Recently read & loved:
The tale of Sleeping Beauty is re-spun in this novel where Aurora and a dark sorceress fall in love.
The Briar Royal line is cursed. Every daughter born into the family must either have true love's first kiss by the time they turn 21 or die as a consequence. Aurora, the youngest of three, has watched as her older sisters fell victim to the curse one by one. As her own 21st birthday rushes ever closer, prince after prince arrives at the castle’s doorstop to test their luck. Sick of having men thrust upon her without any say in the matter, Aurora takes matters into her own hands and, determined to break the curse herself through magic, seeks the help of a dark sorceress named Alyce. Through their work together, both Aurora and Alyce find that they each are far from fitting society’s ‘obedient princess’ and ‘wicked sorceress’ mold and instead find true understanding and affection from each other. Walter creates a fairy tale entirely of her own: characters feel original and are fleshed out with agency and power; gone is the trope of an anonymous prince breaking a spell; and fairy tale love itself is redefined to be built on deep friendship and understanding. Part Wicked, part Sleeping Beauty, and completely original, Malice is not one to be missed. –Kelly
A Faustian deal with the devil to live forever. A lifelong curse to be forgotten by everyone she meets. Addie La Rue is a novel that feels daring and joyous all at once. I am as in love with this novel’s darkness- the demon waiting in shadow, mortality a whisper away, cursed irreverent souls - as I am in love with its light and the defiant, star-lit soul of Addie, burning steadily, everlastingly bright. If you read one new book of 2020, let it be this one.
Piranesi lives almost entirely alone in the labyrinthine house, ever searching to discover its secrets, with only his journals, the sky, and the mysterious "Other" for company. Piranesi is a complete departure from Johnathon Strange & Mr. Norell, but it captures the same mysterious, deep magic. Surreal, dizzying, and yet utterly sobering, this book is a heartfelt exploration of finding and losing one’s humanity for the sake of human endeavor and quest for knowledge.
Seance Tea Party is the perfect Halloween treat. It's not only full of witches, ghosts, pumpkins, and all the best October things, but also full of heart. When a young girl who is afraid to grow up befriends a teenage ghost who can never grow up, both have to navigate new friendships, loving oneself, and moving on. I adored this story and its beautiful illustrations!
Linus lives a predictable, dull life as an employee at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth. While he spends his days filing paperwork and living (what he thinks of as) a content life, his world turns upside down when he is given a new case at the Marsyas Island Orphanage. There, Linus meets six orphans and their caretaker. He is expected to observe and report how dangerous the magical children are to the rest of the world. Instead, Linus not only discovers that looks and magical abilities can be deceiving, but also faces first hand the prejudices against anyone who is deemed different. The House in the Cerulean Sea is the most endearing and charming story I’ve read in a long time. An uplifting fantasy about hope, courage, and acceptance. This book is a perfect remedy for a bad day.
Makaryk's Robin Hood-inspired debut Nottingham feels like a return to fresh, invigorating storytelling. There is so much to love about this book where captivating plot twists, nuanced characterizations, and superb writing all take center stage. Robin Hood himself is just one of the many characters whose perspectives, choices, and deeds--good or ill-- make up the story. In Nottingham nothing is black and white. No one is a complete villain or hero. Makaryk's layered characters and rich setting ground the story in a realistic and compelling narrative while clever dialogue throughout captures the familiar, jovial spirit of the Robin Hood legend. It's a rare and special thing to have novel so steeped in legend and folktale be such a breath of fresh air. An impressive debut and a strong contender for my favorite novel of 2019.
A murder has happened at the esteemed Blackheath House. Or, rather a murder will happen every night--the same night played over again-- at Blackheath House until our protagonist Aiden Bishop breaks the cycle. Every repeated day, Aiden must unravel a little more of the mystery surrounding the Hardcastle manor and its inhabitants in attempt to solve and prevent the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle. But for every day that starts over, Aiden wakes up in a different guest's body. The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle simultaneously evokes a classic Agatha Christie novel while also providing an utterly original take the genre. A bold and innovative novel that will keep you reading late into the night to find out the ending!
