I’ve honestly come to believe that King can simply do no real wrong in my eyes. And I’m still baffled by this turn around, as I vividly recall years of my life when I couldn’t get past the first chapter of anything he wrote. Whatever the catalyst for this change in taste might have been, I’m grateful for it. King is now firmly planted among my favorites. While not every book or story is a masterpiece, they’re all enjoyable. This newest collection of his is no exception. Below are micro-reviews for each of the four stories contained in this collection. Even if I didn’t adore them all, I had fun reading them. …
For close to a decade I’ve thought that The Shadow of the Wind was one of the most brilliant novels I had ever read. I had no idea that it was a preamble, setting up for an even bigger story. And I truly believe that The Angel’s Game just scratched the surface; I can feel in my bones that there’s far more to come. I’ve also been reliably informed by TS and Petrik that all of the questions I found left frustratingly open at the end of this book will indeed be answered later in the series, which does nothing but add to my excitement.
“Poetry is written with tears, novels with blood, and history with invisible ink.”
I received an eARC of this book from the publisher (Orbit/Redhook) and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians is a truly brilliant example of alternative history. Parry managed to stay completely faithful to the persons and events that make up the true history of this time period while deftly adding in the existence of magic and exemplifying how that existence might have impacted the French Revolution and the British fight to abolish the slave trade. Historical figures like William Pitt, William Wilberforce, Toussaint Bréda L’Ouverture, and Maximilien Robespierre are all exquisitely portrayed both as individuals that really existed and fictional characters whose minds were are invited to explore. Parry balanced this contrast beautifully. She could have rewritten history in a way that made it somehow less. She could have stayed so true to history that the narrative felt more like a nonfiction text than a novel. But she did neither of those things. She was able to bridge that divide in a way that both informs and inspires, that encourages both historical curiosity and fantastical imaginings. I’m truly in awe of what she was able to do with this novel.
“Truth and courage are the banners I live by. Love, loyalty and friendship shall be my guiding light. I will be the bright star in the night sky, the candle in the darkness. The defender of the innocent, protector of the weak. I will bring hope to the lost, give my life for the helpless. With Truth as my shield, and Courage as my sword, I shall stand against the darkness. From this day on, until the time of my death.”
— The Oath of The Order of the Bright Star.
I firmly believe that John Gwynne is one of the most gifted, powerful fantasy authors of our age. In the course of this trilogy and the quartet preceding it, Gwynne was able to create a world that feels as real as our own. The lore he wove into each book was fascinating and completely transportive. He crafted a compendium of characters for whom I cared so deeply that I rejoiced and wept with them as if they were my friends in reality instead of merely fictional. And don’t even get me started on his action-scene prowess. The fact that he can keep a battle going for 200 pages and keep everything in such incredibly clear focus that boredom has no hope of setting in and tension is so well maintained that I never once felt tempted to skim is an incredible accomplishment that I don’t think has been matched by any other author I’ve read outside of Brandon Sanderson. I honestly don’t know that anything about the series as a whole or this book in particular could’ve been improved in any way. In A Time of Courage, Gwynne penned an incredible finale that moved me deeply and left me feeling weepy and exhausted and content. …
The featured image above was specifically designed by Felix Ortiz for Novel Notions’ Top Books Lists. His work is amazing, and we feel incredibly fortunate to have been favored with it. Thank you so much, Felix!
If you’d like to see a list of everything I’ve read so far this year, you can click here to see my year in books for 2020!
So far, 2020 has been an incredible reading year for me. Between January 1st and June 30th I read right around 75 books, and have found a number of new favorites. I haven’t read as much fantasy this year, but I still managed to find some wonderful new stories that I know will stick with me for a long time to come. Thank goodness for books, right? I don’t think I could’ve gotten through the dumpster fire that was the first half of 2020 without them. It was incredibly difficult to narrow my list down to twelve books, but I finally managed it. There will be a handful of honorable mentions at the end of this post, for those I just couldn’t bare to not include. I’m taking a page from Petrik and following three rules for my list:
1. Only one book per author.
2. Rereads don’t count.
3. The books were new to me, but didn’t have to be published this year.
Once again, I’m ranking my reads. That being said, every single book on this list was a 5 star read and I highly recommend them all. You can view my full review of each book (including the honorable mentions) by clicking the link in each title. And now, without further ado, here are my favorite books of the past six months. …
“Change often starts with the smallest of whispers.”
How many books have been written proclaiming that different doesn’t mean wrong? Countless. And yet that message is still just as desperately needed, if not moreso, than it’s every been. We live in a world divided, a world in which diversity is still viewed with suspicion by many fronts. But though we still have a long way to go, inclusion and acceptance of those different than ourselves has come a long way over the course of the past century. While it may seem as though we’ve taken a step back in recent years, we’ve actually come so far that we’re better able to recognize our failings than ever before. Just as waking a sleeping limb is painful but necessary in order for our body to properly function, being able to see the areas in which we’re lacking is painful but necessary if we want to keep moving forward into a world in which people are valued for their souls and dreams instead of cast out for being different. After all, aren’t our differences what make us beautiful? The world would be a boring place if we were all carbon copies of one another. I for one am thankful to live in a world in which uniqueness abounds.
“There are worse prisons than words.”
The planet lost an incredible talent today. Carlos Ruiz Zafón, the author of this truly magnificent book, lost his battle with cancer, at the age of 55. Zafón had a brilliant, gorgeous way with words, and told stories in a way that sink into your bones and stay with you long after you read the last pages. Though he left the world too soon, he left behind him an amazing legacy in the novels that have touched countless readers across our world, which have been translated into more than 40 languages. I’m so thankful to have read and been touched by The Shadow of the Wind, and I’m grateful to have the rest of his catalogue in my future.
“Well, this is a story about books.”
“About accuse books, about the man who wrote them, about a character who broke out of the pages of a novel so that he could burn it, about ta betrayal and a lost friendship. It’s a story of love, of hatred, and of dreams that live in the shadow of the wind.”
“Where does a mistake begin?”
This is the opening line of Amity Gaige’s newest novel, Sea Wife. We know from the very beginning that something terrible has happened. We just don’t know the specifics of what or how. The story is told largely from two perspectives: Juliet in the present and her husband, Michael, in the past through the captain’s log he kept during their sailing year. There are a few different mysteries woven through the plot, but I felt that the story largely centers around what makes a marriage, and what ends one. Sea Wife is a deep, beautifully written novel with enough pace to the plot to maintain investment while also discussing timeless topics in fresh ways.
“Tears or sweat—so many stories end in salt water.”
“The weight of what has been lost is always heavier than what remains.”
The Mothers is a powerful, moving picture of a how a secret can wreak havoc on a person, a family, a church, a community. An action that seems to only effect one person never does. Instead, even the smallest decisions can have far-reaching consequences, small ripples that grow into tidal waves.
“After a secret’s been told, everyone becomes a prophet.”
In the past few years, I’ve developed a deep love for any memoir in which someone details their crazy childhood and how they managed to rise above it. While they are radically different, Hollywood Park is joining Educated as one of my favorites in this random subgenre for which I’ve developed such a fondness. Hearing about Mikel Jollett’s earliest years was incredibly illuminating, and was yet another true story that made me so incredibly thankful for the wonderful, easy childhood I had, and how foundational that gilded upbringing was in my becoming the person I am today.
“Those nights I just go blank, like I could tie every bad thing inside me to a balloon and just let it float up into the sky, disappearing beyond the clouds.”