Review – An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

 

An Enchantment of Ravens

By Margaret Rogerson

SummaryIsobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized among them. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes – a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love, violating the fair folks’ ruthless Good Law. There’s only one way to save both their lives, Isobel must drink from the Green Well, whose water will transform her into a fair one—at the cost of her Craft, for immortality is as stagnant as it is timeless.

Isobel has a choice: she can sacrifice her art for a future, or arm herself with paint and canvas against the ancient power of the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

Source: I received a signed hardcover in my Uppercase subscription

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Review:

An Enchantment of Ravens was fantastic and exactly what I was in the mood for. It was enchanting and fun at the same time. I loved that there was some humor peppered in, too. 

I’m actually quite shocked by the number of negative reviews and DNFs I’ve seen on Goodreads for this book. I guess it has to do with expectations and I didn’t really have any about the book. It’s not the only book set in a world of Faeries and their courts, but I feel like it went in different directions than similar books and wasn’t trying to be the next ACOTAR or anything. I suppose I wasn’t looking for similarities and I’m familiar with many stories that deal with the Fae and they all sort of bring something new to the table. In An Enchantment of Ravens, the unique aspect was Crafts. I’m used to seeing the Fae wrap themselves up in all things beautiful, but in the book, they were actually unable to create anything themselves and participate in a craft. They relied on humans to create. 

Isobel and Rook were likable characters. Isobel enjoyed her craft and had a lot of passion for art. She was smart and always looked for loopholes when dealing with the Fae to ensure any payment for her art wouldn’t have any catches. She was polite and treated her patrons well, but Rook was the first Fae to intrigue her by not acting like what she expected. 

A lot of people also didn’t like the insta-love aspect, but I thought it was pretty enjoyable. Isobel hadn’t really dealt with the idea of romance before, so it felt natural that she would confuse intrigue and curiosity with love when she met the autumn prince and painted his portrait. I think she even realized it throughout the book that the autumn prince intrigued her, but she wasn’t really in love with him when she thought she was. It wasn’t until they ventured off into the forest together that they both started to understand each other. I don’t necessarily thing that meeting Rook turned her brain into mush.. if that was the case, I don’t think she would’ve wanted to hold on to mortality the way she did. 

Truly, I enjoyed the book and had a lot of fun. There were tons of jokes throughout the book, especially since Rook didn’t fully understand sarcasm or jokes. He tried to show off a lot and she made fun of him and he didn’t even catch on most of the time. I loved the twists and the way it ended. I felt like I connected with the characters and enjoyed watching the adventure unfold. I definitely recommend An Enchantment of Ravens. It wasn’t an epic fantasy like other Fae novels, but it was a nice standalone romantic adventure that was set in a world of Fae that was fun to read.

Star 4

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Review – Odd and True by Cat Winters

Odd & True

By Cat Winters

SummaryTrudchen grew up hearing Odette’s stories of their monster-slaying mother and a magician’s curse. But now that Tru’s older, she’s starting to wonder if her older sister’s tales were just comforting lies, especially because there’s nothing fantastic about her own life—permanently disabled and in constant pain from childhood polio.

In 1909, after a two-year absence, Od reappears with a suitcase supposedly full of weapons and a promise to rescue Tru from the monsters on their way to attack her. But it’s Od who seems haunted by something. And when the sisters’ search for their mother leads them to a face-off with the Leeds Devil, a nightmarish beast that’s wreaking havoc in the Mid-Atlantic states, Tru discovers the peculiar possibility that she and her sister—despite their dark pasts and ordinary appearances—might, indeed, have magic after all.

Source: I purchased a signed hardcover

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Review:

I am a fan of Cat Winters and have enjoyed her other books. I love that even with a darker sort of premise, it’s usually always about the problems of society and the way it treats women. I like how the author tends to blend fantasy and history in an enjoyable way, while also having a lesson or message of some sort.

Odd and True was a story of two sisters.

It’s difficult to review the book because I didn’t enjoy it as much as I’d hoped, but I also “get” the point and I liked the underlying themes. 

Still, I think that the problem with Cat Winters novels are that they are marketed in a way that conveys a setting or plot that really isn’t there. Even though they all somewhat deal with the dark and scary thing they are supposed to, they never fully “go there” with the plot points talked about in the synopsis and instead deal with everyday things like women struggling to gain a foothold in their society or learning to overcome, With this book and nearly all of her others, had I been more prepared for the actual plot, I would’ve appreciated it much more. I love the symbolism, but as someone who fully enjoys the supernatural, it’s kind of a let down when the scary thing is just a metaphor for another actual scary thing in society. (This is nearly always how I feel about Cat Winters books, but I still would’ve rated it higher had I enjoyed the book more.)

