A Secret History of Witches
Fantasy , Historical Fiction , Romance / October 18, 2017

Title: A Secret History of Witches Author: Louisa Morgan Published: 2017 Genre: Fantasy Length: 496 pages (Although I read an eBook version.)   Every once in a while a book’s cover instantly hooks your attention and refuses to let you go. The eldritch font paired with the elegant potions and enticing coloring put me right in the mood for an occult-themed tale.  I immediately requested a review copy and was approved, so I want to start this review with a big thanks to Louisa Morgan and her publisher for giving me the chance to review A Secret History of Witches. The initial setup of the book is excellent, especially for fans of historical fiction and generational storytelling. A Secret History of Witches follows the women of the Orchiére family through hundreds of years and jumps between point-of-view narrators with each new chapter. The idea of following the line of witches through the years is clever and creates opportunities to see how the perception of witchcraft might change over time. A Secret History of Witches is a bit uneven when it comes to making the most of each character’s potential. Morwen’s story, set in 1910, stands out as one of the more memorable tales…

Blood of Elves
Fantasy / October 4, 2017

Title: Blood of Elves Author: Andrzej Sapkowski Published: 1994/2008 (English) Genre: Fantasy Length: 398 (paperback)   Blood of Elves is the first book in a series that tells the tale of Geralt, a sort of mercenary monsterslayer, who is known as a witcher. Like the majority of English speakers, I first heard about Geralt by playing the highly popular Witcher video game series. After countless hours spent fulfilling witcher contracts in the virtual world on my PlayStation, I finally decided to investigate the source material. The tale opens with many familiar characters from the games. I immediately felt like I knew most of the characters and the world instantly made sense to me. If you are new to the series, rest assured that Sapkowski does an excellent job of world-building and character development. Knowledge of the games is in no way a requirement for the books. To be clear, this series predates the game series. It is not a novelization of the game! The bulk of the first half of the book revolves around Geralt’s parental relationship with his mysterious, orphaned ward: a young girl named Ciri. Ciri is trained by Geralt and the other witchers to fight and understand monster lore,…

Pocket Full of Tinder: Book Review
Fantasy , Romance / December 5, 2016

Title: Pocket Full of Tinder: A Noon Onyx Novel Author: Jill Archer Published: December 15, 2016 Genre: Fantasy & Romance with touches of other genres Length: 293 pages Pocket Full of Tinder is the fourth book in Jill Archer’s Noon Onyx series. I am reviewing Pocket Full of Tinder from an advance review copy that I read in eBook format. To set the tone, I am delighted to write that this may be the best book in the Noon Onyx series to date. If you are new to the Noon Onyx series, then I highly suggest that you read the three previous books as soon as possible. The genre-bending nature of Jill Archer’s novels is inventive and refreshing, and world-building is one of her greatest strengths. The heroine, Noon Onyx, is a magic-slinging Maegester-in-Training with a drop of demon blood coursing through her veins. Noon lives in Halja, a post-apocalyptic version of our world in which the demons rule while angels and humans are forced to find ways to coexist with their demonic overlords. Pocket Full of Tinder picks up in the aftermath of a shocking reveal at the end of the third novel, White Heart of Justice, regarding Noon’s former lover, Ari Carmine. I loved that the story picked up where it left off and immediately continued the previous…

Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction: Book Review
Fantasy , Writing / December 1, 2016

Title: Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction Author: Orson Scott Card, Phillip Athans, Jay Lake Published: 2013 Genre: Writing, Fantasy/Science Fiction Pages: 406 (paperback) Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction by Orson Scott Card, Phillip Athans, and Jay Lake is a writing guide that is designed for genre fiction. If you are interested in writing a novel, or even if you are curious about the process, then Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction will answer a lot of your questions. The reader will probably even find the answers to questions that they did not even know they had to begin with. There are four major parts to the book: How to Write, The State of the Genre, The World of Steampunk, & The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference. Within each of these sections are subcategories, although the Steampunk section is relatively brief. World Creation, Story Construction, and general writing tips are provided in How to Write.  I found the Writing Well portion, which is a mere 15 pages, to be one of the most useful. The writing tips are generally intended to help the prospective author to produce writing that is organic and engaging. There are so many specific concepts, like how to use particular diction for different characters, that stuck with me long after I first…

The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass: Book Review
Fantasy / November 2, 2016

Title: The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass Author: Jim Butcher Published: 2015 Genre: Fantasy Pages: 768 (paperback) The Aeronaut’s Windlass is the first entry in Jim Butcher’s fantasy series The Cinder Spires. Jim Butcher’s foray into the Steampunk fantasy subgenre quickly hurls the reader into nonstop, relentless action as the inhabitants of the Spires struggle for survival against their ruthless enemies. Fans of The Dresden Files or Jim Butcher’s highly underrated Codex Alera series will find a touch of the familiar along with a whole new world to explore. Jim Butcher’s worldbuilding is impeccable, as always. He creates a unique fantasy setting that borrows a great deal from Victorian mannerisms and the trappings of European noble houses. The Spires, which our characters call home, are held aloft miles above the ground and the most lucrative trade is the production of powerful crystals that can power airships. Due to the air-borne nature of the setting, the airships are a primary focus of the story and are the centerpieces of many adventures. The grizzled, veteran Captain Grimm and his crew are clearly inspired by Star Trek, and Jim Butcher uses Trek-like terminology and tactics when he describes the vessel, the organization of its crew, and the inevitable airship clashes. He even includes a grumpy, miracle-working engineer character who is…

