Every Heart a Doorway (Seanan McGuire)

Every Heart a Doorway (Seanan McGuire)Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children, #1) by Seanan McGuire
Published by Tor.com on April 5th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 173
Format: audio
Source: Scribd
Goodreads

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward ChildrenNo SolicitationsNo VisitorsNo Quests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced... they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.

Plot: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★
Readability: ★★★★★

 

It’s no secret by now that I’m a big fan of Mira Grant’s books, but having pretty much exhausted all of her works recently, I decided to start on the series she’s written under the name Seanan McGuire instead.  One of the first I’ve picked up is Every Heart a Doorway, which I chose for a couple of reasons – I saw Ellie’s review of Down Among the Sticks & Bones (another book in the series), I loved the sound of the premise, and it happened to be available as an audiobook on Scribd at the moment I went looking.  Seemed a bit like fate really!  Every Heart a Doorway tells the story of Nancy, who travelled to another world but has ended up stuck back in ours, desperately wishing she could go back.  Driven to desperation, her parents send her to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, where she meets other kids just like her, who’ve been to other places but now find themselves stuck where they started.  All of the students at Miss Eleanor West’s home want to travel back through their doors more than anything, but when a student is killed they get drawn into the mystery and wondering if they might be next.

“Her parents loved her, there was no question of that, but their love was the sort that filled her suitcase with colors and kept trying to set her up in dates with local boys. Their love wanted to fix her, and refused to see that she wasn’t broken.”

Students have travelled to worlds that are so unlike our own, but also so unlike each other’s, and each of them is changed by the experience.  They’ve also been affected by OUR world too though – for whatever reason, most of them felt they just didn’t fit until they found their door and what lay on the other side.  The cast of characters is great; each feels unique, and well-developed, and as is often the case with Grant/McGuire books, they’re wonderfully diverse.  For some characters, their diversity is crucial to their plot and story, and for others it’s just an incidental background fact, which is great.  I liked the characters, and I especially loved Jack and Jill, so I knew I’d definitely want to follow this up with Down Among the Sticks and Bones, which explores their backstory.

 “Nobody gets to tell me how my story ends but me.”

The story is quite dark and twisted, and if you’re a fan of Christina Henry, I imagine you’ll like this.  The premise is great, the cast are great, and the murder mystery is intriguing, but I didn’t love it quite as much as I wanted to, or as I felt like I should.  There’s a lot crammed in, and the reflection on our world gives you plenty to think about and dwell on all on it’s own – but it’s a very short story.  I would have happily spent a lot longer with these characters and their world, so I do wish this was a full-length novel.  It’s definitely worth a read though, and you can bet I’ll be picking up every additional story McGuire gives us in this world.

“Real’ is a four-letter word, and I’ll thank you to use it as little as possible while you live under my roof.”

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

[Series Snapshot] The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan

by Rick Riordan
Published by Disney-Hyperion, Hyperion Books, Hyperion Books for Children Genres: Action & Adventure, Fantasy, Middle Grade
Format: audio
Source: Scribd

[Series Snapshot] The Kane Chronicles by Rick RiordanThe Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
Published by Disney-Hyperion on May 4th 2010
Pages: 516
Goodreads

Since their mother's death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane.

One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a "research experiment" at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.

Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them —Set— has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe - a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs.



Series stats

Author: Rick Riordan
Number of books: 3
Total number of pages: 1404


Opening line:

We only have a few hours, so listen carefully.


Status on my shelves:

I borrowed all three from Scribd as audiobooks.


Why I picked this series up:

I’ve been catching up with Rick Riordan’s books, because I have several friends who are fans.  Having finished Percy Jackson & The Olympians and The Heroes of Olympus series, the Kane Chronicles seemed like the next logical step! I was nervous about new characters and new mythology, but I decided to give it a go anyway.


Overall thoughts:

The first thing to say is that these work excellently as audiobooks.  The books are written as if they’re typed transcripts of an audio recording which has been left by Sadie and Carter, so they’re the ideal format for audio.  I listened to the unabridged BrillianceAudio editions, narrated by Katherine Kellgren (for Sadie’s chapters) and Kevin R. Free (for Carter’s chapters) and I thought both did a great job!  The story begins when Sadie and Carter watch their Egyptologist father summon something in the British Museum before disappearing.  Sadie and Carter have been raised separately – Carter by his father, travelling the world and homeschooling, and Sadie by her grandparents in London.  These two relative strangers are forced to work together as they get caught up in a world they never knew existed.