While Cat Winters books are always kind of different and can disappoint me if I’m not prepared, I have to admit that Odd and True was simply boring and that was the number one reason I didn’t throw out a 4 star rating for the cleverness of the symbolism. 

It took awhile for the plot to pick up and the historical setting didn’t provide a very clear picture like her other novels did. I felt immersed in the history in her other novels, whereas in Odd and True, it was more difficult to hammer down a setting or get a real feel for the world. Aside from the character having polio, it could’ve been set really at any time. It also bothered me that the plot took so long to move forward, which I associated with the fact that the characters weren’t really in a city and were more secluded, but when the plot finally picked up, suddenly it was no big deal to just galavant all over the country. Having taken a cross country trip myself recently, I just find it hard to believe that moving from one coast to the other, even on a train, would be quite so nonchalant for the characters to do, especially for Tru. Honestly, if they were going to end up searching for the Leeds Devil in Pennsylvania, the entire novel could’ve been more believable/relatable had the family maybe lived on a farm in Pennsylvania and their mother was from a neighboring state instead of having characters hop from CA to OR to the east coast and back like it was no big deal. 

If you want to read a book about sisterhood and family and understanding the past, Odd and True was good, but if you’re looking for a story about monsters and monster fighting, this isn’t the book for you.

Star 3

 

Top Ten Tuesday – Settings

 toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday 

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

 

Top Ten Bookish Settings I’d Love to Visit

 

 

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1. Wonderland from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. 

I’d love to have tea with the hatter.

 

2. Beyond the Wall in Stardust by Neil Gaiman. 

Witches and fallen stars! (Oh, how I wish DeNiro’s character was in the book!)

 

3. The circus in The Night Circus by Emily Morgenstern. 

How amazing would it be?

 

4. Diagon Alley in Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling. 

But maybe this doesn’t count since you CAN visit it at Universal Studios and I already did! (That’s me doing some magic ^)

 

5. Jurassic Park from Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. 

I know, I know, it’s a bad idea, but it’s DINOSAURS!

 

6. The Night Court from A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas. 

It might be dangerous, but I’ve always wanted to visit a faerie kingdom.

 

7. Mars in The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. 

Maybe I’m just old school, but I’ve always loved the idea of colonies on other planets. It’s the stuff SciFi used to dream of.

 

8. Derry, Maine from any of the Stephen King novels. 

So maybe I don’t want to visit and be in danger, but the horror fan in me is simply curious as to what it might be like. 

(Side Note: They do actual Derry Stephen King tours!)

 

9. Forks, Washington from Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. 

Currently, I live quite close and I plan on visiting, but the idea that there might be werewolves and vampires prowling around would be much more interesting.

 

10. Bon Temps, Louisiana from The Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris. 

I absolutely loved the setting in the books! Full of southern charm, faeries, vampires, and other magical creatures. 

Review – A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

 

A Clockwork Orange

By Anthony Burgess

SummaryWhat we were after was lashings of ultraviolence.”

In this nightmare vision of youth in revolt, fifteen-year-old Alex and his friends set out on a diabolical orgy of robbery, rape, torture and murder. Alex is jailed for his teenage delinquency and the State tries to reform him – but at what cost?

Social prophecy? Black comedy? A study of free will? A Clockwork Orange is all of these. It is also a dazzling experiment in language, as Burgess creates “nadsat”, the teenage slang of a not-too-distant future.

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Source: I purchased a paperback

Review:

I’ve seen the movie, but I realized I’d never read the book. Surprisingly, the movie was a great adaptation that didn’t stray too far from the novel. It made it easier to follow, as the language is a bit interesting. The book was written in nadsat, a language that the teens of the book used. To be honest, the nadsat language was frustrating for the first few pages, but once I realized, based on context cues, what things meant, I flew through the pages.

A Clockwork Orange was a classic I can’t believe I waited so long to read. I devoured it because it was so intriguing.

The book deals with the question of whether we are wholly good or bad, what that means, if it’s better to be yourself than to be conditioned to be someone else, and other philosophical questions. Alex was a frustrating narrator because he was so obviously sick, but being good didn’t make him a better person. 

I wish that I would’ve had the opportunity to read in school or in a book club to really take the book apart and dissect it and discuss with other people because that’s ultimately what this book is excellent for. I did read it for enjoyment and enjoyed it, but it’s a book with layers you could spend hours unraveling and discussing.

While I highly recommend the book, it was incredibly violent and graphic and not for the faint of heart. 

