Tag Archives: patricia wrede

Out of the woods: books set in forests

I’m not entirely sure why forests are such a powerful setting and symbol in fantasy. Maybe it’s something to do with fairy tales, maybe something to do with how much of the land we now inhabit was once covered with vast acres of trees. Regardless, I love books that have forests as a main setting and I wanted to highlight some of them. They might engage with the mythology of forests in different ways, but they’re all playing with that sense of magic and danger.

out of the woods

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black: The forest that Hazel and Ben enter plays a major part in this haunting book.

The Jinx trilogy by Sage Blackwood: The Jinx trilogy is almost entirely set in the Urwald, a magical forest that’s full of danger and secrets.

Sorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow: In Otter’s world any shadow can hold one of the deadly White Hands, and so the forest that surrounds her home is both beautiful and terrifying.

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll: Carroll draws on fairy tale influences to weave her extremely creepy story of a girl who goes out into the dark woods.

The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye: The forest in this book is more benign than many of the others I’m featuring here, but it’s extremely delightful.

Some Kind of Happiness by Claire LeGrand: Finley’s semi-imagined forest, the Everwood, drives a lot of this book, as well as being the place Finley feels the safest.

In the Forests of Serre (and several others) by Patricia McKillip: McKillip loves to write about forests, and she often does so with a sense of the edges where they turn magical.

Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne: Like the woods in The Ordinary Princess, The Hundred-Acre Woods are more benign than most of these stories. It’s still a magical and enchanting land.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater: A magical forest where the trees speak Latin and time is out of joint should definitely be on this list.

The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede: I mean, they’re called The Enchanted Forest Chronicles. Also, a wonderful mix of funny and serious.

 

Am I missing a favorite book set in a forest or woods? Let me know! I’d love to read more of them.

 

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Reading notes 9-22-12

At the moment, I’ve thrown over the ten or so books I was dutifully plowing through in favor of Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Boys which I love like wow. Although it doesn’t have quite the magic of Scorpio Races for me, which caught me at line one and never let me go. I’m still very curious about where this story is heading and glad that it’s a series.

I’m on about page 10 of The Treachery of Beautiful Things, but I’m really liking it so far because 1) Tam Lin retelling (where Tam and Jenny are siblings!) and 2) creepy fairies! I am all for creepy fairies. And the fairyland in the story is lovely, far closer to the kind of fairyland I picture than most versions.

My obligatory non-fiction at the moment is Against Wind and Tide, the new collection of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s letters and diaries. I’m liking it a lot; it’s neat to see the beginnings of what would become Gift From the Sea. Again, I’m not very far along yet.

I’m almost done with Long Lankin, which I’m finding very eerie, but not totally engrossing in the way I would really like it to be. I think I’m partly reacting to the pacing–something is clearly About to Happen and it’s been that way for the past 100 pages or so.

Finished The Far West by Patricia Wrede, the last in the Frontier Magic trilogy. I like the books, but they’re neither quite character driven nor plot driven, which makes them a bit frustrating. I kept expecting something to happen that never quite does.

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October book list

The Duff by Kody Depplinger: I liked Bianca and Wesley and the path their relationship took, but I always felt slightly uncomfortable with this book. I’m not sure if it was its messageyness, or the message itself, or something else entirely.

Resenting the Hero by Moira Moore: The cover led me to expect a different book (the cover is sunny; the book is not) but once I got over that, I enjoyed this one a lot. The worldbuilding was interesting and the relationship between the two main characters was unusual enough to be fun.

Blood Red Road by Moira Young: Loved this book! I reviewed it here

Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson: Loved this book too! And here’s the review.

City of Gold and Shadows by Ellis Peters: I re-read this book because I was in the mood for a Felse mystery and I remembered liking this one. I do like it–the Shropshire setting is my favorite, and the descriptions of Aurae Phiala are vivid and haunting. But the sadness of it struck me more this time than before.

The Changeover by Margaret Mahy: Another re-read. I do like Laura–she’s fierce and kind, which is a combination I enjoy. And Sorry is wonderful, especially as an antidote to the love interest that’s so prevalent right now.

Well Witched by Frances Hardinge: Not her usual, but still a nice story. Reviewed here.

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa: In general I liked this–the writing was strong and Meghan is a sympathetic narrator. But I was never captured or convinced by this version of Fairyland. I know I’m a bit particular about depictions of Fairyland, but I felt like the wonder and the…engulfingness of it were missing.

