Hello my lovely readers! Once Upon a Time IX, the reading challenge I signed up for running between March 21st and June 21st focusing on reading books that fit into the categories of fantasy, folklore, fairy tales, or mythology is now over (it has been for 5 days, actually….), so it’s time to post my wrap-up!
I signed up for the level called “The Journey” reading at least one book in any of the categories named above, but I had a personal goal aiming for three books. I wound up reading a whopping NINE BOOKS. Particularly given that I used to think I didn’t like fantasy, I’m kind of blown away.
My completed reads for the challenge, in the order I read them:
- A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire, 4 stars, review
- An Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire, 4 stars, review
- The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson, 4 stars, review
- Maplecroft by Cherie Priest, 4 stars, review
- Fables: Legends in Exile, Vol. 1 by Bill Willingham, 3 stars, review
- Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King, 3 stars,
not yet reviewed, review
- Love in the Time of Global Warming by Lia Francesca Block, 3 stars, not yet reviewed
- Everlasting: Da Eb’Bulastin by Rasheedah Prioleau, 4 stars, not yet reviewed
- Fated by S. G. Browne, 3 stars, not yet reviewed
Unfortunately, as you can tell, I fell a bit behind actually reviewing the books during the challenge. Ah well. This just means you can expect to see more fantasy reviews coming up now through July!
Have you enjoyed the influx of fantasy on my blog? Did you participate in the challenge too?
When two of Toby’s good friends’ children go missing from their own bedroom and another won’t wake up from being asleep, they call Toby in immediately to look for them. Soon the King of Cats reports that some of his kingdom’s children are missing too, and Quentin’s human girlfriend disappears as well. It quickly becomes clear that it’s time for the 100 year cycle of Blind Michael’s Hunt. Blind Michael, the Luidaeg’s brother, is incredibly powerful, and only three roads lead to his realm. Toby can only take each road once. That means she has only three chances to save the children and stop the Hunt.
I picked this book up immediately after finishing the second in the series and, oh man, it did not disappoint. This book presents an old school Brothers Grimm style blood-curdling, toes-curling fairy tale, peppered with characters we’ve already come to know and love.
Blind Michael is scary. What he does to the children is really scary. He turns the fae children into “Riders” monstrous twists on real fae features. He turns the human children into their horses for them to ride. Everything about Blind Michael and his twisted land scared the crap out of me, and I don’t scare easily. It was exactly the sort of scare I used to seek out as a child from the original Grimm Fairy Tales (the ones that are not cleaned up). This book goes a lot darker than the first two, which were already dark, and it went there in such a different way from the first two plots. The first two plots were entirely about murder, here we have someone stealing children from their beds. It’s a completely different type of scare and different sort of mystery for Toby to have to figure out.
The plot tells more than just this one mystery, though, it also brings out some information that is key to the overarching plot of the series. I really enjoyed how smoothly this was worked together, and I also must say I didn’t predict at all where it was going.
There are basically two themes in the book, one I appreciated and the other I didn’t particularly agree with. Let’s start with the one I didn’t agree with.
There’s a theme in the book that children on some level must deal with and be held responsible for the choices of their parents. Toby tries to pretend otherwise, but that doesn’t work out so well for her.
Blood will tell. I tried to pretend it wouldn’t that we could change, but blood always tells. We carry the burdens of our parents. (loc 312)
It basically reads as the idea that you can’t run away from your family or from your blood, your nature. Personally, I don’t like that frame of thought. You can leave your family of birth and not have to be held responsible for them. You are not your parents. You are your own person. You are not responsible for what your parents do after you leave home. So this theme didn’t sit well with me. Other readers who agree with this theme will obviously enjoy it more.
The other theme was one I was quite happy to see so directly addressed in an urban fantasy and that is of suicidal ideation. There are many different ways that suicidal ideation can manifest, but with Toby her symptoms are that she firmly believes her death is imminent and is planning for it, and she repeatedly throws herself into risk situations because she doesn’t care if she dies. Suicidal ideation essentially means that a person is lacking self-preservation instincts and is ok with dying. They won’t actually commit suicide but they will put themselves into dangerous situations because part of them does want to die. So they might run across a street without looking, go walking alone at 2am in a dangerous neighborhood, etc… Toby’s depression from the first two books has grown so much that she is now at this point, and people have started calling her out on it. Seeing her realize that she’s, in layman’s terms, got a death wish, is interesting and well-done. What I appreciate most about it is how directly it is addressed.
