Series check-in: October Daye, books 5 – 7, plus some short stories too!

October Daye, the character, and October Daye, the series, both keep improving with each passing book. I’ve fallen hopelessly under the spell of this spectacular urban fantasy series, and there’s no escape for me! At this point, I’ll just have to keep moving forward until I’ve read them all — and then I can join the legions of fans waiting for the next book in the series to be released.

Over the past week or so, I’ve read three more novels in the series, plus four pieces of shorter fiction that add to the series overall and provide some backstory for beloved characters.

In this series wrap-up, I’ll include the synopsis for each book or story, plus a few thoughts of my own. 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 #5: One Salt Sea

October “Toby” Daye is finally doing all right—and that inevitably means it’s time for things to take a turn for the worse. Someone has kidnapped the sons of the Duchess Dianda Lorden, regent of the Undersea Duchy of Saltmist. To prevent a war between land and sea, Toby must not only find the missing boys, but also prove that the Queen of the Mists was not behind their abduction. She’ll need all her tricks and the help of her allies if she wants to make it through this in one piece.

Toby’s search will take her from the streets of San Francisco to the lands beneath the waves. But someone is determined to stop her—and whoever it is isn’t playing by Oberon’s Laws. As the battle grows more and more personal, one thing is chillingly clear. When Faerie goes to war, not everyone will walk away.

My thoughts: October (Toby) can’t have an uneventful life for long, so naturally she gets pulled into an impending war between the kingdoms of land and undersea. There’s action, heroism, and sacrifice — just what we expect from Toby. This series continues strong, with deeper emotional tolls related to Toby’s quest. There’s a development in Toby’s romantic life that I wasn’t crazy about, but that’s probably just because I’m on a different ship altogether. While the romance ends in tragedy, there’s an opportunity for a new chapter in Toby’s love life to unfold in the future. Sadly, Toby also reaches an end (or so it would seem) in terms of the potential for her to have a relationship with her estranged, mortal daughter. All in all, I really enjoyed One Salt Sea, which provides answers to some of the ongoing mysteries, but leaves plenty still to explore in future volumes in the series. The introduction of the undersea is a fabulous addition to Toby’s world, with new settings, characters, and complications. I love how Seanan McGuire continues to find ways to broaden the scope of the kingdoms we know with each volume in the series.

Book 6: Ashes of Honor

 

It’s been almost a year since October “Toby” Daye averted a war, gave up a county, and suffered personal losses that have left her wishing for a good day’s sleep. She’s tried to focus on her responsibilities—training Quentin, upholding her position as Sylvester’s knight, and paying the bills—but she can’t help feeling like her world is crumbling around her, and her increasingly reckless behavior is beginning to worry even her staunchest supporters.

To make matters worse, Toby’s just been asked to find another missing child…only this time it’s the changeling daughter of her fellow knight, Etienne, who didn’t even know he was a father until the girl went missing. Her name is Chelsea. She’s a teleporter, like her father. She’s also the kind of changeling the old stories warn about, the ones with all the strength and none of the control. She’s opening doors that were never meant to be opened, releasing dangers that were sealed away centuries before—and there’s a good chance she could destroy Faerie if she isn’t stopped.

Now Toby must find Chelsea before time runs out, racing against an unknown deadline and through unknown worlds as she and her allies try to avert disaster. But danger is also stirring in the Court of Cats, and Tybalt may need Toby’s help with the biggest challenge he’s ever faced.

Toby thought the last year was bad. She has no idea.

My thoughts: Ashes of Honor provides another excellent adventure for Toby, and marks a turning point for her in terms of her private life and looking toward the future. The kidnapping plotline provides for interesting challenges, and by the end, (SPOILER) Toby and Tybalt take a major set forward. Since I adore Tybalt, and I love Toby and Tybalt together, my poor little heart was beating faster and faster during the final chapters. The adventure at the center of Ashes of Honor didn’t grab me as much as the action in some of the other books, but all in all, it was another terrific read.

Book 7: Chimes at Midnight

 

Things are starting to look up for October “Toby” Daye. She’s training her squire, doing her job, and has finally allowed herself to grow closer to the local King of Cats. It seems like her life may finally be settling down…at least until dead changelings start appearing in the alleys of San Francisco, killed by an overdose of goblin fruit.