One of Riordan’s strengths is his character cast, and while I didn’t find anyone to top Leo (my favourite character so far!) or Nico, Riordan’s characters are as always well-rounded and relatable.  As I’ve come to expect from Riordan now, we also get characters who are diverse but who’s diversity isn’t a driving plot point: it’s just a reflection of the world, and I love that.  Sadie and Carter are both likeable, relatable characters.  Sadie is witty, and sarcastic and generally made me laugh the whole way through. She’s also very believable: she has both friends and people she doesn’t get along with, she isn’t a character who’s astoundingly smart and perfect and does no wrong, or sounds like she’s much more mature than she truly is.  While I didn’t love Carter as much, he too has a convincing, authentic voice throughout the series; older, feeling burdened with responsibility for his younger sister, but still ultimately a teen at heart.  The supporting characters – Anubis, Walt, Bes, Bast and the others – are also interesting and likeable.

The first book picks up quickly, and this series doesn’t suffer from middle-book-syndrome: it keeps up the pace from book 1 right through to the end of book 3.   I won’t say too much for fear of spoilers, but I really enjoyed the way Riordan worked the Gods into this series – it feels fresh and interesting, and it makes for some really interesting twists and the occasional ethical dilemma.  Having said that, the mythology feels shallower in this series than the Greek mythology in the Olympians/Heroes of Olympus.  That’s obviously to be expected when there are only three books to play with here, compared to 10 for the Greeks, but this series does somehow feel a little less in-depth generally, a little less mature, certainly in comparison to the Heroes of Olympus series.  The series is quick and enjoyable though – I finished all three books within about two weeks, which doesn’t sound fast but is pretty much unprecedented pace for me and audiobooks.  All in all, I didn’t love it as much as his other series so far, but if you’re a fan of the other series, you’ll almost certainly enjoy this one too.

One StarOne StarOne Star

Lord of Shadows (Cassandra Clare)

Lord of Shadows (Cassandra Clare)Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on May 23rd 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 701
Source: Purchased
Goodreads

Would you trade your soul mate for your soul?

A Shadowhunter’s life is bound by duty. Constrained by honor. The word of a Shadowhunter is a solemn pledge, and no vow is more sacred than the vow that binds parabatai, warrior partners—sworn to fight together, die together, but never to fall in love.

Emma Carstairs has learned that the love she shares with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, isn’t just forbidden—it could destroy them both. She knows she should run from Julian. But how can she when the Blackthorns are threatened by enemies on all sides?

Their only hope is the Black Volume of the Dead, a spell book of terrible power. Everyone wants it. Only the Blackthorns can find it. Spurred on by a dark bargain with the Seelie Queen, Emma; her best friend, Cristina; and Mark and Julian Blackthorn journey into the Courts of Faerie, where glittering revels hide bloody danger and no promise can be trusted. Meanwhile, rising tension between Shadowhunters and Downworlders has produced the Cohort, an extremist group of Shadowhunters dedicated to registering Downworlders and “unsuitable” Nephilim. They’ll do anything in their power to expose Julian’s secrets and take the Los Angeles Institute for their own.

When Downworlders turn against the Clave, a new threat rises in the form of the Lord of Shadows—the Unseelie King, who sends his greatest warriors to slaughter those with Blackthorn blood and seize the Black Volume. As dangers close in, Julian devises a risky scheme that depends on the cooperation of an unpredictable enemy. But success may come with a price he and Emma cannot even imagine, one that will bring with it a reckoning of blood that could have repercussions for everyone and everything they hold dear.

SPOILER ALERT: As this is book 2 in The Dark Artifices series, there will be spoilers for Lady Midnight throughout this review.

Plot: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★
Readability: ★★★★★

Given my somewhat inconsistent opinions of Cassandra Clare’s books in the past, I was nervous about Lady Midnight – but then ended up loving it! I bought Lord of Shadows as soon as I had an audible credit, and I binge listened to both books in a row.  I have to admit, part of my motivation for getting the audiobooks was that I knew Lord of Shadows was narrated by James Marsters, one of my favourite narrators (although I miss his Spike accent!).  Picking an audiobook based on the narrator might seem like a pretty risky strategy, but it paid off in this case – I enjoyed Lord of Shadows even more than Lady Midnight.

