recent fantasy book reviews

When I joined netgalley back in 2012 I thought ARCs were sent in a manner similar to that of LibraryThing Early Reviewers. I didn’t realize that many of my requests would be fulfilled and it rapidly spiraled out of control. They ask for a reviewer to strive for an 80% feedback ratio rate. I’ve been writing to claw my way to the upper twenty percent and it’s a challenge when there’s always the siren call of new books!

My goal is to clear through the backlog of over 193 titles that I’ve yet to review, I have read 23 of them and will focus on those reviews first. There are an additional 35 books that I’m either already working my way through or will be soon. The benefit to being slow is that I can now check many of these out from the library and enjoy them in a wider range of formats from real paper to audiobook.

Here are three fantasy titles I’ve reviewed recently that I recommend. Please note that I received an eARC of these titles from NetGalley in exchange for a review. The FTC wants you to know.

The Overneath book cover

The Overneath

by Peter S. Beagle

I’m new to Beagle’s writing and over the past few years have enjoyed several of his novels both recent and canon. I love a good short story and was curious if he was skilled in the telling of that form as well. Every entry in this fantasy collection is masterful. If I had to choose a favourite it’s a three-way choice between “Music, When Soft Voices Die”, “The Story of Kao Yu”, or “The Way it Works Out And All”. These three have stayed with me the longest after reading. As I read I felt the power and magic in each word Beagle chose.

Rules of Magic book cover

The Rules of Magic

by Alice Hoffmann

Hoffman crafts a bewitching remedy for love in the story of the Owens siblings. Franny, Jet, and Vincent navigate the intrigue, promise, and heartbreak of New York. An invitation begins their life anew under the watchful eye of their Aunts one fateful summer. This is an enchanting story braiding magic, prose, characters, and intrigue.

I also recommend Practical Magic which picks up where this leaves off.

Hunter by Mercedes Lackey book cover

Hunter (Hunter #1)

by Mercedes Lackey

I am one of those readers that will grab a new book by a favourite author as quickly as I can. This is especially true for Mercedes Lackey.

This first book in the Hunter Series is a bit of a challenge as it often feels similar to many post-apocalyptic dystopian YA novels. However, there are many aspects that will make this series enjoyable for certain readers.

Joyeux is a Hunter, confident of her skills, but reluctant to be called to Apex, the center of power. She’s wary to be constantly in front of cameras showing off what she does to protect the post-disaray citizens. The subtle linguistic word choices can be annoying to read in print, until one stops to think of how such a linguistic shift could happen if there was such significant technological upheaval.

For Joy as a character, the first book was frustrating for this adult to read. I wanted to smack her a few times and was thankful when her hounds gave her some much needed info. Yet at the same time, I could see a YA reading this novel and worrying about her future: what would moving to college be like, should she participate in social media as she gets to be older, what is popularity and at what cost? Love? Family? Friendship? Education/training? As for plot, yes it can feel that Lackey visited a dystopian plot generator, but that’s ok. It’s a fun splurge read.

I have now read the entire trilogy and while it was predictable in many ways it was fun to listen to while I knit on the couch late at night instead of watching yet another sitcom rerun.

reading as i mean to go on

2014-12-31-libraryJust about a year ago, I announced I’d try to read 52 books from our library in 2014.

Did I make my goal?

As of 6p on 31 December 2014, I read 47 books from our shelves.

I also reread 12 books.

Technically I made it.

I very carefully left several large gaping holes in this goal. While I really hoped to complete 52 books I’d not read before, re-reading books was possible. I love re-reading and I also love discovering new books. In addition, we wanted to clean up the library and make sure everything was catalogued so we didn’t purchase duplicates, there likely was a reason a title “looked good”.

How large were those gaping holes? Looking quickly at my list, at least 20 of the 47 books were acquired this year. Most of them at various library book sales over the summer, including an amazing one where I picked up most of the first decade or so of the Sword and Sorceress series for $1/each (note: I’m looking for volumes IV, VII, and all volumes from XII onward) .

That wasn’t quite what I had in mind, but it’s ok. I learned something about my reading habits this year.