The Book Thief: Book Review
Fantasy , Historical Fiction , Young Adult / October 16, 2016

Title: The Book Thief Author: Markus Zusak Published: 2005 Genre: Young Adult Lit, Historical Fiction, Fantasy Pages: 584 The Book Thief is Markus Zusak’s tale of a young girl living in Germany during World War II. Despite the fact that this book is classified as a young adult book, Zusak tackles adult themes involving ignorance and the senseless destruction of war. Zusak does not sugar-coat this tale, and it is definitely the sort of young adult book that should only be read by a truly mature reader (regardless of age). Oh, and did I mention that the book is narrated by Death? Liesel Meminger, the protagonist of the tale, is living with her foster family and develops an incredibly close bond with her foster father, Hans Hubermann. The tale revolves around Liesel’s life in a German town against the foreboding backdrop of the impending German defeat in WWII. With the looming danger of war always on the horizon, Liesel goes about her life in the town and develops a strong relationship (maybe even romantic?) with a young boy named Rudy. A Jewish man also comes to the Hubermann family for help, so the very real historical situation of a German family trying to hide…

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: Book Review
Fantasy , Horror , Young Adult / October 15, 2016

Title: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children Author: Ransom Riggs Published: 2011 Genre: Young Adult Lit, Fantasy, Horror, Historical Fiction  Pages: 353 Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs is a young adult novel that embraces elements of fantasy, horror, and a touch of historical fiction for good measure. The story revolves around our protagonist, the sixteen-year-old Jacob Portman, and his quest to solve the mystery surrounding his grandfather’s unbelievable past. As Jacob travels across the Atlantic to revisit the childhood orphanage of his grandfather, Jacob finds himself grappling with his family’s past in very real terms as he also struggles to decide his own future. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is artistic, atmospheric, and awash with unique and fascinating characters. There is a general sense of impending disaster that hovers over the novel from the very beginning thanks to skillful foreshadowing on the part of the author. The gloomy and foreboding settings pair exquisitely with the incredibly unsettling photographs that litter the novel. To be clear, the black and white photographs that are copied with the pages of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children are all completely authentic. Ransom Riggs artfully inserts the photographs in the appropriate places to support and punctuate the novel’s plot and characterizations while…

Choose Your Own Adventure – Top 10 List

When I was growing up, I always loved a good choose your own adventure book.  What could be more fun than interacting with, and choosing your own story?  In a way, it was almost like you were the author of your own destiny. True, there were always those cheap deaths that would happen when you were forced to make blind choices like which path to go down, but at least you could always go back and start over again! I think that it is a sorry shame that a lot of readers leave the choose your own adventure type books behind in their childhood. There are actually some very entertaining books for adults as well, although there are not nearly enough of them!  It was difficult to come up with ten.  This list combines choose your own adventure for younger readers as well as the more adult oriented ones. Also, I am aware that “Choose Your Own Adventure” is technically used to refer to the series of the same title, but I use the term for any book where you are able to choose your own path. The generic term to use is “gamebook,” but I do not think many people would…

Witches of East End: Book Review
Fantasy , Romance / October 12, 2016

Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz is the first book in a fantasy series that features witchcraft and a healthy dose of romance.  Although not a perfect book, Witches of East End is a solid foundation for the series. As the story begins, The Beauchamp women are hiding a magical secret from the residents of the sleepy Long Island town known as New Haven.  Joanna Beauchamp, along with her daughters Freya and Ingrid, stopped practicing magic after the Salem Witch Trials due to a “ban.”  Despite the long centuries of passing for mortals, the Beauchamp women soon find individual and highly personal reasons to dabble in their long abandoned arts. Much of Witches of East End focuses on the development of the three Beauchamp women.   Some of my favorite scenes simply involved Ingrid gushing over her love of history and literature while struggling to keep her beloved library from closing.  Freya is more of a wild-child whereas her mother Joanna is the wise and cautious matriarch.  The male characters, including the wealthy, heart-throb brothers Killian and Bran Gardener, are never point of view characters and generally serve as love interests for the first three-fourths of the book.   However, a major twist involving unexpected elements of Norse mythology is…

A Song of Ice and Fire: Ranking the Books
Fantasy , Top 10 List / October 12, 2016

A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin is famous beyond measure these days, although many people would know the series by the title of the HBO series, Game of Thrones.  As a proud nerd, I find it amazing that a fantasy novel (although it also reads much like a pseudo-historical novel) found such a staggering audience in its television adaptation.  It is always confusing when mainstream America embraces a nerdy subject like fantasy fiction, but I suppose I should not complain. Regardless, I have thought about reviewing A Song of Ice and Fire for a while now but always felt that it was an unnecessary pursuit.  The books are so popular that there is no need for me to review them.  One problem is that George R. R. Martin takes so long to write his novels that the most recent entry in the series was published as long ago as 2011, so I will probably hold off on reviews until a new book is released. Unfortunately, The Winds of Winter will not be released in 2016, so I have contented myself with ranking the five books that are currently available. For the record, I think that even the weakest book in the series…