The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Jude and her sisters were taken to Faerie after their new father figure murdered their real parents. Now they live among the Folk as daughters of the most militarily powerful man in the land. They learn with the gentry children, go to royal balls, and mingle with the royal family of Faerie. The problem is that Jude’s main enemy happens to be the youngest Prince Cardan whose cruelty toward her outdoes even the man that killed her mother in front of her. When plans are set into motion to replace the royal family of Faerie, Jude must learn to work with the person she despises over everyone. Can she and Prince Cardan deal with each other long enough to save Faerie?

I both love and hate teen fantasy at the same time. The stories are usually so entertaining. They are full of magic, fantastical beasts, and lots of fighting action. But it never fails that I always wind up wishing that this book was written for adults instead of teens because the writing is so juvenile. It’s not a bad thing really, I just always want characters to react how I would I suppose. I want them to curse. I want good sex scenes. I don’t know, maybe Game of Thrones has completely ruined fantasy novels for me.

What I did like was they was this story had so much strategy in it. The twists and turns had me trying to guess what was going to happen next, and honestly it did not end the way I expected it to. Black has an excellent mind for battle descriptions and how a military mind might think. The whole book was like watching a chess match of royal siblings that Jude and her family happened to be a part of. It was a very promising start to what should be a great series.

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The Case on a Cliff by Orr Agam

***DISCLAIMER*** The author is my best friend’s boyfriend so I may be biased.

The Case on a Cliff follows Bay Area detective Jacob who’s out of money and has no current job to keep him paid. That is, until a beautiful woman comes into his office to find her missing brother. What follows is a wild, drug-fueled journey from San Francisco to the South Bay to Las Vegas and back. Along the way, Jacob discovers that this case isn’t what it seems to be and everyone involved isn’t who they say they are.

Agam does very well as a Crime Noir writer. He’s very good at making the characters appear mysterious. The story was well-written too. There ended up being a lot of twists and turns that I was not expecting at the start of the book. The writing that Agam does the best though is the description of Jacob’s feelings and thoughts during a drug bender or especially rough hangover. I know Agam, so I know it comes from personal experience and that’s what makes it so authentic.

The only critique I have, and really it’s a compliment, is that Agam could have made this book so much longer. At 101 pages, it;s the shortest book I’ve read in a while. He does such a good job at creating twists that he could have made this story much more convoluted, like a true crime thriller. Perhaps this is just me not used to short novels anymore after everything I’ve read.

Congrats on the publish Ori! I hope to see more from you!

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A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

The conclusion to Schwab’s series about the three Londons is nothing short of breathtaking. Five hundred pages and it took me only 72 hours to finish because I was so enthralled.

Kell, Lila, Alucard Emery, Prince Rhy Maresh, and Holland embark on a journey to save Red London from a dark force from Black London called Osaron. The ghost-like demon tried to take over the Maresh empire by infecting all of its inhabitants, but the royals of the empire are hard to control and hard to kill. The group must find a way to beat a force that can control different hosts and promises mercy.

The writing of Schwab is beautiful. The story is woven through several different points of view including that of our villain. We get to know what each character is feeling at the same moment because her chapters are broken down into each character’s mind. I was  a big fan of the choice of villain in this finale. Osaron thinks himself a god, but the hero crew knows that he needs more than he is willing to admit to himself. They take advantage of the fact that to fight, he needs a physical body. I also enjoyed that Schwab makes Holland a more complicated character. All he wanted was to save his White London from a terrible fate, but he brought death and destruction to Red London and nearly to Grey London. He knows his mistake and therefore is the one to sacrifice everything to right his wrong. There is also a lot of betrayal within the castle during the fight with Osaron that made the story all the more entertaining.

Schwab did a beautiful job with the series and I’m glad to have gone on the journey. IMG_1525

Fire and Blood by George R. R. Martin

First and foremost, I think I speak for all of the Song of Fire and Ice readers in saying, George, what the hell? Why write this instead of finishing The Winds of Winter. We’ve been waiting literal years for you to finish that book only to learn that you’ve been spending your time writing this Targaryen history?!? That being said, thank you George for writing this Targaryen history!!! We’ve all been wanting to know how the ancient Valyrian family took hold of Westeros and held it for hundreds of years. And let me say this book did not disappoint.

Beginning with Aegon the Conqueror and his two sisters coming from Dragonstone to conquer all of Westeros and make it one, united kingdom, spanning until King Aegon III came into manhood and took the realm under his control. We readers are taken on a journey through time to see just how the Targaryens became the dynastic reigning family of Westeros. It is a tale of war, peace, loyalty, deceit, split family lines and marriages that bond it back together. The fact that this book reminded me so much of medieval Britain had me enthralled from the start. The coming of Aegon the Conqueror mirrors William the Conqueror coming to England to claim it for his own. The Dance of Dragons, the war of two different lines of the Targaryen family tree mirror The War of the Roses in which two factions of the same family warred for many decades on English soil. Y’all this was one of my favorite reads this year. I love history, but it seems I love fictional history even more. I think because it is so much more impressive to invent such an elaborate history of events rather than just record actual happenings.