Because, dear October, you’re the most passively suicidal person I’ve ever met, and that’s saying something. You’ll never open your wrists, but you’ll run head-first into hell. You’ll have good reasons. You’ll have great reasons, even. And part of you will be praying that you won’t come out again. (loc 3876)
Overall, this entry in the series brings back the characters readers have come to love and puts them into a new mystery much more terrifying than the first two. Two strong themes in the book include nature/nurture/ties to parents and dealing with suicidal ideation. Fans of the series won’t be disappointed. This is a roller coaster ride of emotions and peril.
4 out of 5 stars
Hello my lovely readers! Many book bloggers are familiar with Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings’ two big reading challenges he runs every year. I often participate in the fall challenge for reading horror/thriller/mystery/etc… but I have never participated in the spring challenge for reading fantasy, because I used to think I don’t like fantasy. I’ve discovered that I’m wrong. I do like fantasy, just mainly urban fantasy and fantasies that are not set in a Medieval Europe style setting. So I thought that this year I would participate in Once Upon a Time IX!
Once Upon a Time IX focuses on reading books that fit into the categories of fantasy, folklore, fairy tales, or mythology between March 21st and June 21st. I’m signing up for the level called “The Journey.” Read at least one book in any of those categories. I’m hoping to read more than one but I was worried if I signed up for a higher level it would feel like too much pressure to me. My personal goal right now is three books.
Books I already own that fit the challenge are listed below. I’d love to hear from you in the comments if there’s one you’d particularly like to recommend to me from my list!
- Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett
- Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King
- Deadtown by Nancy Holzner
- Fables Vol. 1 by Bill Willingham
- Fated by S. G. Browne
- A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire
- The Nonborn King by Julian May
- Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos by H. P. Lovecraft
- Unshapely Things by Mark Del Franco
- The Veiled Mirror by Christine Frost
- Watership Down by Richard Adams
- The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson
Tomorrow marks the official end of Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings’ RIP Challenge, and since I know that I will not be finishing another read for the challenge, I decided to post my wrap-up today.
I got really into the reading challenge this year, as I’m sure you could tell from the influx of creepy books on my blog! Most of the books I read over the last two months fit into the parameters of the challenge, which is to read something sufficiently creepy in any of the following genres to set the tone for Halloween:
Or anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above.
I read a total of 10 books for the challenge. I’ll break the list down by rating for you all.
5 star reads
- A Banquet for Hungry Ghosts by Ying Chang Compestine (review)
- Still Missing by Chevy Stevens (review)
- Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (review)
4 star reads
- I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead by E. A. Aymar (review)
- Beverly Hills Demon Slayer by Angie Fox (review)
3 star reads
2 star reads
- Brains: A Zombie Memoir by Robin Becker (review)
- Barely Breathing by Michael J. Kolinski (review)
- The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor: Part One by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga (review)
- Favorite read: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (review)
- Least favorite read: Barely Breathing by Michael J. Kolinski (review)
- Most disturbing: Still Missing by Chevy Stevens (review)
- Most amusing: Beverly Hills Demon Slayer by Angie Fox (review)
- Most unique: A Banquet for Hungry Ghosts by Ying Chang Compestine (review)
- Biggest gross-out: From a Buick 8 by Stephen King (review)
Of these 10 reads, 3 were review copies and 3 fit into my Bottom of the TBR Pile Challenge. As for format, 4 were print, 4 were ebooks, and 2 were audiobooks. A nice distribution, I think!
The challenge really put me in the mood for Halloween. It maybe did too good of a job! I’m ready for some light-hearted romances now, people. Lol. The focused selection of reading materials really helped me take a good chunk out of my TBR pile, which I appreciated. Stay tuned in November for a return to the wide variety of reading you’ve come to expect here at Opinions of a Wolf!
Did you enjoy seeing me participate in the challenge? Did you participate in the challenge too? What was your favorite review I wrote for the challenge?
Lizzie and Dimitri are back from their honeymoon and are all moved in to their new California oceanfront home. Lizzie is loving married life, even if she has to deal with keeping her talking dog Pirate’s pet dragon out of trouble. But one night someone dumps a purgatory creature on their beach, and their search for who did it and why leads Lizzie right back to two of her worst nemeses: a big bad demon and her birth father.
I was really excited to be able to get an advanced reading copy of this book, since I’ve been a fan of the series from book one. I also was happy to see that Fox wasn’t going to stop the series just because Lizzie got married. I think more urban fantasy needs to acknowledge that you don’t have to be single or have a dramatic love life in order to be bad-ass. This book demonstrates quite well that just because Lizzie got married doesn’t mean that the series will stagnate.
