The Monday Check-In ~ 4/16/2018

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

What did I read during the last week?

Feedback by Mira Grant: Yes, another Newsflesh book! My review is here.

Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman: Odd but weirdly compelling horror/western — my review is here.

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1) by Martha Wells: I enjoyed the hell out of this novella (144 pages) about a security robot who overrides its control programming and starts to think for itself. Looking forward to #2!

Pop culture goodness:

I caught episode 1 of the new production of Howard’s End, and loved it!

I’ve never read the book, but now I think I need to!

And in less cultured news, my son and I went to see this last night, in all its big-screen gory glory:

SO much fun!

Fresh Catch:

No new books, but my Outlander season 3 DVD set arrived this week!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire: Because I can’t seem to get enough of this author! I decided to start her Incryptid series, despite the seriously cheesy book covers.

Now playing via audiobook:

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan: A book group book! The audiobook is really delightful — I’m at about 50%, and should wrap up just in time for our group discussion.

Ongoing reads:

Book group reads:

  • Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade by Diana Gabaldon: Outlander Book Club is doing a group read of LJ&BotB, two chapters per week. If you’d like to join in, ask me how!
  • Classic read: My book group’s current classic read is Middlemarch by George Eliot.  We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week… so I’ll be reading Middlemarch for months and months to come.

So many books, so little time…

boy1Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

The Monday Check-In ~ 4/9/2018

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

What did I read during the last week?

Pride and Prometheus by John Kessel: My review is here.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz: My (audiobook) review is here.

Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs: Book # 5 in the awesome Alpha & Omega series. My review is here.

In children’s books:

I reviewed Chelsea Clinton’s two terrific picture books, here.

Also read & enjoyed:

  • The Walking Dead: Lines We Cross by Robert Kirkman: Volume 29 of the ongoing series
  • Daughter of the Midway, the Mermaid, and the Open, Lonely Sea by Seanan McGuire: An audio short, from the CarniePunk collection. Quite fun.

Fresh Catch:

I found someone selling books 1 – 10 of the October Daye series on EBay… and my box with all these beauties arrived this week!

Now I just need for #11 to get released in paperback.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Feedback by Mira Grant: Heading back into the Newsflesh world once again!

Now playing via audiobook:

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan: A book group book!

Ongoing reads:

Book group reads:

  • Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade by Diana Gabaldon: Outlander Book Club is doing a group read of LJ&BotB, two chapters per week. If you’d like to join in, ask me how!
  • Classic read: My book group’s current classic read is Middlemarch by George Eliot.  We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week… so I’ll be reading Middlemarch for months and months to come.

So many books, so little time…

boy1Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Audiobook Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

A word of warning right from the start: There will be some spoiler-ish discussion later on in this review — but I’ll put a big spoiler warning on top when we get there!

 


Dante can swim. Ari can’t. Dante is articulate and self-assured. Ari has a hard time with words and suffers from self-doubt. Dante gets lost in poetry and art. Ari gets lost in thoughts of his older brother who is in prison. Dante is fair skinned. Ari’s features are much darker. It seems that a boy like Dante, with his open and unique perspective on life, would be the last person to break down the walls that Ari has built around himself.

But against all odds, when Ari and Dante meet, they develop a special bond that will teach them the most important truths of their lives, and help define the people they want to be. But there are big hurdles in their way, and only by believing in each other―and the power of their friendship―can Ari and Dante emerge stronger on the other side.

My Thoughts:

I was completely engaged throughout my listening experience, and thought both Ari and Dante were charming as hell. The story is touching and emotional, with lots of humor as well. At the same time, I realized at the end that the story I thought I was listening to was not in fact the story I was getting. I’ll explain — bear with me!

Ari and Dante are both of Mexican descent, living with their parents in El Paso, Texas. The story is set in the late 80s, which is important to keep in mind in terms of situations within Ari’s family as well as societal norms and prejudices of the time. Both boys are only children — Dante in fact, Ari in terms of circumstance, as his siblings are significantly older and he’s the only one living at home. Both sets of parents are loving and supportive, but in Dante’s case, this is tempered by the walls of silence he experiences around the two forbidden subjects in his home: his father’s wartime experiences in Vietnam, and anything and everything to do with his incarcerated older brother.