Plain Kate by Erin Bow: This just won a big, fancy award in Canada, and it totally deserves it. This is a beautiful, perfect book, about loss and pain and the choices we make. Oh, and fairy tales, and rusalki, and talking cats and Roamers too. I love it, and I love Katerina Svetlana.

The Tricksters by Margaret Mahy: I bought this one recently, having read it once, and wanted to re-read it to make sure I watned to keep it. I do. Harry is a lovely character, and I entirely sympathise with her. The ending is a bit Fire and Hemlock, in that I have NO IDEA what happens, but it doesn’t seem to matter.

Anastasia Krupnik by Lois Lowry: This was fun! I might be careful about handing it to a sheltered kid, because there is a bit of language involved. But it’s also funny and sweet. It could come across as a bit heavy-handed, but I think it’s actually sincere, which is quite a different thing.

The Under Dogs by Markus Zusak: All three Wolfe novels. The last, Getting the Girl is by far my favorite, though the tidiness of the resolution bothered me just a little. But I was invested enough in Cameron at that point to not really mind.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor: I wanted to love it, but ended up having mixed feelings. Reviewed here.

The Revenant by Sonia Gensler: At one point I thought I was really going to dislike this book, and maybe even not finish it. But I perservered, and it paid off. In the end, Willie’s story was nicely told. I’m coming to realize that of the latest Victorian era books, I like the ones where the main character is an outsider, trying to fit into the society and having trouble with it. (See also: The Vespertine and Haunting Violet.) SO much more interesting than the normal upper-class girl who rebels against Oppressive Society.

Goliath by Scott Westerfeld: Mostly satisfying. Review here.

Diplomatic Immunity by Lois McMaster Bujold: A re-read. There’s a moment at the beginning that’s incredibly more poignant since the publication of Cryoburn (which I feel like I ought to re-read, but am dreading). I liked this one–Ekaterin is great, though it’s sometimes easy to overlook her, and the reappearance of Bel Thorne is wonderful.

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick: When I read The Invention of Hugo Cabret, I was enchanted by the pictures but not by the words. In Wonderstruck, the written story is much stronger–helped, I think, by the fact that the text and the pictures tell two distinct stories. They are related, but I won’t say how.

The Isle of Blood by Rick Yancey: You know how some series start off really strongly and then go downhill, while other series start off strongly and get stronger? The Monstrumologist books are in that latter category. I don’t know how, but Rick Yancey completely blows me away every time. This is a beautifully written, haunting, and utterly chilling book. The characters become more and more complex and the story may be the most unnerving of the three. So glad that there will be more books in this series!

Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt: I wasn’t sure how I was going to like this, because sometimes realistic teen novels drive me straight back into sff. But this was a nice read; I liked the slow build of the story and the shifting views of certain characters. I do agree with a criticism I’ve seen several places, that a particular storyline at the end felt a bit shoehorned in. Overall, though, this was a really nice book and one I’d recommend to reluctant realists.

Hereville by Barry Deutsch: I really enjoyed this one–a graphic novel about a Orthodox Jewish girl who fights trolls. It sounds zany, but it has some great moments, both funny and touching. I loved the expressiveness of Deutsch’s characters, and the different color palettes.

Venetia by Georgette Heyer: A book I consistently enjoy, especially because Venetia is so outrageous. It’s not in my top five Heyer books, but it’s pretty close.

Riddle of the Wren by Charles de Lint: I had acquired this somewhere and thought I should probably actually read it. It’s a fine high fantasy, but I wasn’t impressed by it. It felt pretty derivative and unoriginal.

Face Down Among the Winchester Geese by Kathy Lynn Emerson: I enjoyed the first few books in this series, but parts of this one severely tested my suspension of disbelief. Not sure if I’ll keep going with the series or not.

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins: I really enjoyed Anna and the French Kiss, so picking this one up was pretty natural. I liked it a lot, except for that problem of seeing the correct solution so obviously and the characters being blind to it. Gaaah.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson: I wasn’t sure what it would be like, but ended up liking it a lot. One of the major things I liked is a big spoiler, so I won’t say it, but it made me happy. I liked Rory’s different worlds and the uncomfortableness of when they overlap. And for myself, I looked at it more as a mystery than as a paranormal story, for whatever reason, so I wasn’t creeped out as much as I was intrigued. The mystery had a great solution, I thought! And, I know I’m supposed to dislike Charlotte, but she dresses up as Amy Pond! I cannot do it!