Star 4

Review – Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

Full Dark, No Stars

By Stephen King

SummaryNow in mass market paperback, a collection of four riveting, never-before-published novellas from Stephen King. Also includes the new short story “Under the Weather.”

“I believe there is another man inside every man, a stranger . . .” writes Wilfred Leland James in the early pages of the riveting confession that makes up “1922,” the first in this pitch-black quartet of mesmerizing tales from Stephen King. For James, that stranger is awakened when his wife, Arlette, proposes selling off the family homestead and moving to Omaha, setting in motion a gruesome train of murder and madness. 

In “Big Driver,” a cozy-mystery writer named Tess encounters the stranger along a back road in Massachusetts when she takes a shortcut home after a book club engagement. Violated and left for dead, Tess plots a revenge that will bring her face-to-face with another stranger: the one inside herself.

“Fair Extension,” the shortest of these tales, is perhaps the funniest. Making a deal with the devil not only saves Dave Streeter from a fatal cancer but provides rich recompense for a lifetime of resentment. 

When her husband of more than twenty years is away on one of his business trips, Darcy Anderson looks for batteries in the garage. Her toe knocks up against a box under a worktable and she discovers the stranger inside her husband. It’s a horrifying discovery, rendered with bristling intensity, and it definitively ends a good marriage. Like Different Seasons and Four Past Midnight, which generated such enduring films as The Shawshank Redemption and Stand by Me, Full Dark, No Stars proves Stephen King a master of the long story form. 

Source: I borrowed a paperback from my stepmom.

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Review:

When I saw 1922 show up as a movie on Netflix, I knew it was finally time to crack open this short story collection and get to reading. It’s been on my shelf for what seems like ages and I’m awful at picking Stephen King books up unless it’s autumn.

Full Dark, No Stars was one of the darkest collections I’ve read by Stephen King. 

1922 was a story similar to that of The Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe set in a farming town in Nebraska. It was the biggest chunk of the short story collection and was awesomely haunting. The Netflix movie was also phenomenal.

Big Driver was an absolutely terrifying story… it was perhaps the most graphic and disturbing of them all. It gave me the shivers multiple times as I realized it’s something all women probably fear to some degree. 

Fair Extension was about a guy who made a deal with the devil and reminded me almost of Thinner because it was more upbeat. It was actually perfect that it came right about Big Driver because I needed something a tad less horrifying.

A Good Marriage was… well, it was quiet interesting when a wife discovered her husband was a little more into some stuff than she realized… and it wasn’t anything she could ignore.

I really enjoyed the short story collection and I can’t believe it took me this long to read it. It’s still not my favorite King short story collection, but it’s hard to top Skeleton Crew in my opinion. Whether you’re a fan of old or new King, Full Dark, No Stars delivered a little a both that worked well.

Star 4

 

Review – The Becoming of Noah Shaw (The Shaw Confessions #1) by Michelle Hodkin

The Becoming of Noah Shaw (The Shaw Confessions #1)

By Michelle Hodkin

Summary: In the first book of the Shaw Confessions, the companion series to the New York Times bestselling Mara Dyer novels, old skeletons are laid bare and new promises prove deadly. This is what happens after happily ever after.

Everyone thinks seventeen-year-old Noah Shaw has the world on a string.

They’re wrong.

Mara Dyer is the only one he trusts with his secrets and his future.

He shouldn’t.

And both are scared that uncovering the truth about themselves will force them apart.

They’re right.

Source: I preordered a hardcover.

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Review:

I loved the Mara Dyer trilogy and I couldn’t wait for the spin off series to come out. I preordered without really knowing much about it because I trusted it would be well written and amazing. I have to admit, once I realized it took place AFTER Mara Dyer, I was a little unsure because I kind of enjoyed the ambiguous ending and I don’t want to see the two of them split up. Still, I had burning questions, so part of me was excited. I was also eager to get inside of Noah’s head, too.

I firmly believe there is such a thing as too much of a good thing and that’s why I’ve never really wished any book series were longer. I’m usually apprehensive about unplanned sequels and books like this only serve to reinforce my feelings. This was a book I thought I wanted, but ultimately wasn’t nearly as good as the original trilogy.

I didn’t like Noah as a narrator as much as Mara. Also, part of what made the Mara Dyer trilogy so intriguing was that she was an unreliable narrator. I didn’t always believe her, and neither did Noah, but it felt weird being in his head while he distrusted her. I feel like I’m still on Mara’s side, so seeing Noah distrust her from his POV just felt wrong.