Toby’s efforts to take the problem to the Queen of the Mists are met with harsh reprisals, leaving her under sentence of exile from her home and everyone she loves. Now Toby must find a way to reverse the Queens decree, get the goblin fruit off the streets–and, oh, yes, save her own life, since more than a few of her problems have once again followed her home. And then there’s the question of the Queen herself, who seems increasingly unlikely to have a valid claim to the throne….

To find the answers, October and her friends will have to travel from the legendary Library of Stars into the hidden depths of the Kingdom of the Mists–and they’ll have to do it fast, because time is running out. In faerie, some fates are worse than death.

October Daye is about to find out what they are.

My thoughts: I had so much anxiety reading this book that I thought my heart would stop! I have never — seriously, never — been quite so tempted to flip to the end of a book just to make sure that the people I care about would all be okay. The fact that I was reading on a Kindle is probably all that stopped me. If I’d had a paperback in hand, it would have been too tempting to resist! I was so over-the-top worried about Toby in this book — becoming forcibly addicted to deadly goblin fruit, losing almost all of her fae nature and powers, facing exile and the possible loss of her place in Faerie — the anxiety was so hard to take! At the same time, the plot was fantastic. I love Toby to death, and I love her gang of allies and sidekicks, and seeing them undertake no less daunting a quest than overthrowing a reigning queen is truly amazing. I couldn’t put this book down — I just loved it so much.

And I need to add that one of the awesome things about having an author set a book series in the town where you live is not just seeing familiar landscapes — which happens all the time for me in this San Francisco-based series — but seeing the author include actual people from real life! In this book, Seanan McGuire makes my favorite bookstore, Borderlands Books, an important part of the plot, and includes the bookstore’s manager as a character, which is just so incredibly cool! Borderlands is an amazing place, and it’s made the news in all sorts of interesting ways in the past few years, as the owner developed a new business model as a means of keeping the store afloat against the odds. It’s worth reading about – here’s an article about it. And yes, the bookstore cat (to whom Tybalt has quite a reaction) is real too:

Ripley of Borderlands

Short stories:

In Sea-Salt Tears is a beautiful, sad story about the Luidaeg, one of Toby’s dearest allies and one of the most powerful beings in Faerie. In Sea-Salt Tears should be read after book #5 (One Salt Sea) and not before, as it provides the back-story just hinted at in the 5th book. The Luideag is a mysterious character whom I’ve loved since meeting her in book #1, and it was a treat to get to learn more about pivotal years in her life before Toby came along.


I really loved Rat-Catcher, which introduces us to a young Tybalt back before he was King of Cats. Tybalt is one of my favorite characters, and I loved getting to see his youth in London (Londinium), escaping the cruelties of his father’s court by hiding out in theater rafters watching productions of the latest Shakepearean play.

In Forbid the Sea, we see a lonely Tybalt about 10 years after taking the throne as King of Cats. In this story, Tybalt enters into a brief dalliance with a Selkie who seems to be hiding dangerous secrets. It’s a brief story, with an unavoidably sad ending.

No Sooner Met is set soon after the events of Ashes of Honor (book #6 in the main series), and focuses on Tybalt’s attempt to take Toby out on a special date. Because this is Tybalt and Toby we’re talking about, things go haywire pretty quickly. It’s fun and amusing, and I enjoyed seeing the story told from Tybalt’s POV.

Where to find the stories: Rat-Catcher was released in the anthology Fantasy Medley 2 from Subterranean Press, which is no longer available to purchase in print. However, the story is also included in Lightspeed Magazine, Issue 70 (March 2016), available for e-book purchase here. In Sea-Salt TearsForbid the Sea, and No Sooner Met are available as free e-book downloads via the author’s website, here.

Wrapping it all up:

Can you tell yet that I’m in love? Oh, maybe because I come right out and say so with every other breath? The October Daye series is amazing — definitely must-read books for urban fantasy fans. I did not expect to get this involved and emotionally invested when I picked up the first in the series (Rosemary and Rue, reviewed here).

Yes, there are still some unanswered questions, and areas of Toby’s life that I wish were explored more deeply. However, the fact that I don’t know everything yet just shows that there’s lots more to come!

