2018: My year in books

2018 has had its ups and downs… but one thing has remained constant, and that’s the joy of spending time with great books. Here’s a look back at my reading life in 2018.

I love the little words of encouragement from Goodreads! My 202 books reads this past year include novellas, children’s books, audiobooks, and graphic novels, in addition to novels and a handful of non-fiction books. It’s always fun to mix things up.

 

Goodreads stats as of 12/31/2018:

I don’t particularly like that Goodreads uses “least popular” in this context. Maybe it should just be “least read”? In any case, Rat-Catcher is a story set in the Toby Daye world, I loved it immensely, and I think more people should read it!

According to my average rating, I’ve been pretty successful this year when it comes to choosing book that appeal to me:

Star rating used most often: 4 stars (83 total)
Star rating used least often: 2 stars (4 total — and I didn’t give any books only 1-star. I think if I thought that little of a book, I just DNFd.)
DNFs: 3 – I gave up on three different books this year — one science fiction, one fantasy, and one historical fiction. With the historical fiction, I just wasn’t in the mood at that moment (and needed to return it to the library). For the other two, the tone of the writing simply didn’t work for me, and I decided not to push myself to continue something I wasn’t enjoying.

First and Last on Goodreads:

Interestingly (or not), my first and last (and bunches of others) were re-reads. I’ve definitely become fond of re-reading the previous book in a series right before the newest gets released. What can I say? I value a good refresher.

Highlights from my series reading:

2018 was the year of the series for me. I started the year with some idea of a few series I wanted to try — and was happy to discover that I picked some great ones! My best series reads this year were:

The October Daye series by Seanan McGuire: 12 novels, plus all sorts of related novellas and short stories.

Newsflesh by Mira Grant: 4 novels and a collection of stories.

From the world of Tortall by Tamora Pierce: I read three quartets and a duology (and am now reading the first book in a trilogy), for a total of 14 books set in Pierce’s amazing fantasy world.

Old Man’s War by John Scalzi: 6 novels

Eye-candy covers:

Let me just take a minute to appreciate some of the most beautiful and/or eye-catching covers from my reading this year… because who doesn’t love a great looking book?

 

But wait! What were my favorite books of the year?

It’s too hard to narrow down! It’s like choosing my favorite child! But, okay, if I must… I’m working on my Top Ten list for tomorrow, when I’ll finally have my list whittled down to just 10 (or so) books that I loved to pieces in 2018. Stay tuned!

An early look: October Daye, book 12 — Night and Silence by Seanan McGuire

I am beyond thrilled to have received an ARC of the newest, soon-to-be-released book in the October Daye urban fantasy series. Thank you, NetGalley and DAW Books! October Daye continues to be at the absolute top of my list of ongoing series (and October herself is definitely a favorite hero) — read on to find out why!

Things are not okay.

In the aftermath of Amandine’s latest betrayal, October “Toby” Daye’s fragile self-made family is on the verge of coming apart at the seams. Jazz can’t sleep, Sylvester doesn’t want to see her, and worst of all, Tybalt has withdrawn from her entirely, retreating into the Court of Cats as he tries to recover from his abduction. Toby is floundering, unable to help the people she loves most heal. She needs a distraction. She needs a quest.

What she doesn’t need is the abduction of her estranged human daughter, Gillian. What she doesn’t need is to be accused of kidnapping her own child by her ex-boyfriend and his new wife, who seems to be harboring secrets of her own. There’s no question of whether she’ll take the case. The only question is whether she’s emotionally prepared to survive it.

Signs of Faerie’s involvement are everywhere, and it’s going to take all Toby’s nerve and all her allies to get her through this web of old secrets, older hatreds, and new deceits. If she can’t find Gillian before time runs out, her own child will pay the price. One question remains:

Who in Faerie remembered Gillian existed? And what do they stand to gain? No matter how this ends, Toby’s life will never be the same.

Seanan McGuire never fails to amaze me… and to wreak utter havoc with my emotions. Night and Silence is a strong addition to the October Daye series, with new twists and turns and some totally startling revelations and developments. How many series can get to book #12 with no signs of slowing or slumping? The October Daye series has always been excellent, and this new book lives up to all the rest.