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs: Unlike most of the rest of the world, I liked this one, but wasn’t IN LOVE with it. The photographs are a huge part of the story, and some of them are genuinely unsettling. I liked Jacob and the sense of weirdness* that pervaded the book. But I was not convinced by the romance and I wanted a little more from the ending.

* Which I mean in a very specific, hard to define sense

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman: So, I’d never read this, which seems like a hue omission on my part. Anyway, I really enjoyed it! All the sly jokes about London made me laugh, but also made me want to go back even more. Also, the author picture on the back was quite funny. Little Neil Gaiman!**

**I’m sure he was actually the same height, but he just looks young.

Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer: I hardly ever re-read this one, and after having read it, I remembered why. There’s a certainly type of Heyer which I tend not to enjoy as much, and this is party of that type. It’s not nearly as bad as a couple of others, but I wasn’t able to fully enjoy the story or the romance.

The Nonesuch by Georgette Heyer: I re-read this one, because I hadn’t in awhile, and enjoyed it hugely. I’m fondest of the sensible heroines, and Sir Waldo and Ancilla are both so nice that this was a lovely read.

Claire de Lune by Christine Johnson: This had an interesting take on werewolf mythology, and a nice case of realizing that your parents aren’t as nonsensical as they sometimes seem. I was less convinced by the romance, though I believe there’s a second book, so that might change my mind.

The Documents in the Case by Dorothy Sayers: I thought I would re-read this one, since I’ve only previously read it once. The problem really is that my sympathies were so clearly marked from the beginning of the book that the solution, rather than being a surprise, seemed like the only right and possible one.

A College of Magics by Caroline Stevermer: Another re-read. ON my first time through, I liked this but didn’t love it. This time, I really, really, really liked it. Ah, Faris! Ah, Tyrian! Ah, Greenlaw! *happy swoon* I do love a good college story, and this definitely fit the bill. I remember liking the second book even better than the first, so we’ll see how that one fares.

The Reluctant Widow by Georgette Heyer: A bit of a let-down after The Nonesuch; I suspect I would have liked it better if I hadn’t had Waldo and Ancilla in my head still. Unfortunately, the heroine of this one is such a drip!

Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson: This is in a similar category as Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I think. I loved the worldbuilding and largely liked Elisa’s journey. I was intrigued by the way the relationships panned out–certainly unusual for the current crop of YA! And yet, I never felt that spark that really pushed me over the edge into love. I’m hoping for another book, though, because I did enjoy the world, and I often find second books stronger than first ones.

Madam, Will You Talk by Mary Stewart: The mystery part of this one was fun, but OH THE RIDICULOUS ROMANCE! I just sat there, going, “Uh….” [In case you couldn’t tell, I have STRONG OPINIONS on the romances in books, which may or may not have any bearing on reality.]

Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer: I like this one, which I had mostly forgotten about. Although Amanda can be a tad annoying, she’s also a more compassionate character than some of her type. And Hester is great. (I do so love a competent heroine.)

Across the Great Barrier by Patricia C. Wrede: Second in the Frontier Magic series. My reaction to these is a little odd, because I keep expecting something really big to happen, and then it never quite seems to materialize. I mean, it’s fine–not every book needs a huge finale, and these are a bit more intimate in scope. And I do like Eff a lot.

Secrets at Sea by Richard Peck: I think the word to describe this is cute. I felt for Helena, the oldest mouse, who must care for her younger siblings as they travel across the Atlantic with their Upstairs family. And I thought Peck did a lovely job of creating her voice and her way of looking at the world. Anthropomorphized? Yes, but in a way that also shows the mouseness of her.

Skyship Academy by Nick James: Sort of dystopian, but in a very different vein than most others. I liked it, though I totally called one of the big twists. The whole thing was very clearly a setup for a series, which is fine. Just expect a fair number of unresolved points.

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September book list

A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan: A sort-of Sleeping Beauty, in the future. Reviewed {here}

Pegasus by Robin McKinley: A re-read. I loved it again, but it’s getting harder and harder to not know the ending. I’m also very afraid for my favorite of Sylvi’s brothers. I hope events prove me wrong, but eeeeep.

Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern: Mixed feelings. Reviewed {here}

Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton: Victorian literature WITH DRAGONS! Reviewed {here}

Forever by Maggie Stiefvater: A nice end to the trilogy. Reviewed {here}

False Colors by Georgette Heyer: One of my favorite Heyer novels. I think I like this one partly because it’s a mad situation, but the characters aren’t just in it for larks.