I’m now about mid-way through book 8, with three more novels left to go until I’m all caught up! And then I’ll be yet another desperate fangirl anxiously counting the days until the release of book #12 in the fall.

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October Daye, book 4: Late Eclipses


October “Toby” Daye, changeling knight in the service of Duke Sylvester Torquill, finds the delicate balance of her life shattered when she learns that an old friend is in dire trouble. Lily, Lady of the Tea Gardens, has been struck down by a mysterious, seemingly impossible illness, leaving her fiefdom undefended. Struggling to find a way to save Lily and her subjects, Toby must confront her own past as an enemy she thought was gone forever raises her head once more: Oleander de Merelands, one of the two people responsible for her fourteen-year exile.

Time is growing short and the stakes are getting higher, for the Queen of the Mists has her own agenda. With everything on the line, Toby will have to take the ultimate risk to save herself and the people she loves most—because if she can’t find the missing pieces of the puzzle in time, Toby will be forced to make the one choice she never thought she’d have to face again…

 

Another “fantastic” entry in this captivating urban fantasy series!

Warning: Expect a lot more October Daye posts in the next few weeks, because I’m hooked, and I probably won’t read anything else until I get through ALL of the available books.

I’m really loving October Daye as a character, and the world of the October Daye series as a whole. Late Eclipses is another great installment, with some really dark and dire happenings. An old enemy of Toby’s seems determined to set her up in the worst way possible, leading to attempted assassinations, the death of one of Toby’s closest allies and friends, and Toby’s own life appearing to be forfeit as punishment for crimes she didn’t commit.

Luckily, Toby being Toby, she doesn’t give up without a fight, and the friends and allies she’s made along the way give her the support she needs to take a stand and save more than just her own life.

The action is non-stop, but there’s still time for character development for Toby, as well as the continuing development of the attraction and deepening connections with two different potential love interests. The plot is completely engrossing, and I read like a madwoman until all hours of the night. I could not stop until I finished!

Clearly, I’m falling in love with this series, deeper and deeper, as I go along. As with the best urban fantasy series, this one gets more complex as it goes along, with mysteries, backstories, and relationships all developing in new and different ways with each subsequent installment.

Late Eclipses is a terrific read, and despite my heart-broken tears over the loss of a favorite character, I loved it from start to finish. Onward to #5!

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The details:

Title: Late Eclipses (October Daye, #4)
Author: Seanan McGuire
Publisher: DAW
Publication date: March 1, 2011
Length: 372 pages
Genre: Urban fantasy
Source: Library

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Series check-in: October Daye, books 2 & 3


October Daye is the main character in Seanan McGuire’s ongoing urban fantasy series (conveniently known as the October Daye series), which is set mainly in the San Francisco Bay Area (yay!) and includes all sorts of full-blood and mixed-blood denizens of the world of Faerie. October — Toby — is half fae, half human; in this world, someone of mixed blood is called a changeling, and Toby exemplifies the complicated lives that changelings lead: She has some magical abilities, but they tend to take a toll on her physically. She can’t pass for human without casting an illusion, but she doesn’t belong fully in the Summerlands — the lands of faerie beyond the mortal world.

Toby is also a hero, much as she might dislike the label. As a sworn knight to her liege lord Sylvester, ruler of Shadowed Hills, she fights on his behalf and rights wrongs when needed, usually putting herself into grave danger along the way.

The series kicks off with Rosemary & Rue (reviewed here), a book that sets the stage in terms of world-building. I’ve now read books 2 and 3 in the series (both published 2010), and can (happily) report that the story continues to be fun and exciting and even a little bit heart-breaking along the way.

In A Local Habitation, Toby is sent by Sylvester to investigate an odd situation in the neighboring land ruled by his niece, which happens to be situated on top of/alongside Fremont, California, right in Silicon Valley. The land in question is housed inside a tech company. Weird, right? Something is going on inside the cubicles besides office politics, and what should have been a relatively simple visit turns into a deadly hunt for a killer. And naturally, Toby’s own life is on the line alongside everyone else’s.

