk pace M R Carey has and again even the moping around chapters advance something.  He says a lot with few words when it comes to description. I wasn’t super interested in the political plot (seems a lot less threatening when you’re having to contact them via radio!) but it did nicely contrast the other major conflict in the story.

Five stars. It was a great book. Both my cats were like Ummm?? We are orphans now because you’re spending too much time reading???

 

maurice- bookz

 

MOM???

Updraft, Fran Wilde

So Updraft by Fran Wilde (see on Amazon || see on Goodreads) follows a young girl, Kirit, through her initiation into a powerful… agency? group? I dunno– the Singers, who supposedly keeps her people safe. This is a novel, so obviously she uncovers an Evil Plot, and we the readers are dragged along for the merry ride. I enjoyed this book, actually a fair bit more than I expected.

Wilde crafts a brilliant world here, and since it should be obvious to anyone who reads these dumb reviews that worldbuilding is something I put a lot of stake in, this book gets major points for that alone. Our characters live high in the sky, in bone towers that can be grown taller using the magic of the Singers. They fly using wings that they strap to their backs. The city has a complex culture, each tower specializing in different things. This is not so well-developed as other aspects, mostly because Kirit spends the bulk of her time in the center of the city, rather than out in it. The worldbuilding is without a doubt the best part of this novel, because I can honestly say a lot of the other aspects are kind of mediocre.

None of the characters are particularly compelling or, erm… well-characterized, as it were, except maybe Kirit herself and one or two others. A lot of the characters are sort of two-dimensional and dull, and there were very few characters that I was really rooting for or would have been really devastated to see die. Those character deaths that did occur mostly got a “huh, ok” from me.

The pacing is, at the beginning of the book, dreadfully boring. You have to read a lot of shit you can just tell isn’t really going to factor into the main plot later, and it’s mostly an exercise in frustration. However, once we get into the action things become a lot more interesting. The main outline of the mystery of this book is easily solved from about 3 miles away, if not all the little details like how exactly things happened in the past. But the major revelation about the Singers’ most awful deed is one I literally spotted within the first chapter, like genuinely within the first few pages of the books. And that’s the big reveal so like… that kinda sucked, but I also felt really satisfied with myself and super smart so. Win/lose I guess.

I think I’m making this book sound worse than it is, because I want it to be clear that this was definitely an enjoyable read, even if it’s not one of my favourites ever. This book is what a teacher of mine once called “a poolside read”. You’re just chilling by the pool, kinda reading, kinda sunbathing, you don’t have to think too much, y’know? Twilight stuff. Pulp fiction, as it were. It’s the first of a series but can be read as a standalone, which always leads me to give a book a little more respect. I also have to say that this book has something really unique that is so hard to find in fantasy novels: this book ain’t about saving the world. Kirit doesn’t have a mythical quest of epic proportions. She’s just a girl with a talent that made her useful to the Singers, and she wants to do right by the people of her city. It’s low-key fantasy, which is so hard to find and so refreshing to read.

While technically lacking in elements like characterization and pacing, I do ultimately think this book deserves 4/5 cats because it’s easy to read and enjoyable, and because the worldbuilding is spot on and nobody’s gotta save the world or fulfill any prophecies.

A God in the Shed, J. F. Dubeau

When I read the description of God in the Shed by J. F. Dubeau, (see on Amazon || see on Goodreads) – ” The village of Saint-Ferdinand has all the trappings of a quiet life: farmhouses stretching from one main street, a small police precinct, a few diners and cafés, and a grocery store. Though if an out-of-towner stopped in, they would notice one unusual thing―a cemetery far too large and much too full for such a small town, lined with the victims of the Saint-Ferdinand Killer, who has eluded police for nearly two decades. It’s not until after Inspector Stephen Crowley finally catches the killer that the town discovers even darker forces are at play.” –  I was like, HOLY CRAP, this is going to be awesome. Rural Quebec setting? A God trapped in a shed? Decades of crazy serial killings?? Sign me up! The premise seemed amazing but I was just let down after reading this book. I felt like I was reading one of the shitty serials on /r/nosleep that are like “I found a god in my shed… Part 18!” Where they keep obviously making it up as they go and incorporating whatever the highest upvoted idiot in the comments suggests they should do. I don’t really recommend you read this book, so, spoilers ahead.

First thing that turned me off was it was just gory for no reason and people start to be okay with it??? Like the evil “god” at the center of the book is making a big disgusting mural ~made out of people~ which apparently attracts/traps souls which is his ultimate goal. Like he makes it out of birds, part of someone’s cat, the main character’s DAD, and theyre like “It’s so beautiful…” Umm no it’s just made out of intestines and shit. It’s gross. Don’t play with that. The main character is like thiiiiiis close to making deals with the god through most of this and you’re like NO??? I thought you’re supposed to be smart???

