Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor

4 star

Parallel Worlds, Love, Friendship, War, Sacrifice

Karou is facing her hardest challenge yet: convince a handful of chimaera and seraphim to play nice long enough to stop a millenia-long war and save what is left of her people. The romance and friendship in this book are just as perfectly executed as in the first two, and I found myself tearing up more than once as these characters grew. The introduction of an overarching plot line was fascinating, but I do wish it had been foreshadowed more in the first two books, as it felt cruelly dumped on Karou and Akiva this late in the game. Overall it was a fitting ending to a great trilogy: perfectly paced, funny at times, and poignant at others.

Previous books: Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Days of Blood and Starlight

The Natural History of Unicorns by Chris Lavers

5 star

Unicorns, History, Mythology, Religion

Lavers takes you on a journey from ancient scholars who heard stories of Tibetan antelopes and turned them into unicorns, to Christians who turned other bi-horned quadrupeds into unicorns through a translation error, to ancient traders who turned narwhals into unicorns, and basically guides you through the history of the myth and all of the strange points it has reached along the way. I love this because he takes a fictional creature and treats it in a scholarly way, presenting various arguments and showing with pictures why people were so ready to believe in a creature they had never seen. He covers all of bases with humor, and the book is interesting from start to finish.

The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks

5 star

Epic Quests, Everyman Heroes, Friendship, Family, Honor, Good vs Evil

Shea Ohmsford is not only half elf, he is the last of the line of elves that can wield the Sword of Shannara—and so he must set out with a group of skilled men to recover the sword and destroy the evil that will otherwise destroy the world. Brooks builds a Tolkien-like world of elves, humans, trolls, wizards and a man who must go on a journey and grow up along the way, but he manages to do it with humor and sympathy and without all the boring parts. Each character is well developed as they split off from the group for varying reasons and have adventures of their own which contributes to the flow of the story as a whole and the reminder that no one can save the world alone. It is an excellent introduction to high fantasy.

(First in the original Shannara trilogy, one of many Shannara books. I read the annotated 35th anniversary edition which I highly recommend.)

Lost Girls by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie

3 star

Fairy Tales, Lesbians, Pornographic Content, Graphic Novels

Three seemingly unrelated women meet at a hotel where they explore their sexuality with each other and open up about their lives, revealing that they are Alice in Wonderland, Wendy Darling, and Dorothy from Kansas. The premise is interesting, fairy tales retold without the magical elements, replacing them with burgeoning sexuality that is only owned up to and explored by these women later in life. It makes the characters more quickly identifiable, which is important as the actual character development in the pages is nonexistent, much like the plot. I would recommend to people interested in books about sex, books with sex, or serious fans of fractured fairy tales (this is definitely graphic).

The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

3 star

Fictional Universes, Travel, Comic Mishap Adventures

Rincewind is a failed wizard and Twoflower is a tourist inexplicably fascinated by Rincewind’s unkempt continent, and so the two set out to travel the flat world that lives on the back of a turtle and is held together by temperamental magic. The magical science is delightful and the descriptions of the world are fascinating; it is truly a clever idea. Yet Rincewind’s entire character is “oh no another bad thing happened to me woe is me” and Twoflower’s entire character is “oh look another thing that I like just because it is there” and it becomes grating after a few chapters. I would recommend to people looking for a light comedic fantasy who aren’t looking for a character-driven tale.

(Series with more books than I could reasonably list.)

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

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4 star

Friendship, Family, Psychics, The Past

The Aglionby boys and Blue are back, as Ronan steps into the stoplight with his ability to steal things from his own dreams through the power of the ley line. But it isn’t all fun and games—someone is looking for him, and the power may be more harmful than he ever realized. This book does a better job than the first of showing the relationships between the characters and describing the importance of the world and the lines. I found myself laughing out loud at how ridiculous some of the scenes were (the audiobook version is excellent and definitely increased my amusement). Would definitely recommend for anyone who likes a story grounded in reality with just enough fantasy to liven things up.

Previous book: The Raven Boys
Later books: Untitled, Untitled

Fury by Rebecca Lim

3 star

Angels, Devil, Fate, Choice

Mercy knows who she is, why she is on earth, and who she loves—but the knowledge suddenly pales in comparison as her angel brethren are captured by Lucifer and she must hunt them down while acclimating to her true form and trying to keep Ryan safe. Mercy remains a spunky, lovestruck, fate-hating feminist which is fun, and the various angels and world locations add spice. Unfortunately Lim’s poor writing style and inability to show not tell make for an aggravating read. I enjoyed the ending and found it very fitting, though I felt it was not quite climactic enough to warrant four books.

Previous books: Mercy, Exile, Muse

Muse by Rebecca Lim

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3 star

Fallen Angels, Love, Modeling, Betrayal

Mercy is in the body of a Russian model this time, but the fun is short lived as she finally discovers the truth about why she has been forced from life to life and what really happened between her and Luc all those millennia ago. The story is starting to get interesting as Mercy regains her personality; she is ferocious and a feminist and strong, but it is not enough to make up for Lim’s poor writing, repetitive sentences, and inability to describe situations and people without cliches. The angel lore is exciting and the suspense is executed decently, though not as well as the second book.