In An Artificial Night, fae and human children are stolen by Blind Michael’s wild hunt, and Toby is the only one with a shot at rescuing them before they’re permanently changed into damaged creatures bound to the Ride. The story is quite dark, both because it’s children at risk and because the danger to Toby seems inescapably fatal. The odds of her returning from her travels into Blind Michael’s lands are slim to none, and as the book progresses, it’s harder and harder to believe that Toby will survive.

Of course, I’m well aware that there are another 8 or 9 books in the series so far, and seeing how it’s Toby’s series, I never quite believed that she stood any chance of dying. Still, she gets hurt in the most creative ways in each book, and it’s a wonder that this woman can still stand, much less breathe, by the end.

I’m thoroughly enjoying Toby as a character as well as the stories overall. The supporting characters are quite delightful, especially Sylvester and his wife Luna; Lily, the undine who presides over the Japanese Tea Gardens in Golden Gate Park; Quentin, the teen-aged pureblood learning to be a knight; and the one who stands the best chance of becoming everyone’s book boyfriend, Tybalt, the smirking, dangerous, and sexy King of Cats. (Note: He’s not a cat. He’s a Cait Sidhe, which according to the October Daye Wiki, are “cat shapeshifters. They are ruled by no court but their own after petitioning Oberon for independence. They control the forgotten places and walk the shadows. The Cait Sidhe live in loose alliances called Courts, which each answer to a single King or Queen. The rulers ascend by a trial of combat.”

I’m assuming that Tybalt is the slow-burn love interest of the series, although so far there’s just some unacknowledged chemistry between him and Toby. I’m betting that their simmering interactions will get hotter and hotter as the books progress. (But if you’ve read the books, don’t tell me if I’m right!)

I do still have some unanswered questions about Toby’s backstory and how she came to be Sylvester’s knight in the first place, and it seems like there’s still a lot more to learn about Toby’s mother — especially since fae folk refer to Toby as “Amandine’s daughter” constantly, as if this has great meaning.

This being an urban fantasy series, some of the more predictable elements are really more issues with UF tropes than complaints about the series. Things like Toby being in danger every time she turns around, Toby always being the one to battle the bad guys, even though she has less power than the purebloods, Toby having some sort of undefined mystique in the fae world, and the plethora of enemies who want to do her in. And of course, the fact that as the main character, we know that she’ll come out okay in the end.

The language and terminology and speech patterns used in the books in quite fun, but I am getting a little tired of Toby’s constant use of either “Root and Branch!” or “Oak and Ash!” as interjections. (Yes, they’re kind of cute, but Toby says them A LOT.)

That being said, it’s definitely exciting to see Toby come to turns with past hurts, build alliances, and face the reality of her role as a hero. I’m dying to see what happens next, and will definitely be continuing the series.

I’ve been listening to the audiobooks so far (hence any misspellings of character/creature/place names in this post — sorry!), and have loved the narration by Mary Robinette Kowal. Unfortunately, my library doesn’t have audio versions of the next few books in the series, so I’ll be switching to paper. I’ll miss the great voices and accents, but on the plus side, I’ll probably be able to move through the books a lot faster.

If you’re an urban fantasy fan, definitely check out the October Daye series! It’s fast-paced, exciting, and with plenty of twists and turns to keep you reading for hours on end.

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Shelf Control #111: The Replacement

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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Title: The Replacement
Author: Brenna Yovanoff
Published: 2010
Length: 343 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Mackie Doyle is not one of us. Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, he comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement, left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood, and consecrated ground, Mackie is fighting to survive in the human world.

Mackie would give anything to live among us, to practice on his bass or spend time with his crush, Tate. But when Tate’s baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably into the underworld of Gentry, known as Mayhem. He must face the dark creatures of the Slag Heaps and find his rightful place, in our world, or theirs.

How and when I got it:

I really have no idea. I probably picked up my copy at a library sale, but it’s been long enough that I don’t remember actually buying it.

Why I want to read it:

Okay, number one? That cover! I mean, creepy — right? I’m pretty sure I grabbed a copy based on the cover alone, but the description sounds aewesome too. I’ve read other stories about changelings traded for human children, and they’re never not scary.