Since this is a pre-release review, I’m going to be vague about just about everything. I know I’d hate to discover spoilers before the book even comes out, so I’ll be discreet, I promise! If you’re reading this review, chances are more than good that you’re a Toby fan, and that you’re panting (and maybe drooling a bit) to find out what happens next, after that doozy of an ending from book #11, The Brightest Fell.

As the synopsis above makes clear, things are NOT okay at the beginning of this book. Toby and Tybalt are more or less estranged, since Tybalt is suffering serious trauma after his ordeal at the hands of Amandine in book #11. And this just breaks my heart. I love the two of them together, and I love Tybalt as an individual. It hurts to see him suffering, and it hurts to see Toby suffering from his distance and her inability to reach him and help him.

When Gillian is kidnapped and Toby springs into action, it brings her back into contact with both the humans from her past and some nefarious folks from the fae part of her life too. Still, it’s great to see Toby on a mission, and to see her allies rallying round to back her up and give her their support.

There are some MAJOR reveals, including the answer to a question that’s bugged me almost from the start of the series. But see, I’m being discreet, so I won’t even say what the question is, much less the answer.

The hunt for the kidnappers and the outcome are not what anyone would expect. Let’s leave it at that. The ending of this book is a game-changer, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

It’s startling to me to realize that as of the beginning of this year, I had not yet entered the amazing world of October Daye. What a difference a few months make! I love this series to bits and pieces, and can’t recommend it highly enough! Seanan McGuire must be part Fae herself, because she spins the best magical stories. I love everything she writes, and Night and Silence is a treat. Read it! And if you haven’t read any October Daye books yet, start with Rosemary and Rue. I dare you to stop after one book!

I’ll wrap things up with a quote from the book, without providing any context, just because the dialogue in these stories always makes me smile:

“You have got to stop defusing every conversation you don’t want to have by talking like something out of a Regency romance.”

But wait, there’s more!

As an afterward to Night and Silence is the long short-story Suffer A Sea-Change. I’m not going to tell you who’s in it (okay, obviously the Luidaeg, but I’m not saying who else) or what it’s about, because anything I might say would be majorly spoilery. Suffice it to say that Suffer A Sea-Change picks up from the end point of Night and Silence, and is a fantastic side note to the main novel — absolutely not to be missed.

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: Night and Silence (October Daye, #12)
Author: Seanan McGuire
Publisher: DAW Books
Publication date: September 4, 2018
Length: 510 pages
Genre: Urban fantasy
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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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Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Could Read Again and Again and Again

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Each week, there’s a new top 10 theme — check out the host blog for a list of upcoming topics.

This week’s topic is Books I Could Re-read Forever

That’s a pretty easy topic for me. I have certain favorites that I’ve read again and again, and I’m sure I’ll continue to return to them in years to come, kind of like spending time with old friends. And writing this post has given me a good excuse to visit them all again, at least for the quick purpose of taking photos!

The books I never get tired of re-reading are:

1. The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon: I’ve read all of the books multiple times, and yet I keep going back and starting over. There’s always something new to get out of each read.

My Outlander shelf!

2. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell: I’ve read The Sparrow 3 or 4 times by now, and the emotional impact never goes away, no matter how many times I’ve read it.

3. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger: I read this book twice in a row when I first got hold of it, and have read it a couple more times since.

4. Lamb by Christopher Moore: I love all of Moore’s books, but Lamb is something really special.

5. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell: I read it several times in my teens, and have come back to it once or twice since then.

6. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: Really, all of Austen’s works could be on this list, but P&P remains the one that I’ve revisited the most.

Do I have enough editions of Pride and Prejudice? Probably not.

7. The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger: I love the world of the Parasol Protectorate, and have so much fun dipping into these books whenever I need a pick-me-up.

8. The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling: I need a good dose of Harry Potter at least every other year. There’s just nothing that compares!

9. The Mercy Thompson and Alpha & Omega books by Patricia Briggs: I love the world of Mercy so, so much. I’ve read all the books more than once, and have loved all the audiobooks as well.

10: My favorite Susanna Kearsley books: I always love her works, but I especially loved Mariana, The Rose Garden, and The Winter Sea, and would be perfectly happy re-reading those books forever.

What books do you read over and over again?

Please share your thoughts and share your links!

