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23 Dec, 2015

Mini Review – Magic or Madness

/ posted in: Reading Mini Review – Magic or Madness Magic Or Madness by Justine Larbalestier
on 2005
Pages: 271
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy & Magic
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in Australia

For fifteen years, Reason Cansino has lived on the run. Together with her mother, Sarafina, she has moved from one place to another in the Australian countryside, desperate not to be found by Reason's grandmother Esmeralda, a dangerous woman who believes in magic. But the moment Reason walks through Esmeralda's back door and finds herself on a New York City street, she's confronted by an unavoidable truth—magic is real.

Goodreads

Reason has been taught from a young age to believe in numbers and logic.  She has also been taught that her grandmother is a dangerous woman.  But, when she is 15, her mother has a mental breakdown and custody is given to her grandmother.

While trying to escape the house like she has been trained to do by her mother, she goes through a door that opens into New York and then can’t figure out how to get back.  She’s taken in by another girl who is magical and now Reason has to decide whose stories to believe – her mother’s or her grandmother’s.

I liked this book mostly because the Australian influence is very strong and I don’t read a lot of books like that.  Reason uses Australian slang and can’t get used to a New York winter.

The magical system is different than other books I’ve read.  Every time you use magic you are using up life force.  Magic users die young.

This is the first book of a trilogy.  As of now I’m not intrigued enough to read the rest.

 

03 Dec, 2015

Soundless

/ posted in: Reading Soundless Soundless by Richelle Mead
on November 10th 2015
Pages: 272
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy & Magic
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in China

For as long as Fei can remember, there has been no sound in her village, where rocky terrain and frequent avalanches prevent residents from being self-sustaining. Fei and her people are at the mercy of a zipline that carries food up the treacherous cliffs from Beiguo, a mysterious faraway kingdom.   When villagers begin to lose their sight, deliveries from the zipline shrink and many go hungry. Fei's home, the people she loves, and her entire existence is plunged into crisis, under threat of darkness and starvation.   But soon Fei is awoken in the night by a searing noise, and sound becomes her weapon.

Goodreads

Fei lives in a small village on the top of a mountain.  Generations ago the passes through the mountains were blocked by avalanches cutting off the village from the land below.  The village survives by mining metals and sending them down the mountain on a small zip line.  Food is sent up in return.  It is hardly enough to keep the village fed and the amounts that are being sent up are getting smaller.

No one can go down the mountain because of avalanches.  Everyone in the village is deaf so they can’t hear the rocks falling as they are repelling down.  Now, people are starting to go blind also so something has to be done.  When Fei mysteriously regains her hearing, she knows that she can guide a trip down the side of the mountain to the city below.

I liked the author’s description of how a town with only deaf residents would function.  She also did a good job of trying to describe what it would be like to suddenly have a whole new sense that no one you know has ever had before.

Interacting with the outside world for the first time after the isolation of the mountain village was interesting.  This book lost me a bit though at the end.  I swear I’ve never said these words before in my life but I don’t think the fantasy elements of this story were necessary or helped the story.  They don’t show up until the end and seem jarring to a story that was well grounded with scientific explanations for events.

It was like I was reading along and then:

Magic!

It was very deus ex machina and not needed.


I was looking at some other reviews and noticed that there aren’t a whole lot of nice reviews about this one.  A lot of those are done by people who DNFed it.  I don’t get that. If you didn’t read the whole thing, you can’t complain that you don’t understand things that aren’t explained until after you quit reading it.

Some readers seem to think “world building” means “explain everything to me in one chapter right at the beginning so I understand how everything works and don’t have to figure it out as I go along.”  I think of that as lazy reading.

Yes, the book isn’t as Chinese as it is touted as being except for the names and the calligraphy and the fantasy part at the end and I don’t know what people were expecting.  People are complaining that it could have taken place anywhere like China is the most insanely different place that isn’t at all like anywhere else.  It isn’t like people living in China run around pointing and yelling, “Oh look!  That’s a Chinese person.  There’s another one!”  Were people expecting more stereotypes?

This is why I shouldn’t read reviews while I’m still writing mine.  I go off on rants.

Take home message

Soundless is an okay way to spend a few hours.  Don’t expect to be blown away but it isn’t as hideous as some other reviews make it sound.