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

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Audiobook Review: Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire


October “Toby” Daye, a changeling who is half human and half fae, has been an outsider from birth. After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the Faerie world, retreating to a “normal” life. Unfortunately for her, the Faerie world has other ideas…

The murder of Countess Evening Winterrose pulls Toby back into the fae world. Unable to resist Evening’s dying curse, which binds her to investigate, Toby must resume her former position as knight errant and renew old alliances. As she steps back into fae society, dealing with a cast of characters not entirely good or evil, she realizes that more than her own life will be forfeited if she cannot find Evening’s killer.

Rosemary and Rue  is the first book in the ongoing October Daye series — and as the first book, it has a lot of heavy lifting to do, in terms of establishing characters, building a world, and setting up the rules of the supernatural system that dictates the possibilities of plot from the starting point onward. Fortunately, Seanan McGuire is supremely talented and inventive, and in Rosemary and Rue, she’s more than up to the challenge of creating a world we’ll want to stay in.

Set in and around San Francisco, R&R starts with a pretty ominous set-up for Toby (October) in the prologue. While chasing her liege lord’s enemy (who’s also his twin brother), Toby walks into a trap and loses the next fourteen years of her life. I won’t say why or how — it’s just too much fun to find out for yourself.

We re-meet Toby in chapter one after she’s returned to a version of her former life, having sworn off anything to do with the world of the fae, determined to live as simply human and ignore the other half of her changeling identity. She’s been burned too badly and has lost far too much to be able to stomach the idea of returning to the intricate systems of fae courts and allegiances and territories. But Evening’s murder sucks her back in against her will, and soon enough Toby is brought face to face with old allies, lovers, and enemies. Her own life is on the line as she tries to solve the murder. If she fails, Evening’s dying curse will take Toby’s life as well.

The plot of R&R follows Toby’s search for clues and her reinvolvement with characters from her past, some well-meaning, some clearly not. As a changeling, Toby’s magical abilities are only so-so, and each time she engages with a pureblood, she’s at risk. As you’d expect in an  urban fantasy series, Toby is a smart-ass, tough woman with her own set of abilities, not least a talent for thinking on her feet, reading a room, and figuring out how to get what she wants. Still, she has vulnerabilities too, both physical and emotional, and she certainly suffers throughout the book as all sorts of baddies are out to get her and stop her investigation.

I love Toby as a character, and love the odd assortment of changelings and purebloods we meet along the way. Also excellent is the use of San Francisco as a setting. While some of the location descriptions didn’t quite gel with the reality of the area, others (such as the use of the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park) are just brilliant.

I have to give a shout-out to the most endearing and adorable magical creature in the book, a “rose goblin” named Spike. Picture a cat with thorns instead of fur, and you have the basic idea. Just loved it.

I did wish that Toby’s backstory was spelled out in a little more concrete detail. As with many urban fantasy stories, we start in the middle of the action and learn about Toby’s difficult past through various references as we go along. It’s enough to give a general timeline, but I still have questions. What does it mean that she’s a knight? What was the process to become one? How did she first join Sylvester’s court? Maybe future volumes in the series will provide more specifics.

Even thought the solution to the murder wasn’t that difficult to guess, I still enjoyed the revelations, Toby’s realizations about the various people in her life, and the reasons behind the events. The plot is fast-paced and exciting, and I enjoyed the adventure start to finish.

Narrator Mary Robinette Kowal brings her talents to the variety of characters, with accents and intonations and pitches that distinguish them and make it easy to identify the speaker at any given point — not always easy in audiobooks. As with the Indexing books, she does a great job of making the story flow, and I enjoyed her depiction of Toby’s inner life.

Rosemary and Rue was really a fun listen, and I’m planning on diving right in with book #2.

Note: Woo hoo! I’ve started another series from my reading goals list for 2018!
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The details:

Title: Rosemary and Rue
Author: Seanan McGuire
Narrator: Mary Robinette Kowal
Publisher: DAW Books
Publication date: September 1, 2009
Length (print): 346 pages
Length (audiobook): 11 hours, 20 minutes
Genre: Urban fantasy
Source: Purchased

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Take A Peek Book Review: Roses and Rot

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.