Ari loves his parents and they love him, but he finds them unknowable, as their secrets create barriers. Ari is an angry young man with no  friends, but something in him connects to Dante from their very first meeting, in the summer when both boys are fifteen. Dante is friendly and outspoken and honest, and he likes to talk about everything. Something about his willingness to accept Ari for who he is forces Ari to see Dante as a friend. They’re soon inseparable, connected and honest and supportive in ways that Ari has never experienced.

Here’s where I’m getting into spoiler territory, so look away if you don’t want to know more!

As the story progresses, it becomes clear that Dante’s feelings for Ari go way beyond friendship. As the boys mature over the course of the book, Dante is pretty forthright about where he stands — he’s interested in kissing boys, not girls, and no, it’s not just a phase. Finally, he confesses his feelings to Ari, but Ari isn’t interested in boys — or Dante — in that way.

And that’s where things stand for most of the book, until close to the end, as Ari’s emotions and anger threaten to finally get the best of him. By the end of the book, the walls between Ari and his parents have started to come down, and his parents have started to open up to Ari about their family’s past and all the secrets between them. Finally, his parents confront Ari and tell him that they know that he’s in love with Dante. After tears and a huge emotional release, Ari acknowledges this too.

And I mostly felt… huh? I did not see that coming.

Earlier, I alluded to the fact that I thought I was reading a different book than the book it turned out to be. And here’s what I meant by that: The book is told through Ari’s first-person narration. We get to hear this thoughts on his life and his family, on his frustrations and anger, and on his friendship with Dante. And there’s just nothing that I heard that made me feel that what he felt for Dante went beyond friendship. He talks about Dante’s good looks, but not in a way to make me think there was physical attraction. He talks about the closeness he feels for Dante, but I didn’t have the impression that there was romantic love behind it.

So, I thought I was reading a book about how friendship — real, true, deep, strong friendship — could be possible between a straight boy and a gay boy. And I thought that was really cool. So different, so refreshing. What a great way to break down barriers!

And I have no problem with reading a book about a romance between two teen boys. Coming out stories, first love stories — done well, these can be so sweet and moving, and it’s so important to have these stories available in the YA market. But that’s just not what I thought this book was going to be!

Don’t get me wrong — I loved the book. The writing is marvelous, and I loved the characters. I thought it was so interesting to see how the boys’ Mexican heritage came into play in different ways, and to see how having a loving home isn’t the magical answer to all the problems in a young man’s life. Given the setting in the 80s, it’s also very clearly a different world than the one we live in. Being gay in the time period of the book is something to be hidden, something dangerous, and not an identity to be worn openly and proudly. My heart absolutely broke for Dante when he ended up in the hospital after being on the receiving end of a major beating simply because of being spotted kissing another boy.

End of Spoilers!

Still, I ended the book feeling a little let down. The ending is romantic and hopeful, but it just didn’t match my expectations for where the plot was going. I have to wonder whether part of this is due to listening to the audiobook rather than reading the print book.

The audiobook is amazing, thanks to the insane talents of LIN-MANUEL FREAKIN’ MIRANDA as the narrator. He breathes life into the characters, giving personality to Ari, Dante, and their parents with drama and flair. I did have a hard time in spots keeping track of the dialogue, as there are lengthy exchanges full of quick back-and-forth comments and quips, and despite the different voices given to the characters, I occasionally got lost.

In terms of why I expected the story to go in a different direction (as described in my spoilery section above), I wonder if I’d been reading a printed edition of the book whether I would have absorbed more of the subtext and nuance of the language. The writing is really lovely, and being inside Ari’s head is a roller coaster of thoughts and emotions — but by listening to the audiobook, perhaps I didn’t focus and really spend enough time with the words that build the story. Does that make any sense?

In any case, I really and truly enjoyed this book and recommend it highly… despite feeling both puzzled and a little out of sorts about how it all works out. I’m full of admiration for the author, and will definitely be seeking out more of his books.

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Author:  Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Narrated by: Lin-Manuel Miranda
Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication date: February 1, 2012
Length (print): 359 pages
Length (audio): 7 hours, 29 minutes
Genre: Young adult fiction
Source: Audible download

 

**Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

The Monday Check-In ~ 4/2/2018

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

What did I read during the last week?