23 Oct, 2015

When Autumn Leaves

/ posted in: Reading When Autumn Leaves When Autumn Leaves by Amy S. Foster
on 2009
Pages: 287
Genres: Fiction, Literary
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

In Avening, a tiny town on the Pacific coast, it's hard not to believe in magic. This is a town where the shoes in the window always fit, where you can buy a love potion at the corner shop, and where the woods at the outskirts of town just might be the door to another world. And, of course, there's Autumn, Avening's beloved resident witch. From what's known of its mythical founding, Avening has always been a haven for people who are a little bit different, a place where they can come to discover what makes them so special.
When Autumn receives news that she's been promoted to a higher coven, she also learns she has to replace herself. But who in Avening is in tune enough with her own personal magic to take over the huge responsibility of town witch? Autumn has a list of thirteen women and men who just might have what it takes-but how can she get them to open their eyes to the magic in their lives?
This endlessly surprising and heart-warming debut is the story of coming to terms with the magical things we take for granted every day-our friends, our community, and, most of all, ourselves.

Goodreads

Autumn has lived in Avening for a long time and she isn’t thrilled to be told that she needs to move on.  They give her one year to choose and prepare a successor.  They also give her a list of potential names chosen by their prophet.  That doesn’t make Autumn happy.  There are several women she’d consider who aren’t on the list and she hasn’t heard of several who are on it.

The book continues with a story about each woman that each takes place on a different holiday on the Celtic Wheel of the Year.  Each of them has a different type of magical ability.  Most of them don’t know that what they are able to do is actually magic.  Only one has had any formal type of magical training.  None of them know that there is a group of magical women who they may be asked to join.

This is a quiet book about the life of a town and the interior lives of some of the women who live there.  It is about using your skills to achieve the greatest potential that you are able.

02 Oct, 2015

The Shepherd’s Crown

/ posted in: Reading The Shepherd’s Crown The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett
on September 1st 2015
Pages: 288
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy & Magic
Format: Hardcover
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

Terry Pratchett's final Discworld novel, and the fifth to feature the witch Tiffany Aching.
A SHIVERING OF WORLDS
Deep in the Chalk, something is stirring. ¬The owls and the foxes can sense it, and Tiffany Aching feels it in her boots. An old enemy is gathering strength.
This is a time of endings and beginnings, old friends and new, a blurring of edges and a shifting of power. Now Tiffany stands between the light and the dark, the good and the bad.
As the fairy horde prepares for invasion, Tiffany must summon all the witches to stand with her. To protect the land. Her land.
There will be a reckoning. . . .
THE FINAL DISCWORLD® NOVEL

Goodreads

It isn’t often that an author writes a book knowing that it is going to be his last.  Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in 2007 and wrote novels as his “embuggerance” worsened.  When he lost the ability to read and write, he dictated.  The Shepherd’s Crown is the last book he wrote.  It is a goodbye to the world that he created in his Discworld novels.

Minor Spoilers Ahead

I didn’t preorder the book.  I couldn’t make myself do it.  Eventually I ordered it and let it sit in the box on my counter for about a month.  One day I was off work and sick and decided to suck it up and read it.  I didn’t know much about what it was going to be about other than the fact that it was about Tiffany Aching, his YA version of the witches’ story in the Discworld novels and that Granny Weatherwax was going to die.  Granny Weatherwax is my favorite.  I want to be her when I grow up.  This was going to be rough.

Later I handed that page to my husband who has read all the Tiffany Aching books. He said he got chills.

Witches in the Discworld know when they are going to die.  The book starts with Granny Weatherwax finding out that she is going to die the next day.  She gets her affairs in order by cleaning the house and making a coffin.  Then she lays down in bed and greets Death.

YOU ARE TAKING THIS VERY WELL, ESME WEATHERWAX.

“It’s an inconvenience, true enough, and I don’t like it at all, but I know that you do it for everyone, Mr. Death.  Is there any other way?”

NO, THERE ISN’T, I’M AFRAID.  WE ARE ALL FLOATING IN THE WINDS OF TIME.  BUT YOUR CANDLE, MISTRESS WEATHERWAX, WILL FLICKER FOR SOME TIME BEFORE IT GOES OUT — A LITTLE REWARD FOR A LIFE WELL LIVED.  FOR I CAN SEE THE BALANCE AND YOU HAVE LEFT THE WORLD MUCH BETTER THAN YOU FOUND IT, AND IF YOU ASK ME, said Death, NOBODY COULD DO ANY BETTER THAN THAT….

The witches and wizards know when she dies and come to pay their respects.  It is a chance to say goodbye to a lot of characters that he created.  What really got to me though was after Nanny and Tiffany bury her, the animals in the forest who she used to borrow (hitchhike on their consciousness to see what was going on) come and sit near the grave.  That got the tears flowing.

