Beyond Books

fancy some fantasy? [an assortment of mini-(sort of)-book reviews]

Those of you who still happen to read my blog should recall that I have not been able to sit and read for over a year now. Reading is always my main form of escape and relaxation, so frustration levels have been high. Where I would once reach close to 150 books read a year, I was struggling to read a book a month for way too long. Nothing captured my attention very long. Everything seemed so… trivial, and unoriginal.

But recently I have been on a big reading kick. I devoured book after book as if I was just handed a bottle of water after having been lost in a desert for months. I have read 16 books since the end of February and 14 of those were Fantasy novels. Fourteen. In a row. The bulk of which were read from the end of April until just this past week. The two other books weren’t typical fantasy, but they were middle grade books with a magical element.

So here are some of the fantasy novels I really enjoyed over the last 3 months! (And it appears something broke in an update and now italics doesn’t work on my blog. I can’t recall how to fix this problem, so just trust me that I have properly italicized the book titles as I should until I can fix the broken thing.)

Shadow Study (Soulfinders, #1)
Maria V. Snyder

I had completely forgotten that Maria V. Snyder had begun a new series with the characters from the Study Series. I loved the original trilogy and was quite looking forward to revisiting my friends Yelena and Valek. I was a little wary of this new series however –  often the sequels or the revisits do not do the original story justice. I was thrilled when I fell comfortably back into the fictional world that Snyder created with Poison Study. What I loved most about this book (besides the characters) was the fact that I couldn’t trust anyone in this story. I can’t wait to read the next book. I love when books keep me guessing! (Adult / YA Fantasy.)

Home (Magic Thief, #4)
Sara Prineas

I fell fast in love with the Magic Thief series last summer. It was pretty awesome to discover a new series that already had three books out. Although it felt like forever before this fourth book published. I wasn’t sure I was going to like this installment when I began reading. I felt like it was going in a direction that was dull, and unoriginal. Thankfully it wasn’t too long before the story twisted in a direction I wasn’t quite expecting and I was in for a very enjoyable ride! You can’t help but love Conn and root for him every step of the way! (Middle Grade.)

The Crown of Embers (Fire & Thorns, #2)
The Bitter Kingdom (Fire & Thorns #3)
Rae Carson

I am sort of embarrassed as to how long it took me to get back to this series after I read the first book, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, in 2011. I started out waiting for the books to publish in soft cover so they’d match the advance copy format of the first, and then I seem to have forgotten about them. In my defence, when I did recall I should finish the series, I wasn’t in a book reading, or book buying, mood. Even now, I picked up these two books in soft cover with Christmas money, and then didn’t read them until April when I realized I wanted to read more fantasy stories. I remembered liking the first book a lot, but having some issues with the topic of body image in the story. Thankfully the body image stuff wasn’t as prominent in the second and third books, at least it didn’t stick out at me in any way. I’m trying to remember more about the story for this little blurb, but I have too many books on my brain. I do know that I read Crown of Embers in ONE day, which was a record for me lately. And I think the final book took me 2 days. It’s a great series, trust me! (Young Adult)

Jinx’s Fire (Jinx, #3)
Sage Blackwood

I read the first two books in this series (Jinx; Jinx’s Magic) right after we lost our own Jinx suddenly. It was a magical series I’d been eyeing for some time but never picked up. I suddenly needed to read the books last summer to help myself heal from the loss of Jinxy. Amazingly enough, Jinx has a (sort of) friend named Sophie in this series, and she’s got attitude. It was such a perfect fit for Jinx and our Sophie that I felt that these books were just what I needed when I needed them. Turns out they were also fantastically written novels full of magic and adventure. Jinx (in the story, not the dog) reminded me a lot of Conn from the Magic Thief series at times, which made for delightful reading. There is also a werewolf who considers himself an intellectual, and therefore does not lower himself to the eating of humans like his werewolf kin. But this also means he needs to leave conversations pretty suddenly, lest he accidentally eat you. Heh. Each book in this series has surprised me with its direction. They are pretty meaty books for middle grade fantasy and they are a perfect escape from dreary real life woes. (Middle Grade)