Roses and Rot

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

Imogen and her sister Marin have escaped their cruel mother to attend a prestigious artists’ retreat, but soon learn that living in a fairy tale requires sacrifices, be it art or love.

What would you sacrifice in the name of success? How much does an artist need to give up to create great art?

Imogen has grown up reading fairy tales about mothers who die and make way for cruel stepmothers. As a child, she used to lie in bed wishing that her life would become one of these tragic fairy tales because she couldn’t imagine how a stepmother could be worse than her mother now. As adults, Imogen and her sister Marin are accepted to an elite post-grad arts program—Imogen as a writer and Marin as a dancer. Soon enough, though, they realize that there’s more to the school than meets the eye. Imogen might be living in the fairy tale she’s dreamed about as a child, but it’s one that will pit her against Marin if she decides to escape her past to find her heart’s desire.

 

My Thoughts:

If a book has haunting imagery and some terrific passages, is that enough to get past a plot that doesn’t quite make sense? Perhaps not. In Roses and Rot, we follow two adult sisters who are accepted into an elite and mysterious artists’ retreat for a year. Imogen and Marin have lived apart for years, but their residency at Melete offers them a chance to both hone their art and mend their relationship.

Which all sounds terrific, but there’s more. The school borders Faerie, and the artists who achieve the stunning success that Melete is famous for do so at a cost. Imogen and Marin both want the guaranteed flourishing of talent that will come if they pay the price, but according to the twisted Fae rules, only one can be chosen.

Meanwhile, they and the other artists work and live in a dreamlike setting, with magical fairs popping up from time to time, when the borders between worlds become porous and the Fae walk freely among the humans across the campus.

Everyone seems to accept the existence of the Fae and the odd rules and opportunities without more than a blink of an eye. Imogen and Marin come to Melete with no knowledge of any of this, but they just fall right into it as if it were normal. Imogen has been fascinated by fairy tales her entire life, finding in them an escape from their horribly abusive mother, but it seems to me that it should have been a much bigger leap to accept the fantastic as real. The entire retreat, not to mention the lure of the Fae promises, makes even less sense for Marin, who already has a promising career in ballet just starting to take off when she enrolls in this voluntary seclusion for the year of her residency.

The story is kind of all over the place. I enjoyed the relationship between the sisters, and was moved (and horrified) by the memories of their mother’s incredible cruelty. The interplay between the artists’ success and the debt to Faerie just didn’t particularly work for me. There are pieces that made little or no sense, and some storylines that seem to drop in and then out again without much reason.

Overall, this is a book that includes some lovely writing, but the plot itself lost me somewhere along the way, and the characters seemed more like types than actual people. I just didn’t get swept up, and I think the success of the book as a whole depends on how much you can get lost in the atmosphere of the storytelling.

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The details:

Title: Roses and Rot
Author: Kat Howard
Publisher: Saga Press
Publication date: May 17, 2016
Length: 336 pages
Genre: Fantasy/contemporary/adult
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Shelf Control #5: The Uncertain Places

Shelves final

Welcome to the newest weekly feature here at Bookshelf Fantasies… Shelf Control!

Shelf Control is all about the books we want to read — and already own! Consider this a variation of a Wishing & Waiting post… but looking at books already available, and in most cases, sitting right there on our shelves and e-readers.

Want to join in? See the guidelines and linky at the bottom of the post, and jump on board! Let’s take control of our shelves!

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My Shelf Control pick this week is:

Uncertain PlacesTitle: The Uncertain Places
Author: Lisa Goldstein
Published: 2011
Length: 237 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

In this long-awaited new novel from American Book Award winner Lisa Goldstein, an ages-old family secret breaches the boundaries between reality and magic, revealing the places between them.

When Berkeley student Will Taylor is introduced by his best friend, Ben, to the mysterious Feierabend sisters, Will quickly falls for enigmatic Livvy, a chemistry major and accomplished chef. But Livvy’s family—vivacious actress Maddie, family historian Rose, and their mother, absent-minded Sylvia—are behaving strangely. The Feierabend women believe that luck is their handmaiden, and so it is, almost as though they are living in a fairy tale.

But the price for such gifts is extremely high. Will and Ben will unravel the riddle of a supernatural bargain, hoping to save Livvy from what appears to be an inescapable fate.