I’ve reached the end of my October Daye series binge. I’ve loved every moment, but now I’m a bit heartbroken that I’m all caught up and have to wait until September for the next new book. You can read my thoughts on the final book (so far), The Brightest Fell, here. Warning: Lots of spoilers in the post!

The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich: I finished the audio version of my book group’s March pick. My thoughts are here.

The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian: A new release from March — my review is here.

Fresh Catch:

I just got my Kindle edition of Stone Mad by Elizabeth Bear, the newly released sequel to Karen Memory (which was awesome!).

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Pride and Prometheus by John Kessel: This mash-up of Pride and Prejudice and Frankenstein is off to a great start!

Now playing via audiobook:

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz: The audiobook is narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda. LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA. And if you think that sounds like it would be awesome to listen to, you’d be right! I’m about half-way through, and loving it so far.

Ongoing reads:

Book group reads:

  • Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade by Diana Gabaldon: Outlander Book Club is doing a group read of LJ&BotB, two chapters per week. If you’d like to join in, ask me how!
  • Classic read: My book group’s current classic read is Middlemarch by George Eliot.  We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week… so I’ll be reading Middlemarch for months and months to come.

So many books, so little time…

boy1Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Series check-in: October Daye, book 11 — The Brightest Fell

Well, here it is, folks — my last October Daye review post until September. Because after an eleven-book binge, I’ve run out, I’ve caught up, I’m done for now! I finished book #1, Rosemary and Rue, on February 3, 2018… and here I am, not quite two months later, and I’m head over heels in love with Toby’s world, and I don’t want to leave it!

This book series — 11 novels, lots of related stories — creates a world that’s rich in mythology and great characters, where the people we come to know and love grow and develop, and where secrets hinted at early on end up having major impacts down the road. Suspense, tears, laughter — the October Daye series has it all.

As for book #11, The Brightest Fell

I give you fair warning:

I’ll be talking about my reaction to events in this book, the questions I’m left with, and what I’m hoping for in future books. So yes, there will be spoilers — you have been warned!

Book #11: The Brightest Fell (published 2017)

For once, everything in October “Toby” Daye’s life seems to be going right. There have been no murders or declarations of war for her to deal with, and apart from the looming specter of her Fetch planning her bachelorette party, she’s had no real problems for days. Maybe things are getting better.

Maybe not.

Because suddenly Toby’s mother, Amandine the Liar, appears on her doorstep and demands that Toby find her missing sister, August. But August has been missing for over a hundred years and there are no leads to follow. And Toby really doesn’t owe her mother any favors.

Then Amandine starts taking hostages, and refusal ceases to be an option.

My thoughts:

Wow. Insane. And did this book really end on that kind of note?

The Brightest Fell starts off silly and happy, with an all-gender, all-Faerie-species bachelorette party for Toby. While she and Tybalt (sigh… I love me some Tybalt) haven’t set a date yet or figured out the politically fraught subject of where to hold the wedding, they’re in agreement that they want to get married, and soon. What better way to celebrate than with a drunken karaoke party attended by Toby, her nearest and dearest, and even a Bridge Troll? The highlight for me is when the Luidaeg (aka the Sea Witch) gets up to sing “Poor Unfortunate Souls” from The Little Mermaid, but I digress.

Whenever things seem like they’re going well in Toby’s world, whenever she’s about to settle in for some happiness and relaxation, you just know that something’s about to break or get ugly or end up bloody. So yes, it’s no surprise that post-party bliss is interrupted by the arrival of Amandine, who will never win a mother-of-the-year award. She orders Toby to go find her long-lost sister August, and when Toby refuses, Amandine takes Tybalt and Jazz (one of Toby’s housemates and the girlfriend of her adopted sister) as hostages, in pretty much the cruelest way she possibly can. The only way Toby can get her people back is by fulfilling the quest for Amandine, and to accomplish the task, she’ll have to work with Simon, her long-time enemy that she’s only recently starting to realize might have a shot at redemption.

The adventure itself feel like an epic road trip, as Toby, her squire Quentin, and Simon set off through various lands of Faerie under all sorts of enchantments, encountering old friends and enemies and swarms of menacing pixies before landing right back in San Francisco. When they finally do find August and learn what she bargained away in order to set out on her own adventure 100 years earlier, there are no easy solutions, and it’s all rather heartbreaking.