The rest of the story is about what happens when a guardian of a land is gone.  How do you go on?  It isn’t hard to see the parallels to him thinking about his own death.  In the book, elves invade because Granny isn’t there to defend the borders between worlds.  Everyone has to learn to get along to defend themselves.  I found that I didn’t really care about the plot so much as I cared about the interaction between characters trying to figure out where they fit in this new reality.  That’s true for most Discworld novels though.  The overall plot takes a backseat to the characters.  (He does work in a great subplot about old, retired men finding a way to be useful and the magical powers of sheds in the lives of men.)

I’m glad I read it.  The husband hasn’t worked himself up to it yet.  I’ll be interested to hear his thoughts on it.

 

 

12 Aug, 2015

Zahrah The Windseeker

/ posted in: Reading Zahrah The Windseeker Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor
on 2005
Pages: 308
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

In the northern Ooni Kingdom, fear of the unknown runs deep, and children born dada are rumored to have special powers. Thirteen-year-old Zahrah Tsami feels like a normal girl--she grows her own flora computer, has mirrors sewn onto her clothes, and stays clear of the Forbidden Greeny Jungle. But unlike other children in the village of Kirki, Zahrah was born with the telling dadalocks. Only her best friend, Dari, isn’t afraid of her, even when something unusual begins happening--something that definitely makes Zahrah different. The two friends determine to investigate, edging closer and closer to danger. When Dari’s life is threatened, Zahrah must face her worst fears alone, including the very thing that makes her different. In this exciting debut novel by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, things aren’t always what they seem--monkeys tell fortunes, plants offer wisdom, and a teenage girl is the only one who stands a chance at saving her best friend’s life.

Goodreads

This is the first book that Nnedi Okorafor published.  It is a middle grade novel about a girl who is born different and whose difference is not easily hidden.  Zahrah has vines growing out of her head along with her hair.  As she starts to go through puberty, she also develops the ability to levitate.  She doesn’t want to be any more of an oddity so she hides this skill.  Besides, she’s afraid of heights.

On the outskirts of the town there is the Forbidden Greeny Jungle.  No one goes in there.  No one knows anything about it except it is dangerous.  Zahrah’s friend Dari is obsessed with a book that tells of people who explored the Jungle.  They found it absurd that no one knew anything about an area that covers most of the land.  Zahrah tolerates Dari’s obsession.  After all, he believes in the mythical land of Earth too.  When Zahrah needs a private place to practice levitation and Dari wants to go into the Jungle, they decide to go together.

There is overflowing imagination in the building of this world.  Plants are used for everything.  Computers are grown from seeds and tended like flowers.  Buildings are grown the same way.  In the Dark Market, forbidden to children, are fortune tellers who interpret the psychic readings of baboons and vendors who sell two headed parrots who fight with themselves.  Zahrah meets gorillas who speak and live in villages in the Jungle.  She finds all kinds of amazing creatures in the jungle.

Zahrah is a good heroine because she is afraid of everything but learns to trust her skills and her judgement.  She finds out that she is capable of so much more than anyone gave her credit for.


I liked the idea of everything being plant based in this world.  While I was reading this book, I happened to listen to the Infinite Monkey Cage podcast called What Is The Point of Plants that discussed quantum interactions in plants.  They had a discussion of whether or not your lawn is a lazy quantum computer.  Zahrah would have been able to make it work.  She was good at growing computers.

 

 

Linking to ReadThis.us, Diversity on the Shelf
05 Aug, 2015

Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendon

/ posted in: Reading Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendon Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson
on July 14th 2015
Pages: 320
Series: Rebel Mechanics #1
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Steampunk
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

Also in this series: Rebel Magisters

It's 1888, and seventeen-year-old Verity Newton lands a job in New York as a governess to a wealthy leading family--but she quickly learns that the family has big secrets. Magisters have always ruled the colonies, but now an underground society of mechanics and engineers are developing non-magical sources of power via steam engines that they hope will help them gain freedom from British rule. The family Verity works for is magister--but it seems like the children's young guardian uncle is sympathetic to the rebel cause. As Verity falls for a charming rebel inventor and agrees to become a spy, she also becomes more and more enmeshed in the magister family's life. She soon realizes she's uniquely positioned to advance the cause--but to do so, she'll have to reveal her own dangerous secret.

Goodreads

In this version of 1888 New York, the Americans lost the revolution because they couldn’t overcome the British use of magic.  Now the seeds of revolution are growing again.  The Americans are relying on their ability to make steam powered and electric machines to fight the British.

Verity is just looking for a job as a governess when she meets up with a group of mechanics testing their latest invention – a bus that runs without horses or magic.  Members of the group befriend her and introduce her to the revolutionary cause.  They see her as an asset because she got the job as a governess to a powerful British family.  They want her to spy for them.