These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer: For some reason I wasn’t super wild about this one the first time I read it. I enjoyed it much more this time through, though I think Devil’s Cub will always top it.

The Hidden Coronet by Catherine Fisher: Third book in the series. Reviewed {here}

Jhereg; Yendi; Teckla by Steven Brust: A good, solid fantasy series. Reviewed {here}

A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce: I bought a copy of this at a recent library booksale, despite not having entirely positive memories of it. It had been a long time since I read it, and I loved StarCrossed. I liked this one much more than I had remembered, but Digger will always be my favorite. (Liar’s Moon! November!)

Od Magic by Patricia McKillip: This is an odd one–I love some of the images and enjoy the characters, but it never crosses into LOVE.

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab: This was another book that I liked and felt like I should have loved. In this case, I’m not quite sure what kept me from loving it. Somehow I was expecting the plot to go a different route, though I did like what happened. And there was some insta-attraction, but the way it was handled didn’t leave me too bothered. And yet, somehow I was in the wrong mood or not engaged, or SOMETHING.

Lavinia by Ursula LeGuin: I fell in love with this book. Reviewed {here}

The Knocker at Death’s Door by Ellis Peters: I got this at a thrift store, because it’s Ellis Peters and she’s a bit hard to find. It’s not my favorite–it’s a bit gruesome and the romance at the end comes up pretty quickly. But it was still nice to re-read it.

Taltos by Steven Brust: The chronological beginning of the series. Explained some things. Other things made more sense having read later books. So, I’d say read this series in whatever order you like.

The Mystery of Mont Saint Michel by Michel Rouze: I had bought this awhile ago and never read it. A straightforward French kids mystery. It was pretty dated, though, and not in a good way.

The Heart of Veridon by Tim Akers: I can’t even tell you how long it took me to read this book. I was not wild about it–too much noir detective about the main character. Also, I didn’t care about Emily and I was obviously supposed to. There was some nice imagery, though.

Keeper by Kathi Appelt: I know a lot of people really liked this book, but I’ll just cut to the chase: I didn’t. It felt like a stereotypical Newbery book–and I don’t mean that in a good way. Kid on quest to find parent and/or parent figure. For me, there was little that was original or interesting about it.

Fury of the Phoenix by Cindy Pon: I think I liked this even better than the first book! I loved the backstory and the complexity that it gave Zhong Ye. I liked the fact that Ai Ling chose to do things for bad reasons. She’s far from a perfect heroine, but I enjoyed her character and her story.

And Both Were Young by Madeleine L’Engle: I’m kind of iffy on L’Engle’s early writing–some of it I like, some of it I don’t. This is probably my favorite of her earlier books.

The Coming of the Dragon by Rebecca Barnhouse: One of the reasons I loved Lavinia was the fact that I felt it brought a forgotten character of the source material to life, while still being in harmony with the source. Now, granted that I know Beowulf a lot better than I know the Aeneid, this is exactly where Coming of the Dragon falls short. It’s a nice coming of age story, but to me it never read as Beowulf.

No Such Thing As Dragons by Philip Reeve: I liked the various questions about identity and belief that it brought up. And on consideration, I decided that a certain spoilery bit at the end didn’t, in fact, bother me. But I never really loved it either.

Face Down Upon an Herbal by Kathy Lynn Emerson: An Elizabethan mystery, featuring a woman detective. While I find that aspect of it a bit dubious at times, it’s a fun read, and one of my favorite periods of history.

The Circle by Peter Lovesey: A contemporary mystery with little to set it apart. It’s part of a larger series, I believe, and I might have enjoyed it more if I had more investment in the detectives. But as it is, I don’t particularly care enough to keep reading.

The Margrave by Catherine Fisher: The last of the Relic-Master series. Overall, I liked it, though I did feel cheated of a certain moment which I had banked on happening and which didn’t occur. Left me feeling a bit defrauded.

Face Down in a Marrow-Bone Pie by Kathy Lynn Emerson: This is actually the first Lady Susannah mystery. I read them out of order. Because of that, some of the twists were spoiled for me, though the central mystery wasn’t.

Searching for Dragons by Patricia Wrede: Second book in the Enchanted Forest series, and the first to actually take place in the Enchanted Forest. These are, as always a mix of zany humor and zippy plots. However, the relationship between Mendenbar and Cimorene seems to have a little more reality to it than the rest.