I read throughout the day. I like to read for a bit during my faux morning commute as I transition into work. I like to treat myself to something fun during lunch (so I take more than 15 minutes and don’t inhale the food, I was trained to eat as fast as possible and get back to work, it’s not healthy). Our nightly routine includes as reduced as possible screen time starting a few hours before bed and no e-reading in bed, even with display filters (so many studies about why that I could link to, here’s a recent story: For A Deeper Sleep, Forgo The E-Reader Before Bed).

This year my biggest discovery was that I really like to read short stories before bed. Why? Well, I am highly susceptible to the reader’s sleeping disorder, and I’ve learned that short self-contained stories help me unwind, feel accomplished, and have closure before the lights go out.


Here’s a link to my 2014 ROOT list and all 115 of the books I read this past year.

What are my 2015 reading plans? I’m ending 2014 as I mean to go on. Last night I began a short story anthology, Dragon Fantastic. During the next revolution of the earth, I plan to try to complete 52 physical books that we own (I can purchase them at any time) that I’ve not read before or haven’t read in the past 5 years.

Did you meet your 2014 reading goal? Have your plans changed for 2015?

(recent read) The All Souls Trilogy

Today everyone can finally read the conclusion to Deborah Harkness‘ All Souls Trilogy, The Book of Life. I was very lucky to receive an early copy through NetGalley. It’s been difficult knowing the conclusion to the series and not being able to share it with anyone so I persuaded Teabird to request a copy so I could talk about it with someone without risk of spoilers!


Is this series worth your time? Yes, though I know it’s not a series for all readers. It is (mostly) contemporary fantasy novel with vampires and other creatures. Don’t worry, the vampires aren’t shiny (though they are sexy).

The books include every hook to catch me and make me want to read them, do I really need to spell it out?

  • It’s the story of Diana Bishop, a woman who through childhood tragedy turned her back on her heritage and worked hard to be the successful woman to whom we are first introduced.
  • It’s the story of Matthew Clairmont, a man of intrigue and secrets who loves against the odds.
  • It’s the story of a rare book with a complicated past that will influence the future.
  • It’s the story of a society on the cusp of change where tradition and secrecy have long been the rule.
  • It’s the story of location, location, location: Oxford University, France, and London (among other places).

I highly recommend rereading both Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night before jumping into this final book for the trilogy. Upon receiving my e-copy of this third volume, I jumped straight in and while it was enjoyable, I found that having my memory refreshed by rereading the first two books before the conclusion increased my enjoyment of the middle volume and clarified people and places I encountered on the way to the end.

You can find some of my thoughts about The Book of Life at GoodReads. If I can ever figure out how to write a fiction review without fearing spoilers I’ll revise it.

I highly recommend this trilogy and think you should set aside time to read it all at once. It’s fun indulgent reading and I look forward to reading more of Harkness‘ work.

ROOT reading progress

Back in January, I stated my plan to read 52 books that I own this year. We’re now at the mid-point of the year, how am I doing?


While I’ve read 54 books so far, some of those are rereads, so 43 of those count toward the general reading challenge. Several should probably be condensed into omnibus editions since I inhaled them in a handful of hours. Of those, only 17 or 32% are ROOT reading. Due to the loose definition I gave of what book could count as ROOT, many of those were acquired this year and there are more library book sales to come this summer.

Do I think I’ll meet my goal of 52 ROOT books this year? I honestly don’t know but I’m definitely going to try!

Another challenge is I’m trying to pause between books to write at least 100 words on each title. It isn’t easy and I’m struggling as I’m very much out of the habit of writing regularly. Writing time is now scheduled into my day; I also need to overcome both my desire for perfection and my fear of inadvertently letting a spoiler slip. My goal to help clear the backlog of reviews is to post ones that are deemed “good enough” and try for at least two each week. They appear on goodreads and depending on the title, also on librarything and other places readers look for reviews.

AllSoulsTrilogyNext week I hope for some perfection as I plant to review the conclusion to the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness, The Book of Life. I received my digital galley through NetGalley. In the meantime, please follow these links for my thoughts on the first two books:
Discovery of Witches: reviewed in May 2011
Shadow of Night: discussed in September 2013, reviewed in July 2014 at goodreads & librarything