R.I.P. Time!

My favorite time of year again, R.I.P. time! This is year 17! I’m excited and have a list of books I am considering……

Ghost Story by: Peter Straub (the only one on last year’s list I didn’t read)
The Children on the Hill by: Jennifer McMahon
The Hanging Tree by: Irina Shapiro
The Shadow House by: Anna Downes
Devil’s Creek by: Todd Keisling
Brother by: Ania Ahlborn
Kill Creek by: Scott Thomas
Bone White by: Ronald Malfi

As for Peril of the Real, I’m considering:
The Stranger Beside Me by: Ann Rule

Any suggestions for Peril of the Short Story and Peril of the Screen?

Tomorrow’s Bread

Tomorrow’s Bread

By: Anna Jean Mayhew
Published: 2019
# of pages: 352
Challenges: Alphabet Soup

Goodreads review:

In 1961 Charlotte, North Carolina, the predominantly black neighborhood of Brooklyn is a bustling city within a city. Self-contained and vibrant, it has its own restaurants, schools, theaters, churches, and night clubs. There are shotgun shacks and poverty, along with well-maintained houses like the one Loraylee Hawkins shares with her young son, Hawk, her Uncle Ray, and her grandmother, Bibi. Loraylee’s love for Archibald Griffin, Hawk’s white father and manager of the cafeteria where she works, must be kept secret in the segregated South.

Loraylee has heard rumors that the city plans to bulldoze her neighborhood, claiming it’s dilapidated and dangerous. The government promises to provide new housing and relocate businesses. But locals like Pastor Ebenezer Polk, who’s facing the demolition of his church, know the value of Brooklyn does not lie in bricks and mortar. Generations have lived, loved, and died here, supporting and strengthening each other. Yet street by street, longtime residents are being forced out. And Loraylee, searching for a way to keep her family together, will form new alliances—and find an unexpected path that may yet lead her home.

As a geography major at a university in this city, I learned about the gentrification of Second Ward in the city of Charlotte, so when I saw that this book was the local library’s book club choice I was eager to read this version of history!

The story follows Loraylee, a young woman who lives in the neighborhood of Brooklyn, a black community that happens to be close to uptown Charlotte. The neighborhood is segregated for decades until local developers, government, and wealthy citizens decide that it’s a “blight” (aka: prime real estate from which they can’t monetarily gain.) In their eyes the best way to handle the run down sections is to bull doze the entire ward and rebuild it as more upscale and worthy of the new image wanted to change “downtown” Charlotte into “uptown” Charlotte. Yes, around that time Charlotte was rebranded and one major way of doing that was referring to the main area as “uptown,” which it is still referred to as now.

Loraylee is an interesting character, mainly because of how progressive she is while still appreciating her family and neighbors and their traditions. Other characters whose POVs were included were a preacher in Brooklyn dealing with the destruction of his church and its graveyard and a white woman who doesn’t live in Brooklyn, but whose husband is a member of the board in charge of the Brooklyn redevelopment. Was it super realistic to have so many characters who were open minded during that time? Maybe, or maybe not. But obviously there were people living at that time who were progressive and taking risks by interacting with other people of different races. I’m grateful they did so and set the stage for where we are now and where we will hopefully continue as a country.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and was excited to read about the city and countryside (now suburbs!) of the area I call home. At the end of the book the author clarifies what was true and what was fiction in her story. I was disappointed to read that much of the preacher character’s story about the church and graveyard mystery was fiction. I wonder if there was another cemetery that really existed in Charlotte that was affected by the gentrification. I don’t know, but it would be cool if another author would tackle the same subject from different angles!

I know this is a controversial subject, but I always appreciate authors of any gender/race writing about minorities as long as they make a visible effort to do the characters/subject justice and respect. It’s totally fine for others to disagree because I understand feeling otherwise, but that’s my personal feeling about the matter. This was an original, important, and interesting subject to write about as a historical fiction book and I’d love to see others do the same… Either about the same subject, Second Ward in Charlotte, or about gentrification in other cities. And I’d love to see authors of color write about the subject, especially if they had ancestors affected by displacement.

So overall, I recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, if only to add to knowledge and fuel the quest for other books about similar subjects.

The City of Brass

The City of Brass

By: S.A. Chakraborty
Published: 2017
# of pages: 533
Series: The Daevabad Triology (#1)
Challenge: Alphabet Soup
Quote:
“’You’re some kind of thief, then?’
‘That’s a very narrow-minded way of looking at it. I prefer to think of myself as a merchant of delicate tasks.'”

