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Friday, January 19, 2018

Reading for Comfort

Is anyone else like me where when life gets just a little too much to handle... a little too "real,"  you just try to lose yourself in a book?  That's been my go-to escapism move for as long as I can remember. 

Last week when I found myself bemoaning the horrid weather we've been having this January in New England and work got a little extra stressful, I found myself longing to just dive into some comforting books.

So...with my 2018 Books I Already Own Challenge this threw me off my game a little bit.  I wanted to try as much as possible to stick within the parameters of my challenge and yet still have the freedom to read books I knew without a doubt would leave me feeling a little more lighthearted.  So, what did I end up reading?

The first book was an easy choice, since it wasn't really a choice at all! I may or may not have mentioned that I run the Cozy Mystery Book Bunch book club at my library.  Once a month I get to read a cozy and have a discussion with other readers about its plusses, minuses, and hilarious bits... and I get paid! LOVE. 

January's book club choice was Daisies for Innocence by Bailey Cattrell, the first book in the Enchanted Garden mystery series. It was the perfect mix of light fun, cute pets, hints of magic, and murder. The main character was someone interesting to follow and it reminded me how much I like to dabble with aromatherapy knowledge. I thoroughly enjoyed it and plan to read the second book in the series... in 2019. 

The other book I picked up to lighten my mood was the novella prequel to the Secret World of Alaina Downs series, The Princess and the Stableboy by Rebecca Rynecki.  Technically, I've read this one already a few years ago, so it was a re-read, but it was my first time reading it since it was officially printed.  Rebecca is one of my good friends and writing partners and I was actually a beta reader for this novella.  Such a different experience to read it again all pretty and formatted correctly!

Anyway, this series is one set in the fantasy world of Isleen, where magic abound and adventure and romance are always around the next corner.  I knew exactly what I was going to find in this re-read.  Evil wizards, a princess learning that she can survive horrifying things, and a sweet romance blossoming into true love.  *sigh*  One of my happy reading places. 

I was so happy that technically I didn't jump off my challenge path to find solace in my reading choices!  Even this morning when I looked at the next book on my list and wasn't quite feeling it, I was able to hunt for another book that I own to take it's place, so I'm still on track! 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

January's "Cheat" Book: The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman

The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman
The Invisible Library series, book four
Ace Books, 2018 - Owned in personal collection

So, as I mentioned, I'm doing a 2018 Books I Already Own Reading Challenge.  However, I know myself, and if I don't allow myself at least one new, shiny book a month, I will end up quitting before March... SO, this is my January "Cheat" book.

I can't review this book in too much depth, as it is book four in the series and I'd be giving away big spoilers.  However, I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed it and was glad that I had pre-ordered it and chosen it for my January "cheat." Cogman writes an admirable heroine who has just the right amount of smarts, style, grace, and kick-ass.  I love that while she in some ways depends on the men around her (Irene has no illusions about when her physical superiority is in question...), it is very clear that much more often, the men around her look to her for leadership and planning.

While I make a lot of jokes about Noah Wyle's The Librarian movies and the subsequent Indiana Jones style TV series, Irene Winters, in fact, lives the Librarian lifestyle that I would love to live if I were the heroine in a fantasy series.  Saving rare books for posterity.  Dealings with both dragons and fae?  Yes, please.  However, in real life, being a Librarian is not nearly so hard on one's potential health (ha!).

While you most definitely should start with book one of the series, The Invisible Library, I think so far this is my favorite addition to the series.  There is a very large moral issue, along with several smaller ethical dilemmas, being dealt with in this book, so the stakes are both physically and emotionally high.  Following Irene's choices pulled me pretty deep into her character and I found myself tearing up towards the end of the book as I thought she was going to end up being punished in the worst possible way for making the right decisions... then Cogman worked things out in just the right way for me to leave the book with a huge grin on my face! Perfect.

Now, back to reading the older books in my personal collection!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Winterspell

Winterspell by Claire Legrand
Simon Schuster books for Young Readers, 2014 
Owned in personal collection

In 2014 a Librarian friend, Kim, and I attended the Boston Teen Author Festival. It was a wonderful event that I’ve been dying to go back to and haven’t successfully managed since then... anyway, in 2014 I got to hear Claire Legrand speak about her twist on the “Nutcracker” story and I decided I was desperate to read it! I love fairy tale retellings. Generally, the darker and twistier the better. I purchased the gorgeous hardcover on he spot, then promptly buried it on my bookshelves when I got home and apparently neglected it for almost four years!

When I decided to challenge myself to read MY OWN books this was one of the first ones that sprang to mind. Plus last week it was about 10 degrees out every day (if we were lucky!) and it just felt like a good time to read this snowy, Christmas-y twisted tale.

This is a book that will be continuing to live in my personal collection.  It's beautifully written, both conceptually and practically (her word choices and the way the story flowed were stellar).  Legrand has created an intruiging new mythos where fairies utilize technology in all the worst ways.  Though Clara comes from our world in 1899, she ends up in the alternate world of Cane... a land where mechanical spies haunt the population and their Queen keeps them loyal through the introduction of a horrifically addictive drug to ALL of society.  I was fascinated through the entirety of the story and found myself unable to put this book down as Clara went from a downtrodden society debutante trying to survive in a world where she had no power, into a girl who realized that she could defy everyone and claim her own destiny. 

This book is a standalone and though oftentimes I enjoy trilogies and series because I want more character development than standalone books generally provide, this book stands alone as strongly as Maggie Stiefvater's The Scorpio Races.  There was no need for a sequel, though I'd be happy to visit this world again in short story form...

Highly recommended to those that like twisted fairy tales.