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Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I’m building a Book Blog Meme Directory, and need your help! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top ten authors I’ve read the most books by…

Top 10 Tuesday new

For the life of me, I could not come up with a title for this week’s TTT that didn’t end with a preposition. Sigh.

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Ten Authors I’ve Read The Most Books From. Last July, we did a similar topic (my post is here), focusing on the top ten authors whose books we own — but owning books doesn’t necessarily mean we’ve read them!

This topic was fun to work on, especially since I got to be an Excel geek for a bit. I exported my Goodreads books, sorted the books I’ve actually read, and then did a count by author. So my list is guaranteed to be 100% accurate because numbers.

For anyone who reads my blog from time to time, I don’t think you’ll find any major surprises, given which books and authors I tend to rave about.

My top SEVEN novelists are:

24 books:

Jim Butcher! That number surprised me — but I guess that’s what happens when you get hooked on a long, ongoing series like the Dresden Files books. And, I loved the Codex Alera series too. Kudos to Jim Butcher — top of my list!

22 books:

Charlaine Harris: Okay, it kind of makes me cringe to have these books so high on my list, but the numbers don’t lie! Here’s a case where I should have quit reading when I stopped enjoying a series, but instead kept going to see if it would have a great ending. (It didn’t.) Between the Sookie Stackhouse series and the Harper Connelly books (which I thought were pretty good), that adds up to a big heap of books that I’ve read.

19 books:

Diana Gabaldon: The 8 main books in the Outlander series, of course, plus the Lord John books, assorted collections and novellas, and the handy-dandy reference book, The Outlandish Companion.

Patricia Briggs: The Mercy Thompson series and Alpha & Omega series are so amazing. Can’t imagine ever getting tired of either one! Plus a few random graphic novel versions of her books, just for fun.

Stephen King: No explanation needed. I’m actually surprised this number isn’t higher, but then again, I have a whole bunch of his books still on my to-read shelf.

14 books:

Christopher Moore: This number will go up by one later this month, as soon as I get my hands on his upcoming new release, Secondhand Souls.

13 books:

Robin McKinley: Her fairy tale retellings set the bar for the genre, and her fantasy books are just stellar, especially my favorite, The Blue Sword.

That’s seven. From here, I have a bunch of authors at 11 books each — which, why not? Let’s list them too:

  • Joe Hill
  • Anne Rice
  • J. K. Rowling
  • George R. R. Martin
  • Alice Hoffman

But let’s not count these toward my top ten, because I want to wrap up my list with a slightly different focus…

My top THREE graphic novel authors are:

34 read (and it’ll be 35 once I can bring myself to read the final volume of Fables):

Bill Willingham: FABLES! Need I say more? Okay, Fables plus spin-off series Jack of Fables and Fairest, and a handful of terrific stand-alones too.

23 read:

Brian K. Vaughan: I adored Y: The Last Man and am just loving Saga. Runaways was pretty great too.

13 read:

Joss Whedon! Yes, the man can do anything — TV, Shakespeare, big-budget movies, and comic books. I’ve read 13, but I own bunches more. The ongoing Buffy comics are amazing, as are the Spike, Willow, and Angel & Faith editions. Add in the Serenity and Dollhouse comics too, and you’ll understand why my stack of to-be-read graphic novels is 80% Whedon-verse.

Do we have any favorite authors in common? Share your links, please, and I’ll come check out your top 10!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider following Bookshelf Fantasies! And don’t forget to check out my regular weekly feature, Thursday Quotables. Happy reading!

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Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I host a Book Blog Meme Directory, and I’m always looking for new additions! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!

Book Review: Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs

dead heatIf you’ve ever visited my blog before, chances are you’ve seen me raving about Patricia Briggs and the detailed, layered, rich world she’s created in her novels. Patricia Briggs is probably best know for her Mercy Thompson series (which I love more than words can say!) — and fortunately for her devoted readers, she’s also given us a wonderful spin-off series, the Alpha & Omega novels.

And… after a wait of three years, we finally have Dead Heat, the 4th book in the series. Worth the wait? You bet. (Thank you, Ms. Briggs!)

In a nutshell, the Alpha & Omega books center around main characters Charles and Anna Cornick. Charles is the 3rd most dominant werwolf in North America, and the only born — not made — werewolf, thanks to his Native American mother’s magical talents. Charles has inherited his werewolf nature and scary strength from his father, the ruler of the wolves, and a gift for magic from his mother. Charles is feared by all, as he’s been given the role of enforcer and assassin, sent by his father to keep the peace and keep werewolves in line.