Goodreads description:

Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles.

But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass, a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.

In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences.

After all, there is a reason they say be careful what you wish for…

Review:

I’m not going to lie, I chose to read this book based on the cover! I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it and how well written and intricate it is!

Nahri considers herself a fairly normal human. Key word, human. Sure, she is all alone in the city of Cairo and steals and cons to survive, but she has to do what she has to do. Until one day when a djinn magically appears in front of her and changes her life forever. She can’t return to her normal life, she has to travel to a magic city called Daevabad. She isn’t who she thought she was, she has an entire history to consider that includes plenty of intrigue, conflict, and prejudice. On the flip side, it includes a lot of prestige and power.

This story is long and complicated. There were times I was a little confused, but I also appreciated that the author didn’t suddenly shovel an entire empire’s history on the reader all at once. So it took a while to start to figure things out and for it to come together. Sometimes I wondered if I missed something, but it would be explained a little later.

The synopsis sounds like a stereotypical fantasy series, but there were several original aspects and I really enjoyed the characters. This is an adult fantasy, but probably older teens would also enjoy the book. I’ve already read the second book in the trilogy, The Kingdom of Copper, and enjoyed it just as much. I recommend it to adults and young adults who enjoy fantasy.

The Sword of Summer

The Sword of Summer

By: Rick Riordan
Published: 2015
# of pages: 499
Series: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard (#1)
Challenges: What’s in a Name? (Season), Alphabet Soup, Alphabet Soup Authors Edition

Goodreads description:

Magnus Chase has seen his share of trouble. Ever since that terrible night two years ago when his mother told him to run, he has lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, staying one step ahead of the police and the truant officers.

One day, Magnus learns that someone else is trying to track him down—his uncle Randolph, a man his mother had always warned him about. When Magnus tries to outmaneuver his uncle, he falls right into his clutches. Randolph starts rambling about Norse history and Magnus’s birthright: a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years.

The more Randolph talks, the more puzzle pieces fall into place. Stories about the gods of Asgard, wolves, and Doomsday bubble up from Magnus’s memory. But he doesn’t have time to consider it all before a fire giant attacks the city, forcing him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents. . . .

Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die.

Review:

I started reading Rick Riordan’s series the same time my son did, but he far outpaced me! He’s caught up with all the series of gods and for Christmas received his newest release, Daughter of the Deep. I’m way behind, but I’ve been trying to devote more time since New Year’s to reading books my kids want me to read. So that included finishing up The Kane Chronicles and on to Magnus Chase!

It’s a little hard to review this book since I also read the next in the series immediately after and didn’t like it as much. I was split on liking the characters, I really enjoyed Hearth and Blitz, but didn’t like Sam and Magnus’s hallmates on floor 19 as much.

Overall, this was fun reading in the same style as the Percy Jackson series and I recommend it to fans of young adult fantasy.

Queens of the Wyrd

Queens of the Wyrd

By: Timandra Whitecastle
Published:
2019
# of pages:
414
Series: Shieldmothers Saga (#1)
Challenges: Alphabet Soup, Book Bingo (Love Typography)
Quote: “Never trust a silence around children. It is as unnatural as a sudden calm on the tempestuous sea, and as much a herald of unpleasant surprises to come.”

Goodreads description:

Raise your shield. Defend your sisters. Prepare for battle.

Half-giant Lovis and her Shieldmaiden warband were once among the fiercest warriors in Midgard. But those days are long past and now Lovis just wants to provide a safe home for herself and her daughter – that is, until her former shield-sister Solveig shows up on her doorstep with shattering news.

Solveig’s warrior daughter is trapped on the Plains of Vigrid in a siege gone ugly. Desperate to rescue her, Sol is trying to get the old warband back together again. But their glory days are a distant memory. The Shieldmaidens are Shieldmothers now, entangled in domestic obligations and ancient rivalries.

But family is everything, and Lovis was never more at home than at her shield-sisters’ side. Their road won’t be easy: old debts must be paid, wrongs must be righted, and the Nornir are always pulling on loose threads, leaving the Shieldmaidens facing the end of all Nine Realms. Ragnarok is coming, and if the Shieldmaidens can’t stop it, Lovis will lose everyone she loves…

Fate is inexorable. Wyrd bith ful araed.

God, I loved this book! I bought it on my Kindle when it was on sale just because I liked the cover, but it ended up being one of my favorites I read this year!