Okay, enough with the plot summary Here’s my reaction, which may not mean much to anyone who hasn’t read the book:

  • Simon’s sacrifice is so sad! Toby finally sees that Simon still has good in him, and the corruption at his core has finally started to wash away. So of course, in the end, he loses all the ground he’s gained. I understand that he had no choice but to sacrifice himself for August, but it’s really tragic and awful nonetheless. And now, Simon goes back to being Toby’s enemy, so that’s not good.
  • Every time someone messes with Toby’s blood, I absolutely freak out. This has happened in several books now, where the balance of Toby’s blood is shifted away from fae and more toward the human/mortal end of the spectrum. Even though I felt fairly certain that she’d get her magic back, I just can’t stand the tension of Toby losing her mojo and her powers and her fae essence! It’s just so upsetting. Please, please, please — stop doing this to her! My heart can’t take it.
  • Amandine is awful and I hate her. There, I said it.
  • I still want to know who Amandine’s mother is. She’s Oberon’s daughter, but isn’t descended from Titania or Maeve. More mysteries to unravel.
  • I know it’s not really August’s fault, but man, I wish she’d never entered the picture. The amount of suffering caused by Amandine’s insistence on finding August is unbelievable.
  • It’s always nice when we get another visit to Borderlands, one of my favorite book stores (and yes, it’s a real place here in San Francisco, and quite awesome).

And finally, let’s talk about the end. As far as I can remember, almost every book in the series has ended with the end of the quest/adventure/major threat, and then things more or less get back to normal. Yes, there have been losses and bad times, but Toby usually lands on her feet. But in The Brightest Fell, we end with so much damage! Tybalt is not okay, and I am not okay with Tybalt not being okay! It hurts my soul to see him so tortured and hurt. I just want him and Toby to be happy! Is that too much to ask for???

We stood there, wounded, frozen, exhausted, and waited for home to start feeling like home again. We waited for the safety to come back.

We were going to be waiting for a very long time.

And oh yeah, what about the wedding? The engagement has lasted a few books now. I’m ready for Toby and Tybalt to make it official, celebrate, get some much earned happiness, and move on to the next chapter in their lives. If something happens to ruin their future, or if anything (further) happens to Tybalt, I can’t be held responsible for the objects I may throw and break.

I’m so worked up over that ending, and I cannot believe that I’ve run out of books for now! How am I possibly going to wait until September for book #12? The downside of book binges is what comes after, when you have to just sit and stew, wait and wonder, and count the days until the next new release.

And that’s all, folks! I’ve reached the end (for now) of the October Daye series, and now must return to the mortal world and find something else to read.

A footnote:

Included in The Brightest Fell is a novella from the Toby-verse, Of Things Unknown, starring Countess April O’Leary. It’s always fun to see supporting characters take center stage in the Toby short stories. This one includes some sad moments, weird interludes inside April’s unusual mind, and a twist at the end that should shake things up in future books. Don’t skip it!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

The Monday Check-In ~ 3/26/2018

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

What did I read during the last week?

No big surprise here — I’ve been continuing my madly obsessed reading of the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire.

I read two more novels:

… and two related stories:

Check out my posts about:

Pop culture goodness:

Santa Clarita Diet is back! I watched all 10 episodes of season 2 over the weekend. That show is so funny, so gross, and so bonkers. I love it… but now I have that post-binge letdown, knowing it’ll be another year until I get more. Here’s hoping there will be a season 3!

Sorry about the blood spatters! This is not a show for the squeamish.

Fresh Catch:

No new books this week! Although I did get a bit carried away with pre-ordering and EBay shopping…

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Yup, more October Daye. With tears in my eyes, I’m starting the 11th book in the series, The Brightest Fell, knowing that after this, I’ll be all caught up and will have to wait for the next new release in September!

Now playing via audiobook:

The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich: This is a book group book. So far, I’m enjoying the story (set in 16th century Venice), but the narrator is driving me a bit mad. Hopefully, the plot will remain interesting enough to see me through.

Ongoing reads:

Book group reads:

  • Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade by Diana Gabaldon: Outlander Book Club is doing a group read of LJ&BotB, two chapters per week. If you’d like to join in, ask me how!
  • Classic read: My book group’s current classic read is Middlemarch by George Eliot.  We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week… so I’ll be reading Middlemarch for months and months to come.