Lady of Quality by Georgette Heyer: Not one of my favorites, but I hadn’t read it in awhile either.

Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter: This series continues to be a huge amount of fun! We get to delve into Uncle Eddie’s past, too, as well as develop the vexing question of Kat and Hale’s relationship.

The Time of the Ghost by Diana Wynne Jones: I remembered not liking this one very much, and…yeah. It’s eerie and unsettling and somehow bothers me in a way that no other Diana Wynne Jones story ever has. I’m struggling to put exactly what’s so bothersome into words, but it’s certainly there.

The Shattering by Karen Healey: There are lots of things about this that are great, from the setting to the characters. And yet somehow I was left with the same sort of unsettled, bothered feeling that I got from Time of the Ghost. I’m sure it doesn’t help that I read them in fairly close succession. But I do pay attention to what state a book leaves me in, and in this case it was a strange, scared one.

How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card: Some good tips, but also some things that are very outdated, and some others that I just didn’t quite agree with.

Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold: A reread. Very strange to go back to the beginning and see Cordelia and Aral so unfinished, as it were. The outline is there, but the details are far from filled in. Still, what a great beginning! And it’s so necessary if you want to understand Miles’s character.

Dark Parties by Sara Grant: I’m not sure I’m giving this a fair reading, because I’m so sick of dystopian fiction I could cry. But it read like yet another dystopian story. There’s a slight twist in that the main character is torn between the Boy and her best friend, rather than two boys. And yet, there wasn’t enough to really redeem this book for me.

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August book list

Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card: First Bean book. I love the way Card reweaves the story he told in Ender’s Game, making it both the same and different. And I found it quite emotionally touching as well, particularly the final battle scene and the end.

Lulu Dark Can See Through Walls by Bennett Madison: I was mildly entertained by this, but more and more I’m searching for books that have emotional depth and resonance and this, well, didn’t. But, it’s a YA mystery, and I want more in that category.

The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron: I just picked this one up at the library because it’s a Newbery book and I’m trying to expand my reading list. On the first page I stopped and thought to myself, “OH. It’s that book.” If you know what I’m talking about, you too may be a Newbery nerd. ANYWAY. It’s a decent book, though I feel like the basic storyline is one that’s used a lot in contemporary books and tends to get rewarded with praise and honors. I’m not as wild about it, but when done well, it does work.

Relic Master: The Dark City by Catherine Fisher: reviewed {here}.

Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith: Second in a series. I found parts of it interesting and parts much less so, though I did like it considerably more than the first book.

Conflict of Honors by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller: reviewed {here}

A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner: Yes, I re-read it. I actually have more thoughts committed to paper which may eventually make it online. But for now they can be summed up as: Gaaah, Megan Whalen Turner!

Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey: I’ve been underwhelmed by a lot of so-called historical books lately, but I’ve also found some unexpected gems–The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell and Haunting Violet. I loved this book. Its heroine, Violet, is not a forward-thinking lady escaping the shackles of society. She’s a fake trying to make her way through society without getting caught. I loved her, I loved the romance. In short, YAY!

A Song for Summer by Eva Ibbotson: A re-read. Eva Ibbotson is becoming one of my comfort authors. A Song for Summer isn’t my absolute favorite of her books, but it’s still lovely.

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins: I liked this a lot more than I expected to, though I never totally fell in love with it. Still, I wasn’t bothered by the voice, as I sometimes am, and the writing was seemingly effortless.

The Greyfriar by Clay and Susan Griffiths: I did not like this book. The writing bothered me, the plot was not original, though some of the mythology was. And I was extremely bothered by the equation of religion and magic.

Arabella by Georgette Heyer: A re-read. I really enjoy Arabella, who is a spunky character with a strong philanthropic bent. Except for the times when she’s pretending to be an heiress, of course.

The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis: I had gotten stuck on this one before but wanted to actually read it. So I did. And I cried a lot. Excellent, but can only be described as bleak. I have a few more things to say which are spoilerish, so I may say them on Goodreads.

Song for the Basilisk by Patricia McKillip: Most of McKillip’s books improve with re-reading. This is no exception. I still find Luna Pellinore a fascinating and tantalizing character. I want more of her story!

The Counterfeit Madam by Pat McIntosh: The latest Gil Cunningham mystery. I enjoyed it a lot, as usual, and like the way characters from past stories return and change or don’t. There is one ongoing plotline that I would like resolved. Hopefully soon.