The book wasn’t bad and there were definitely some interesting events, high stakes, and a mystery I can’t help but want to solve. I simply didn’t enjoy it the same way as I loved the Mara Dyer trilogy. I will admit that it was just as well written, it’s just that preferred Mara’s POV.

Star 3

Review – Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

 

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

By Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner 

SummaryWhich is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common? Why do drug dealers still live with their moms? How much do parents really matter? What kind of impact did Roe v. Wade have on violent crime? Freakonomics will literally redefine the way we view the modern world.

Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common? Why do drug dealers still live with their moms? How much do parents really matter? What kind of impact did Roe v. Wade have on violent crime?

These may not sound like typical questions for an economist to ask. But Steven D. Levitt is not a typical economist. He is a much heralded scholar who studies the stuff and riddles of everyday life — from cheating and crime to sports and child rearing — and whose conclusions regularly turn the conventional wisdom on its head. He usually begins with a mountain of data and a simple, unasked question. Some of these questions concern life-and-death issues; others have an admittedly freakish quality. Thus the new field of study contained in this book: freakonomics.

Through forceful storytelling and wry insight, Levitt and co-author Stephen J. Dubner show that economics is, at root, the study of incentives — how people get what they want, or need, especially when other people want or need the same thing. In Freakonomics, they set out to explore the hidden side of … well, everything. The inner workings of a crack gang. The truth about real-estate agents. The myths of campaign finance. The telltale marks of a cheating schoolteacher. The secrets of the Ku Klux Klan.

What unites all these stories is a belief that the modern world, despite a surfeit of obfuscation, complication, and downright deceit, is not impenetrable, is not unknowable, and — if the right questions are asked — is even more intriguing than we think. All it takes is a new way of looking. Steven Levitt, through devilishly clever and clear-eyed thinking, shows how to see through all the clutter.
Freakonomics establishes this unconventional premise: If morality represents how we would like the world to work, then economics represents how it actually does work. It is true that readers of this book will be armed with enough riddles and stories to last a thousand cocktail parties. But Freakonomics can provide more than that. It will literally redefine the way we view the modern world.

Source: I purchased a paperback.

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Review:

I don’t read much nonfiction, but every so often, something will strike me as interesting and I’ll pick it up. Freakonomics had a pretty intriguing premise and language that sucked me in immediately. It was fun to read and I completely devoured it. I have to say, if I’m reviewing the book solely on my enjoyment, it would be a 5 star book without hesitation.

However, as with any nonfiction book, I am always skeptical. 

I hate documentaries and exposés because I always have to wonder if the creators have fully taken everything in to account or are just skewing the data to fit what they want. And in most cases, there is always some fudging of data or numbers. Freakonomics brought this issue to light and then gave us another spin, all while reminding us that correlation doesn’t equal causation. It’s frustrating to some degree because I was so totally on board until I realized that Freakonomics still kind of did what it accuses others of and I don’t think it was done with the same intent as documentaries – to push a message that aligns with the creator’s beliefs, but was done just for shock value. It IS weird that some of the data aligns with some things, like the crime drop of the 90s. I don’t think the authors were necessarily wrong about the correlation and their suggestion that some things are related, but I think the book kind of simplifies things in order to be shocking and weird. I enjoyed the ride, but I’m not confident I can say it’s accurate.

Still, Freakonomics isn’t quite inaccurate and it brought up some great points about how things aren’t always what they seem and it’s best to think outside of the box, so it’s a great book in that regard. I liked that it jumped around and threw out interesting information as they attempting to connect dots that no one else compared (at least professionally) before.

It seems that there are 2 types of people who rated this book really low. 

1. The numbers people, those who do what the authors do for a living or some other statistics related field who feel that they did what they accused others of by citing causation when there was only correlation or not including other factors and otherwise manipulating numbers. They have a great point, but I still think this book was for public consumption and it’s still fun and shouldn’t be taken so seriously.

2. The political people, those who dislike coming across information that doesn’t fit their worldview. Mostly conservative people, as the outrageous claim that the legalization of abortion can impact crime statistics can be super offensive to people who are very pro-life. But there are also the liberal people who will be upset at the lumping together of genders or races statistically and can’t believe the authors would even go there and generalize a bit. Perhaps both sides have some great points, but I don’t think any data fits anyone’s worldview as neatly as one would hope… which is kind of the point.

As with any nonfiction book, I recommend reading Freakonomics, but with a healthy dose of skepticism. It’s not gospel truth spilling from the pages, but it’s an interesting take on correlating data that makes you think twice about how the world works. If anything, perhaps it’s just one of those books that gets you thinking about some out of the box things or in a unique way.

 

Star 4