So many books, so little time…

boy1Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Series check-in: October Daye, book 10 — Once Broken Faith

And onward I go with my obsessive reading of Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series! I just finished the 10th book, Once Broken Faith. Here are a few thoughts on this terrific book, plus the bonus story included with it.

Warning: Spoilers ahead! I can’t possibly talk about these books without referring to some plot elements, and since this is an ongoing series, it’ll be impossible to avoid spoilers for earlier works. You have been warned!

Book #10: Once Broken Faith (published 2016)

Politics have never been October “Toby” Daye’s strong suit. When she traveled to the Kingdom of Silences to prevent them from going to war with her home, the Kingdom of the Mists, she wasn’t expecting to return with a cure for elf-shot and a whole new set of political headaches.

Now the events she unwittingly set in motion could change the balance of modern Faerie forever, and she has been ordered to appear before a historic convocation of monarchs, hosted by Queen Windermere in the Mists and overseen by the High King and Queen themselves.

Naturally, things have barely gotten underway when the first dead body shows up. As the only changeling in attendance, Toby is already the target of suspicion and hostility. Now she needs to find a killer before they can strike again—and with the doors locked to keep the guilty from escaping, no one is safe.

As danger draws ever closer to her allies and the people she loves best, Toby will have to race against time to prevent the total political destabilization of the West Coast and to get the convocation back on track…and if she fails, the cure for elf-shot may be buried forever, along with the victims she was too slow to save.

Because there are worse fates than sleeping for a hundred years.

My thoughts: Ooh, another good one! Once Broken Faith is another suspenseful, exciting, and nerve-wracking journey through the inevitably blood-stained days of October Daye — hero of the realm, and all-around trouble-shooter.

In Once Broken Faith, the monarchs and nobles of Faerie (or at least, those who rule on the North American continent) come together to determine whether a cure for elf-shot will be allowed to be distributed, or will be surpressed for the next century or so. Elf-shot is a weapon used by pureblood Fae who, bound by an injunction by Oberon himself against killing one another, seek another way to get their enemies out of the way. A pureblood who’s shot with elf-shot sleeps for 100 years, and while the Fae essentially live forever, no one really wants that long a nap.

But the cure has become a political hot-potato, and each attendee at the convocation has his or her own motivation for either putting it to use or keeping it off-limits. And as a changeling (part-human), Toby is considered an intruder and beneath notice by many of the nobles. Still, as a knight and hero sworn to service, it’s her duty to investigate the murder of a visiting king, and things only get worse from there.

Once again, Toby herself is placed in grave danger, and this time, she faces the all-too-real risk of losing the people she loves most thanks to the manipulations and simmering quest for violence of some of the nobles.

And once again, I felt like my own heart was going to stop at some points in the story… I won’t say why, but if certain events had gone differently, I think I would have had to either throw the book out the window (except I was reading on my Kindle, so no) or put it in the freezer. I absolutely love these books, but sometimes I think they’re not good for my blood pressure! I was so on edge and tense for the last third or so, and it really was touch and go there for a while.

I love how so many of the characters we’ve met come together in this book. Toby’s world has really expanded over the course of the series, so that now we know not only her closest allies and the rulers of the Duchy she’s sworn to, but also neighboring kingdoms and even the High King and Queen. I also love seeing how Toby’s circle of allies have truly become her family. It’s a strange family, sure, but the love and commitment are unmistakable.

Plus, a new short story!

Included with Once Broken Faith is the short story Dreams and Slumbers:

 

By the standards of Faerie, Arden Windermere is little more than a child. Yet, despite her youth, she has already lost almost everything of importance: her parents, her brother, the life she expected to lead, the life she built for herself out of the ashes. Now Queen in the Mists, she is still struggling to find a place to stand. It seems impossible. And yet…

When circumstances present her with the chance to have her brother back again, is there any chance she can refuse? But when that restoration proves to come with a terrible price, is there any chance that just this once, she can win?

“Dreams and Slumbers” was originally published in the print edition of Once Broken Faith, released in September 2016. Copies are available from a bookstore near you. Do not read this story before reading the book!