The Rain Wild Chronicles:
Dragon Haven (#2)
City of Dragons (#3)
Blood of Dragons (#4)
Robin Hobb

This is where things get crazy. While I was on this fantasy kick, I happened to notice that my library had The Rain Wild Chronicles on their shelves. Now, I read the first book Dragon Keeper a billion years ago (2011) and again, forgot about the series while I wait for the mass market versions to come out. I was pretty sure I had enjoyed that first book about dragons, and I knew I loved other books by Robin Hobb, so I took out the three remaining books and gave them a whirl. WELL. These books are not short, and yet I did nothing but read, read, read. At home, at work (on lunch!), on the bus (bus sickness be damned!). I read these books every chance I got. I was loving them completely. I finished the fourth and final book the first night I got to my parents’ place for a 2 week visit. This meant I NEEDED to get MORE books. Since reading this series made me realize that another Hobb series that I had avoided (thinking it was about something else) was just sitting out there waiting for me to read it! But before I get into that… if you love dragons, and you love questing and adventure, then I highly recommend this series. You get pretty attached to the characters (human, and dragon) and Robin Hobb builds an amazing world that you can’t get out of your head for weeks after you’re done reading. Which is why… (Adult)

Liveship Traders:
Ship of Magic (#1)
Mad Ship (#2)
Ship of Destiny (#3)
Robin Hobb

When this series came out, way back in 1998/1999, I had already read another trilogy by the same author (Farseer Trilogy). I knew I loved her writing, but I didn’t want to read a book about pirates. Little did I know that this wasn’t a series just about pirates. I didn’t know what a Liveship was until I read the Rain Wild series, and that’s when I knew that a) I needed to read this older series, and b) I had an excuse to NOT leave the world created by Hobb. I also realized that there were 4 separate series out there all set in the same world. I didn’t realize it at the time. Now, you can read these in order if you wanted to start at the beginning (Farseer) and work your way to the “end” (Rain Wilds), but I will tell you this: had I not read all four books of the Rain Wilds first, I probably would have tossed the first book of the Liveship series across the room because one of the main characters in this series is the most impossible, bratty, whiny, creature I have ever come across in a book. I hated her. Very strong feelings of hate. Only I knew that she changes because I met her later on in her life. But oh boy. I could have given up on an amazing series because of one snotty girl. The flip side was that the character of Brashen Tell in this book was rather swoon-worthy. I don’t normally have crushes on literary men, but Brashen won my heart. *swoon* (Adult)

An Ember in the Ashes (Ember in the Ashes, #1)
Sabaa Tahir

I know this is getting very long, but I needed to add this new release to my list because I was having the WORST time reading anything after ingesting nothing but 6 Robin Hobb books in a row. I couldn’t escape the city of Bingtown or the Rain Wilds as I had been living in them completely for weeks. I saw that my library had just received a copy of this new release that I had been hearing good things about, and since it was on the shelf, I picked it up! I was apprehensive at first because I find so much YA so similar these days. I think I may have burnt myself out with all the reviewing. So I started this book with a sort of sceptical attitude and I may have given some serious side-eye to the first few chapters. Then I realized I was pretty hooked on the story and that the characters weren’t as cookie-cutterish as I thought they would be. Yes all the young love, instant attraction was there, but it didn’t seem that ridiculous, and it didn’t make my teeth hurt from being over-sweet. In fact, I was loving the ruthlessness of the military school. The story went places I thought it wouldn’t go, and that both surprised, and delighted me. When I realized I was almost at the end of the book (and I knew to expect a cliffhanger, and it did go sort of the way I thought it would) I was sad. This book also took me a while to get out of my head. I still think about it today. I think this says a lot about a book that was able to a) distract me from Hobb’s fantasy world, and b) absorb me into its own fictional world. This book has some dystopian elements to the fantasy and I didn’t think it would work well for me, but it did. I am extremely eager for the next book. Sadly it doesn’t even have a title yet. The perils of reading a book so close to its release date! (Young Adult.)

Whew! This was a long post. I have a lot of time to make up for. And I’m on vacation this week, so hopefully there will be more where this came from! If you check out any of these titles because of my post, I’d love to know what you think of them! Also, I’m always game for more fun fantasy book suggestions, so comment away!

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