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Category Archives: Fantasy

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

“Once they were librarians, but that is a subject they will only discuss if heavily intoxicated.”

Since childhood, Celia and Marco have been trained to battle each other in a magical competition that neither is fully certain of all the rules. They are not even certain of each others identity. The venue, Le Cirque des Rêves, is a circus that is only open at night. As the battle continues to weave its way across the circus and those who call the circus home, it becomes clear that only one will remain standing.

The story is unique. I’ve read circus stories before but not with this premise and it is refreshing to find a different angle in a book that is getting a lot of press. However, the atmosphere is where it is at. From the beautiful language (Morgenstern had me as exsanguinated) and lush descriptions to the building romantic interests it grabs a hold of you and doesn’t let go. The chapters are short so it also appeals to the reader who likes a quicker read and perhaps this is why it is such a successful book. It reaches several of the different appeal characteristics without seeming to sacrifice anything. While I don’t think it lives up to the hype (really what book can) it is a beautiful book. 2011, 387 pages

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2011 in Fantasy

 

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Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris

Sookie has a knack for finding trouble. So, it isn’t any big surprise to readers when Merlotte’s, the bar she works at, is firebombed while she is there. Sam, the bar owner, has just come out as a shape-shifter and it is suspected that those in the community who aren’t thrilled with his revelation might be to blame. In the meantime, Sookie learns more about her faerie family and is pulled into a vampire plot to kill the second in command to the King. Treason has never been so intricately planned.

I have really enjoyed this series and True Blood on HBO. However, this title reminded me of a Seinfeld episode. NOTHING happened. Yes, the blood bond between Eric and Sookie is broken so we find out if she really loves him. We also find out where Sookie’s ability to hear other people’s thoughts comes from. Otherwise, I’m not really sure where the author is headed with the series. I don’t like being negative about an author I’ve come to appreciate for her blunt and sexy humor but it can’t be helped. 2011, 325 pages.

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2011 in Fantasy, Mystery

 

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Huntress by Malinda Lo

Kaede and Taisin are nearing the end of their time at the Academy of Sages. Kaede has struggled with the academy and has only remained because her father is the King’s Advisor. Her strengths lie closer to the earth, no magic. Taisin is one of the most gifted sages the academy has seen. When the sun stops shining, crops fail and the people of the kingdom start to rebel out of frustration and hunger, Oracle Stones are cast and Kaede and Taisin are thrust together on a journey to see the Xi, a fay kingdom that most no longer believes even exist.  Brought together with a single purpose, the two must fight many obstacles to reach their destination and perhaps each other.

While this novel is billed as a prequel to Ash, it easily stands on its own. The coming of age is almost standard in young adult fantasy. The lush details intertwined seamlessly with the character development and a lesbian twist is not. The reader walks away with a strong picture of the world and the creatures that inhabit it. In spite of this, the pace is never slow and the direction the story is going is quickly revealed. What will grab you though is the characters. Not just Kaede and Taisin who are complicated and intense characters but also the side characters that you grow to care about just as much. Ash took my breath away. Huntress has much the fantasy reader will enjoy and GLBTQs will be refreshed by a world where no one cares who you love. 2011, 371 pages

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2011 in Fantasy, GLBTQ, Young Adult

 

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A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Dr. Diana Bishop is a historian doing research at Oxford’s Bodleian Library when she unknowingly unearths a rare Ashmole alchemical text that has been missing for centuries. What she is reluctant to admit is that she comes from a long line of witches that can trace back to the first witch killed in Salem, Massachusetts. When the magical community (vampires, witches and demons) realize what she has found and that it may give them all answers to their species origins there are more magical creatures than humans in the library and Bishop has to find a way to embrace her magical past…and future.

