Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Book Characters I’d Love to Be Besties With

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Book Characters I’d Love to Be Besties With. For me, this translates pretty much to characters I think are talented or cool or fun — just awesome people I’d want to spend time with (even though some of them are WAY out of my league in terms of supernatural abilities, but anyway…

 

1. Claire Fraser, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: Of course. A strong, passionate woman, who’s creative, smart, and scientific.

2. Sophronia Temminnick, The Finishing School series by Gail Carriger: A true friend, who’ll defend you to the death. With a bladed fan, if necessary.

3. Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery: Wouldn’t it have been wonderful to have a friend like Anne during our childhoods?

4. Hermione Granger, Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling: I love Hermione, and I always felt a little bad that she didn’t have more girl friends at Hogwarts. I’d sign up in a second to be her partner for Herbology or Potions, or just to hang in the common room or the library.

5. October Daye, October Daye series by Seanan McGuire: Toby is all sorts of awesome, and I’d love to just live in her world for a while. And maybe hang out with May and the Luidaeg too.

6. Anna Cornick, Alpha & Omega series by Patricia Briggs: I love so much about Anna, especially her devotion to her loved ones, her inner calm, her ability to bring peace, and her fierceness when her mate and her pack are threatened.

7. Verity Price, Incryptid series by Seanan McGuire: A competitive ballroom dancer who’s also a master of weaponry and free running? Yes. Just all sorts of yes.

8. Lara Jean Covey, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han: Lara Jean is so sweet and fun, and would probably be hilarious to hang out with in high school.

9. Elma York, The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal: Elma is amazing! She’s got Ph.D.s in math and physics, loves to fly planes, and is determined to go into space. She’s brave, loving, and smarter than I can even comprehend.

10. June/Offred, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: If I had to live in a horrifying dystopian misogynistic society, it would be a good idea to have a tough rebel like June by my side! (I realize I may be combining the book and TV characters in my head, but so be it.)

What fictional characters would you want as your bestie? Please share your links!

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Take A Peek Book Review: That Ain’t Witchcraft (InCryptid, #8) by Seanan McGuire

“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.

 

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

Crossroads, noun:

1. A place where two roads cross.
2. A place where bargains can be made.
3. See also “places to avoid.”

Antimony Price has never done well without a support system. As the youngest of her generation, she has always been able to depend on her parents, siblings, and cousins to help her out when she’s in a pinch—until now. After fleeing from the Covenant of St. George, she’s found herself in debt to the crossroads and running for her life. No family. No mice. No way out.

Lucky for her, she’s always been resourceful, and she’s been gathering allies as she travels: Sam, fūri trapeze artist turned boyfriend; Cylia, jink roller derby captain and designated driver; Fern, sylph friend, confidant, and maker of breakfasts; even Mary, ghost babysitter to the Price family. Annie’s actually starting to feel like they might be able to figure things out—which is probably why things start going wrong again.

New Gravesend, Maine is a nice place to raise a family…or make a binding contract with the crossroads. For James Smith, whose best friend disappeared when she tried to do precisely that, it’s also an excellent place to plot revenge. Now the crossroads want him dead and they want Annie to do the dirty deed. She owes them, after all.

And that’s before Leonard Cunningham, aka, “the next leader of the Covenant,” shows up…

It’s going to take everything Annie has and a little bit more to get out of this one. If she succeeds, she gets to go home. If she fails, she becomes one more cautionary tale about the dangers of bargaining with the crossroads.

But no pressure.

My Thoughts:

Seanan McGuire can pretty much do no wrong in my worldview, and That Ain’t Witchcraft is a prime example of why. The InCryptid series is relatively light-hearted, although bad things do happen, but overall these books maintain a whimsical, wise-ass feel that keeps the mood more on the fun end of the urban fantasy spectrum.

Eight books in, the series continues to rock and roll. The beauty (or I really should say, one of the beauties) of this series is the focus on the sprawling Price family, which gives the author plenty of characters to share the spotlight from book to book. So far, we’ve had three books with Verity as the lead, two with Alex, and now three with Antimony, the baby sister of the family. (I understand that the spotlight will be moving to a different family member in book #9 — I’m already on pins and needles to see what happens next!)

