Book Review

Last-Minute Gift Guide for Book Lovers

Happy Christmas Eve!! I hope everyone has wonderful holiday plans with family and friends, but if you’re still looking for a last minute gift for a book lover in your life, here’s a guide for an awesome book in several popular genres:

For the Mystery Lover: The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz

This re-imagining of Sherlock Holmes is a fantastic read that’s sure to appeal to fans of Holmes and all types of traditional mysteries.

For for History Lover: The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

This book shows the devastating aftermath of World War II by following the lives of three widows who have been forever changed by the war.

For the Romance Lover: Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

When ordinary Louisa Clarke becomes the caretaker of a paraplegic man, she discovers how stagnant her life has become and finally learns the power of true love.

For the Fantasy Lover: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

In this book, a truly magical circus becomes the stage for a competition to see which magician has learned to be the very best, but even the players don’t know what’s really at stake.

For the Science Fiction Lover: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Video games and reality collide in this coming-of-age book about a virtual reality scavenger hunt with real-world implications for its players.

For the Horror Lover: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Is nature or nurture to blame in this tale about the aftermath of a school shooting and the mother who has to come to grips with what her son has done.

For the Contemporary Fiction Lover: The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

When their inheritance is threatened, the Plumb siblings must come to terms with their financial and personal mistakes and decide how to change their own fate.

For the Nonfiction Lover: In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides

This book chronicles human strength and resiliency while exploring the aftermath of the sinking of the USS Jeannette.

I hope this list can help you pick a gift for a loved one or even inspire you to pick something up for yourself. Have a very Merry Christmas!

-XO

Tiffany

Book Review

Book Review: Libriomancer 

I’m not a huge science fiction/fantasy fan, but every so often I get in the mood for something other worldly! I decided to pick up Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines because I really enjoyed his Princess Series (a retelling of some classic fairy tales). I was so impressed by this book, and I can’t wait to read more in the series! It was incredibly unique and fast-paced.

12844699

Libriomancer is jam-packed with action and adventure, and it really sucked me in from the very beginning. I would classify this book as magical realism because it takes place in our world, but there are definite elements of magic. I loved the way that magic was set up in this book – certain types of magicians called Libriomancers can literally pull out items from books and use them. (Just think of how cool it would be to pull out the sorcerer’s stone from Harry Potter!) The structure of the magical world in Libriomancer was well-defined and developed: there is a secret society that governs how magic can be used (led by Gutenberg himself – who has gone missing). There are also vampires and nymphs and spiders that emit fire. A LOT happens here, but it all really works and was so entertaining.

The main character, Isaac Vainio, is a disgraced libriomancer who now catalogs  magical tomes as a librarian instead of practicing magic. However, when a band of rogue vampires get him entangled in the mystery of where Gutenberg has gone, he must face his past and rediscover the magic within. He’s a great main character with many complexities. I enjoyed his personal, internal journey as well as the vivid, exciting plot. I would highly recommend this book to someone who loves magical elements and is looking for something plot-driven!

 

Book Review

Book Review: The Golden Compass

I came to Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” series as an adult when I was required to read the first book for a university class, but I absolutely loved it. Since Pullman has just announced that he is writing a companion series, I thought that this would be a great opportunity to review the first book in the original series: The Golden Compass.

119322

This is such an interesting fantasy series. It’s ultimately a coming-of-age story for the precocious protagonist Lyra. Watching her grow is a delight, and the interesting characters are mixed with an exciting plot. This is a great start of a great series.

While Lyra’s growth is integral to the series, the character in this book that intrigued me the most was the larger-than-life Mrs. Coulter. I don’t want to give away any of her secrets in case I spoil something for new readers, but she was written in such a way where I could absolutely feel the same level of intrigue that Lyra felt when she looked at this complicated woman.

The fantasy elements in this book are very clear, and they have a great balance between traditional and new when it comes to the structure of the world-building. There is a traditional quest and hero and sidekick and wise elder. However, the freshest thing about this book is the addition of personal daemons – individualized creatures that are connected to each person. Each one takes the shape of a specific animal and have a very close bond with their human. This is such an interesting take on a spirit animal since they are tangible and seen by everyone.

Overall, I think this is an amazing, fast-faced book that people of all ages will enjoy. I can’t wait to read the new trilogy that Pullman has in store for us!

Book Review

Book Review: The Mists of Avalon

I love mythology and other legendary stories that seem to transcend time. There’s something about these stories that have enchanted us since the beginning of time. Recently, I decided to try to learn more about Arthurian legend, and I stumbled across a great re-imagining of this traditional story from the perspective of the female characters: The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

402045

While this book leaves out a lot of the original legend, it is a fresh retelling, and it was interesting to see the differences in having the stories told from the female character’s perspective. The much-maligned Morgaine is shown in a much more sympathetic light in this version.