Deception by Lee Nichols: Another book I wasn’t sure about but ended up enjoying. Emma’s a fun character and I wasn’t annoyed by her or the writing, which is always nice. (And I mean that with real sincerity: my most common complaint about books I’ve read in the past couple of years is that they are annoying–the writing is either grandiose or clunks horribly.)

Shadow of the Hegemonby Orson Scott Card: reviewed {here}

From the Dust Returned by Ray Bradbury: reviewed {here}

Dragon Blood by Patricia Briggs: It was nice to have the rest of Ward’s story, but I think I preferred Dragon Bones. Somehow the stakes for this never quite seemed real to me and so I was never that worried.

The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway: reviewed {here}

The Notorious Benedict Arnold by Steve Sheinkin: An excellent children’s biography of Benedict Arnold! I loved the way Sheinkin allowed people to speak in their own words, using quite a few period quotations, while at the same time explaining things in clear, modern terms. In addition, he was trying to capture one of the more complex figures in Revolutionary history.

Fly Trap by Frances Hardinge: Review coming soon.

My Dear Jenny by Madeleine Robbins: [e-book won through Library Thing] I suspected that this would be a Georgette Heyer knock-off. It wasn’t that exactly–I imagine that it does owe something to her, but it didn’t read like a thinner version of any of her books. On the other hand, the language and writing is nowhere near as strong.

The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman: Review coming soon.

The Broken Kingdom by N.K. Jemisin: Sequel to The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. I liked this one better, partly because there was less violence, or at least less violence of a sort that bothers me. Also, I really liked Oree and her voice.

Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis: I wanted to read the whole Oxford series close together, to see how they hung together. To me, they’re actually quite disparate. Or at least, they strike very different notes, although they’re tied together by more than just an overlap of characters. Everyday heroism (MIKE) and courage in the face of disaster and defeat, for instance. I do find the optimism of Blackout and All Clear hard to reconcile with the non-optimism of Doomsday Book. Still, I love all three/four.

Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones: I thinking I’m heading for a crazy Tam Lin retelling read-through. Fire and Hemlock is one of my favorites (how can I choose, though?). Polly is a lovely character, as is Granny. And I caught a bit more about names this time through–read Laurel’s full list of names carefully. It’s quite enlightening. Is the end confusing? You bet! But it rewards careful reading and re-reading and is, I think, quite in keeping with the rest of the book.

Night Fall by Joan Aiken: Picked this up at a library booksale, as an Aiken I hadn’t read. (I find it hard to resist the siren song of $1 hardbacks.) It’s a mystery that’s both odd and enchanting and, in a deeply weird way, it bears a strong resemblance to Fire and Hemlock.

Thirteenth Child by Patricia Wrede: I really wanted to like this book, and I did enjoy the different systems of magic and so on. But I felt like everything it was trying to do was done better by The Lost Conspiracy–the conflict between groups and especially Eff’s journey. To me, the real solution of the problem was so blindingly obvious that I spent most of the time wanting to say, “Come ON, Eff! Can’t you see?” Still, I think that would be less of a problem for a different reader and a different age range.

The Lost Heiress by Catherine Fisher: Book 2 of the Relic Master series. I was expecting one solution to the titular problem and found quite a different one. I love the little bits of description that Fisher weaves in–never over the top, but always setting the ground so perfectly. These are very fast reads and lots of fun.

Shadow of the Giant by Orson Scott Card: So, as I started reading this, I thought, Huh. It seems like something’s happened between the end of the last book and now. Then I kept reading and wasn’t bothered by it any more. Just looked at my TBR list and…there’s a book that comes in between! That aside, I did enjoy this more than Shadow of the Hegemon.

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March reading list

A Sudden Wild Magic by Diana Wynne Jones: Certainly not my favorite of Jones’s books. It combines elements of Deep Secret and Hexwood but somehow missing the compelling quality of either.

The Princess and the Hound by Mette Ivie Harrison: Without being a fairy tale re-telling, Harrison manages to give that impression. (I believe she has a degree in German literature, so it makes sense.) This story of a prince, a princess and her hound is compelling and well written.

An Infamous Army by Georgette Heyer: Probably the most tragic of all Heyer’s books; there were points when I couldn’t see because of the tears. But that’s only possible because Heyer manages to bring Waterloo and the events which led to it vividly to life.