That Ain’t Witchcraft continues from the ending of book #7, Tricks For Free, with Antimony and friends on the run from the Covenant, the globally powerful cryptid-hating organization that would also like to track down and annihilate the entire Price clan. Looking for a hideout where they can rest and catch their breaths for a while, Antimony and the gang instead find themselves in a small town with a big problem involving the crossroads, the otherworldy entity that makes bargains that never seem to work out well for the human side.

The writing, as always in Seanan McGuire books, is snappy and snarky and full of pop-culture references and overall geekiness, and I love it all to bits. Random example:

“He’s a delicate boy. He doesn’t need some loose woman coming from out of town and getting him all confused.”

I blinked. “I… what? I don’t know whether to be more offended by you calling James ‘delicate’ or you calling me ‘loose.’ I assure you, I am the opposite of a loose woman. I’m a tightly wound, sort of prickly woman. Hermione Granger is my Patronus.”

Need I say more? In case it’s not perfectly obvious, the 8th book in an ongoing series is NOT the place to start. So, I encourage you to go find a copy of book #1, Discount Armageddon, and dive in. If you’re like me, you’ll be hooked, and will want to keep going until you’ve gobbled up all eight books and are panting for more.

InCryptids rule. Check out this series!

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The details:

Title: That Ain’t Witchcraft (InCryptid series, book #8)
Author: Seanan McGuire
Publisher: DAW
Publication date: March 5, 2019
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Urban fantasy
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

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Travel reading wrap-up (summer 2018): A big batch of mini-reviews — bread, tea, roller derby, and more!

As I mentioned in my post-vacation blog post, I’m home again after three weeks away. And yes, as always, my reading time was an essential part of my fun! (But try explaining that to my 16-year-old son, who is most adamantly not a believer in recreational reading…)

Here’s a quick wrap-up of what I read while I was away. Definitely an odd assortment of topics and genres, which is just how I like it!

 

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See: A haunting, beautiful story of a young woman’s life in a remote village in the Yunnan province of China, growing up as part of the Akha ethnic minority with their unique blend of rituals, traditions, and superstitions. Li-yan’s family depends upon the rare tea trees they nurture for their income, but as the outside world discovers their valuable tea, their entire way of life is changed by their collision with the modern world. Meanwhile, Li-yan’s personal life leads her into sorrow and redemption, and we span the globe as we follow Li-yan and her family members through this touching saga. Fascinating and lovely, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane is a provocative look at a culture I knew nothing about previously. Above all, it’s a moving story of a woman whose life changes dramatically and the power of family bonds and traditions.

 

 

Sourdough by Robin Sloan: Sourdough takes the prize for my weirdest read of the year. I bought it on a whim at the airport, despite having a fully loaded Kindle in my backpack. Well worth it — I “devoured” Sourdough in a day. (Mmmm, sourdough.) This is such an odd book. It’s the story of a young woman who comes to San Francisco for a tech job that sucks the soul out of her, until her life turns around thanks to a strange pair of brothers who gift her with their mysterious sourdough starter. As Lois learns to nurture the starter, she is slowly introduced into a (literally) underground world of foodies who attempt to reinvent peoples’ relationships with food and eating. Meanwhile, the sourdough starter has an uncanny tendency to display odd lights and make strange sounds… and oh yeah, the bread loaves baked from the special starter have faces etched into the finished crusts. The writing is funny and quirky, and I just loved it. I think I’m the only person on earth who hasn’t read Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (by the same author), and I know I need to fix that pronto.

 

 

The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror by Mallory Ortberg: This collection of retellings is a mixed bag, which includes some truly creepy fairy tale retellings, and some stories that simply failed to make an impression. I particularly loved The Daughter Cells (a retelling of The Little Mermaid) and The Six Boy-Coffins (a retelling mash-up of the Grimm stories The Six Swans and The Twelve Brothers). For sheer creepiness, you can’t beat The Rabbit, a retelling of The Velveteen Rabbit that’s just awfully bloodthirsty and disturbing and wonderful. As a whole, the collection is worth reading, especially if you’re familiar with the original stories. I’m really not much of a short story reader, and some of the stories here left me cold — but the ones I liked, I really liked.

