Circe

Circe

“You are a daughter of Helios, are you not?” he said when he had finished and I’d stepped back.
“Yes.” The question stung. If I had been a proper daughter he would not have had to ask. I would have been perfect and gleaming with beauty, poured straight from my father’s source.
“Thank you for your kindness.”
I did not know if I was kind. I felt I did not know anything. He spoke carefully, his words tentatively, yet his treason had been so brazen. My mind struggled with the contradiction. Bold action and bold manner are not the same.

Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe is a fantasy novel about Circe, a figure in Greek and Roman mythology who was the daughter of Helios and a nymph named Perse. In a moment of anger, Circe acts out against a fellow nymph, cursing her to live the rest of her life as a monster, and for her actions she is banished to an island where she must live her life alone. Circe goes willingly, but finds that while she does get lonely on her island, she also becomes the mistress of her domain, still able to influence the world around her through the visitors that come to visit.

The character development in this novel is stunning – particularly in Circe herself. At the beginning of the novel, Circe is one of three children between Perse and Helios – her twin brother and sister are beautiful and clever but monstrously selfish, whereas Circe is not as physically flawless, but she conceals a gentle heart that makes her a cast-off in Helios’s home. Circe does not have the god-like powers of her father, but she does have a magic of her own – she is the first witch to be born, and her powers terrify the gods, especially Zeus, who sees her as a threat. Circe at first lacks confidence, feeling herself below her siblings, her mother and father, and the many gods and nymphs who are more beautiful or more treacherous than she is. Because of this rejection, Circe seeks out humanity, and her keen interest in mortals ultimately leads to her banishment from her father’s halls. On Circe’s island, however, Circe learns to rule the world around her, developing her witchcraft through hard work rather than innate skill. Circe’s development from frightened young girl to mature woman in full possession of her gifts was stunning – I loved seeing her act to defend herself or others with her powers, knowing that at the beginning of the novel, she would not have been able to do so.

I have read a good deal of Roman and Greek myths, but have read pieces of myths here and there, getting disjointed stories rather than getting a full narrative from start to finish, so I never had a good feel for the timeline until Circe. I also didn’t realize how many myths did have Circe or traces of Circe in them, so I had no idea until I read this book how much of history she affected. The character development was done so well that I was quite attached to Circe as a character, so it was a lot of fun seeing how all these myths tied in. Many Greek and Roman myths also have several different versions, so I also ended up looking these back up to see where a myth was altered, and where the author just chose a different version than the one that I had known. This really added a lot to the experience for me – it felt like reading about a historical figure, rather than someone that is entirely invented, which helped immerse me into the story and the setting.

I know some have complained about the pacing in Circe, because this definitely is a slow-moving novel. There really didn’t seem to be a good way around it – Circe spends thousands of years living on an island by herself, and a lot of the action takes place without her being present because of her banishment. This still worked for me, because I don’t mind a slow read on occasion, but readers that expected the fast pace of many myths might be disappointed by this novel. For the most part, Circe is about Circe’s development from a young, innocent nymph to the powerful witch of The Odyssey – and on past Odysseus’s death. While there are a few fight scenes and a lot of drama, it wouldn’t be fair to compare it to The Aeneid or Medea.

Circe is still a novel about witchcraft, and I have to comment on how much I absolutely loved the details of Circe’s powers. She describes the magic of the gods as a thing that they can do reflexively, as something they were born with. Witchcraft, however, is a skill that needs built with hard work and effort, and Circe’s combination of humility and patience makes her a far superior witch to others like her. She builds her craft through animal husbandry and work with herbs, and her rich gardens are a sign of her power. Her powers were a natural extension of her personality, and it worked incredibly well with the narrative.

In all, I will give Circe a 9 out of 10. This novel was practically flawless – the characters were spot-on, the world building was rich an detailed, and while the pacing was on the slow side, it felt appropriate, given the main character’s life span. This book will appeal to most, especially mythology fans, but may not be a good choice for readers that are hoping for the action of the myths or those that do not enjoy fantasy.

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The Love Letter

LoveLetter

Chloe lowered the pages with a glance toward Jeremiah, who stared at his script without expression. Falling into his arms… begging him to stay.
She’d lived that scene with Haden Stuart. In fact, she felt certain Esther’s last line was taken from her viral video. Had Jesse Gates seen it? Hard to say, but when the video reached twenty million views, Chloe gave up hiding out and defending herself. She stopped resisting the truth that her crushing humiliation had become a part of pop culture.