I enjoyed this author’s Enchanted, Inc. series and couldn’t wait to read this book.  I love the premise that the revolution failed because the British have magic.

I like the way that the romance was handled in this book.  At first it seems like it is going to play a major part in the story but then it ends up focusing on Verity making decisions for herself not based on what the men in her life want from her.  There is flirtation and it may play out more in future books in the series but she isn’t focused just on finding a man to marry.  It is hard to pull that combination off but the author did a great job of it.

I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next in the story.

 

About Shanna Swendson

Shanna Swendson is the author of the Enchanted, Inc. series, the Fairy Tale series, and Rebel Mechanics.

13 Mar, 2015

Invaded by Melissa Landers

/ posted in: Reading Invaded by Melissa Landers Invaded (An Alienated Novel) by Melissa Landers
on February 3rd 2015
Pages: 368
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

Cara always knew life on planet L'eihr would be an adjustment. With Aelyx, her L'eihr boyfriend, back on Earth, working to mend the broken alliance between their two planets, Cara is left to fend for herself at a new school, surrounded by hostile alien clones. Even the weird dorm pet hates her. Things look up when Cara is appointed as human representative to a panel preparing for a human colony on L'eihr. A society melding their two cultures is a place where Cara and Aelyx could one day make a life together. But with L'eihr leaders balking at granting even the most basic freedoms, Cara begins to wonder if she could ever be happy on this planet, even with Aelyx by her side. Meanwhile, on Earth, Aelyx, finds himself thrown into a full-scale PR campaign to improve human-L'eihr relations. Humans don't know that their very survival depends on this alliance: only Aelyx's people have the technology to fix the deadly contamination in the global water supply that human governments are hiding. Yet despite their upper hand, the leaders of his world suddenly seem desperate to get humans on their side, and hardly bat an eye at extremists' multiple attempts on Aelyx's life. The Way clearly needs humans' help but with what? And what will they ask for in return?

Goodreads

If you think too much about the premise of this series it is a bit disturbing. An alien race needs an influx of genetic material so they come to Earth. They want to establish a colony of people from both planets and let them breed. Of course, this is a YA novel so all the breeding stock colonists are teenagers. I hardly think teenagers are the best people to make this kind of life and species altering decisions, but it is what it is, so moving on.

Cara, the human chosen to represent Earth on L’eihr, is put into the equivalent of high school where she is much less advanced than the rest of the students. Someone is setting her up to take the fall for some crimes so she has to figure out the bad guys. Meanwhile, Aelyx, the L’eihr representative on Earth has multiple attempts on his life.

This book is a fun, light read. It reminds me of Dawn by Octavia Butler. They both are about setting up a new civilization combining humans and aliens. Dawn looks much more deeply at the issues involved and is much less optimistic about the ability of humans to adapt and survive in this environment.

Are there any other books that you know of that explore these themes?

About Melissa Landers

“Melissa Landers is a former teacher who left the classroom to pursue other worlds. A proud sci-fi geek, she isn’t afraid to wear her Princess Leia costume in public—just ask her husband and three kids. She lives just outside Cincinnati and writes adult contemporary romance as Macy Beckett.” from her website

13 Feb, 2015

Harry Potter Reread – Order of the Phoenix

/ posted in: Reading Harry Potter Reread – Order of the Phoenix Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by Joanne K. Rowling
on 2004
Pages: 870
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Fiction, Young Adult
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

This is the most heartbreaking Harry Potter book there is. Sirius' death killed me. Nothing that comes later affected me as much. After Sirius I didn't have any heart left to break.

Goodreads

I did go to Harry Potter world at Universal in January. I had been once before but it was really crowded and I couldn’t get into most things. This time it was better.

The Hogwarts ride was AMAZING!

Harry Potter

A photo posted by @dvmheather on

I didn’t like Gringott’s as much but it was still good. I love the dragon though. He does breathe fire every so often. I was sitting on the stairs beside the building eating ice cream and it got hot when the fire went off.

Gringotts #harrypotter A photo posted by @dvmheather on

I loved all the signs for the stores. I took a lot of pictures of those.

I wonder if this works better than most OTC flea meds? #vetquestions #harrypotter

A photo posted by @dvmheather on

I was able to ride the Hogwarts express before it broke down for the day. You don’t see out the windows of the train. You watch a video screen that shows you leaving Hogwarts and traveling to London. Another screen on the inside shows the shadows of people walking up and down the aisle.

Fortescue’s ice cream was very good. I had the salted caramel and the sticky toffee pudding.

More signs!

You know, just some wizards hanging out!

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