 

 

 

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne: This was a re-read for me — I read the book when it was first released two years ago, but after seeing the show on Broadway, I just had to read it again. The visuals and presentation of the live show are stunning, and having experienced it, I was able to much more fully enjoy reading the book. (I’ve since learned that the show will be coming to San Francisco in 2019, and I definitely want to see it again!)

 

 

 

 

 

InCryptids! Books #5, 6, 7 in the delightful series by Seanan McGuire: Saving the super awesomeness for last! I couldn’t help myself — I binged my way through the remaining 3 books in the InCryptid series, and now I’m stuck waiting for the next new book, which doesn’t come out until 2019. Sob. This series is just so much fun. Chaos Choreography goes back to the original lead character, Verity Price, who battles snake-god-summoning idiots while competing in a reality TV dance competition. Weird, wonderful, absolutely delicious. In books 6 and 7 (Magic for Nothing and Tricks for Free), the focus shifts to Verity’s younger sister Antimony, who ends up joining a carnival and later, working at a Florida theme park that’s almost (but not quite) Disney World. The magic at this kingdom is not particularly friendly, mayhem ensues… and there’s plenty of trapeze work and roller skating too. Oh, and an awesome boyfriend who has quite a few secrets of his own. The InCryptid series, about a family of cryptozoologists who battle evil in order to keep the world safe for all sentient creatures, is silly and funny and totally hilarious — but also contains moments of real emotion and pathos. And hey — talking mice!

 

 

And that’s what I read while I was away! No matter how busy we were, I always managed to sneak away here and there for a bit of reading in the sun. Bliss!

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Take A Peek Book Review: Pocket Apocalypse (InCryptid, #4) by Seanan McGuire

“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.

 

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

Endangered, adjective: Threatened with extinction or immediate harm.
Australia, noun: A good place to become endangered.

Alexander Price has survived gorgons, basilisks, and his own family—no small feat, considering that his family includes two telepaths, a reanimated corpse, and a colony of talking, pantheistic mice. Still, he’s starting to feel like he’s got the hang of things…at least until his girlfriend, Shelby Tanner, shows up asking pointed questions about werewolves and the state of his passport. From there, it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to Australia, a continent filled with new challenges, new dangers, and yes, rival cryptozoologists who don’t like their “visiting expert” very much.

Australia is a cryptozoologist’s dream, filled with unique species and unique challenges. Unfortunately, it’s also filled with Shelby’s family, who aren’t delighted by the length of her stay in America. And then there are the werewolves to consider: infected killing machines who would like nothing more than to claim the continent as their own. The continent which currently includes Alex.

Survival is hard enough when you’re on familiar ground. Alex Price is very far from home, but there’s one thing he knows for sure: he’s not going down without a fight.

My Thoughts:

In case it’s not crystal clear by now, I’m a big fan of Seanan McGuire’s writing, which I’ve been devouring at a pretty alarming rate. And there’s no stopping me now, now that I’ve read 4 InCryptid books and have just 3 to go!

Pocket Apocalypse is another excellent adventure. This time around, Alex is not only in danger from all the scary, venomous, lethal creatures he encounters, but also from Shelby’s family, who are super hostile and very heavily armed.

Pocket Apocalypse takes a darker turn than the previous book, as the threats are both more serious and more personal. I wonder if this will be a pattern in this series — one lighter escapade followed by the same characters in a much darker and more life-threatening situation. It’s been true so far, in any case, since #2 was just as dire as #4.

Alex has turned out to be a great lead character, and I love his relationship with Shelby, and how unpredictable (and totally bad-ass) she is. And yes, this book includes the mice, because you can’t have a story about the Price family without their rodent religious devotees.

I’m not as emotionally invested in the InCryptid books as I was with the October Daye series, but I’m enjoying the heck out of them, and can’t wait to dive into #5.

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The details:

Title: Pocket Apocalypse (InCryptid series, book #4)
Author: Seanan McGuire
Publisher: DAW
Publication date: March 3, 2015
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Urban fantasy
Source: Purchased

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Take A Peek Book Review: Half-Off Ragnarok (InCryptid, #3) by Seanan McGuire

“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.

 

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

When Alex Price agreed to go to Ohio to oversee a basilisk breeding program and assist in the recovery of his psychic cousin, he didn’t expect people to start dropping dead. But bodies are cropping up at the zoo where he works, and his girlfriend—Shelby Tanner, an Australian zoologist with a fondness for big cats—is starting to get suspicious.