Front and Center by Catherine Murdock: A mostly satisfying end to the trilogy. I was very pleased with the result of the relationship theme. I just wish there were more D.J. Schwenk to come. On the other hand, I’m never wild about series that just keep going and going and going, so I suppose I’m also glad that Murdock knows when to call it quits.

The Night Gift by Patricia McKillip: Really not my favorite McKillip. It’s set in the 1970’s and has a very odd Message heavy feel to it which I didn’t enjoy.

Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson: One of those books that’s very fun and packs a more powerful punch than I realized at first. I agree with someone else (Leila?) that Scarlett’s family feels like one of those classic Melendy types that’s a little (a lot) quirky, but AWESOME at the same time.

The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner: I enjoyed this book, but I summed up my major problem with it while complaining to my roommate. I felt like Gardner got an idea for a story and thought, “Oh, when I can I set this story? I know! The French Revolution!” and so she did. It didn’t feel cohesive enough, or something. Also, totally saw the major plot twist at the end a mile away.

Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman: I’m a sucker for good historical fiction, and this is most definitely good historical fiction. More fully reviewed {HERE}.

The Princess and the Bear by Mette Ivie Harrison: This sequel to The Princess and the Hound picks up where the first book left off. The title is somewhat misleading; personally I would have gone with an alternative which is slightly spoilery for the first book so I won’t say. Anyway. In general I found this one satisfying, but I didn’t feel like it quite stood on its own. As done as I am with trilogies at the moment, I’d really like a third book to round out the story.

Mourning Raga by Ellis Peters: Literary theory, among other things, has made me very twitchy about depictions of India in western books. I was worried about this one, despite my deep affection and respect for Peters. I do feel that Peters honestly respected the Indian culture and if she made generalizations they were regional rather than cultural. Still, her books set in Shropshire remain my favorites.

Circus Shoes by Noel Streatfeild: It wasn’t her best, but it was a little less predictable than, say, Family Shoes. There was one passage about Pascha that I loved, even if Streatfeild got a few facts wrong.

Water Witch by Connie Willis and Cynthia Felice: The worldbuilding was fascinating for this one, but I got hung up on how cliched it felt, despite some interesting twists and characterizations.

Facing East by Frederica Mathewes-Green: I loved this look at the Orthodox year. It was just what I needed to read at the end of Lent.

Fly by Night by Frances Hardinge: I completely loved this until the very end, when all of a sudden I felt like Hardinge had an Agenda. I can deal with it for the sake of her marvellous characters, but it did make me a little sad.

Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman: I loved this one! So glad I took everyone’s recommendation and looked past the title. The worldbuilding and characters are spectacular; I felt like this is what Alanna could have been but wasn’t (sorry Alanna). Can’t wait to read the next one!

The Knocker at Death’s Door by Ellis Peters: We’re back in Shropshire for this one–yay! As usual, Peters’ descriptions and characters are marvellous. I did find one part a tiny bit unbelievable but am willing to go with it anyway.

Cousin Kate by Georgette Heyer: I believe this was the first Heyer book I ever read, and it completely freaked me out. I can see why–Torquil is a bit eerie. But on a re-read I found myself enjoying it a lot. Like False Colours, it has two characters who seem very real, despite their Gothic surroundings.

Knife by R.J. Anderson: A re-read. I enjoyed it once again. The characterizations are excellent and I love the different take on faery culture and history.

Nightbirds on Nantucket by Joan Aiken: The first Aiken I ever read. Interestingly, it’s one of the few novels in the series which I feel can really stand on its own–the complicated backstory of Dido and Simon and all the rest doesn’t come into it except very marginally.

A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner (twice): I think I’ve said everything I have to say on this book {HERE} and {HERE} and {HERE}. Note that the last two are spoilery. Also, Jess, if you happen to be reading this, I added a comment and a link to the more detailed post.

The Seven Towers by Patricia Wrede: Meh. I felt generally underwhelmed by this one, which is unfortunate. I suppose if I were younger I would probably have liked it. As it was, I liked it but felt like there were whole huge problems and reactions that just got skipped over (my major example is very spoilery, so I won’t say what it is).

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January reading list

The Winter Prince by Elizabeth Wein: I read this in December. Then I read it again, because it’s that good.

The Capricorn Bracelet by Rosemary Sutcliff: Sutcliff fans probably remember the ring with the flawed emerald and dolphin from Lantern Bearers, Silver Branch, etc. Here she traces a similar history, except that the family heirloom is a bracelet with a capricorn device and the family is located around Hadrian’s wall. I would have liked a little more story on several of these, but they were nicely done.