My thoughts: One of the things I love about the spin-off stories in the Toby-verse is getting a chance to see other characters’ points-of-view. All of the main novels are narrated by Toby, and it can be a pretty cool change to see what the people who interact with her really think about her endless adventures.

In Dreams and Slumbers, Arden Windermere narrates her attempts to wake her brother from his eighty years asleep under the power of elf-shot. Arden is a truly interesting character — someone born to royalty, but who spent most of her years hiding out in the mortal world. From Arden’s perspective, it’s Toby’s fault that she ended up back on the throne instead of living a quiet life as a bookstore clerk. Sure, the throne is where she’s supposed to be, but it’s definitely not an easy life.

This is a great story that lets us get to know Arden (and a few other characters) a little better, and I’m sure the outcome of Dreams and Slumbers will come into play in the next novel.

Wrapping it all up:

No big surprise here — I loved Once Broken Faith and Dreams and Slumbers. The characters all seem to be growing and developing, and I love getting more insights into their lives and relationships. Moving straight ahead with #11, The Brightest Fell. And I hope I’m not heading for a disappointment… because they’ve been talking about a wedding for a couple of books now, and I want to see it happen, dammit!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Series check-in: October Daye, book 9 — A Red-Rose Chain

Continuing my obsessive reading of Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series, I’ve now finished the 9th book, A Red-Rose Chain. Before starting the next book in the series (oh, who am I kidding? I’ll be starting it about 5 minutes from now), I thought I’d share my thoughts on #9.

Warning: Spoilers ahead! I can’t possibly talk about these books without referring to some plot elements, and since this is an ongoing series, it’ll be impossible to avoid spoilers for earlier works. You have been warned!

Book #9: A Red-Rose Chain (published 2015)

Things are looking up.

For the first time in what feels like years, October “Toby” Daye has been able to pause long enough to take a breath and look at her life—and she likes what she sees. She has friends. She has allies. She has a squire to train and a King of Cats to love, and maybe, just maybe, she can let her guard down for a change.

Or not. When Queen Windermere’s seneschal is elf-shot and thrown into an enchanted sleep by agents from the neighboring Kingdom of Silences, Toby finds herself in a role she never expected to play: that of a diplomat. She must travel to Portland, Oregon, to convince King Rhys of Silences not to go to war against the Mists. But nothing is that simple, and what October finds in Silences is worse than she would ever have imagined.

How far will Toby go when lives are on the line, and when allies both old and new are threatened by a force she had never expected to face again? How much is October willing to give up, and how much is she willing to change? In Faerie, what’s past is never really gone.

It’s just waiting for an opportunity to pounce.

My thoughts: A Red-Rose Chain is another excellent edition in the Toby series, with fresh dangers and life-threatening situations. As always, Toby ends up covered in blood and with her life on the line. By now, neither of these are exactly surprising, but wouldn’t it be nice for October to have some time to — I don’t know — chill with her friends, plan her wedding, go to a movie? Really, anything where she’s not handling knives, swords, and arrows?

In A Red-Rose Chain, October is send by Queen Arden on a diplomatic mission to the neighboring Kingdom of Silences to prevent a war. Things there are terrible from the get-go. The food is most likely poisoned, and the inhabitants of the kingdom have all been drugged into submission. Changelings are relegated to servant roles and are regularly abused, and even worse, are exposed to the deadly and addictive goblin fruit which caused Toby so much trouble a few books ago. The King is a usurper who believes in Fae racial purity, and in addition to his disgusting views, he comes from a line of fae that specializes in alchemical magic — which he fuels by stealing blood and body parts from other faerie races. Ick. His deepest desire seems to be getting his hands on Toby’s blood to take advantage of the magic that’s so powerful and unique to her.

Despite being accompanied by her trusted entourage, Toby is in constant danger while in the Silences, especially once she realizes that the pretender queen she helped depose in the Mists is also there, eager for a chance to harm Toby however she can. I was practically screaming for Toby to get her people and get the hell out of there… but fortunately, Toby is much more of a hero than I’ll ever be! She knows that if her diplomatic mission fails, war will be inevitable, and war will cause far more damage to far more people than anything King Rhys can do to her directly.