“Well…” Jeremiah sighed, tossed the script to the table, reached for his water, and took a long drink.
“What?” Chloe said. “I overplayed her, didn’t I? Let’s read again. I can tone her down. I wasn’t sure on the accent. More British or more Southern? Geez, I don’t want to do a Scarlett O’Hara. That’s not right.” She forced a smile. “I’m so used to the drama of dying and… Know what?” She stuffed the script into her bag. “It’s okay. I don’t regret trying. Thank you for reading with me, Jer. See you at the wedding.”
“Sit down.” Jeremiah pointed to her chair, using his director’s voice. “You’re not going anywhere.”
Chloe stumbled back, tripping down into the chair, a jittery flip-flop tumbling through her.”
“I can’t believe I didn’t audition you. Wow, Chloe. You are so much better than you know. Better than I knew.” His eyes glistened as he spoke.
“I-I… What? Really?” She smiled. “You want me for the part?” A carnival with trumpets and balloons paraded through her. “How will you explain me to the studio?”
“You let me worry about the studio.” He offered his hand. “Welcome to Bound by Love, Chloe Daschle.”

-The Love Letter by Rachel Hauck

The Love Letter by Rachel Hauck

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review. In no way did this affect my review or my rating of the novel.

The Love Letter is a historical romance about two couples in two different centuries: Esther and Hamilton are a couple split by familial conflicts during the Revolutionary War, and Hamilton’s modern-day descendant is a young man named Jesse who is inspired to write a screenplay about Hamilton’s forbidden love, and ends up falling in love with Chloe, the dazzling young actress who has been picked to play Esther. The novel touches on themes of destiny, faith, and true love.

Let me start by saying that I absolutely loved the concept of this book: leaps back and forth between the modern world and the 18th century, seeing Jesse’s interpretation of the romance between Hamilton and Esther, and the reality of their romance and conflict. And on this front, the book did marvelously well. There were quite a few places where that contrast was really tangible. In one chapter, Jesse and Chloe are standing on an old battlefield in the modern day, and Jesse notices that the road curves down so that the attackers likely could not have seen the defendants until the came up on them. Jesse comments that it probably would have affected the outcome of the battle, and he wonders whether Hamilton would have noticed. We then have a change of scene, and Hamilton does notice the curve of the path – not during the battle, but instead, during an encounter with Esther.

There was so much potential in the worldbuilding and the concept of the plot that I was really disappointed by the lack of overall plot realism. When I picked up the book I had not realised that this was Christian fiction, and while I am not opposed to Christian fiction as a genre, some of the religious premises sometimes struggle with realism. That was definitely a problem in The Love Letter. This book makes a strong argument that God can handle everything, and if we place our fates in God’s hands, he will solve our problems for us. I do like this as a religious belief, but it is a little lacking as a plot device. There were a number of times in the book when the characters basically give up on their goals, and their problems are solved for them. There just wasn’t enough of a connection between their actions and their results, and I found myself getting frustrated by characters that came across as not as believers, but as people that aren’t willing to work for results. There also were a handful of moments where Jesus actually appeared in a vision to the characters. This might not be abnormal for this genre, I’m genuinely not sure, but that really took me out of the narrative. I feel like there has to be a better way of showing a character’s spiritual progression than literally having Jesus show up. This is admittedly not my typical genre, so others might feel differently.

I feel so conflicted about the character development, because there are some fantastic developmental moments, especially for Chloe and Jesse, and then there are moments where huge changes are instated with little transition. Chloe in particular has a thorough background and some real, meaningful character changes through the novel. At the start of The Love Letter, Chloe is a few years out of a bad relationship with a rough, public break-up that was posted online. She wants to believe in true love and the institution of marriage, but feels that she is unlucky in love. She has learned the wrong lessons from her experiences – rather than learning how to be independently strong, she has instead learned to distance herself from others. Through The Love Letter, Chloe learns to trust the right people in her life rather than the wrong people, and she learns how to be happy with herself and to have strength in her faith. I really like this progression for her. However, towards the end of the novel she suddenly decides to trust God to solve her relationship problems for her, and she starts acting in a manner that might be best described as erratic – rather than consistently backing off of romance or changing her approach to romance, she instead just acts on opportunities that appear in front of her. To be frank, this sudden change seemed out of place for me, and really disrupted the character development that had been so strong until that moment. There are similar moments for Jesse, Esther, and Hamilton – they each have a moment of realization when they realize they need to trust God to do what is best for them, and then suddenly their behavior becomes rather erratic. To be clear, this did not feel like a difference in beliefs to me – I feel like there could still have been a change in beliefs without the characters’ behaviors seeming so random. That being said, this moment did pass in the book, consistency was resumed, and I was happy with the ending. So take that how you will.