Worse yet, the bodies have all been turned partially to stone…

The third book in the InCryptid series takes us to a new location and a new member of the family, as Alex tries to balance life, work, and the strong desire not to become a piece of garden statuary. Old friends and new are on the scene, and danger lurks around every corner.

Of course, so do the talking mice.

My Thoughts:

The 3rd book in the InCryptid series shifts the focus to a different member of the Price family, Verity’s older brother Alexander. After reading the first two books, it’s a bit jarring to relocate from New York to Ohio, and switch gears from Verity’s high adrenaline dashes across Manhattan rooftops to Alex’s more scholarly pursuits at the zoo. Still, it’s not long before trouble finds Alex — an occupational hazard of being part of the Price family of cryptozoologists.

I wouldn’t be a cryptozoologist if I didn’t like a bit of excitement every now and again. I just didn’t expect the excitement to be quite so flammable, that’s all.

Despite my initial reluctance to leave Verity behind (for now), I was quickly sucked into Alex’s world, particularly once his relationship with Shelby takes off and he discovers that they have much more in common (oh, like advanced weaponry skills and a deep knowledge of impossible creatures) than they initially realized.

She didn’t carry a hunting rifle on a regular basis, but aside from that, she was everything I’d ever wanted in a woman…

This series continues to be fun and mostly light in tone, despite the dead bodies and sad family situations that crop up. The InCryptid books are much sillier and goofier than the October Daye series, which may be why I’m less emotionally invested in these. Still, it’s all entertaining and enjoyable, and I plan to continue onward.

And hey, more talking mice!

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The details:

Title: Half-Off Ragnarok (InCryptid series, book #3)
Author: Seanan McGuire
Publisher: DAW
Publication date: March 4, 2014
Length: 356 pages
Genre: Urban fantasy
Source: Library

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Take A Peek Book Review: Midnight Blue-Light Special (InCryptid, #2) by Seanan McGuire

“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.

 

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

Cryptid, noun:
1. Any creature whose existence has been suggested but not proven scientifically. Term officially coined by cryptozoologist John E. Wall in 1983.
2. That thing that’s getting ready to eat your head.
3. See also: “monster.”

The Price family has spent generations studying the monsters of the world, working to protect them from humanity–and humanity from them. Enter Verity Price. Despite being trained from birth as a cryptozoologist, she’d rather dance a tango than tangle with a demon, and when her work with the cryptid community took her to Manhattan, she thought she would finally be free to pursue competition-level dance in earnest. It didn’t quite work out that way…

But now, with the snake cult that was killing virgins all over Manhattan finally taken care of, Verity is ready to settle down for some serious ballroom dancing—until her on-again, off-again, semi-boyfriend Dominic De Luca, a member of the monster-hunting Covenant of St. George, informs her that the Covenant is on their way to assess the city’s readiness for a cryptid purge. With everything and everyone she loves on the line, there’s no way Verity can take that lying down.

Alliances will be tested, allies will be questioned, lives will be lost, and the talking mice in Verity’s apartment will immortalize everything as holy writ–assuming there’s anyone left standing when all is said and done. It’s a midnight blue-light special, and the sale of the day is on betrayal, deceit…and carnage.

My Thoughts:

Book #2 in the InCryptid series lives up to the mayhem and shenanigans (and yes, carnage) of the first book, but with a touch more dire peril and mortal danger thrown in. Verity’s world in New York is threatened by the arrival of Covenant agents, who would love nothing more than to (in no particular order) kill each and every cryptid they encounter, capture and torture Verity until she tells them all her secrets, and then track down her family and slaughter every last one of them until the entire family line is obliterated. Nice people, the Covenant.

Verity, however, is not defenseless, and between her killer dance moves, her collection of throwing knives, and the weird and wonderful allies she’s made, she’s not going to make things easy for her enemies.

Midnight Blue-Light Special is full of the crazy cryptids, high-octane action, and ridiculously funny dialogue of the first book, but the stakes seem much higher, and the scenes of Verity and certain others in serious awful danger and pain lend a heavier tone to parts of this book. As always, I adore Seanan McGuire’s writing.