So, once again, Toby ends up in terrifying, excruciatingly dangerous situations where she’s on the verge of death, and I could barely breathe. The tension and suspense are killer. On the positive side, I love seeing Toby and Tybalt continue to deepen the bond between them. Their love is strong, passionate, and durable, and because of his love for Toby, we see some unexpectedly tender and vulnerable sides to Tybalt. I also really enjoy Toby’s relationship with her teen squire Quentin, who’s a sort-of son to Toby. Seeing their mutual love and support is quite touching. Toby has managed to create a family out of the disparate people who’ve entered her orbit, and while it’s an unconventional family, their trust, support, and unconditional love make it very real.

As with all October Daye books, the writing in A Red-Rose Chain is clever and funny (when not being utterly horrifying and bloody):

I’d never been in a knowe this size with so little decoration. It was like Rhys had ordered the whole thing from Castles R Us, and then never bothered to swing by the local Bed, Battlements, and Beyond for the accessories he’d need to make it believable.

“It is a pity you cannot, as you say, introduce a thing that is not present into the blood. I would beg you to come and be a cat with me, and leave this terrible way of doing thing behind.”

I have charged headlong into portals, sealed lands of Faerie, and experienced more dangers than any one woman can reasonably be expected to both encounter and survive. I sighed, and stepped into the quaint little forest cottage.

“Huh,” I said a moment later. “It’s bigger on the inside.”

 

Wrapping it all up:

I loved A Red-Rose Chain. The adventure in this chapter of the ongoing saga is pulse-pounding, dramatic, and full of dire implications for the future — but it also moves the overall narrative of the series forward in a way that creates new possibilities. An ongoing problem in Faerie has finally been solved, but I’m sure that will lead to new complications down the road. Toby continues to build alliances and earn the trust of powerful people, but she makes enemies as well. I can’t wait to see what comes next… and hope we get that wedding with the King of Cats sometime soon!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

The Monday Check-In ~ 3/19/2018

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

I’m back! My husband and I just spent five glorious days in gorgeous Bora Bora in celebration of our 20th wedding anniversary. Sunshine, crystal blue water, and utter relaxation. Sigh. It’s a little tough to return to reality.

What did I read during the last two weeks?

Since I skipped last week’s Monday Check-in, I have two weeks’ worth of reading to report in on. Not surprisingly, I spent a lot of time reading while on vacation. (Thank heavens for husbands who read too!) As I’m in the middle of a series obsession, pretty much everything I read was from the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire:

I just can’t stop reading these books. I’m so in love with the world and the characters, and there’s just no hope for me until I’m completely caught up. Eight books down, three to go! Check out my thoughts on books 5 – 7 and book 8, plus comments on short stories from the Toby-verse too.

Fresh Catch:

I purchased a copy of the hardcover edition of Mira Grant’s Final Girls, which I’d read previously as an e-book.

The hardcover is a signed, limited edition, and I love it.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

No big shocker here — onward I go with October Daye! I’m now on book #9, A Red-Rose Chain.

Now playing via audiobook:

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle: I’m close to the end of the audiobook, and to be honest, I’m not especially loving it. Maybe it’s the audio format, or maybe it’s the fact that the story doesn’t have the magic for me that it did when I was a child — either way, listening to the audiobook has been an okay but not great experience.

Ongoing reads:

Book group reads:

  • Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade by Diana Gabaldon: Outlander Book Club is doing a group read of LJ&BotB, two chapters per week. If you’d like to join in, ask me how!
  • Classic read: My book group’s current classic read is Middlemarch by George Eliot.  We’re reading and discussing two chapters per week… so I’ll be reading Middlemarch for months and months to come.

So many books, so little time…

boy1Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Series check-in: October Daye, book 8 (The Winter Long)… and a few more short stories

Continuing my mad dash through Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series, today I bring you some thoughts on the 8th book, The Winter Long, as well as an overview of a few more of the Toby short stories.

Warning: Spoilers ahead! I can’t possibly talk about these books without referring to some plot elements, and since this is an ongoing series, it’ll be impossible to avoid spoilers for earlier works. You have been warned!

Book #8: The Winter Long

For once, it seems like the Kingdom of the Mists has reached a point of, if not perfection, at least relative peace. Queen Arden Windermere is getting settled on her family’s throne; no one’s going to war with anyone else; it’s almost like everything is going to be okay. Even October “Toby” Daye is starting to relax her constant vigilance, allowing herself to think about the future, and what it might entail.