A magical, lush debut with fierce sisterly love at its core. Alternating chapters in both poetry and prose tell the story of Liba and Laya, two sisters that discover their family history is something straight out of a fairy tale: Liba, like her father is part bear, and Laya, like her mother is part swan. As each sister navigates their new abilities of transformation, so too must they learn how to protect each other when a mysterious group of merchants arrive in their village, selling magical fruit and spinning malicious, deadly lies. Sisters of the Winter Wood is a lush reworking of Christina Rossetti's The Goblin Market, but with deep characterization, historical details, and a magical setting, it is also utterly original. I was swept away in Rossner's book and you will be too!
At once mysterious and imaginative, In the Night Wood is a thoughtful and moving novel about what it takes to find --and conquer--the darkness within. When literature professor Charles Hayden travels to a small England town to begin writing a biography of the author of his favorite Victorian children's book, Caedmon's Hollow, he does so in the hopes that he can leave the harsh realities of his past behind. But it's not long before the past and present catch up with Charles. When an ancient and otherworldly power from the Night Wood threatens to overcome the small town, he soon finds the lines between fantasy and reality blurred. Using elements of Victorian literature, medieval fairy tales, and ancient folklore, Bailey paints a heart-wrenching and intimate portrayal of loss, madness, and magic. – Kelly
In the vein of Madeline Miller's Song of Achilles and Circe, comes another enthralling retelling of classic Homeric mythology. Set during the Trojan War from the perspective of the captured "gift to Achilles" Briseis, Barker's novel explores mortality, passion, freedom and captivity of an ancient war. Compelling storytelling and poignant characterizations of classic figures make this not only an impressive and unique retelling of The Iliad, but also a sweeping narrative of the often overlooked woman's experience in antiquity. Timeless in its scope and stunning in its imaginative force, The Silence of the Girls is your next must-read of 2018.
Beautifully composed and deeply compelling, Circe is hands-down one of the best novels of 2018. As she did in Song of Achilles, Miller recreates the ancient and enchanting world of Greek mythology, this time focusing on ocean nymph Circe. Cast out of her home and exiled to the island of Aiaia, Circe turns not only to her enchantments, but also to the world of Mortals, becoming close with legendary figures like Daedalus, Odysseus, and Penelope. Miller’s delicate, yet stunning prose swept me off my feet — I wanted to savor every moment with Circe in her immortal world. Introspective, soft, at times simply breathtaking, but always beautiful. So, so beautiful.
I cannot recommend this series enough. Brilliant. Touching. Thoughtful. The Arc of a Scythe series is quickly topping my list of books that I think anyone and everyone should read. Thunderhead is set a year after we last saw Citra and Rowan in Scythe and the growing tensions and divided loyalties within the Scythedom have only escalated. Now on the brink of total and devastating revolution, the Scythedom--and perhaps even all of humanity--relies on the actions of two teenagers. Naturally, Shusterman uses this second book to expand the Scythe world and its cast of characters: the titular Thunderhead (the omniscient governing consciousness over society) is given plenty of fresh and fascinating attention. But Thunderhead is in and of itself a deep exploration of not only the perennial question of what it means to be human, but also of some of the biggest and most pressing issues of our time. Ultimately, Shusterman delivers a gripping, page-turner story, yet all the while gives us completely thought-provoking material on the past, present, and future of humanity. Thunderhead is a novel deftly written and one that is utterly absorbing to read.
Poignant. Perfect. My highest recommendation and my deepest implore: read. this. book.
A gripping new novel by Neal Shusterman where there is no sickness, no injury, no war that can kill humans. In this perfect world there is only one way to die: at the hands of those called Scythes, revered killers who keep the population under control. Even though killing is the last thing young and empathetic Citra and Rowan want to do, both are chosen to become apprentices to a Scythe and master the art of taking lives. As the story unfolds, so does a captivating plight of two teenagers trying to both keep and understand their own humanity in a sea of red. A perfect read for dystopian lovers who want something fresh to add to their bookshelf—I couldn’t put this one down once I started!