Previous books: Mercy, Exile
Later book: Fury

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

4 star

Lipograms, Letters, Island Life, Fascist Governments, Humor

On a small island off the eastern US, there lives a society so obsessed with the phrase “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” that when the letter Z falls from their sign they take it as a sign from the sentence’s dead creator that Z should no longer be part of their vocabulary. Dunn has crafted a tale of humorous and lipogrammatic excess that also manages to be quite a hefty political commentary as the islanders are beaten and banished for their slip-ups. The whole book is written through letters between the islanders, and grows increasingly outrageous as more letters fall. While I respect his efforts, I do wish there had been more heart to the story; it was easy to forget which characters was which as they were all so similar, and I didn’t care about any of them. I would recommend to wordsmiths and anyone interested in how he handled the loss of letters.

Exile by Rebecca Lim

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3 star

Fallen Angels, Amnesia, Love, Mystery

Mercy is beginning to remember more of her lives—after dreaming a visit to Luc, she remembers enough to find Ryan and get him on a plane to her new body—but the strange characters in her new life may prevent her from being with him. This book introduces more angels who show Mercy that she is not seeing the whole side of the story, and she begins to question her constant desire to be with Luc once more. The suspense in this book was very well done; even though I was afraid of Mercy finding Ryan and ruining the master plan of the angels, I was still terrified at everything that got in their way. This new body also had so many more connections than hers in the first book and that gave the story some much needed weight.

Previous book: Mercy
Later books: Muse, Fury

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

3 stars

Children, Violence, Society, Leadership

A bunch of English schoolboys wind up marooned on an island and have to learn to fend for themselves, which starts by meaning a signal fire and ends in slaughter. They manage to maintain order for a short time before turning violent and feral. ┬áMuch like the boys on the island, your two reviewers disagree on this book: one didn’t really care for any of the characters and thought their behavior was frustrating and overly gruesome. The other found it to be exactly the sort of thing she imagines would happen in this small world scenario — the troublemakers gang up on the reasonable thinkers and the whole thing goes to hell in a handbasket, which sounds an awful lot like history. This classroom staple tends to be a divisive one, but in the end Golding does an incredible job of crafting an island, building distinct characters, creating a parable, and then rubbing those characters together until he made fire.

(Source: ihopetheyhavebooksinhell)

Mercy by Rebecca Lim

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2 star

Fallen Angels, Mystery, Amnesia

We know Mercy is a fallen angel (thanks, cover synopsis) but she has no idea why she lives days, weeks, months at a time in someone else’s life and without warning wakes up in a new body and has to relearn a life all over again. The memories keep fading so she loses her memories as she goes, and the only constant in her life is Luc, another angel who visits her in dreams—but when she finds herself in a body that could save a missing girl, she ignores his advice to fly under the radar and does everything she can to save a life (and maybe capture the heart of a boy). The writing is mediocre and I struggled with Mercy saying things like “I never back down from a challenge” while insisting she doesn’t remember anything about herself, and if Lim had given a little more to go on it would have been easier to focus on the kidnapping and figuring out a new life aspects of the story, which were decently well done. The story jumped about pretty spastically from internal monologues to conversations with Luc to hunting down the kidnapper to singing music in a school choir; it felt like Lim was trying to set herself up for the later books but she sacrificed a lot of quality to do so. Still on the hunt for a good angel book; this doesn’t make the cut.

Later books: Exile, Muse, Fury

Shining at the Bottom of the Sea by Stephen Marche

5 star

Fake Literary Anthologies, Island Life, Short Stories, History

Marche has invented an island called Sanjania, and has proceeded to create an anthology of Sanjanian literature and present it to you. The stories here range from outlandish tales of reformed prostitutes to sad tales of widows waiting for husbands lost at sea to short tales of magical trees. It is a clever idea that is brought to life by the many different characters and lives you can feel within the pages. Marche has truly built a world—thought I don’t know that I would ever want to visit.

Damosel by Stephanie Spinner

4 star

King Arthur, Lady of the Lake, Merlin, Love, Promises

Damosel is the maker of Excalibur and that is all—but when Merlin is trapped in an inescapable tomb, she must leave her quiet lake and watch over Arthur. She does a poor job, however, once she falls in love and spends all her time in her forest. The story remains true to Arthurian lore and takes the opportunity to explain the Lady’s choices throughout, though some things seemed a bit forced (she falls in love practically at first sight and abandons Arthur without a second thought, for example). The story is peppered with the Rules that govern ladies of the lake which is a nice touch for the time period and adds cohesiveness (think fifth century Arthur here). The other narrator is Twixt, a dwarf who tells the story that Damosel can’t see (the stories of knights and the court and Morgan) and between the two stories you find a magical retelling of an old story from a new perspective.

Cress by Marissa Meyer

5 star

Politics, Fractured Fairy Tales, Family, Secrets, Romance

Cress is coding genius, a shell, and a damsel in distress who finds herself in the arms of Carswell Thorne—though not under the circumstances she had hoped for, considering they have been separated from the rest of the band of fugitives and must find their way back to Cinder, who is working with Dr. Erland and another Lunar to formulate a plan to stop the royal wedding. Elements of Rapunzel’s story flit throughout the pages and add color. The book moves at breakneck speed from the chill of space to the plains of the Sahara to the royal palace of Emperor Kai as problem after problem falls into their laps. The humorous turns add sparkle and there is just enough romance to keep this sappy reviewer happy; Meyer does a great job of using the romance to add to the plot instead of using it as a distraction. I cannot recommend enough: there is action, love, trust, fear, fighting, and futuristic technology.

Previous book: Cinder, Scarlet
Later book: Winter