In all, I will give The Love Letter a 6 out of 10. As a Christian romance, it was engaging enough to keep me invested through the end, but I just wanted more from the character development and plot realism.

Top 10 Books that Awaken the Travel Bug in Me

One of the best parts of reading is traveling the world (or imaginary places) from the comfort of my own home. Some books, though, just make me wish the adventure would keep on going! Here are a few books that awaken the travel bug in me.

Top Ten Tuesdays are hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

1. Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

This book is the ultimate travel book for me. Tess travels through an imaginary setting similar to the Middle Ages, and the author talks frequently about the road being a goal in itself, and the value in travel. It makes me want to just strike out on a road trip!

2. The House at the Edge of Night by Catherine Banner

This book is set on an island called Castellamare in the Mediterranean Sea – and Castellamare seriously sounds like paradise. Someday I will go to Europe! Bonus points for romance and drama and historical accuracy and magical realism.

3. White Heat by M.J. McGrath

This might be an unexpected one, but White Heat is set in the far north of Canada, and I have always thought it would be cool and way different to live that far north. I definitely want to travel through Canada, and this book really makes me want to go north.

4. America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie

This book has a lot of cool U.S. history, focusing on Thomas Jefferson’s daughter, and while I have at least visited most of the East coast, all the historical events that this book skates around makes me want to go back to Boston and Washington DC.

5. In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills by Jennifer Haupt

I have always been rather uncomfortable with people that take “safaris” – it just feels a little too colonial to me – but the incredible setting and rich culture featured in this book definitely sparks my interest in visiting Rwanda.

6. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

This book is so dear to my heart, and I have always wanted to visit Canada, especially the touristy areas featuring Green Gables – rereading this book always rekindles that wish.

7. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

I of course have a huge interest in visiting Scotland someday, but Outlander also just has the feel of a great adventure. I want an adventure too!

8. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

There is so much to tackle with Midnight’s Children, but one of the things that jumps out at me about this book is the absolutely stunning world development. It definitely makes me want to visit India!

9. Waypoint Kangaroo by Curtis C. Chen

In Waypoint Kangaroo, Kangaroo takes a cruise to Mars to force him to take a vacation during some upheaval in his department. I know that this is a satire, but it also is pretty spot-on for cruises! We took a cruise to Mexico a couple of years ago, and had a ton of fun. Plus it would be seriously cool to go to Mars.

10. Circe by Madeline Miller

I loved this book for so many reasons, but among the chief of them was the beautiful setting. Circe lives on her own island in the Mediterranean, and it sounds like paradise – the island is fruitful, the weather is mild, and she rarely has visitors.

Rainbirds

Rainbirds

The next day, I had a high fever and terrible headache as expected, but my sister didn’t return. Mother bought porridge and medicine, but she had to leave at the usual time.
“I’m sorry, but I promised my friends I would come over.” She wrote down a phone number on the calendar. “If your fever gets worse and you need me to take you to the hospital, just call Mrs. Koyama and ask for me.”
I nodded, knowing I wouldn’t call. She was going for mahjong and they needed four players. They couldn’t continue with one player missing. Just like my sister and me. We needed each other. Or had it just been me?
I remember lying on my bed with that horrible cold, feeling alone. When I think about it now, it’s so embarrassing that so many years later, I ended up in the exact same situation. This time, too, I felt like she had abandoned me. And this time, too, she wouldn’t return. “Keiko Ishida, why did you always leave without a word?” I closed my eyes and drifted to sleep.

Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan

Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan

Rainbirds is a mystery novel about Ren Ishida, a young man who, after his sister Keiko’s murder, travels to the small town where Keiko was working. Soon, Ren finds himself living in Keiko’s old room, employed at the school where Keiko had worked. As Ren attempts to fit into Keiko’s world, he begins to discover the secrets that she had been keeping from him.

The setting is undoubtedly my favorite aspect of Rainbirds because there was so much incredible detail crammed into the narrative. As a person who has never been to Japan, I was fascinated by the cultural similarities and differences between the Midwest town where I live, and the small town where the plot of Rainbirds takes place. Ren was raised by his sister Keiko, and their parents are often absent, though not much is said about where they were or what they were doing when outside of the house. This was definitely one of the biggest differences – while there are certainly families in the Midwest with absent parents, the kids usually at least have an idea of what their parents are doing, whether they are partying or working long hours or traveling. The absence of Keiko and Ren’s parents felt odd to me, but the narrative seemed to suggest that it was not abnormal. The culture of the cram school where Keiko taught also felt odd to me – I am used to long lists of credentials and lots of experience for teachers to be eligible to work at schools, but Ren was quickly hired before he was even finished with his degree. The novel definitely made it feel like the school was in a rush to hire someone, but I still can’t imagine a teacher being hired that quickly in the US. That being said, there were still quite a few cultural echoes – a child acting out when her parents aren’t getting along, familial tensions between parents and their two children, the closeness between brother and sister, stigma about mental health… there was definitely a lot of familiarity in the relationships of the book, and those similarities made the differences in the small details all the more interesting.

As much as I loved being absorbed in the rich culture of a small town in Japan, I do feel that the pacing was a bit too slow for the narrative. This was not a fast-paced action mystery, but there was still a murder that needed solving, and sometimes the plot seemed like it was falling a bit off the tracks. Ultimately, I was happy with the resolution of the novel and I don’t feel that there was anything irrelevant, but I do think a quicker pace could have solved the doubts I felt about a third of the way through.

The slower pace of Rainbirds did at least allow the author to take her time with character development, and that definitely paid off in the narrative. Many of the characters in Rainbirds started off seeming a bit like tropes, but as backstories were revealed, the characters grew in complexity and interest. Keiko of course was the main focus of the book, and her unpleasant childhood and young adulthood made Keiko a fascinating and highly sympathetic character. Ren started off seeming distant and odd, but as his own childhood and his close relationship with Keiko was revealed, Ren too felt realistic and interesting. Even the supporting characters were fascinating, from Seven Stars to her parents to the other teachers at the school, the author managed to capture the feel of quirky characters in a small town without every one of them feeling like a trope.

In all, I will give Rainbirds an 8 out of 10. This novel is definitely more of a drama than a mystery novel, but the characters and setting make for a fantastic sketch of small town Japan, while the mystery adds direction and interest to the plot, even when the pacing seems to drag a little. Readers of literary fiction and drama will definitely enjoy this one, and mystery readers should like it too, as long as they don’t mind letting the mystery resolve itself through character development and back story.

Top 10 Bookish Worlds I’d Never Want to Live In

One of the best parts of reading fantasy and speculative fiction is diving into an entirely new world and seeing what it might be like to live a different life. However, oftentimes the very elements that make the plot interesting also make the setting a miserable place to live for the characters. Here are a few books that I definitely would not want to live in.

Top Ten Tuesdays are hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

1. Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

I have mentioned before how much I love the concept of this book – there are doorways that open up to alternate realities, and children frequently fall through, and then fall back, like Alice in Wonderland or Narnia. However, this book takes place after the children have returned, and is set in a school for children who are having trouble adjusting to their ordinary lives after spending time in a magical world. The emotional side of the setting was done incredibly well – I felt so bad for these children who have experienced real magic and now must accept that they will never again travel to the places where they feel most comfortable.

2. Everless by Sara Holland

In Everless, time can be extracted from the characters’ blood, and this is the primary currency in this world. The wealthy live for hundreds of years, as they are able to extract time from others, and the poor have extremely short lives, as they often must take time from their blood just to pay for the basics.

3. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

This novel is set in Canada after a severe strain of the flu has wiped out most of the earth’s population. I like to think that I could live without most of the conveniences of modern society, but this book absolutely made me realize how much I would miss. Station Eleven is a slow-paced drama more than it is action adventure, so much is made of the pre- and post- apocalypse generations, and how they survive on a day-to-day basis. I was particularly unsettled by the general absence of art and literature, and just how unusual the traveling actors were for their interest in Shakespeare.

4. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Perhaps this goes without saying, but no one in The Handmaid’s Tale seems truly happy with their lives. The handmaids of course are basically slaves, but even the wealthy are extremely limited in what they can and cannot do. One of my favorite parts of this book was the portrayal of Serena Joy, the wife of the Commander. Serena had been one of the women leading the totalitarian movement, and she is shown to be profoundly unhappy in her new role.

5. The Selection by Kiera Cass

Of course this is a novel about a young woman who goes from the bottom of the social pyramid to the very top, competing with other young woman for a marriage to the prince. While the wealthy do quite well in The Selection, the poor have to struggle simply to survive and feed their families. Of course this brings civil unrest to the entire country.

6. Secondborn by Amy A. Bartol

This is a novel that looks closely at the restriction of reproductive rights – what happens to a society when each family only has two children, and how social standing is then affected by birth order. The main character, Roselle, is a secondborn child, and despite the influence of her politician parents, she is still unable to pursue her own interests, instead being forced into military service. This novel does a great job of showing that firstborn and secondborn children both suffer from this arrangement.

7. Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan

There is a lot to like about the Wheel of Time series, including the magic system and the incredible diversity, but life in this world still just looks pretty bleak for anyone who does not have magic (and often bleak for those that do have magic too). Time and again we see commoners at the mercy of those with the real power, and usually that just leads to their untimely death. There are very few characters in The Wheel of Time who do not have magic and still manage to live a meaningful life.

8. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The world of The Night Circus is similar to the world of the Wheel of Time series in that way. The characters with magic tend to have all the power and responsibility, and the characters without magic are mostly just helpless. There is one particular scene towards the end of the novel that really forces that into view, when the other characters in the circus start to realize all the ways that Celia and Marco have been controlling them.

9. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

I really did enjoy Red Queen, but it is still yet another young adult novel in which a heroine living in poverty gets lucky and jumps to the top of the social ladder. Much is made, though, of the horrible living conditions of Reds in Red Queen. They are sacrificed at the whim of Silvers for adancement, entertainment, and as a way to keep the Reds powerless.

10. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Of course there is a lot to like in the Harry Potter world, but there still is so much disconcerting about characters that aren’t as powerful as Harry and his friends. Clearly there are characters with more power than others, and those with more power perform better in school, which suggests that jobs discriminate similarly. I think it would be fun to live in the Harry Potter world if you are strong in magic, but not if you were weak, and especially not if you were a Muggle.

Gray Hawk of Terrapin

GrayHawkofTerrapin

“I can’t believe they let us through,” said Olga. “I thought for sure we’d get caught.’
“The last leg of our journey,” said Mool. “Ha ha ha.”
“Pontificate and flaneur?” said Olga in a great outward breath. “Erudite words.”
Erudite? thought Mool with a snort. What does that mean? I’m going through a great deal of trouble. She could at least be clear.
“You should talk,” said Mool. “I think you’re making up half of what you say.”
“I assure you,” said Olga in a solemn voice. “My vocabulary is apropos.”
Underneath her fake beard, Mool bared her teeth. “We would make terrible friends.”
“I concur,” said Olga.

Gray Hawk of Terrapin by Moss Whelan

Gray Hawk of Terrapin by Moss Whelan

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review. In no way did this affect my review or my rating of the novel.

Gray Hawk of Terrapin is a children’s fantasy novel about Mool, a thirteen-year-old girl who unexpectedly moves with her mother from Vancouver to Terrapin, the magical world of her parents, when Mool’s uncle becomes sick and needs help from Mool’s mother. Mool has always been an outsider, but she finds that the vivid imagination that was a curse in Vancouver is a gift in Terrapin, where she can see the best and worst of this new world in ways that those around her cannot. When Mool’s childhood imaginary friend named Inberl goes missing, Mool teams up with her quirky cousin Olga to save the day.