And then Simon Torquill comes back, and everything begins to fall apart. In Faerie, nothing stays buried forever. No matter how much you might want it to.

My thoughts: All Toby is good Toby, but I have to say that I didn’t love The Winter Long quite as much as some of the other books in the series. Just to be clear, that simply means that I’d give this one 4 (or maybe 4.5) stars, rather than 5. I still loved it, but it’s not quite on par with some of the best of the best.

In The Winter Long, Toby’s hated tormentor Simon Torquill is back. Simon is the man who turned Toby into a fish years ago (yes, a fish), resulting in her spending 14 years trapped in a pond, under his spell, and subsequently losing the human family who meant so much to her. Simon’s return can mean nothing good, and yet he seems to be trying (awkwardly) to help Toby, or to at least warn her about a looming threat. As Toby quickly learns, both Simon and her trustworthy ally the Luidaeg are under a geas (magical binding) that prevents them from giving certain key pieces of information to Toby. Meanwhile, Toby learns about a crucial secret that her trusted liege Sylvester has been keeping from her, and ends up — again — covered in blood, with her life in danger. Of course, Toby covered in blood is pretty much a daily event, but things seem especially dire this time around.

Okay, can’t say more about the plot without giving away the major secret here, so I’ll just say that once again, there’s an excellent (and dangerous) adventure, and once again, we get to see Toby charge into action with Tybalt by her side. I’m completely gaga when it comes to Toby and Tybalt, and seeing their love deepen and strengthen with each passing book is one of the true pleasures of the series.

As I said, the overarching storyline of The Winter Long didn’t quite seem as dire or breathtaking as in some of the other books (especially #7, Chimes at Midnight), but it’s enjoyable all the same. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how much I love the writing in these books. Seanan McGuire does world-building, spell-casting, and action sequences incredibly well, but she’s also a master of cute and quippy lines and dialogue. Here are a few choice selections from The Winter Long:

“Once again you underestimate my ability to move you, while simultaneously overestimating your ability not to be moved.”

It was the middle of the day, an hour when all good fae were snug in their beds like happy little monsters.

“I’m not sure how relationships are commonly conducted in this modern age, but I am absolutely certain that a proper suitor does not leave his lady to be turned into a fish because she would feel more ‘comfortable’ were he elsewhere.”

Short stories:

I read a few more of the Toby-verse short stories:

Heaps of Pearl is pretty darn adorable — it’s the meet-cute story of Patrick Lorden and Dianda of Saltmist, who we first meet in One Salt Sea. In Heaps of Pearl, we get to see how the land-based Patrick, a bored tinkerer with a meaningless title, meets Dianda, soon to be Duchess of Saltmist, an undersea kingdom. The unlikely pair hate royal gatherings, and find themselves to be kindred spirits as they hide from a fancy ball in pursuit of sandwiches in the palace kitchen. It’s a very sweet story, available as a free download via the author’s website, here.

Never Shines the Sun is included in the print edition of Chimes at Midnight, and is a brief story of the Luidaeg’s early encounter with a very young Toby, and how this encounter led to Toby’s introduction to Faerie. I enjoyed seeing the Luidaeg’s POV, especially during her interactions with Amandine. This story can probably be read at any point after about book 5 or so in the series.

Full of Briars is a longer story (44 pages), available as a stand-alone e-book. Toby’s teen-aged squire Quentin is the narrator of Full of Briars, and we see his perspective as he faces a truly daunting challenge — standing up to his parents. It’s cute and sweet, and quite fun to see Toby, Tybalt and the others through Quentin’s eyes. Chronologically, it comes right after book #7, Chimes at Midnight — don’t read it any sooner!

Wrapping it all up:

I feel like I should apologize to anyone who reads my blog and expects me to talk about anything other than October Daye, because clearly that just isn’t happening! I love these books, and won’t be coming up for air until I finish #11… and then I’ll probably be busy obsessing over the wait until September and the release of #12.

And if you’ve stuck with my ramblings this far, but haven’t try this series yet — well, what else do I need to do to convince you?

But, seriously, thanks for bearing with me while I fangirl over October Daye. More to come!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save