How I got it:

I bought it.

When I got it:

Several years ago.

Why I want to read it:

I read a review of this book shortly after its release, and the reviewer absolutely raved about how great it is. I picked up a copy on my next visit to a bookstore, but somehow ended up shelving it and never picking it up again. I still think it sounds like something I’d love!

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link below!
  • And if you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and have fun!

 

For more on why I’ve started Shelf Control, check out my introductory post here, or read all about my out-of-control book inventory, here.

And if you’d like to post a Shelf Control button on your own blog, here’s an image to download (with my gratitude, of course!):

Shelf Control

Graphic Reaction: The Good Neighbors series by Holly Black

Let’s talk about the terrific trilogy I just read! Presenting…

KinKith 0-439-85564-0

Holly Black excels at creating beautiful yet dangerous faerie worlds in her novels, and here she does so in graphic novel format.

Kin, Kith, and Kind tell the story of Rue Silver, a seemingly normal high school student whose life starts falling apart when her mother disappears. When her father, a folklore professor at the local university, is accused of murdering a student, things gets decidedly weirder.

Rue sees odd visions — people with horns or wings, a creature in the tree outside her house — and remembers all the slightly bizarre things about her mother. Like, for example, how her beautiful mother never seems to age, and how she hangs out naked in the garden, and how the flowers seem to respond to her.

The truth is slowly revealed: Rue’s mother is a faerie, making Rue only half-mortal. And it turns out there’s a plot afoot: Rue’s grandfather Aubrey is a faerie king, and wants to claim the entire city as a world for his people.

These books are such fun! There’s drama and danger, romantic love, passionate encounters, and familial love and loyalty at stake. The story builds, with Rue evolving into a force to be reckoned with, the more she claims her birthright and power.

I really liked the illustrations, which are in black and white throughout the three books. Rue and her friends are all distinct and well-drawn, and I love Rue’s depiction as a cool, funky, rebellious girl, in looks as well as in actions. The inhabitants of the faerie world are visually wonderful, with wings or fangs or talons, beautiful and menacing, and each one different and unusual. The details are terrific, and I particularly love the pages with crowd scenes, where all the various denizens of faerie (or the human world) appear as individuals, even when the page is teeming with them.

The story starts small, focusing on Rue and her personal dilemmas, and grows to a much wider scale, culminating in a fight for survival between the human and faerie worlds.

These books are a quick read, and ideally should be read right in a row for peak enjoyment. I found the Good Neighbors trilogy a really nice treat after a lot of heavier reading, and recommend them as a (dare I say it?) magical diversion when you’re looking for something a bit different to spend your time with.

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The details:

Title: Kin (book 1), Kith (book 2), Kind (book 3)
Author: Holly Black
Illustrator: Ted Naifeh
Publisher: Graphix
Publication date: 2008 – 2010
Length: 128 – 144 pages
Genre: Graphic novel
Source: Library

Take A Peek Book Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought. This week’s “take a peek” book:

darkest part

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?

My Thoughts:

I find myself not quite knowing what to say about this unusual, lovely book. I love the juxtaposition of the modern world, with its IPods and high school parties, alongside the hidden world of the Folk who live in the deep, dark forest. In fact, the opening lines create such a magical aura that it’s a bit jarring to realize that this story is set in a 21st century real-world town with ordinary teens who drive cars, drink beer in the woods, go to football games, buy vintage clothing, and have all the usual rivalries, gossip, and tensions you’d see in any young adult novel.

And yet, in the town of Fairfold, residents know that there are other beings in the forest, and it’s best to be wary. Every child knows the rules, such as never saying “thank you” to a fairy or eating any food offered. It’s just tourists, flocking to what’s known as a kitschy destination with cutesy, magic-themed main street shops, who get into trouble, finding their money replaced by leaves or, in more recent years, being subjected not just to harmless pranks but to actual life-threatening danger.

Hazel and Ben have grown up with the stories and know the ropes. They’re also each crazily infatuated with the sleeping prince in the glass coffin in the woods, and have concocted all sorts of fantasies about him and his world. As the story progresses, we learn much more about Hazel and her secrets, and what she’s done to help her brother, despite all the warnings and scary-sounding rhymes.