My absolute favorite aspect of Gray Hawk of Terrapin is the friendship that develops between Mool and Olga. When they first meet, they are turned off by their differences, and quarrel incessantly. However, Mool and Olga both long for the freedom to explore Terrapin, and that shared desire forces them to work together. Separately, Mool lives deeply within her head and her wild imagination, whereas Olga is rooted within the logic of the world. Together, however, their skills and flaws complement each other, and they are able to survive outside the safety of their home only by working together to solve riddles, coerce information out of adults, and disguise themselves when needed. They go from enemies to “unfriends” to friends, and I just loved following along as they learned to respect each other as they are.

I have to admit to struggling just a little with the writing style. Much of the action, especially early in the novel, is dependent on Mool’s imagination, and I sometimes had trouble following what was happening. Sometimes Mool imagined that something happened, and sometimes it really did, and while I appreciated Mool’s own occasional struggle to tell the difference between imagination and reality, it was not at first clear to me that the mix-up was intentional (nor am I entirely confident, even now, that it was meant to be confusing in that way). This ultimately did not turn me away from the book, as there was so much still to like, but I think a little clarity, especially early in the novel, would have done a lot to keep me invested in the plot.

That being said, some of the chaos of the storytelling was based on the world development, and those aspects were incredible. Gray Hawk of Terrapin had some strong mythology tied to the world of Terrapin, its creation, the magic that it contains, and what will ultimately solve its problems. That world-building was so well done that while I was satisfied with the ending, I would love to read more set in this world, especially from Mool or Olga’s perspectives.

In all, I will give Gray Hawk of Terrapin a 7 out of 10. This is an incredible fantasy for children with well-developed, relatable characters set in a fascinating world. Some of the leaps in action are sometimes distracting, but fantasy lovers will still find this a great, light-hearted read.

Eternal Life

EternalLife.jpg

New parents think of each day as a cascade of beginnings: the first time she smiled, the first time she rolled over, her first steps, her first words, her first day of school. But old parents like her saw only endings: the last time she crawled, the last time she spoke in a pure raw sound unsculpted into the words of others, the last time she stood before the world in braids and laughed when she shouldn’t have, not knowing. Each child died before the person did, a small rehearsal for the future. She raised her children, all of them. She raised them, nurtured them, watched them love or hate or succeed or fail, gave each of them her private excesses of possibilities, observed, sometimes from afar, what they did with them, watched her own ideas wither or grow. Then she finally watched her children die, and she was jealous.

Eternal Life by Dara Horn

Eternal Life by Dara Horn

Eternal Life is a fantasy novel about Rachel, a woman from Roman-occupied Jerusalem, who sacrificed her own chance at death so that her son Yochanan might be cured of a fatal disease. Ever since, Rachel has lived life after life after life, marrying and having children who marry and have children. Only one person understands what it is like: Elazar, her lover in her first life, Yochanan’s father, who also had to give up his death for Yochanan to live. Elazar is sure that he and Rachel are meant to be together forever, but Rachel is less than sure – life after life he comes to her, trying to convince her that they still love one another and must be together, and she gives in to him again and again, despite her fear and anger for sins of the past. In this most recent life, Rachel discovers that one of her granddaughters is studying the human genome, and if Rachel works with her, they just might be able to give Rachel what she wants most of all: a real, eternal death.

The basic premise of this novel – a woman that has had to sacrifice her own death, and therefore has to live again and again – is what drew me to Eternal Life, and I am pleased to say that this novel absolutely delivered on that premise. I have to admit that I have a bit of a phobia about death – once I start thinking about how short life is and how I and everyone I know will die in the end, I can stay up all night worrying. This novel had such a fresh view of death and was almost comforting in that way – because the main character lives a full life span before being reborn, she is able to see how one generation is able to make use of their time and then become irrelevant, passing the torch on to future generations. Eternal Life takes a serious look at the meaning of life, and succeeds in offering something meaningful to the reader without coming across as arrogant or too heavy.

My only real criticism for this book is the pacing. Of course I understand how difficult it must be to try to fit two thousand years into a novel as relatively compact as Eternal Life, I felt like Rachel’s story mostly just jumped back and forth between her first life span and her most recent life, when she is hoping to find a solution to her inability to die. There is seriously so much time between these two that was hardly touched on at all, and I really wish more of that had been shown. Instead, we get these fleeting moments between, when Rachel ran into her descendants, or the times that she met up with Elazar, but I feel like there was so much potential for expansion here that the author could have touched on.