I am very mixed on this book. Despite its nearly 600 pages, it was a quick read. Deborah Harkness is also a history professor with a distinguished academic background so the story is sprinkled with many thought-provoking ideas and figures throughout history. It is a smart read and the reader can spend many hours reading up on different topics from Elias Ashmole to Darwin’s Origin of Species. The atmosphere is perfectly creepy. It’s when the emotional component gets thrown in that I started rolling my eyes. Yes, a 1500 yr old vampire, Matthew is the love interest and protector of Diana. They fall in love quickly and dramatically. He is very protective of her and tells her what to do because you know, he’s never felt this way about anyone. She agrees because she loves him soooo much despite her seemingly intelligent and independent (to this point at least) life. They don’t consummate their relationship and despite the growing knowledge that she may be the most powerful witch ever-she is constantly falling into sleep from exhaustion or sorrow when Matthew is gone. I’m sorry but did the last half of my review remind anyone of another Vampire book? Maybe one with sparkly vampires and a ton of teenage angst? Of course, I’ll read the second one due out in 2012 because there is a lot here. Just calm down on the Twilight bits…please! 2011, 579 pages.

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2011 in Fantasy

 

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Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

“I don’t know what I was expecting a vampire’s room to look like. Maybe lots of black, a bunch of books by Camus…oh, and a sensitive portrait of the only human the vamp had ever loved, who had no doubt died of something beautiful and tragic, thus dooming the vamp to an eternity of moping and sighing romantically. What can I say? I read a lot of books.”

Sophie Mercer came into her powers as a witch when she was 13.  Only problem is her mom is a complete muggle and her dad, the warlock of the family isn’t around to provide any training. After one too many well-intentioned magical experiments goes amuck Sophie, now 16,  is sent to Hex Hall, a boarding school for wayward magical folk. It doesn’t take long before Sophie is caught up in magical mysteries, teenage angst and a touch of romance…with the most popular girl’s boyfriend…of course.

What kept me reading all night until I’d finished was the snarky, sassy and intelligent banter of our main character Sophie.  The pacing is fast and while you get to know Sophie’s inner thoughts it is the plot that drives the novel.  Secondary characters are interesting but not overly developed and the romance elements add a splash of interest without being over the top.   2010, 323 pages.

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2011 in Fantasy, Young Adult

 

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Magic to the Bone by Devon Monk

I recently found myself in Portland Oregon at the Public Library Association conference and like most folks, I fell in love with the culture and vibe of the city. Anyone hiring? So, when I happened across an enthusiastic patron who went on and on about this series of urban fantasy books set in Portland I decided to give them a go.

Magic to the Bone is the first title in the Allie Beckstrom series. In Allie’s world, magic has been discovered for the last 30 years and the city has responded with magic grids under the city, buildings rebuilt with magical elements and as with anything in demand there is an entire counter-culture devoted to the dark side of magic. Allie is a Hound, a person that can trace the source of magic used on a person. Using magic takes a toll on its user and people have found a way to offload this toll onto other people. When an offload almost kills a five-year old boy and Allie traces the source back to her father the magical world Allie thinks she knows well is turned on end.

This alternate fantasy presents as an action packed urban read but as you go along what you find is much more delving into the character Allie and her internal and external dialogue. In fact, they are what make this book more than average.  The storyline is intense and interspersed with both humor and great pain and sorrow.   2008, 355 pages.

I hate to bring it up again, but really, anyone in Portland hiring?  Librarian, readers’ advisor, book freak and musician interested in what makes this world tick.  I love rain and don’t carry an umbrella!

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2010 in Fantasy

 

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Ash by Malinda Lo

 The story of Cinderella is well-known. Ash has lost her mother, cares deeply for her father and struggles with the sadness that envelopes her everyday. When her father marries the ultimate wicked stepmother with two bratty children, Ash doesn’t think it can get much worse. That is, until her father dies.

What makes this telling different is the magical world that is not filled with cheerful mice and birds but rather a dark fairy world that entices Ash, especially the fairy prince Sidhean who offers her escape from the world she has come to not feel a part of. As the story goes on, Ash is introduced to the king’s huntress, Kaisa and struggles to decide what her future will be-the ultimate release or following her heart.

I decided a while ago to not write unbiased reviews. Lots of people do-this is my blog-I’m good with that. I’m so glad I did so I can say that I loved this book! Of course I’ve read a lot of lgbtq but this book has a magical, lyrical quality that transcends that angle. You can easily look at this as a Cinderella story with a lesbian twist.  That is a beautiful quality to me and readers will be thrilled to see themselves represented. Beyond that,the characters are beautifully developed, the world in which Ash lives is recognizable and comfortable with little effort and the language, sense of place and sense of self is well, magical. I was transfixed. 2009, 272 pages.

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2009 in Fantasy, GLBTQ, Young Adult

 

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