Friday Reads – Wood Sprites

51PB3Yr13fL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgWood Sprites: Elfhome book #4
2016 Book Challenge: a book with more than 500 pages

by Wen Spencer

This book is one that I’ve wanted to read for a while, but also didn’t. I LOVE the Elfhome series. But part of what I love is the main characters from the first book. I wasn’t sure what I would think of a book set in the same universe as those books but with completely different characters. And so it took me a while to buy the book, and then it took me a while to read it once I’d bought it. And even once I’d started reading it, it took me a while to start enjoying it.

Please note – that is entirely my fault. I started reading it wanting more of the Elfhome and elves and magic stuff that I’d gotten from the beginning of book 1 (Tinker). However, since Wood Sprites takes place on Earth, I didn’t get what I wanted. (At first, anyway. These things do show up later, but I’m trying to avoid major spoilers.) So I had the problem of wanting something that the book couldn’t provide, and until I allowed myself to enjoy what the book had to offer, I was a little annoyed at it.

Once I did start enjoying what the book WAS (instead of what I wanted it to be), I really enjoyed it. The main characters are twins who are the sisters of Tinker (the main character in the rest of the series), and they have the same intelligence and similar abilities as she does. They have the same habit of blowing things up (somewhat intentionally) for example. Also, they are involved in theatre at their school, so once they started talking about their school play I enjoyed that a lot too.

The basic, spoiler-free* plot of Wood Sprites goes like this. (*Note that it DOES have potential spoilers for the rest of the series. Feel free to skip this paragraph if you want to avoid those.) Jillian and Louise are twins who were born from the same stored fertilized eggs that were used to conceive Tinker. However, they were born much later, so while Tinker has just turned 18, the twins are 9. (This takes place at the same time as the events in Tinker. It’s fun to match the timelines up.) Shortly after they discover this, they learn more about their family history from items their biological mother left behind. The plot really starts to get fun when the twins learn that they can do magic, if they have a power source for it. And… beyond there lie spoilers.

I did greatly enjoy this book. And I will enjoy re-reading it again later. I think I will enjoy the re-read more, because I won’t be expecting the book to be something it’s not and will be able to enjoy it for what it is. Also, I will be highly anticipating book 5. I think I have a while before it comes out, but there’s a book of short stories I can enjoy in the meantime. (Project Elfhome. I want to pick up the paperback so that it matches the rest of the series, but it’s currently only out in hardback. I might not be able to wait that long.)

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Friday Reads: Eight Million Gods

18730787.jpgEight Million Gods
2016 Book Challenge: a book with a number in the title
by Wen Spencer
(urban fantasy, mythological elements)

This is a book that I have wanted to read since the first time I read the Elfhome book with the first chapter of Eight Million Gods at the back as a teaser. (I think it was Wolf Who Rules, but it might have been Elfhome. I read those two so closely together that I forget.) It sounded like a really interesting premise, and so it went on my TBR list. Well, I finally got my hands on a copy of it and dug in! And the book didn’t disappoint. Very fun romp through Japan – both modern and mythological. (Never having been to Japan or been much involved in Japanese culture, I can’t speak to its authenticity, but it felt right based on the little I do know.)

A very quick, spoiler-free summary: our heroine has hypergraphia, a condition which is characterized by a compulsion to write. In Nikki Delaney’s case, she has become able to turn this compulsion into a productive thing, channeling her need to write into her novels. However, when one of her characters dies in a fashion very similar to a real murder, Nikki must find out quickly whether this is the work of a crazy fan or something more sinister. And when a raccoon in a business suit shows up at her door, she starts to think there’s something very wrong with her sanity.

(See why I wanted to read it? Crazy-fun stuff!)

The book was as fun as I had hoped. One of the things I really enjoyed was getting to see the entire story from Nikki’s POV, even in the instances where it seemed we were reading someone else’s POV. (Read it. You’ll see.) That was a very clever way of doing it. The universe seemed consistent with itself – and, as I said earlier, with the little I know of Japanese culture – and all the characters felt fully fleshed out. This is one I’ll enjoy re-reading in a few years to see if I catch anything new in the beginning chapters now that I know the ending.