The setting of those two lives, though, was quite well developed. A good deal of world building was spent on Rachel’s first life, and for a good reason – so much fiction set in this time period either focuses heavily on Jesus, or is set in Greece or Rome. I was fascinated by the Rachel’s world, and Jewish culture and religion during this time, and the historical events that happen around Rachel’s life. These small details set up a lot of the action throughout Rachel’s life. It was just so well done. I loved it.

In all, I’ll give Eternal Life an 8 out of 10. This will appeal to fantasy, science fiction, and historical fiction fans, especially readers of all three genres, but because the book seems to straddle those three genres, strict genre readers may not enjoy it as much.

 

Cover Reveal: The Exercise of Vital Powers

Hi, all! In case you didn’t hear, Ian Gregoire is re-releasing The Exercise of Vital Powers. I am seriously really excited about this re-release, because the first edition had some things about it that I really loved, and I think this new version will be incredible. In preparation of the re-release, The Exercise of Vital Powers also has a brand new cover!

cover-artwork

Seriously – doesn’t that look incredible? I love how the artwork really captures Kayden’s personality! The Exercise of Vital Powers should be ready to go in July 2018. Keep your eyes peeled for the pre-order link!

ABOUT THE BOOK

Ian Gregoire’s debut fantasy novel was self-published with no fanfare in the spring of 2017. On a whim, he entered the book into the SPFBO competition organised by Mark Lawrence two weeks later, and was just as surprised as everyone else when The Exercise Of Vital Powers was selected as Kitty G’s first semi-finalist. The book subsequently garnered a number of positive reviews, culminating in a place on the longlist of nominations for Best Self-Published Novel in the inaugural BookNest Fantasy Awards.

Originally written and published as a stand-alone novel, the soon to be released second edition of The Exercise Of Vital Powers is now book one of a five book series called Legends Of The Order. Readers who missed out the first time around will now have the opportunity to acquaint themselves with the book’s precocious protagonist before she returns in the sequel, coming soon.

 

Some Lessons Must Be Learned The Hard Way

 

Since its inception, The Order has been dedicated to the prevention of the misuse and abuse of magic. For seven decades this mandate has guaranteed peace and stability throughout The Nine Kingdoms. But a potential threat to the peace has emerged, and its source is much closer to home than the leadership of The Order may realise. Arrogant, manipulative, confrontational and angry. Undesirable qualities in a person at the best of times, but more so in a young woman born with the power to bring kingdoms to their knees. Kayden Jayta, precocious apprentice of The Order, is all these things and more, yet wholly unwilling to acknowledge and rectify her many troubling traits. Unbeknown to anyone, Kayden’s resolute determination to join the ranks of The Order is born of a secret that puts her priorities at odds with the precepts of the organisation, setting her inexorably on a collision course with the most powerful institution in The Nine Kingdoms. If Kayden is to be dissuaded from walking the path she has chosen, averting tragic consequences in the process, two unanswered questions must be answered: What is the dark secret guiding Kayden’s actions? And, why has a legendary figure within The Order, with a secret of her own, taken undue interest in Kayden’s future?

PRAISE FOR THE BOOK

“I don’t know what I was expecting, really, but I don’t think I was expecting such an engaging, well thought out story from a self-published debut novel I had never heard of before…” Kristen (Superstardrifter)

“I don’t pretend to be the most well read person, but I found this to be completely unique, and I loved it! I felt very engaged right from the start, and somehow became even more engaged by the end.” Kim (The Writing Process)

“I love reading about flawed characters, and the development that Kayden shows through the course of the novel is impressive.” Rachel (The Perspicacious Bookworm)

“Overall, TEOVP, being a debut work, is a good book that every fan of character-driven fantasy should try to read.” Lukasz (Goodreads)

“Gregoire has done an amazing job of creating a feeling of tension throughout, while leaving us guessing as to what will happen next, or even how the outcome will  turn out.”
Dianne (Tome Tender)

“…this book was sneaky amazing.” Angelica (The Effervescent Bookworm)

EXPECTED PUBLICATION

The Exercise Of Vital Powers is due to go on sale from Monday 2 nd July 2018, in ebook and paperback editions. Pre-orders will be open in June via all the usual online retailers.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

author-headshot

The reclusive Ian Gregoire is a taciturn introvert residing somewhere in London, where he was born and raised. Of all life’s diversions, reading and writing are the only ones he ever deemed worthwhile enough to be passionate about. This eventually led to his belated decision to pursue his true calling in life as a fantasy and science fiction author. His debut novel, The Exercise Of Vital Powers, is just the first of many books he intends to inflict upon an unsuspecting world.