The book’s strength is its opening sequences demonstrating Lizzie’s married life, as well as the first time we see the biker witches’ new permanent digs. Both show that while everyone is still the characters we first met and fell for, they are also progressing and changing as their life situations change. The scenes of Lizzie and Dimitri’s new married life are a pleasure to read, seeing them settled into being a partnership and Pirate accepting of the fact that he is now banned from the bedroom. It’s also pretty hilarious to see them trying to hide the supernatural from their homeowner’s association. Similarly, the biker witches are still quirky and funny but now they have made a real home out of a motel, including a surprisingly beautiful magical courtyard out back. These are the characters we love in new situations, and it’s quite well done.
The plot is a bit meh this time around. We’ve seen this big bad demon multiple times before, as well as the problems with Lizzie’s birth family. It feels a bit like a recycled plot, in spite of some of the finer details being different. I think it’s high time Lizzie gets a new big bad to fight. Additionally, I think a lot of readers will have a problem with the direction the plot goes at the end of the book. Fox pulls up this thing that is earth-shattering to readers, and should be to the characters, but they kind of just brush it off and don’t really deal with the consequences. I’m hoping that they will in the next book, but even if they do, it’s still a rough plot for this book. It starts out ho-hum as something we’ve seen before then in the final third goes suddenly off the rails in a direction a lot of readers won’t like. Kind of a difficult plot to deal with when it’s wrapped in such cute characters, scenes, and overarching series developments.
For those who’ve read it, I seriously question the plot having Lizzie kill Pirate with such vehemence when she’s possessed, only to have him brought right back to life. Now, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the idea of having Lizzie possessed after all of her loved ones were possessed by the same demon in the prior book. That’s an interesting direction to go. But having Lizzie actually kill Pirate? Gut-wrenching to read. And then she faces no consequences because he is just brought back to life, and everyone instantly forgives her? It felt like Fox ripped my heart out for no reason, and then I didn’t forgive Lizzie as fast as her family and friends seemed to. It was a tough ending to the book.
The sex scenes are the perfect level of sexy and romantic. They feel just right for newlyweds but also don’t overwhelm the plot. One character from a prior book is explored more in-depth, and a new character is added. I wasn’t a fan of the latter, but I enjoyed the former.
Overall, this book handles its urban fantasy heroine’s new married life quite well, balancing the romance with the fighting, dangers, and sexiness readers expect. Some readers may be bothered by the fact that the plot starts out feeling like a do-over of previous plots, and some may be bothered by the ending of the book. However, fans of the series should definitely pick this one up to see where Lizzie and the gang are heading, and they will be left wanting to pick up the next one as quickly as possible.
4 out of 5 stars
Previous Books in Series:
The Accidental Demon Slayer, review
The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers, review
A Tale of Two Demon Slayers, review
The Last of the Demon Slayers, review
My Big Fat Demon Slayer Wedding, review
Tom Starks has not been the same since his wife, Renee, was brutally murdered with a baseball bat in a parking lot. He’s been struggling for the last three years to raise her daughter, who he adopted when he married Renee. When Renee’s killer is released after a retrial finds insufficient evidence to hold him, Tom becomes obsessed with dealing out justice himself.
I was so excited that two of my 2014 accepted review copies fit into the RIP IX reading challenge! This book’s title jumped out at me immediately when it was submitted, and I had been saving it up specifically to read in the fall. I’m glad to say that this thriller does not disappoint, although it goes in a bit of a different direction than I originally anticipated. And that’s a good thing.
The main character is not who you usually see from a thriller with a person seeking violent justice. He’s bookish. Rather weak and simpering. Afraid of his own brother-in-law, who used to be a boxer. But he was madly in love with Renee, and so when her supposed killer is released, he becomes obsessed with making him dead. The catch is, Tom quickly figures out that maybe he’s not cut out to do the killing himself, and that’s where the book gets unique and interesting. I was expecting from the title and description to see a typical bad-ass main character chase down a killer around the country (or the world) and ultimately get his revenge. That is not at all the story we get, and yet, it is still thrilling. There is still violence and chase scenes, it’s just they aren’t the ones you usually see in a book like this. And that helps it. That helps keep the thrill level up, since it’s so much harder to predict what’s going to come next. Tom, with his weakness and inability to parent well, is almost an anti-hero, and yet we keep rooting for him because his grief for his wife is so powerful and relatable. It’s strong characterization and plotting mixed into one.
The scenes where Tom is seen teaching The Count of Monte Cristo at the community college where he works slow the thrill down. They feel a bit too aware of themselves, with comparison between The Count of Monte Cristo and the plot in this book. Plus scenes of classroom literary analysis simply slow the thrilling plot of the book down. The one scene where it really works is one scene in which Tom is freaking out about his own life so much that he fails at teaching well. This establishes that Tom’s life is starting to get out of control. Overall, though, there are just too many scenes of him teaching for a thriller.