Lovis wakes up one morning to the same old, same old. Take care of her somewhat wild and willful daughter Birke and make some money at the job she works in the evening. Little does she know life is about to change…back to the way it used to be for her and her former band of shieldmaidens. Everything is familiar and yet different as she is reunified with her old friends with Birke in tow.

I loved that the protagonist is a mother. There were so many insightful quotes and observations made by Lovis and her mom friend Solveig about being a mother and balancing work/motherhood/social life, etc. I also enjoyed the characters and settings as well as the Norse mythology.

I also loved that each chapter was prefaced with a quote from modern sources cited as “The Wisdom of the Volur.” The writing style was so casual, but also descriptive. There’s a section at the end of the book that has a pronunciation guide that could be useful to read while or before reading the story, but of course I didn’t discover it until I was through. But I feel like I pronounced everything correctly inside my head and it didn’t matter.

I recommend this to lovers of fantasy and mythology. It’s geared towards adults with adult characters, but I think young adults would also enjoy the story.

Klara and the Sun

Klara and the Sun

By: Kazuo Ishiguro
Published:
2021
# of pages:
303
Challenges: What’s in a Name? (outer space), Alphabet Soup

Goodreads description:

From her place in the store, Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her, but when the possibility emerges that her circumstances may change forever, Klara is warned not to invest too much in the promises of humans.

In Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro looks at our rapidly changing modern world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator to explore a fundamental question: what does it mean to love?

Review:

Ishiguro is one of my favorite authors and I was happy this title could count for the What’s in a Name challenge for the outer space category!

The story is about an AI (artificial intelligence) named Klara who wants to be picked from dozens of other AIs in the store to be a human child’s friend so badly. She watches customers and people outside and muses about what it’s like to be human, how she compares to other AIs (both her own model, older models, and newer models), and emotions and interactions.

Klara ends up exactly where she and all her fellow AIs want to be, but nothing is perfect, right? Klara has a journey to take and a choice to make. She does everything correctly, but nothing is perfect, right?

Overall this story is about love, sacrifice, and humanity from a robotic memory point of view. What does it mean to be human and what does it mean to love? This would be a great book club read because it’s thought provoking and I imagine different readers would have different interpretations of what was happening throughout the novel.

I found it confusing at times and disconcerting in general. It would have been good to read it again after finishing, but ain’t nobody got time for that! I wish I could discuss more on here without spoilers. Hmm, maybe a secret post somehow that I can link from here? I will look into doing that!

House of Hollow

House of Hollow

By: Krystal Sutherland

Published: 2021

# of pages: 304

Challenge: Book Bingo (published in 2021)

Seventeen-year-old Iris Hollow has always been strange. Something happened to her and her two older sisters when they were children, something they can’t quite remember but that left each of them with an identical half-moon scar at the base of their throats.

Iris has spent most of her teenage years trying to avoid the weirdness that sticks to her like tar. But when her eldest sister, Grey, goes missing under suspicious circumstances, Iris learns just how weird her life can get: horned men start shadowing her, a corpse falls out of her sister’s ceiling, and ugly, impossible memories start to twist their way to the forefront of her mind.

As Iris retraces Grey’s last known footsteps and follows the increasingly bizarre trail of breadcrumbs she left behind, it becomes apparent that the only way to save her sister is to decipher the mystery of what happened to them as children.

The closer Iris gets to the truth, the closer she comes to understanding that the answer is dark and dangerous – and that Grey has been keeping a terrible secret from her for years. 

Goodreads

Review:

Something rare happened to me, which is I just found a random book from my library on the Libby app. Since I’ve switched to mostly ebooks, I don’t usually browse shelves anymore. I find all my books from blogs, Goodreads, and recommendations. However, while searching for a completely different title, this book popped up in the search results and I was fascinated by the cover and checked it out.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a unique and interesting story that was also well-written! The book is about teenager Iris Hollow, who tries her hardest to live a boring life in spite of her traumatic past and spotlight searching older sisters. However, she spends a day with her next oldest sister, Vivi, and her structured life comes tumbling down. The oldest sister, Grey, is missing and the two younger sisters set out to find her.

I was impressed at how well the story ran together. There weren’t holes or things that didn’t make sense later in the timeline. If something was mentioned in passing it would very well come up again later. The dark, modern fairytale vibe isn’t usually my thing, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am adding it to my favorites list for this year.

Trigger warning: creepy crawly descriptions, rot/decay, bugs.