On the occasions he steps out of his reading and writing comfort zone, Ian has a fondness for computing, melancholy music, retro gaming, and Asian Cinema. Ian also loves peace and quiet, something that is in frustratingly short supply in his life.

Ian can currently be found (or not) living the life of a hermit somewhere in London, continuing his quest to become your future favourite fantasy and science fiction author. To find out more about him and his ongoing publishing journey be sure to visit his official online hangouts.

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Top 10 Books with Green Covers

Why green, you ask? Not only is is my favorite color, but it also happens to be my married name! This is a short one, but just bask in the beauty of these amazing covers! I wholeheartedly recommend every one of these books – they are all on my “favorite books” shelf in my home library.

Top 10 Tuesdays are hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

 

Every Heart A Doorway

EveryHeartADoorway

“Vampires?” said Nancy blankly. “Those aren’t real.”
“None of this is real, my dear. Not this house, not this conversation, not those shoes you’re wearing – which are several years out of style, if you’re trying to re-acclimatize yourself to the ways of your peers, and not proper morning shoes, if you’re trying to hold fast to your recent past, and not either one of us. ‘Real’ is a four letter word, and i’ll thank you to use it as little as possible while you live under my roof.”

Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Every Heart a Doorway is a young adult fantasy novel about a school for children who have returned from magical realms and find themselves out of touch with their former lives. Nancy, the main character of the novel, went to an underworld where she served the king and queen of the dead. A formerly cheerful girl who was accustomed to bright colors, Nancy now dresses in black, and often blends into the background, having been accustomed to standing perfectly still for days, hardly eating or even breathing. While all of the children in Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children went to vastly different realities, Nancy still finds herself comfortable in this school full of misfits who not only believe her story, but have experienced similar things. Shortly after Nancy arrives, however, students are found dead in bizzarre murders. Nancy and her new friends know that one of their fellow students must be the murderer, and they must rush to find the murderer and his or her motive before the murders can continue.

As many readers I am sure, I loved the concept of this novel – as a child especially I loved the idea that I might be kidnapped away from the problems in my life and find myself in a magical world. It is clear that the author was thinking of some well-known books like The Chronicles of Narnia, Alice in Wonderland, and Harry Potter. Each world has its own entrance that follows its on rules – some worlds have doors open again and again, some only open once, and one character visits a world that she can visit again and again as she wishes. The worlds are categorized in terms of logic and nonsense, and clearly a lot of thought was given to these categories.

Unfortunately, more attention was given to the concept than was given to the characters. While I was still interested in the characters, finding some likable and some unlikable, they did not show much dimension or growth. One of the best parts of a fantasy is usually the characters, so I was a little disappointed in the lack of substance here. I think the book functions without the same level of character development that I generally prefer, but I definitely think it could have been a better read, had the author spent a little more time on building personalities. I will add, though, that I appreciated the diversity among the characters, in particular the addition of an asexual character and transgender character, rarely seen even in modern fiction and especially rare in fantasy.

One of the things that most intrigued me about this novel was the plot – I was eager to see how the murder mystery theme played out, given the concept. However, I found myself a little disappointed here, too. The plot was straightforward and predictable, the characters often behaved in bizarre ways (almost nothing changed after students ended up dead!), and the ending did not have the flair I had needed. I think this likely was caused by the shorter length – in this case, I definitely think the plot would have benefited from another hundred pages.

That being said, the setting was quite nicely done. The author had beautiful imagery in the magical worlds as well as the present one. I loved the writing, and I am sure I will the others in the series – I have high hopes that having established the world, the author will find herself able to focus a little more the things that usually make me enjoy books.

In all, Every Heart A Doorway is a 7 out of 10. It is certainly entertaining for what it is – a young adult fantasy that is more concept than story. However, if young adult fantasy isn’t your thing then there probably is not much in this book for you.