I felt like we got to see more of the Blackthorn siblings in Lord of Shadows, and I really enjoyed that. I adore Ty, and I’m definitely a not-so-secret Ty and Kit shipper!  The romance element got heavier in Lord of Shadows, which could have been a dealbreaker for me, given that I didn’t love the romance in Lady Midnight, but there was enough here to enjoy to more than balance it out.  Three love triangles are definitely too many, especially when I feel like two of them have a clear way they should pan out (in my head at least).  Feeling like they’ve got an obvious resolution takes away some of the intensity, and instead just felt like a slightly annoying, predictable way to try and ramp up the intensity.

Having said that, I love a lot of the characters, so I’m willing to overlook some of their irritating romance habits to a certain extent.  Mark and Kieran are both pretty emotionally damaged, and those are my favourite kind of characters, so it’s no surprise I’d love them! Christina and Emma are kickass, and Kit and Ty are just kind of adorable.  I mostly just feel a bit bad for Dru, who seems to always get a crappy deal – she’s very relatable, but I do occasionally want to shake her a bit!  Livvy is the weakest character in the family for me, I just find her a bit strange and forgettable.  Tavvy hasn’t had much of an impact either but he’s only little still so I’m not really expecting him to! Maybe it’s just because Ty is such a good character, that I can’t help feeling Livvy is somewhat flat in comparison.

As with Lady Midnight, I found the plot addictive, and burned through this very quickly: 10 days for a ~24 hour audiobook is way above average pace for me!  There is a cliffhanger, so if you’re not fond of those, it might be worth waiting and binge-reading the trilogy all in one go, but having read the first one and knowing the second one was out, I couldn’t convince myself to wait!

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Lady Midnight (Cassandra Clare)

Lady Midnight (Cassandra Clare)Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on March 8th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 698
Format: audio
Source: Purchased
Goodreads

In a kingdom by the sea…

In a secret world where half-angel warriors are sworn to fight demons, parabatai is a sacred word.

A parabatai is your partner in battle. A parabatai is your best friend. Parabatai can be everything to each other—but they can never fall in love.

Emma Carstairs is a warrior, a Shadowhunter, and the best in her generation. She lives for battle. Shoulder to shoulder with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, she patrols the streets of Los Angeles, where vampires party on the Sunset Strip, and faeries—the most powerful of supernatural creatures—teeter on the edge of open war with Shadowhunters. When the bodies of humans and faeries turn up murdered in the same way Emma’s parents were when she was a child, an uneasy alliance is formed. This is Emma’s chance for revenge—and Julian’s chance to get back his brother Mark, who is being held prisoner by the faerie Courts. All Emma, Mark, and Julian have to do is solve the murders within two weeks…and before the murderer targets them.

Their search takes Emma from sea caves full of sorcery to a dark lottery where death is dispensed. And each clue she unravels uncovers more secrets. What has Julian been hiding from her all these years? Why does Shadowhunter Law forbid parabatai to fall in love? Who really killed her parents—and can she bear to know the truth?

The darkly magical world of Shadowhunters has captured the imaginations of millions of readers across the globe. Join the adventure in Lady Midnight, the long-awaited first volume of a new trilogy from Cassandra Clare.

Plot: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★
Readability: ★★★★

I have a somewhat rocky track history with Cassandra Clare’s books… I loved books 1-3 of The Mortal Instruments but I thought 4 was pretty poor, and then ended up enjoying 5 & 6.  I’ve tried multiple times to get into The Infernal Devices, but despite having read Clockwork Angel I remember almost nothing about it and felt decidedly underwhelmed by it.  I put off picking up Lady Midnight because I assumed I’d need to have read The Infernal Devices first, but since I had an audible credit to spend I thought I’d just give it a try and look up a wikipedia summary for if I really needed to.

Lady Midnight follows Emma Carstairs and the Blackthorns, five years after City of Heavenly Fire. Based mostly at the LA Institute, this is a shadowhunter world that’s both familiar and still a little new to us as readers.  We’ve got characters that we know, sort of – we met Emma and the Blackthorns in City of Heavenly Fire – as well as new characters, like Kit Rook and Kieran.  We’ve got a few plot threads to follow throughout Lady Midnight: the return of Mark, who’s both changed and unchanged by his time in faerie, Emma’s search for evidence of what happened to her parents, and her desperate desire for revenge, and Emma and Julian’s potentially-veering-into-dangerous-territory feelings.