The Alpha & Omega series is driven by Charles’s relationship with his wife and mate, Anna, a rare Omega werewolf who has the power to soothe anyone she encounters. Over the course of the series, Anna has grown from scared, brutalized victim into a powerful yet gentle presence whose unique talents make her a perfect partner for Charles.

Okay, I’ll just say it: I love these two. Their love story is special, I love their dynamic as a couple, and they bring out the best in each other. Plus, only Anna allows Charles the room to let his gentler, loving side out. He’s strong and terrifying, but he’s also a total sweetie who’s madly in love with his wife.

Charles just stared at her.

“You know that, right?” she said. “Most people stay out of your way, but the defenseless ones, the hurt ones, they just sort of gradually slide into your shadow. Not where you’ll notice them too much — but you keep the bad things away.”

He still didn’t say anything. She buttoned her jeans and then took the two steps to press against him.”We know,” she whispered to him. “We who have been hurt, we know what evil looks like. We know you make us safe.”

He didn’t say anything, but his arms came around her and she knew that she had told him something he didn’t know — and that it mattered.

Each of the Alpha & Omega books revolves around a central mystery which Charles and Anna must help to solve. In Dead Heat, someone has targeted the human family of an Alpha werewolf in Arizona at the same time that Charles and Anna are visiting to purchase a new horse. While protecting the family, they realize that a dangerous fae is involved and is most likely responsible for the disappearances of children from the area over the course of decades. Charles and Anna team up with both FBI and supernatural law enforcement specialists to track down the bad guy (a very, very bad guy) and make sure that no other children become its prey.

I don’t want to give anything away, so I won’t go any further in describing the plot. Suffice to say, Dead Heat absolutely lived up to my expectations and had me furiously turning pages (when I wasn’t cursing the fact that I didn’t have the time to just read straight through without stopping). The action and adventure are pulse-pounding, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. There’s tension and drama, yet at the same time, Briggs keeps the banter and love between Charles and Anna at the forefront, so that we still get to savor the little, lovely moments between them that are the heart of these wonderful novels.

Adding a nice touch to the book is the introduction of Charles’s old friend Joseph, a Navajo and son of a werewolf, who is in the process of dying an old man’s death when the book starts. Joseph’s extended family covers generations and brings together some new and interesting angles, adding new depths to what we know of Charles and his past and introducing some great characters. I hope we’ll see more of this group in future books!

My only complaint about this book is that it takes place almost entirely in Arizona, and I missed the Montana setting of earlier books, as well as the Montana pack and its familiar characters. While Charles’s father Bran is always in the background in both series, I would have loved to see a bit more of him in Dead Heat, as he’s one of my very favorite characters. Still, the Arizona storyline gets an A+ as far as I’m concerned, which more than compensates for my minor little complaints.

Actually, I do have one additional complaint: I want more! The book wraps up when the mystery of the fae is resolved, but I wanted more of Charles and Anna! They’re at an interesting point in their relationship (I’m being intentionally vague here), and I want to see what happens next. Plus, the downside of reading these books as soon as they’re released is the excruciatingly long wait (okay, it’s only a year, but it feels longer!) for the next book, either in this series or in the Mercy Thompson series.

I can’t say it often enough: If you enjoy urban fantasy, and require your series to include well-defined characters, compelling story arcs, and an altogether unforgettable, fully-formed world, then you must check out Patricia Briggs’s Mercy Thompson and Alpha & Omega series. Go in order, take it slowly, and enjoy. I don’t know anyone who’s started these books who hasn’t become hooked. Quality writing, amazing characters, fantastic plots. What more could you want?

** A word of clarification: While Dead Heat is the 4th Alpha & Omega novel, the story actually starts with a novella called Alpha and Omega, available as a stand-alone e-book or in two different collections, On the Prowl and Shifting Shadows. Be sure to start with the novella or you’ll be missing the crucial beginning to the story. Spoken by one who learned the hard way!**

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The details:

Title: Dead Heat (Alpha and Omega, #4)
Author: Patricia Briggs
Publisher: Ace
Publication date: March 3, 2015
Length: 336 pages
Genre: Urban fantasy
Source: Purchased