I had my second best reading month of the year so far. Come check out what books I discovered!
1. Harry Potter and the J.K. Rowling
Star Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Synopsis: Harry Potter thinks he is an ordinary boy – until he is rescued by an owl, taken to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, learns to play Quidditch and does battle in a deadly duel. The Reason … HARRY POTTER IS A WIZARD!
My Thoughts: Brilliant. Just brilliant. I tried to listen to this with a critical ear and still found it to be an absolutely amazing story! The characters and the world that J.K. Rowling has created are just so captivating. Her style of writing is beautiful and sucks me in each time without fail!
2. The Reluctant Mage by Karen Miller
Star Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Synopsis: It’s been many months since Rafel ventured over Barl’s Mountains into the unknown, in a desperate bid to seek help for their ravaged land. With his father’s Weather Magic exhausted, there seemed no other hope. Now this too has died.
Only Deenie believes Rafel still lives, sensing her brother in tortured dreams. She also knows she must try to find him, as only Rafel’s talents could heal their land. The prospect terrifies Deenie, yet she sees no other choice.
She soon learns of a dangerous new power. Deenie comes to suspect that not only is her brother involved, but that the evil their father destroyed is somehow reborn. And if she can’t save Rafel, then through him, Morg’s vast power could once again command their world.
My Thoughts: The Reluctant Mage is the fourth book in Karen Miller’s Mage Series and wraps up the story that began with Asher, The Innocent Mage. I won’t share the synopsis as it will spoil the first three books, but I will say that the conclusion to the series was very satisfying. I loved that this story focussed mostly on Deenie, Asher’s daughter, who we didn’t learn much about previously. We are also introduced to a whole new set of characters (from a different land), and while I will admit that I found some of these characters to be very annoying (SO MUCH BICKERING! STOP WITH THE BICKERING!), I’ll also say that Karen Miller did a FANTASTIC job at making these characters seem like real, unique people with very different personalities and manners of speaking. Despite feeling a bit annoyed in the middle of the story, I enjoyed reading the vast majority of this book and especially loved when the different characters stories finally came together. 4 stars!
3. A Blight of Mages by Karen Miller
Star Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Synopsis: Hundreds of years before the great Mage War, a land lies, unknowing, on the edge of catastrophe. Barl is young and impulsive, but she has a power within that calls to her. In her city, however, only those of noble blood and with the right connections learn the ways of the arcane. Barl is desperate to learn-but her eagerness to use her power leads her astray and she is banned from ever learning the mystic arts. Morgan holds the key to her education. A member of the Council of Mages, he lives to maintain the status quo, preserve the mage bloodlines, and pursue his scholarly experiments. But Barl’s power intrigues him-in spite of her low status. Together, he realizes they can create extraordinary new incantations. Morgan’s ambition and Barl’s power make a potent combination. What she does not see is the darkness in him that won’t be denied.
My Thoughts: I am officially a huge fan of villain backstories!!! A Blight of Mages is the story of how the villain Morg and the ancient saviour Barl from the Innocent Mage series came to be. This story is set 500 years before The Innocent Mage and is a fascinating story of how Morg and Barl went from lovers to enemies. What I loved most about this story was how so many questions that I had left over from the original series were answered. It all wrapped up so nicely and made the world Karen Miller created seem so authentic. I definetly recommend reading this book AFTER reading the entire Innocent Mage Series (Kingmaker Kimgbreaker duology and Fisherman’s Children duology) since it was so great being able to connect key moments from the other books to things happening in this one. I would have given this book five stars if it hadn’t been for the slow start of the story. It’s worth pushing through the first 100-200 pages to get to the good stuff though!
4. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Star Rating: 2 of 5 Stars
Synopsis: “There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.” It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive. Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her. His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble. But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little. For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore
My Thoughts: WOW. That was boring. I definitely don’t see what all the hype is about. The characters felt inauthentic to me and I didn’t connect with a single one of them. The story also felt boring and underdeveloped. I was constantly falling asleep while reading this…even in the middle of the day! I’ve never read a book about ghosts or psychics before (I didn’t know what The Raven Boys was about going into it) and I just really didn’t like the topic. Obviously I’m in the minority, but in my opinion this book was a huge miss.
5. Eldest by Christopher Paolini
Star Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Synopsis: Darkness falls …Despair abounds …Evil reigns …Eragon and his dragon, Saphira, have just saved the rebel state from destruction by the mighty forces of King Galbatorix, cruel ruler of the Empire. Now Eragon must travel to Ellesmera, land of the elves, for further training in magic and swordsmanship, the vital skills of the Dragon Rider. It is the journey of a lifetime, filled with awe-inspiring new places and people, each day a fresh adventure. But chaos and betrayal plague him at every turn, and Eragon isn’t sure whom he can trust. Meanwhile, his cousin Roran must fight a new battle back home in Carvahall – one that puts Eragon in even graver danger. Will the king’s dark hand strangle all resistance? Eragon may not escape with even his life. A wonderful book, full of fantasy and suspense.
My Thoughts: This one is a hard one to review. For the vast majority of the book I was thinking “boring boring boring” but the ending captivated me enough that I was left thinking “I wonder what happens next!” I decided to rate the book a three instead of a two because I liked it enough to continue with the series. This is a long story and the majority of it is about politics and training for war, which aren’t subjects I find interesting. Someone who likes Game of Thrones might enjoy this one. I loved the dragon and the complicated relationship of Eraton with Aria, but other than that it was just alright. I listened to this on audiobook which I think was essential…if I had read a physical copy I’m not sure I would have made it to the end.
6. Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Star Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Cinder is considered a technological mistake by most of society and a burden by her stepmother. Being cyborg does have its benefits, though: Cinder’s brain interference has given her an uncanny ability to fix things (robots, hovers, her own malfunctioning parts), making her the best mechanic in New Beijing. This reputation brings Prince Kai himself to her weekly market booth, needing her to repair a broken android before the annual ball. He jokingly calls it “a matter of national security,” but Cinder suspects it’s more serious than he’s letting on. Although eager to impress the prince, Cinder’s intentions are derailed when her younger stepsister, and only human friend, is infected with the fatal plague that’s been devastating Earth for a decade. Blaming Cinder for her daughter’s illness, Cinder’s stepmother volunteers her body for plague research, an “honor” that no one has survived. But it doesn’t take long for the scientists to discover something unusual about their new guinea pig. Something others would kill for.
My Thoughts: Fairytale meets Sci-Fi?! YES PLEASE! This book combines two of my favourite genres and it was AMAZING! I can’t wait to read the rest of the series. Cinder is loosely based on a retelling of Cinderella, but it’s set in the future in a world with cyborgs, androids and people who come from the moon! Marissa Meyers captured my interest in Heartless, and I knew I had to check out more of her work. Even though I was able to guess one of the main plot twists, I still found the entire book to be so captivating and entertaining. IT’S SO GOOOOOOD!
7. The Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir by Dee Williams
Star Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Synopsis: Dee William’s life changed in an instant, with a near-death experience in the aisle of her local grocery store. Diagnosed with a heart condition at age forty-one, she was all too suddenly reminded that life is short, time is precious, and she wanted to be spending hers with the people and things she truly loved. That included the beautiful sprawling house in the Pacific Northwest she had painstakingly restored—but, increasingly, it did not include the mortgage payments, constant repairs, and general time-suck of home ownership. A new sense of clarity began to take hold: Just what was all this stuff for? Multiple extra rooms, a kitchen stocked with rarely used appliances, were things that couldn’t compare with the financial freedom and the ultimate luxury—time—that would come with downsizing. Deciding to build an eighty-four-square-foot house—on her own, from the ground up—was just the beginning of building a new life. Williams can now list everything she owns on one sheet of paper, her monthly housekeeping bills amount to about eight dollars, and it takes her approximately ten minutes to clean the entire house. It’s left her with more time to spend with family and friends, and given her freedom to head out for adventure at a moment’s notice, or watch the clouds and sunset while drinking a beer on her (yes, tiny) front porch. The lessons Williams learned from her “aha” moment post-trauma apply to all of us, every day, regardless of whether or not we decide to discard all our worldly belongings. Part how-to, part personal memoir, The Big Tiny is an utterly seductive meditation on the benefits of slowing down, scaling back, and appreciating the truly important things in life.
My Thoughts: Dee Rocks! My husband and I love watching documentaries, particularly documentaries about decreasing our environmental footprint. After watching a few documentaries about tiny houses, my husband picked up The Big Tiny. I decided to read it for two reasons; A) I’m trying to read at least one non-fiction book per month (because I read so many fictional books per month and think it’s good to get out of my box once in a while) and B) The concept of tiny living sounds so interesting! I really enjoyed reading the story of Dee’s journey – she’s such a cool gal! In a nutshell, this is the story of a woman who decides to sell her “normal” house and build a tiny house herself. Along the way she shares many great anecdotes about her past and about the process of building the house. She has lived such an adventurous life, and it’s very inspiring to read about! For the most part I thought this book was very well written, however, there were some never-ending-sentences that I found myself wanting to skip over…but to be fair the long descriptions gave me a great sense of Dee’s personality. And while this story wasn’t as exciting as the typical fantasies I read, it did move at a nice pace. While I don’t have any plans to build a tiny house any time soon, I still took away some great messages about simple living that I will take forward with me!
8. The Storyteller’s Daughter: A Retelling of the Arabian Nights by Cameron Dokey
Star Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Synopsis: In a faraway kingdom, a king has been betrayed. Deeply hurt and bitterly angry, he vows never to be deceived again. Unfortunately, the king’s plan to protect himself will endanger all of the realm’s young women, unless one of them will volunteer to marry the king – and surrender her life. To everyone’s relief and horror, one young woman steps forward. The daughter of a legendary storyteller, Shahrazad believes it is her destiny to accept this risk and sacrifice herself. On the night of her wedding to the king, Shahrazad begins to weave a tale. Fascinated, the king lets her live night after night. Just when Shahrazad dares to believe that she has found a way to keep her life and an unexpected love – a treacherous plot will disrupt her plan. Now she can only hope that love is strong enough to save her.
My Thoughts: Let me start by saying that I have never read The Arabian Nights, the story of which this one is based. I do not know how closely this re-telling lines up with the original, but I can say that The Storyteller’s Daughter is one of the most uniquely written stories that I have ever read! What makes it so unique is that it reads as though you are listening to a tale being told around a campfire. The entire book is narrated by Shahrazad, the main character, and within the story she shares not her one story but many other stories as well. It’s a bit hard to explain, but I just loved the way the story was written. In this book, Shahrazad tells the tale of how she stepped forward to become the bride of a king who had become heartless. The king, after being betrayed by his former wife, declares that he will take a new bride once a month and kill her the following morning. Shahrazad sacrifices herself in hopes of being able to save the king from his own cold heart. It’s a very interesting tale. The reason I gave it a four instead of a five star rating was because there were several moments that I found myself a bit bored….as if the story was moving too slowly…which is odd considering the book is so short. Overal though, a very interesting read!
Jen @ Habitat for Happiness