"I didn't quite know what to expect from this book when I first read its title.The Tempest is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays and I was wary that Carey might force something into the story that wasn't there. But this book has my wholehearted recommendation. This is a soft and tender version of Shakespeare's The Tempest that delicately tells the story of Miranda and Caliban growing up on the island with magician Prospero and his servant Ariel. As the only two young people on the island, Miranda and Caliban begin to form a deep friendship. But Prospero has dark secrets and a mysterious magic that threatens everything Miranda might know about herself and the island she inhabits. Carey takes Shakespeare's characters and the events of the original play and weaves her own tale that explores themes of monstrosity and sexuality, isolation and companionship, magic and reality, knowledge and ignorance. A simply beautiful book. "
Growing up in his small town, Prosper Redding always knew one thing: that among the illustrious and famous Redding family, he was extraordinarily unexceptional. That is, until he finds out that a 400 year old demon set out to curse his family is actually living inside him. NBD. Now Prosper has to find a way to rid himself of the fiend without hurting himself in the process or caving into the fiend’s incessant demands to strike a deal for his soul. But as he teams up with a young witch and as his relationship with the demon Alastor grows, Prosper begins to realize that things in the demon underworld might be circling out of control. Between its Autumn setting, ancient family curses, witchy friends, and sarcastic demons, The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding is perfect Halloween reading. I adored this book!
Pratchett and Gaiman. Heaven and hell. Angels and demons. Witches and Witchfinders. Footnotes*
I waited way too long to read this. Don't be like me. Read it now!
*and more footnotes.
This is one of the finest fantasy books I've ever read. In fact, with its dark, classical magic, rich history, and elegant writing, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is one of the best novels I've read hands down. Don't let the length deter you--by the time you get to the last page, you'll be aching for more.
If there were only one book that I could recommend to anyone, it would be this one. Read it and fall into the magical and tumultuous world of King Arthur and Merlyn. Read it and learn what it is to laugh and despair and cry and love. This is a magical and fun and tragic novel, perfect for fantasy readers or those who love the Arthurian legend. But above all it's a novel that celebrates being human and is utterly beautiful for doing so.
Tales of brutality. Tales of beauty. Romantic faerie lovers. Abusive husbands. Master fantasist Tanith Lee’s stories of twisted fairy tales, newly collected in this volume, presents heart-wrenching stories of cruelty and darkness blended beautifully with a strange loveliness. A collection that is arresting and striking, and yet one that evokes that essential fairy tale feeling. I devoured these tales whole.
What else can I say about this book that hasn't been said already? This very quickly became one of my favorite fantasy books: it's not only fun story but it is also beautifully written. If you like fantasy at all, The Name of the Wind is a no-brainer. Read it.
Lazlo Strange: Orphan. Reader. Dreamer. Ever since a book of fairy tales fell off a shelf and broke his nose, Lazlo has read and dreamed of lost cities and extraordinary heroes—especially of the land of Weep, a city once full of magic but now lost to the world. Lost, that is, until now. The plot and action of this book moves slowly—but in its beautiful, enchanting slowness, I fell in love with reading all over again. Laini Taylor is a master wordsmith and throughout her story she pulls on the threads of enchantment, weaving a tale of sorrow and beauty, love and hate, wonder and bewitchment. A story intricately written and intimately read. Undoubtedly one of the best books of 2017.
An enchanting retelling of Norse mythology that includes all of our favorite Norse stories. Each myth is written traditionally, without any heavy reworking or modernizing, but Neil’s signature dark, compelling, and original style shines through. Gaiman has constructed a lively retelling of mythology with realistic gods and digestible material for any myth or story lover. A rewarding book for the well-seasoned and novice mythology enthusiast alike!