Friday Reads: Treasure Island

51egbh3jkrl-_sl200_Treasure Island
2016 Book Challenge: a book that scares you
by Robert Louis Stevenson
narrated by Neil Hunt
(YA, classic adventure)

Well, okay, this book didn’t scare me this time around. But I remember it scaring me something awful when I read it the first time around. (I don’t know if I’ve read it since…) I was about the same age as Jim when I read it originally, and that probably had an impact on its effect on me. However, I’m still counting it as “a book that scares me” because it DID scare me at one point, and every other book I’ve read for this challenge intending to use for that category has turned out to not be scary.

This book is a classic. That’s undisputed, I think. And it’s one that everyone should read – preferably twice, I think, once as a kid and once as an adult. You get completely different things out of it at different ages. When I read it as a kid, I got the intensity of the adventure, the fright at Jim’s danger, and the excitement of a pirate story. As an adult, I could appreciate the crafting of the story, all (or at least more) of the cultural references that were used in this book and that have come from this book, and I got a lot more out of the descriptions of how the sailing ship worked. It was less intense with this re-read, though that could possibly be due to the fact that I was listening to an audiobook this time around. (I can never tell if listening to the audio version will make a book feel more or less intense than reading it for myself.)

The basic plot of this story should be known to just about everyone, even if you’re not aware that you know it. (Seriously, this story has buried itself deep, and references to it – blatant and otherwise – are everywhere.) Jim Hawkins is a young boy who helps his family run an inn, and one day an old sailor (well, an old pirate as we find out later) comes and rents a room. He stays a while until some of his old friends come by and give him a piece of paper with the “black spot” on it, and then he dies, leaving Jim and his mother in fear of the pirate’s friends. Jim finds a treasure map among the dead pirate’s things, and takes it to the local squire, who decides to mount a treasure hunting expedition. Well, the squire has the misfortune of picking mostly pirates for his crew on this treasure hunt, and when the ship arrives at Treasure Island the two sides fight. The pirates end up with the ship, and the squire, captain, Jim, and a few other loyal men end up with the map. There’s more fun and adventure after that, and it’s well worth reading. (I mean it – if you haven’t read this one before, you should read it now.)

This isn’t a deep, meaningful book, not really. It’s an adventure story, and its main character is a kid. But it is an important book. And I’m glad to have read it again.

Belated Friday Reads ~ Challenge Update

For today, I am running late. (You may have noticed that the posting schedule is still wonky. I haven’t had time to schedule my blog posts as I usually do. Sorry about that.) So instead of a book review, I’m going to leave you with a snapshot of how my Reading Challenge is going.

Book Challenge 10-21-16.png

Does that work for you? I hope so, because it does for me so you’ll have to make do whether you like it or not. My spreadsheet says I’m 78% done with this challenge, which is refreshing. However, I’m also feeling the crunch of time here, so I’m not sure whether I will actually finish or not. We’ll have to see.

Have a great weekend!

Friday Reads: Every Heart a Doorway

heart-big.jpgEvery Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children)
by Seanan McGuire
(fantasy, paranormal, YA?)

This is an interesting book for several reasons, but (for me) largely because of the premise. Essentially, this book attempts to answer the question, “what happens to Alice when she returns home from Wonderland?” In this story, there is more than one Wonderland, and each Wonderland is different. (They’re not called Wonderland in the story, that’s all me.) Some are Nonsense worlds, and some are Logic worlds. Some are classified as Virtue and others as Wicked. Others have Rhyme or Reason. (And there is a blend of each in the worlds, too. Your Nonsense world can also be Wicked, for instance.)

I really enjoyed reading this book. If it was lacking anything (which I’m not sure it was), it would have been more time spent in the various worlds. Instead, we spend all of the present time on Earth in some unspecified modern time. We do get to see a little of the other worlds in memories or stories the kids tell, but we don’t really get to see into the other worlds. Ms. McGuire has done such a fascinating job describing them through the eyes of their children that it would be fun to see some scenes actually set in these other worlds. (Well, perhaps in a sequel, since I see that Goodreads believes this to be a series.)

Contrary to my expectations prior to starting to read, however, I did not find this book to be scary. Based on the blurb, I thought it would freak me out. It didn’t. Maybe I was too fascinated by the world? Or maybe given the possibilities of a Wicked world I was expecting more than what was written? There are a couple of kinda gruesome scenes. There are murders which happen in this book, after all. But they didn’t strike me as out of place in the world being created in the book, and were only mildly creepy instead of downright scary. (For the record, this did not alter my enjoyment of the book. It fit exactly what the tone of the rest of the story had set up.)