While the book is a bit odd at first, introducing plot points as facts already known (so that I kept having to flip back and say, “wait, when did that happen?”), it eventually settles into a logic and rhythm that work. The everyday lives alongside the magical, and the writing too can veer from the commonplace to the enchanted in the blink of an eye.

I loved the strange interplay between waking life and dreams, and I especially loved how traditional fairy tale gender roles are turned on their heads. A girl is the wielder of a powerful sword, defending family and all those who need her strength. A boy can find true love by waking a sleeping prince.

Meanwhile, there are changelings, goblins, a terrifying Alderking, and a creature so consumed by the loss of her true love that she literally becomes a monster.

In The Darkest Part of the Forest, author Holly Black creates a spell-binding tale of sibling love, bravery and devotion, with language that weaves its own magical enchantment.

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The details:

Title: The Darkest Part of the Forest
Author: Holly Black
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date: January 13, 2015
Length: 336 pages
Genre: Young adult fantasy
Source: Purchased

Book Review: Unthinkable

Book Review: Unthinkable by Nancy Werlin

In this young adult novel, faerie curses have a huge impact on the lives of a human family. But will human love triumph over faerie tricks?

Unthinkable takes place in the same world as Nancy Werlin’s previous novels Impossible and Extraordinary. Given how much I loved those two books, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised to have enjoyed Unthinkable as much as I did.

In Impossible, we meet Lucy, the latest in a long line of women in the Scarborough family, doomed by a faerie curse that’s been passed down over the generations for four hundred years. The Scarborough curse binds each daughter of the family to a cruel faerie lord, Padraig, and each generation repeats the cycle of bearing a daughter, abandoning the daughter in the human world as she is condemned to Faerie, and then witnessing the enslavement of that daughter 18 years later. The curse can be broken only by the completion of three impossible tasks. Is Lucy the one who finally stands a chance at ending her family’s curse?

In Unthinkable, the focus of the story shifts to Fenella, the first of the Scarborough women to be ensnared by the faerie curse. We learn of the curse’s origins, and how the Scarborough women first fell under Padraig’s power. Now, Fenella has yet another challenge in front of her, and in order to succeed and finally eliminate Padraig’s influence for good, she may have to destroy what she values most: her own family.

Fenella is a strong but vulnerable main character. Having lived in Faerie for 400 years, she is human but sensitive to magic, and fated to live in limbo, neither fully a part of the human world nor able to die a normal, mortal death. As Fenella finds her way back to her family, she has to decide what she is willing to do in order to accomplish her goals, and just how much of a sacrifice she’s willing to make. She’s a fascinating character: The author doesn’t portray her as perfect, and we see her struggles with fear, selfishness and doubt battling with her growing urge to protect her family and shield them from pain. The more she experiences life among her human family, the more she realizes that the bargain that she’s made may have been her biggest mistake yet.

Meanwhile, Fenella’s story intersects with Lucy and the other characters we met in Impossible. I’m trying to avoid spoilers for all three books, so I won’t say much about the how or why of Fenella’s involvement with Lucy and her family. Suffice it to say, Fenella has choices to make, and her choices may impact Lucy and the rest of her family — forever.

Short version of a review? I loved Impossible and Extraordinary (which is only obliquely related, but does influence parts of this story), and I definitely was not disappointed by Unthinkable. The plot is emotionally involving and fast-moving, and I was kept guessing throughout as Fenella faces a series of obstacles and tasks to complete. Overall, I’d say Unthinkable is a terrific addition to this loosely-connected series, as well as just a really great young adult book that’s sure to appeal to readers who like a bit of magic and other-worldliness in their family dramas and love stories.

Do you need to read Impossible and Extraordinary before reading Unthinkable? This is one of those rare occasions where I think you could jump right into the most recent book and still have it make sense… but why would you want to? Impossible always makes my lists of most recommended YA fiction, and I’m happy to say that Extraordinary and Unthinkable belong on that list too.  For a haunting, compelling, and magical read, don’t miss any of these three books by Nancy Werlin.

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The details:

Title: Unthinkable
Author: Nancy Werlin
Publisher: Dial
Publication date: 2013
Genre: Young adult
Source: Purchased