I was awed by the expansiveness of this book. It is almost 900 pages long and seems to encompass the entire Arthurian time period. It’s definitely not a light read, but it is an entertaining one. I felt fully pulled into this world, and I loved the historical insertions about Christianity and Paganism, which I somehow hadn’t considered before during reading about Arthurian legend.

I’m not sure how die-hard scholars of Arthurian legend will feel about this as some things are definitely portrayed differently here, but I think the casual enthusiast or someone who is just interested in learning more about these legends will find the book interesting.

Book Review

Book Review: A Discovery of Witches

It’s very rare that I reread books. I just find that there are so many things I want to read that I often don’t make time to reread something. There are definitely exceptions to this like with the Harry Potter series which always helps me to relax and find an escape, but for the most part, I don’t often make time to reread things.

Another exception is the book A Discover of Witches by Deborah Harkness. I believe I have read this wonderful work of fantasy three times now, and I feel like something new stands out each time.

8667848

This book is essentially about a powerful witch who falls in love with a vampire. It’s sometimes marketed as a grown-up version of Twilight, which I suppose is fair in some ways, but I think that this book is so much more than a love story. Diana, the witch and main character, is a really interesting character and she grows a lot throughout the book and the trilogy. She is complicated because she seems to be simultaneously strong-willed and unsure of herself. She has very relatable fears and hopes. And while the love story is interesting, I find her discovery of herself and the journey of her coming to terms with herself to be an even more gripping aspect of the book.

While this is fantasy and has an amazing amount of world-building, I am so impressed at the other things contained in this book: vast descriptions of history and science (especially when it comes to genetics). This is a well-researched book that shows off Harkness’ prowess as a historian as well as her great imagination.

At 579 pages, it is quite long for a novel (although most fantasy novels do tend to be longer generally). There is a lot of description and the pace is quite slow. These are things that don’t bother me, but I think it is fair to mention them since I’m sure they will deter some readers. Overall, however, I think that it will be worth your time if you’re interested in the subject matter and want a character-driven magical realism book. Also, if you adore history, you’ll want to definitely continue on to the second book of the series Shadow of Night, which I thought was even better than this first installment.

Personal

Reliving My Childhood

My fiance Josh is only ten months younger than me, but there was a vital difference between our childhoods: he did not grow up in the magical world of Harry Potter! Recently, he asked if we could watch the movies together, and we’ve been marathoning them ever since.

3

I’ve been reading the Harry Potter books since the third grade, and it was really exciting when I read the final book book in the main series since Harry and I were both 17. There was nothing wrong with my childhood, but I was kind of awkward and lonely and occasionally bullied. These books took me away when I read them and gave me a group of fictional friends to care about. I would sit in class and daydream about being at Hogwarts with my real friends.

Even as an adult, I retain a passion for the wizarding world created by the masterful J.K. Rowling. In college at the University of Cincinnati, I even took a literature elective class all about Harry Potter where we were sorted into houses and read all seven books. (If you were wondering, Pottermore ALWAYS sorts me into Slytherin – we’re not all bad, I promise!)

I have read these books and watched the movies countless times. I read the script for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child the day it came out (even though July 31st is also my fiance’s birthday). It’s been a really great experience sharing the movies with Josh, and I hope we read the books together someday. There are a lot of book series that I read as a child that don’t have the same impact in my adulthood, but Harry Potter is not one of them. These are the books that have impacted my life the most, and I love sharing them. I hope that someday I can sit down with my niece or nephew and share this experience with them as well.

Do you have something from childhood that continues to touch your life as an adult? What still excites you and makes you feel like you can always relive the best parts of childhood? Let me know in the comments section!

Book Review

Book Review: The Tail of Emily Windsnap

The Tail of Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler is a great start to a fantastical series of juvenile fiction books. They follow 12-year-old Emily Windsnap as she discovers that she is half-mermaid and she embarks on a journey to put her broken family back together again.

161656

This is a delightful book aimed at the middle grade age group. I work in a library, and each year, it seems that our school groups latch on to a particular series. This past school year, all of the girls wanted books in this series, so I decided to read one to see what all the hype was about.

I was so pleasantly surprised by how interesting this book was, and I think it is a great recommendation for young girls. In this book, Emily discovers things about herself and her parents and she struggles to find peace with her mermaid aspects. This could easily be a metaphor for many other things that make some girls feel different from others. In this book, we get to see Emily’s relationship with herself, her mom, her dad, and her friends. For a fantasy genre juvenile fiction book, there was  a remarkable amount of character development. Emily faces real hardships and she struggles to overcome a lot of things. This was  great book, and I’m actually really interested to see what happens next. If you have a daughter, niece, etc. who needs a summer reading recommendation, I think this is a great one!