The setting of Baltimore is interesting, and I was glad to see that it wasn’t set in the more stereotypical Washington D.C. Aymar writes Baltimore beautifully. I’ve never been there, but I truly felt as if I was there, seeing both the run-down aspects, as well as the beauty. I often end up skimming over setting descriptions, but Aymar’s drew me in.
The plot has just enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing, but not so many that the reader feels jerked around. Also, the plot twists stay rooted in reality. I could truly see this happening in the real world, and that makes a thriller more thrilling.
Overall, this is a unique thriller, with its choice to cast the opposite of a bad-ass in the role of the main character. This grounds the typical revenge plot into reality, lends itself to more interesting, unique plot twists, and has the interesting aspect of a flawed, nearly anti-hero main character that the reader still roots for. Recommended to thriller fans looking for something different and those interested in first dipping their toe into the thriller genre.
4 out of 5 stars
Source: Kindle copy from author in exchange for my honest review
Book Review: The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor: Part One by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga (Series, #3) (Audiobook narrated by Fred Berman)
In the aftermath of her rebellion attempt against The Governor, Lilly Caul is starting to see him as a man who does what it takes to protect the citizens of Woodbury. So when strangers in riot gear and prison suits underneath show up at Woodbury, she believes The Governor that they’re out to get their supplies and that the woman, unprovoked, bit his ear. But not everyone believes The Governor, and The Governor starts to think he can use the doubters to his advantage.
This non-graphic novel series telling the backstory of the big bad villain of the graphic novel Walking Dead series started off incredibly strong but, unfortunately, each new entry in the series gets worse and worse. Instead of lending new light to the backstory of The Governor and Woodbury, this entry retells scenes readers of the graphic novel have already seen, simply from The Governor and other residents of Woodbury’s perspectives.
While I understand that some things readers of the graphic novel series already know may need to be briefly mentioned again for those who are only reading the print books, a sizable portion of this book features scenes already told once in the graphic novels. Many of these scenes were disturbing enough in the graphic novels, such as the scene in which Michonne is repeatedly raped and beaten by The Governor. Retelling them from the perspective of The Governor just felt unnecessary and was frankly difficult to listen to. It would have been better to have left out showing that scene again and instead showed the, well-told and well-done scene of The Governor after her rapes Michonne back in his apartment where he tries to rationalize his behavior. This lends new insight into the character without forcing the readers to, essentially, re-read.
The characterization of Lilly Caul continued to bother me. First she hates The Governor and leads a rebellion, then turns right around and becomes loyal to him? What? This makes zero sense and is never fleshed out enough to make sense. Similarly, how she handles one particular plot development feels like lazy, cliched writing of women, which bothered me.
Speaking of writing of women, while I understand that the third person narration is supposed to simultaneously be from an evil guy’s perspective, how the narrator talked about Michonne really bothered me. We are constantly reminded that she is black. She is never just “the woman” she is always “the black woman” or “the dark woman.” Her dreadlocks are mentioned constantly. Whereas white characters, Latino characters, and male characters are referred to once with descriptors about how they look, her looks are constantly described. I understand looks need to be described periodically, but this is far too heavy-handed and in such a way that it feels like the narrator feels it necessary to constantly remind the reader that she is “other” and “different from us.” Worse, she is also referred to as a “creature,” etc…, particularly during her rape scenes. I never felt Michonne was mishandled in the graphic novels. She’s a bad-ass woman who just happens to be black in the graphic novels. Here, though, the descriptions of her feel like they are exoticized, which feels entirely wrong for a book in which we mostly just see her being raped. She is depicted so animalistically, it made my stomach turn. Even when she is among her friends, the narrator feels it necessary to constantly refer to her otherness.
So what’s done well in this book? The scenes where we finally learn how the double-cross happens and see it plotted and carried out from the bad guys’ perspective is chilling and enlightening. It’s also really nice to get to actually see the scene where Michonne beats the crap out of The Governor. If other scenes had been left out, the characterization of Lilly Caul and descriptions of Michonne handled better, and the whole book tightened up (and probably part two included here), it could have been a strong book.
Overall, fans of the series will be disappointed by the repetition of scenes they’ve already seen and the overall shortness and lack of new information in this book. Some may be bothered both by how Michonne is presented in this book, far differently from how she is in the graphic novel series, as well as by seeing some of the rapes from The Governor’s perspective. Recommended to hard-core fans who feel they need to complete reading the companion series to the graphic novels.
2 out of 5 stars