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!

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.

Blanca & Roja

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Blanca & Roja

By: Anna-Marie McLemore
Published: 2018
# of pages: 375
Challenges: What’s in a Name? (ampersand), Book Bingo (reliving fairytale)
Quote: “There were ways to carve away from your heart everything that did not truly belong, and still come back to life.”

Goodreads description:

The biggest lie of all is the story you think you already know.

The del Cisne girls have never just been sisters; they’re also rivals, Blanca as obedient and graceful as Roja is vicious and manipulative. They know that, because of a generations-old spell, their family is bound to a bevy of swans deep in the woods. They know that, one day, the swans will pull them into a dangerous game that will leave one of them a girl, and trap the other in the body of a swan.

But when two local boys become drawn into the game, the swans’ spell intertwines with the strange and unpredictable magic lacing the woods, and all four of their fates depend on facing truths that could either save or destroy them. Blanca & Roja is the captivating story of sisters, friendship, love, hatred, and the price we pay to protect our hearts.

Review:

I’m not going to lie, the cover and the title of this book are what made me put it on my TBR list. Then because it had an ampersand and had been on my list a good while, I decided to give it a go.

All in all, it was an interesting retelling of the fairytale Snow White. I loved the family myth aspect and the traditions and environment the sisters Blanca and Roja grow up amidst.

The problem (for me) was that this is a magical realism novel and it’s rare that I enjoy that genre. I have no clue why because I love fantasy and I think magical realism is such a cool concept, but for some reason I almost always don’t get into the plot or connect with the characters and this book was no exception, unfortunately.

Parts were also repetitive and others didn’t quite make sense. It was frustrating that so much hinged on miscommunication. And while this is true in real life and is a common theme in many novels, it came across as dense and stilted in this book.

What I did like are the many themes of relationships, the mythical aspects, and the original concept.

I’d recommend this to fans of magical realism, fairytale retellings, and anyone looking for a LGBT+ theme.

R.I.P. XV

It’s finally time for R.I.P. XV! Not much is motivating me to get on my blog these days, but this is the highlight of my year! I can’t believe we’re a week into September now.

This has been a very busy year so far, in spite of staying home more and having so many things canceled. But a foster parent’s life never really slows down, especially one with a baby. But my sister’s wedding was yesterday and I find myself with a little more time so I’m ready to set up my R.I.P. list.

I was a little disconcerted to find that R.I.P. XV doesn’t have a blog home this year. There’s also no levels, it’s just read scary books and post them to Instagram or Twitter! I don’t really use either of those platforms, but I do have an Instagram account so I’ll get on there some to see what’s up.

My list this year:

Mexican Gothic by: Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The Turn of the Screw by: Henry James

Home Before Dark by: Riley Sager

The Shadows by: Alex North

Ghost Story by: Peter Straub

An Unwanted Guest by: Shari Lapena

The Complete Works of H.P. Lovecraft

What’s in a Name 2020

The challenge extends from January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020.  You can sign up any time, but only count books that you read between those dates.

Read a book in any format (hard copy, ebook, audio) with a title that fits in each category.

Don’t use the same book for more than one category.

Creativity for matching the categories is not only allowed, it’s encouraged!

You can choose your books as you go or make a list ahead of time.


Here are my ideas for this year:

  • An ampersand – &: Blanca & Roja  by: Anna-Marie McLemore
  • An antonym: Wicked Saints
  • 4 letters or less: Vox
  • A given/first name: Malorie  by: Josh Malerman
  • Reference to children: Children of Blood and Bone
  • One of the 4 natural elements – water, air, fire, earth: Little Fires Everywhere  by: Celeste Ng

What’s in a Name 2020 Challenge Sign Up

Welcome to the 13th annual What’s in a Name challenge! In years past, this challenge was hosted by Charlie at The Worm Hole. I took over for 2019 and I’m excited to host again this year!

The challenge runs from January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020. You can sign up any time, but only count books that you read between those dates.

Read a book in any format (hard copy, ebook, audio) with a title that fits into each category.

Don’t use the same book for more than one category.

Creativity for matching the categories is not only allowed, it’s encouraged!

You can choose your books as you go or make a list ahead of time.

Sign up using the Mr Linky below with a link to your WIAN challenge page/post, not your main blog URL. Feel free to save and use the graphic at the top of the page! Also, link back to this sign up page in your challenge post so others can join too.

The categories below are links to each category sign up link.  Add your book review for each category so we can see what you’ve read and discover ideas as needed.

Here are the categories for 2020:

Click the Mister Linky graphic above to enter your name and/or blog name (many people use this format: Andrea @ Carolina Book Nook) and the URL to your challenge post.  If you have any issues, email me through the Contact menu at the top of my blog and I’ll manually sign you up.

Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions!  Thanks and happy reading!

Finished with What’s in a Name?

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Have you completed the What’s in a Name challenge?  Please share your post with a list of all the books you’ve completed, whether it’s your updated original sign up post or a new post.  Also, please give suggestions for next year’s challenge and any thoughts on this year’s in the comments!

I’ll be sharing the 2020 sign up on December 1st unless someone else would like to take over hosting.  I’d love to host again and already have the categories lined up, but obviously I’m not the most interactive host, especially since my family started fostering back in May.  So if someone else would like to take over I’m perfectly willing to hand over the reigns and simply participate in 2020.

The Turn of the Key

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The Turn of the Key

By:  Ruth Ware
Published:  2019
# of pages:  384
Challenges:  R.I.P.

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Goodreads description:

When she stumbles across the ad, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss—a live-in nannying post, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan Caine arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten—by the luxurious “smart” home fitted out with all modern conveniences, by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family.

What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare—one that will end with a child dead and herself in prison awaiting trial for murder.

Writing to her lawyer from prison, she struggles to explain the unravelling events that led to her incarceration. It wasn’t just the constant surveillance from the cameras installed around the house, or the malfunctioning technology that woke the household with booming music, or turned the lights off at the worst possible time. It wasn’t just the girls, who turned out to be a far cry from the immaculately behaved model children she met at her interview. It wasn’t even the way she was left alone for weeks at a time, with no adults around apart from the enigmatic handyman, Jack Grant.

It was everything.

She knows she’s made mistakes. She admits that she lied to obtain the post, and that her behavior toward the children wasn’t always ideal. She’s not innocent, by any means. But, she maintains, she’s not guilty—at least not of murder. Which means someone else is.

Review:  This is my favorite Ruth Ware book I’ve read so far.  I enjoyed her others just fine: The Woman in Cabin 10, In a Dark, Dark WoodThe Death of Mrs. Westaway, and The Lying Game.  However, I enjoyed The Turn of the Key the most.  I haven’t read the classic The Turn of the Screw yet, but I gather this is either a retelling or has a similar storyline.

In her letter to an attorney, Rowan states she is guilty…but not of the worst crime she’s been accused of committing.  She goes on to tell the story of how she was hired as a nanny at a large modern estate in the remote countryside of England.  She’s told right off the bat that the house may be haunted, at least that’s what overly superstitious people believe.  Rowan isn’t superstitious so she doesn’t give that claim a second thought.  Not, that is, until strange things begin to occur in the house.

I definitely enjoyed this Gothic suspense and was surprised at the plot twists.  I recommend this to those who enjoy the Gothic and/or physicological thriller genres.

Why I gave this book 4/5 stars:  Interesting and suspenseful story, was able to relate to the character more than some of Ware’s other characters.