The Reluctant Widow
by Georgette Heyer: Reviewed {HERE}

Carney’s House Party by Maud Hart Lovelace: A re-read. I’m a major Lovelace fan; the only book I haven’t read from the Deep Valley series is Winona’s Pony Cart. I liked seeing a different perspective on love and marriage, and Betsy and Joe’s relationship.

Flora Segunda by Ysabeau Wilce: These are absolutely mad books, with magickal Butlers, a population that wears kilts, and a determined heroine. Also, great slang. Pigface psychopomp has now entered my vocabulary irrevocably. Basically, they’re a lot of fun, but fun with a good heart to them.

Dragon-Spear by Jessica Day George: I enjoyed the first two books, but I was fairly disappointed by this one. I didn’t want George to add unnecessary drama, but there were times when it seemed like her characters didn’t react to things that real people would have been having fits over.

A Coalition of Lions
by Elizabeth Wein: Goewin, Princess of Britain, travels to the African empire of Aksum to recall Constantine, their ambassador, to Britain. Completely different than The Winter Prince, it’s nonetheless fantastic in a different way. (A bit more {HERE})

Before Midnight by Cameron Dokey: A re-telling of Cinderella. I found it interesting and overall well done, but wasn’t massively impressed by it. I did think the characterization of the stepmother and stepsisters was well done.

The Changeling Sea by Patricia McKillip: The first McKillip book I ever read. I can see why I liked it and kept reading–there’s a lovely iridescence to this one and I really enjoy the way McKillip plays with different fairy tale motifs. Plus, I like the sea.

Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia Wrede: After Tender Morsels, I thought I’d try a different re-telling. And hey! I like Patricia Wrede. It was okay. As with Before Midnight, I enjoyed the book but wasn’t blown away. Although the darkness of Tender Morsels makes me hesitant to re-read it, it’s far more memorable.

April Lady
by Georgette Heyer: This is the one where the wife has the debts and accidentally misses one when she gives them to her husband to settle, and then of course is afraid he’ll be angry. It’s an interesting plot, but the characters weren’t as endearing as in some of Heyer’s books.

Firebirds ed. by Sharyn November: I wanted the second book in this anthology series, but the library accidentally sent me the first. That’s okay, I enjoyed re-reading it. Elizabeth Wein’s story was especially nice this time around, since I’ve now started her major series.

The Sunbird by Elizabeth Wein: Telemakos really comes front and center in this one. I’ve started to consider him a Gen-like character. A few more thoughts {HERE}

A College of Magics by Caroline Stevermer
A Scholar of Magics by Caroline Stevermer: I read these two in one volume. I enjoyed the characters and the story over all, but wasn’t entirely convinced by the world-building, which didn’t quite seem thought-through. The second book was, I think, stronger than the first. I don’t normally say that. A few more thoughts {HERE}.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson: Wow. This is a whammy of a book, and one that’s been justifiably praised. Pearson manages to tell a tricky story without falling into several possible traps. Very well done. A few more thoughts {HERE}.

Black is the Color of my True Love’s Heart by Ellis Peters: When Ellis Peters is good, she’s very good. And that’s exactly what she is here. I was expecting a stereotypical view of those crazy 60’s kids, and instead I got a story that was both beautiful and tragic. A few more thoughts {HERE}.

Dear Enemy by Jean Webster: I’ve loved Daddy-Long-Legs for a long time, but this sequel was a disappointment. Not only did the eugenics-heavy philosophy bother me, the romance didn’t work. A few more thoughts {HERE}.

Black Horses for the King by Anne McCaffrey: An Arthurian re-telling? By Anne McCaffrey? Why, yes! It was a little weird to read it, especially after having read The Winter Prince so recently; she uses several of the same names and locations. Nonetheless, these are entirely different stories. This one ended very abruptly and I wasn’t entirely satisfied. (Is it part of a series? I’m too lazy to look it up on Wikipedia. A new depth to which I have fallen.) But it’s an interesting look into a particular period of history, especially equine history, and I bet I would have enjoyed it a lot when I was younger.

Flora’s Dare by Ysabeau Wilce: Pigface psychopomp! How on earth am I supposed to wait for the third book to be released? Ysabeau Wilce! You are a mean lady! What kind of an ending is that? More coherently, Flora continues her adventures in this book, and discovers some long-buried secrets at the same time (to anyone who’s read it, I hope you see what I did there).

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