Diana Wynne Jones has a magic like none other. I picked up Howl's Moving Castle when I was a kid, desperately trying to fill the void in between Harry Potter novels. I quickly devoured everything I could by her and never looked back. The books of Chrestomanci are still some of my favorite books to read.
"She always gave the impression that the stories, the ones she wrote and wrote so very well and wisely, had simply happened, and all she had to do was hold the pen."
A poignant and heartbreaking tale of magic, humanity, and loss. When a unicorn wakes up one day to the realization that she is the very last unicorn, she leaves the safety of the enchanted forest to find out what's happened to the rest of her kind. Teamed up with the inadequate but lovable Schmendrick the magician and the fiery Molly Grue, she embarks on a journey to discover what happened to all the unicorns and face their mysterious enemy, the Red Bull. Fantasy readers will enjoy this book for its magical characters and setting, but ultimately it's the novel's look into loss, mortality, and time that will change you forever.
Read it in its classic book form, read it in its graphic novel form. Just read it.
One of the most lush and lively retellings I’ve read in a long time. Alias Hook tells the story of Captain James Hookbridge, a man who sailed into Neverland one day destined to never leave—and never die. Trapped in Pan’s eternal game, Hook only wishes for escape. He seems hopelessly fated to forever stay in Neverland until one day he finds a woman aboard his ship, about whom Pan knows nothing. In a world where Pan’s will rules all, this woman just might be the key to Hook’s escape from Neverland.
Dark and dangerous faeries, magnificent but terrifying mermaids, and fresh characterization of Pan and Hook all make this an outstanding Peter Pan retelling. Jensen deftly weaves faerie with fairy tale, mortality with hope, children’s games and bitter reality, all the while moving elegantly between the present events of Neverland and Hook’s past. An interesting and thought-provoking novel from start to finish.
Enter the 15th century Ottoman Empire, where Lada and her brother Radu are wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia from a young age and cast into Ottoman rule. Together they learn to not only survive, but help Mehmed, the son of the Sultan, claim his title and conquer the lands. Lada, who is a re-imagined Vlad the Impaler, is a brutal, fierce, unfeeling—and compulsively readable character. I loved the dual perspectives of both Lada to Radu, which lets us fully experience the tensions of religion, politics, war, and love in 15th century eastern rule. This is a novel rich in setting and thoughtful in narrative, and ultimately one I loved every minute of.
A deliciously dark retelling of Peter Pan filled with fantastic illustrations from the author. In Child Thief, Peter moves between the world of Faerie and our own, convincing teenage boys to join him a magical land where time stands still. But Neverland is no longer the paradise it used to be...
A dark visit to Wonderland, opening with an adult Alice imprisoned in--and then escaping--a madhouse. She can't remember what happened to her in Wonderland but she's haunted by the few memories she has of it. As she goes through the Old City we see all our favorite characters grimly reimagined. Dark and engaging, I loved this so much that I read in it in a single day!
I was so pleasantly surprised by this debut. The premise may not be anything new but this novel pulled me right in. Barker's writing style and subtle magic reminded me of one of my favorite writers, Diana Wynne Jones. The plot is well-paced, moving slowly when you want to enjoy the world and quickly when the action rises. Great for readers who enjoyed Night Circus, Howl's Moving Castle, The Magicians, or Outlander.
This is a fun and imaginative graphic novel that explores friendship, magic, and what it really means to be a hero. Nimona is a young girl who is fiercely independent, a bit impulsive, and plenty eager to create havoc around her. When she joins forces with the notorious villain, Lord Ballister Blackheart she thinks they can finally prove that the heroes at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren't exactly who they say they are. But the lines between villainy and heroism aren't so clear and Nimona and Ballister must both work through their painful pasts before they can help make the present world a better place. Full of science, magical shapeshifting, heroes, villains and plenty of laugh out loud moments, this is a graphic novel readers of all ages can enjoy.