They say nobody’s perfect, but there’s having a few flaws, and then there’s selling your employees as human sacrifices. That sort of thing is just uncool.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the reappearance of my favorite bunch of sidekicks, the highly religiously and strangely devout colony of talking mice who live with Verity:

“Cool. Thanks.” I straighted, picking up my backpack in the process. “I’ll be back later. Don’t burn down the apartment.”

The small audience of previously unnoticed mice that had come to watch with rapt attention as I spoke to the acolyte suddently cheered. Loudly. “HAIL THE COMMITMENT TO NOT IGNITE THE DOMICILE!”

“Uh, yeah,” I agreed. “No fire.”

“HAIL THE ABSENCE OF FIRE!”

Holing up and laying low might be the smart thing to do, but doing the smart thing has never been a Price family tradition. We’re more interested in running straight into the jaws of danger and daring it to bite down.

I’m really getting a kick out of this series, and so despite my deciding to swear off series for a few months and read more stand-alones, my resolution is weak and I know I’ll cave. Book #3 shifts the focus from Verity to other Price family members, which doesn’t sound all that appealing to me right now, but I’m sure it’ll be just as awesome as the first two books. Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m hooked. No point pretending I’m not going to read the next five books as fast as I can!

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The details:

Title: Midnight Blue-Light Special (InCryptid series, book #2)
Author: Seanan McGuire
Publisher: DAW
Publication date: March 5, 2013
Length: 338 pages
Genre: Urban fantasy
Source: Purchased

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Take A Peek Book Review: Discount Armageddon (InCryptid, #1) by Seanan McGuire

“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.

 

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

Ghoulies. Ghosties. Long-legged beasties. Things that go bump in the night… The Price family has spent generations studying the monsters of the world, working to protect them from humanity—and humanity from them. Enter Verity Price. Despite being trained from birth as a cryptozoologist, she’d rather dance a tango than tangle with a demon, and is spending a year in Manhattan while she pursues her career in professional ballroom dance.

Sounds pretty simple, right? It would be, if it weren’t for the talking mice, the telepathic mathematicians, the asbestos supermodels, and the trained monster-hunter sent by the Price family’s old enemies, the Covenant of St. George. When a Price girl meets a Covenant boy, high stakes, high heels, and a lot of collateral damage are almost guaranteed. To complicate matters further, local cryptids are disappearing, strange lizard-men are appearing in the sewers, and someone’s spreading rumors about a dragon sleeping underneath the city…

My Thoughts:

So… you may have noticed that I’ve been reading a lot of Seanan McGuire lately. I got totally obsessed with the October Daye series, and before I knew it, I’d read the 11 books in the series straight through. (Okay, with breaks for eating and sleeping, but otherwise, no stopping!)

Given how much I loved that series, I thought I’d try the author’s OTHER urban fantasy series, InCryptid. First impression after reading book #1, Discount Armageddon? A) Seanan McGuire can do no wrong; and B) this series is promising to be altogether lighter and sillier than the Toby Daye books. Just take a look at the cheese-a-rific cover image — if that doesn’t scream “don’t take this too seriously”, I don’t know what does.

The basics: In Discount Armageddon, we meet Verity Price, wannabe professional tango dancer and for-real deadly monster hunter. But also a monster protector — the Price family split from the Covenant generations earlier, because the Prices believed in studying and preserving “cryptids”, while the Covenant just believes in wiping them out. Verity works as a cocktail waitress in a strip club while she’s not chasing creatures across the rooftops of Manhattan, and gets embroiled in a dangerous quest to locate the last living dragon and prevent the bad guys from treating her friends as human (or non-human) sacrifices.

The plot is fast and clever, Verity is tough and funny, and I really liked the surprising ways that ballroom dancing skills can come in handy when engaged in hand-to-hand (or foot-to-chin) combat. The writing is full of McGuire’s trademark humor, and the banter (and constant encounters with weird creatures) keeps the book moving right along, start to finish.

Based on Discount Armageddon, I’d say that this isn’t a series that demands deep emotional investment (unlike how Toby rips out my heart from time to time). And that’s fine. Sometimes, I need light, fluffy adventures. And talking mice. Did I mention the talking mice?

Awesome.

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The details:

Title: Discount Armageddon (InCryptid series, book #1)
Author: Seanan McGuire
Publisher: DAW
Publication date: March 6, 2012
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Urban fantasy
Source: Library

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