One thing that must be said about this book is that it is short. I don’t know if it is officially a novella, but it feels like either a novella or a short novel. It’s a very intense story, whatever its official length. It is packed with detail and character development and action. (Not action-movie-action, but action all the same.) I look forward to seeing where this world goes, if it is indeed the beginning of a new series.

Friday Reads: You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)

51XfbTo2iOL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgYou’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)
2016 Book Challenge: a book that made me cry

written and narrated by Felicia Day
(memoir, non-fiction)

I didn’t expect that this book would make me cry. But… it did. Towards the end, Felicia gets very personal (okay, so all of the book is personal; I guess I mean she gets more personal with her feelings) and you can tell that some of her stories mean a lot to her. Others are silly stories, and while those are important to have and to share as well, they’re not what made me cry. Perhaps it was the juxtaposition of the two which got to me. Or maybe it was hearing her tell her own story that made me cry. In either case, it was a good cry, the kind that happens when you hear a super-inspirational story or click through one of those Facebook links about the fireman and the rescued kitten.

The book itself is what you’d expect from a memoir. It tells the story of Felicia Day’s life up to this point. I didn’t know anything about her early life, or even her early career before listening to this audiobook. I haven’t watched Buffy or Supernatural or her episodes of Eureka. I know about Felicia Day exclusively from The Guild and Dr. Horrible. However, there were times when I felt like I knew her from my own past.

I think some things in her book are only truly relatable if you grew up at the same approximate time. She talks about her Pegasus page in her sticker book, and about logging on to CompuServe, and having to learn to transition from a card catalog to Internet searches. I don’t know if kids today still have sticker books (though I’m going to remedy that with my niece and nephew) but the other things I just mentioned would get me blank stares instead of any kind of comprehension. And yet I knew exactly what she was talking about, and it brought back memories of my own.

There are other things, however, which anyone can relate to. Stories about fitting in. About doing things that YOU want to do, and not things that you think you are supposed to want to do. About learning what makes you who you are. And those parts I think everyone can enjoy, whether they connect with the gamer or geeky aspects of the book.

An additional note: if you like audiobooks, I highly recommend listening to this one instead of reading it. It was great hearing Felicia do the narrating herself. And I didn’t miss out on the illustrations in the book, either – Audible, at least, had a PDF to download after you bought the book which has the illustrations included. Very nice to have that.

Friday Reads ~ Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale

tithe-original-coverTithe: A Modern Faerie Tale
2016 Book Challenge: a book set in high school
by Holly Black
(fantasy, YA)

Okay. So this isn’t exactly set in high school, but kinda. There’s a scene at a high school, the main character and all her friends are high school age, and a big fuss is made over the main character dropping out (even though it happens before this book starts), so I’m counting it.

I picked this book up because it sounded neat. A modern faerie tale? Yes please! Plus, I had read Holly’s Spiderwick Chronicles and enjoyed them, so I figured this one was a good choice. And I was right! I enjoyed reading it, and found myself caught up in the character development and plotlines. There were a few twists, too. Some of them I saw coming, others I did not.

To be honest, when I first started reading the book I wasn’t sure what I was going to think of it. It starts (after the opening scenes, anyway) with our school-aged heroine out past the time when her grandmother thinks she should be in bed, climbing into abandoned buildings, smoking, and getting accosted by the boyfriend of her best friend. (Nothing too bad, but he makes unwanted advances.) While I will grant you that I was a prude in high school (and like it or not some of that sticks around later in life) I wasn’t sure that this kind of heroine was someone I wanted to read a whole book about. However, I’m glad I kept going. While Kaye does continue to behave consistently with the way she started the book, her actions are tempered a bit by what happens in the land of faerie and what she finds out.

Without going into spoiler territory, I will say that Kaye does some dumb things. A few of them are REALLY dumb things. Not unexpected for a teenager, but there were some things I rolled my eyes at. (Again, not unexpected for a teenager.) It was completely believable behavior, mind. I can’t say I wouldn’t have behaved similarly at her age. I also have to say that her faerie friends acted how I would expect faeries to act. (Her faerie enemies did, as well.) It was interesting to see how her human friends and family acted and reacted to the faeries, and the character interactions are what makes me curious about the rest of the series.

Is this one worth reading? Yes. It won’t be for everyone, because some people won’t be able to get past Kaye’s or her mother’s initial actions, or be able to accept faeries as something other than cute, happy, friendly beings. However, if it sounds like an interesting book and you’re okay with the more traditional take on faeries you should certainly give it a try.