The only wish I have after reading this book is that it went further on to recount ALL of the reigns of Targaryen kings. But the fact that we stopped halfway through the dynasty tells me that there will be another Fire and Blood to continue where this one left off. Again I think I speak for all of Martin’s fanbase when I say, please George, finish The Winds of Winter before you release the second half of the Targaryen history. We would much appreciate it.

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The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

I found this title in a list titled “Books You Won’t be Able to Put Down,” and boy were they right. This book had everything I love within it. History, legends, travel, romance, and plot twists.

The narrator takes us on a journey through time and through most of Europe. She finds a strange book in her father’s study that leads him to tell her the story of how, first, his university mentor, and then he himself took on the hunt for Vlad Dracula, the ancient Wallachian ruler. Told through a series of letters from the university mentor Bartholomew Rossi, and then her father Paul, the narrator must solve the puzzle that led both scholars into Eastern Europe during the Cold War. What they, and she, find is a dramatic turn of events through history.

I think my favorite part of the book what the descriptions of all of the different cities and countries the characters visit. We get to travel through Amsterdam, Istanbul, England, Budapest, and rural France and Bulgaria. All visits include making a trip to historical churches like the Hagia Sophia. Thinking about what these characters must have seen took my breath away. There was a point in the story where I thought I would get turned off by it because it almost became a horror story, and I don’t do horror. But the history within it was amazing, too amazing for me to care about how scary it got.

If there is any bit of a historian within you, read this book. Travel. Learn. See if you can solve the puzzle before the author tells you.

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The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Terrifying. Powerful. Frankly…. a little disappointing.

A dystopian future in which healthy, fertile women are used for their ovaries. They aren’t allowed to read. They are constantly watched. They are owned by men and the Wives. Sex is obligatory and every woman must pray that she gets pregnant or else face exile or even death. We follow the main character Offred as she negotiates her way through this new world as a handmaid to a powerful Commander. We see her memories of the world before, of the fall, and of her time at the Red Center where she learned to keep her head down and ears open.

The story itself is beautifully written. It has an amazingly powerful message to the world. It’s exhilarating to read. I get nervous when Offred gets nervous. I get angry when Offred gets angry. I cry when she cries. The events within the story are horrifying. One can only imagine what would happen if religious nut-cases ever got that powerful. There is little character development, but the events seem to only happen within a month or two, besides the flashbacks. The only aspect that disappointed was that I feel the story was cut short. We don’t get to find out what happened to Offred. There is no rebellion that takes place. I don’t even really have a clear picture of how that world came to be. I do appreciate the “Historical Notes” because they tell me that the Republic of Gilead remains and is thriving. But, in a way, that makes the ending even more of a bummer. It’s almost as if Atwood was leaving it to continue as a series. Now I have to watch the series on Hulu to help me out.

Although a little short, I recommend to those looking for a good story.

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Creation by Gore Vidal

Where did we come from? How did this world come into being? Most of the world’s population would answer those questions with some kind of deity or deities. Gore Vidal’s main character Cyrus Spitama goes further and asks, well who or what created God? Usually when this question is asked the asker will get a very long explanation of the religion in question. Creation is no different. Cyrus Spitama travels all over the ancient world, meets Confucius and the Buddha, and is the highest power in the religion of Zoroastrianism, but even he cannot answer the hardest question.

I like this book for its historical musings. We get to go back to ancient Persia and finally learn about the world through the eyes of a Persian instead of a Greek. That was a novel idea by Vidal. I also enjoyed the different parts of the world that the main character got to visit. I got to learn about more ancient cultures than I thought I would. The religion aspect of the book was enjoyable as well. Getting to hear about said religions from them very men who introduced them was interesting. And I liked that the main character was not swayed one way or another. In fact, the more beliefs he was introduced to, the stronger he favored his own.

There were two things that I was bummed about in this book. One, that it took place so far before the birth of Christianity that the main character did not get to meet any of those religious characters. But I get it. Vidal had to choose what era of history he was going to write in. He could not introduce every religious person. There other thing that bummed me out was, there was so much talk of war in the book, and so many famous battles were alluded to, but we never got to dissect those in detail. I realize that the book is about religion mostly, but why mention the Battle of Marathon if we are not going to hear about it from the men that fought in it?

Overall the book was enjoyable. If you need to read something that takes up a bit of time, this is one for you. I moved fairly slow, but the information was very interesting to soak in.

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