I have to say, I actually love most of the characters. Julian, like Jace, is a little too perfect-seeming for me at times, but I loved his siblings.  I instantly liked Kit and both Emma and Christina are very easy to like. The family dynamics between the Blackthorns are great, and the intense feelings stirred up by Mark’s return led to some moments that tugged on the heartstrings!  The romance definitely wasn’t my favourite aspect – one of my least favourite things in YA, especially when there’s a big cast, is when everyone gets paired off so neatly, with their forever partners (I don’t love all of Maas’ pairings for the same reason!) – but I didn’t dislike it. It felt plausible enough, and I could see why each would like the other, even if I thought everyone’s feelings were a little over the top!

Listening to audiobooks always takes me longer than reading a book of the same length because I only listen while walking to work (which I don’t do every day) and briefly to fall asleep.  Having said that, I listened to nearly 20 hours of audiobook in just under a month, which is a little higher than usual probably, because I was enjoying it!  While Morena Baccarin probably won’t be making it onto my list of all-time favourite narrators – which are all men so far, weirdly – I did find her very pleasant to listen to, and I’d happily listen to another audiobook she narrated.

I enjoyed Lady Midnight a lot more than I expected to, and as soon as I got another audible credit, I bought Lord of Shadows, and listened to it pretty much straight away.  You can bet I’ll be getting book 3 when it’s out too!

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Review: Wonder Woman: Warbringer

Review: Wonder Woman: WarbringerWonder Woman: Warbringer (DC Icons, #1) by Leigh Bardugo
on August 31st 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Source: From the publisher
Amazon
Goodreads

She will become a legend but first she is Diana, Princess of the Amazons. And her fight is just beginning...
Diana is desperate to prove herself to her warrior sisters. But when the opportunity comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law to save a mere mortal, Alia Keralis. With this single heroic act, Diana may have just doomed the world.
Alia is a Warbringer - a descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery. Diana and Alia will face an army of enemies, mortal and divine, determined to destroy or possess the Warbringer.
To save the world, they must stand side by side against the tide of war.

Plot: ★★★
Characters: ★★★
Readability: ★★★

I have to admit, I’m not much of a DC fangirl: I’ve never read any of the original comics, and my feelings on most of the DC movies are pretty lukewarm… But I loved the Wonder Woman film, and I liked Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha series, so I was really excited for Warbringer.

Leigh Bardugo’s take on Wonder Woman sees a young Diana save Alia from drowning, only to discover that Alia is a Warbringer and Diana may have just doomed the world.  Desperate to prove herself as a hero, to put things right, and to prevent being exiled by her sisters for the crime of saving a mortal, Diana leaves Themyscira to try and break the Warbringer cycle.

“I am done being careful. I am done being quiet. Let them see me angry. Let them hear me wail at the top of my lungs.”

I had pretty high expectations for Wonder Woman, and sadly the book didn’t quite live up to those.  I liked the premise well enough, but the story felt very slow and I found the twist predictable.  Warbringer, despite being a teen book, felt very young to me; it has a definite Percy Jackson-esque feel, which isn’t a bad thing but wasn’t what I was expecting.  I didn’t feel the dangers and consequences were believably threatening, and the fact that the characters respond to trouble with giggly banter made it even harder to take seriously.

Bardugo’s writing was enjoyable, and the book is endlessly quotable.  The book is clearly trying to be Epic though, and occasionally those inspiring or kick-ass or feminist lines felt shoe-horned in.  I liked Diana and Alia, and I LOVED Nim. I wasn’t particularly bothered by either Jason or Theo.  I loved the diversity of the cast, and the mixtures of points of view we got, rather than everyone always agreeing and thinking the same way.  I never really got emotionally invested in the romances though, to be honest I think I’d have found a relationship between Diana and Nim (or even Alia) more believable than the ones we got!

All in all, Wonder Woman was a good, fun read, and a genuinely solid choice.  If you loved the Wonder Woman movie and want a superhero book with a diverse cast and lovely writing, you’ll enjoy it. You just might not love it, even if you’re expecting to.

One StarOne StarOne Star