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Dragon’s Reach

Dragon’s Reach

By: J.A. Andrews
Published: 2020
# of pages: 614
Series: The Keeper Origins (#1)
Challenge: What’s in a Name? (Possessive Noun)
Quote: “’That is the curse of life. Judging your past actions in the light of what you know now.’ She tilted her head. ‘Give your past self grace, my child. She did the best she could.’”

Goodreads description:

Sable, a reluctant thief from the slums, can feel truth when people speak. For years she’s been using that skill to try to break free from the vicious gang boss she’s indebted to.

Escape comes in the form of an odd set of companions:
-a dwarf running from the past,
-an actor with a magical, glowing tree
-a too-helpful kobold,
-a playwright with a knack for getting stories out of people, and
-a man and woman with suspicious, magical powers.

But Sable’s freedom is short lived.

On the edges of civilization, they discover hidden, terrifying lies in the offers of peace from the brutal Kalesh Empire.

Now, she must return to the city she fled, and along with her companions, attempt an impossible task—convince everyone, including the powerful Dragon Prioress, of the truth.

Except the Kalesh web of lies has ensnared everyone.
With her land, her people, and everything she loves hanging in the balance, Sable is the only one standing between freedom, and certain death.

Review:

Don’t ask me how I found this book, but it’s been on my TBR list for a while. I was picking out a book to match the What’s in a Name possessive noun category and here we are: a possessive noun in the word “Dragon’s.”

I was very pleasantly surprised by this first book in a series! Yes, it’s a typical fantasy, but I still found it refreshing and interesting. I enjoyed the author’s take on “common” fantasy species like elves, dwarves, magicians, but I also liked the inclusion of a kobold (basically a house elf from the Harry Potter series!)

Sable is living a life of crime to protect her sister, but she’s been waiting for a way to remove herself from the crime boss she works for in her part of the city and move to another neighborhood to live an honest life. Soon her big chance arrives, but of course nothing can go the way she planned. Before she knows it, she’s on the road with a traveling troupe and soon discovers that nothing about her country and its religious and political structure is what she belives to be true.

The characters are likeable and relateable, the backstories and world building aren’t overwhelming or boring, and the plot is interesting. I recommend this to both young adults and adults who enjoy fantasy.

The Rook

The Rook

By: Daniel O’Malley
Published: 2012
Pages: 504
Series: The Checquy Files
Challenges: Alphabet Soup

Goodreads description:

Myfanwy Thomas awakens in a London park surrounded by dead bodies. With her memory gone, she must trust the instructions left by her former in order to survive. She quickly learns that she is a Rook, a high-level operative in a secret agency that protects the world from supernatural threats. But there is a mole inside the organization, and this person wants her dead.

Battling to save herself, Myfanwy will encounter a person with four bodies, a woman who can enter her dreams, children transformed into deadly fighters, and a terrifyingly vast conspiracy.

Suspenseful and hilarious, The Rook is an outrageously imaginative thriller for readers who like their espionage with a dollop of purple slime.

Review:

A friend loaned me this book a few months ago and recently gave me the next book in the series so I figured I’d better get a move on and read the first one! I’m glad I did because this fantasy mystery was funny, fascinating, and fast paced. I’m not into spy novels or criminal thrillers, but the fantasy aspects made all the difference and made me really interested in the main character and her job in a government-like agency.

Myfanwy (pronounced Miffany, rhymes with Tiffany) only knows her name because it’s in a note she finds in her coat pocket one evening when she wakes up in a park surrounded by dead bodies. The note also gives her a choice – face the dangers that will inevitably follow her or flee the country to live in luxury somewhere else. That doesn’t seem like much of a choice, but Myfanwy takes the road less traveled. She merges right into the real Myfanwy’s life, but spices things up a little.

In the supernatural agency she finds herself working for, nothing really needs spicing up, but Myfanwy manages to do just that in the midst of superhero-like characters and situations like sentient fungus houses and evil flesh cubes.

Basically, this is the kind of book I normally wouldn’t enjoy except for the fact that it’s filled with fantasy elements. Government agencies, spies, espionage, politics aren’t normally something I want in a book, but The Rook has lots of fun extras plus it’s well-written and super funny in parts. I laughed out loud once, which is very rare for me!

Overall, it was a fun read and I’m looking forward to reading the second in the series, Stiletto. It looks like a third in the series will be published this year, according to Goodreads. I recommend this to adults who enjoy fantasy, especially when it’s mixed with the modern world.