The other thing is that EVERYONE dies. Like seriously do not get attached to ANYONE. I’m not even sure how enough people keep populating this town, the death count is so high. So you become a bit blasé to people dying after a bit, because nobody is safe. I got bored of people dying in horrible ways, that’s how bad it was.

One of the main characters is established as like a straight laced hard nosed cop or something but then he just goes nuts for no reason as “it all falls apart around him” (Thanks to some teenagers? Come on…)

All in all it was a pretty disappointing read and I felt could have been a lot better. I did enjoy the writing but didn’t think it was too remarkable. I did want to keep reading and find out what happened but I felt like it went towards an inevitable and obvious conclusion. I don’t even have much to say about the main character, Venus, as she was also pretty unremarkable, an average kid who rebels against her parents and is “destined” to save the town….

Yawwwnnnn.

Bird Box, Josh Malerman

Bird Box by Josh Malerman (see on Amazon || see on Goodreads ) is suspenseful AF. As shameful as it is to admit, I had to google the ending and spoil myself before reading on because I couldn’t keep reading as I was too on edge! I have absolutely NO FUCKING clue what exactly the creatures in this book are supposed to be, but I guess that makes sense because the characters never truly learn either. I have my theories though.

This book is super incredible because there’s a huge bulk of scenes without visual descriptions. It’s unnerving as a reader to realize how much you can guess about a story by reading character descriptions of what’s around them, and this book is an exercise in that because you are acutely aware of how much you DON’T KNOW. On top of that, there is a decent swatch of time in which our characters are confined in a pretty small space without many options, and the sense of doom is totally palpable.

Somehow Malerman managed to make constant switches between present and past events actually interesting, and I was always as eager to find out what had happened in the past as I was to find out what was happening in the current time. I also really appreciated the way Malerman wrote the characters in this book. Some of them were batshit crazy and I loved it. ALSO I love the moment in a book when the title makes sense and this book had an excellent moment of this sort.

Literally my only complaint with this book is that there’s no way society would collapse into disorganization as quickly as it did unless there were wayyy more incidents reported at the beginning, but that is one complaint on an otherwise top notch book. This is the first book by Malerman I have ever read. I am definitely going to keep an eye out for him in the future as this read was a delight! I rate this book one really cute cat hiding under the armchair in terror.

Dec 31 grums (2)

there are lots of new books to read, but if we’re being honest sgt. grumbles is in more of a zooming mood than a reading mood

A Gathering of Shadows, V.E. Schwab

Another awesome book from V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic universe, A Gathering of Shadows follows Kell and Lila through the progress of an international tournament that pits magician against magician. I feel a little less in love with this book as I was with the first of the trilogy, but this is normal for sequels.

 

On the one hand, this book introduced a host of new characters to fall in love with—ALUCARD!!! Be still my beating heart!!!—and gave us a more in-depth look at characters like Prince Rhy, who in the last novel felt like he wasn’t fleshed out enough and who in this book was a Precious BB Will Defend With My Life. Even getting to see old characters who only made brief appearances in the last book was nice, like the mask lady who dotes on Lila because she thinks Kell is banging her. On the other hand, we are still stuck with the insufferable Lila Bard as one of our mains. I think I came around to tolerating her a little toward the end, but I’m kind of thinking that’s just because she had one of her brief moments of likability during the final act and the book ended before the illusion was shattered.
One thing that was AWESOME about this book was the Kell+Rhy dynamic. The whole tragically-n-magically-bound-soulmates thing is a trope that really Gets Me Going (I endured pretty much the entire mortal instruments series for the brief Jace+Alec scenes we got and have rabidly followed the show. Plz, if u know of any tragic/magic soulmate bond novels, hmu. Platonic/romantic/whatever). I love the dynamic of being stuck together because you love each other but hating each other for it. Plus the whole suffering each other’s pain thing is next level angst which is what I feed on. I am now about 1000x more eager to read the next one because I have to know what becomes of the soul bond—this is actually the #1 thing I care about going into book 3.

 

The pacing of this book is a little wonky, unfortunately. Kell and Lila are focussed mostly on character-building and this tournament that Rhy is planning, and aren’t really involved in the “plot” that continues from book 1 at all, which mostly takes place in White London + Black London with a few brief allusions to it during Kell’s chapters. Throughout the book are chapters that focus on the evil/magic building in White London which in theory should be interesting but really aren’t because it takes us away from the characters we spend the bulk of our time, well… caring about. One thing that is exciting about the plot-driven part of this book is that one of the characters from White London we thought was dead, and one that I thought died way too soon without enough page time, comes back in this book.

 

This installment actually ended up being a lot more enjoyable than I expected given the slow pacing of the second half, and OH YEAH I FORGOT TO MENTION THAT WE HAVE A MAIN SAME GENDER COUPLE NOW WHICH MADE IT EVEN BETTER!!! Final rating: 4 twitchy whiskers out of 5.

If you’re thinking you also need this book in your life, check it out here (Amazon link)