Wyrd and Wonder: Bite-Size Fantasies

Todays’s Wyrd and Wonder prompt is “bite-size fantasies.” While this sounds delightfully fun, it is meant to focus on short story or novella-length fantasy stories. Since last year’s Wyrd and Wonder I have read quite a bit more fantasy books (obviously), some of which were on the shorter side. Here is a list of some bite-size fantasies that might be of interest. I loosely interpreted novellas as 200 pages in under, though I believe technically they are typically shorer than that.

Continue reading “Wyrd and Wonder: Bite-Size Fantasies”

Monthly Book Blog Wrap-Up: October 2021

Happy first of November, everyone! (I can’t believe it’s already November?!) I thought I’d try a new post series where I summarize everything book blog-related that I did during the past month. That way, in case you missed anything, all my blog activity will be in one post. I might even throw in a few personal updates here and there.

Early in October I felt stressed because I had two blog tour deadlines, my very first blog tours ever; I wanted to finish and review at least one more NetGalley request to boost my percentage; and I had a library due date for a book I’d been trying to finish for over a month. So I set myself some goals in a pinned tweet and I’m happy to say I met them all!

So what was I up to in October 2021?

Book Reviews
I posted six reviews in October, two of which were for blog tours. From earliest to latest, I reviewed:

Book Memes
I only posted one book meme during October:

Other Book-ish Progress
I finished reading The Bone Ships by RJ Barker after seeing it pop up over and over on Twitter. Look for my review before the year is out! I also binge read A Deal With the Elf King by Elise Kova to lift my mood and absolutely loved it. It was exactly what I needed to read at that point in time.

I started my NetGalley ARC for The Bone Shard Emperor by Andrea Stewart. I’m very happy to be reading about Mephi again.

Lastly, I finally wrote my review for For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten. I finished it in July, but then we moved and writing a review for it got lost in the shuffle. But, again, look for that review before the end of the year.

If you’ve been following me, you probably know we moved to a new place (our first house!) in August. Since then we’ve mostly unpacked. We also did a lot of big outdoor projects during the hottest part of the summer. (Because why do it any other way?) In October we finally tackled the front yard landscaping. And by that I mean we dug up most of the shrubs/plants close to the house and put in all new shrubs/perennial flowers. That was a lot of work to remove established plants. We replanted a few of them in the back yard; we’ll see if they survive.

Now we need to tackle things like hanging up artwork, fixing dry wall, etc. Luckily we didn’t have to order a lot of additional furniture. But we did order a love seat for what I call the “fireplace room,” which will be a large reading nook. It’s velvet and emerald green and supposed to arrive tomorrow! Then we can finally decide if the 3 different rugs we bought match or if we need to return them.

We also had family visit to check out our new place. It’s nice to actually have comfortable space to host family overnight, not to mention perhaps entertain for a dinner. I also started my Christmas shopping because the news keeps talking about all of the shipping delays. Yes, some of those gifts will be books. Obviously.

What have you been up to during October?

Book Review: The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black

This review contains spoilers for The Cruel Prince and The Wicked King, the two books in Holly Black’s The Folk of the Air trilogy.

Author: Holly Black
 Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: November 19, 2019
Pages: 308
Type: Hardback

Want to support local bookstores? Buy a copy of The Queen of Nothing on Bookshop.org!*

*These are not affiliate links and I do not make a commission from any purchase made using these links.

Official Synopsis
He will be the destruction of the crown and the ruination of the throne.

Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold onto. Jude learned this lesson when she released her control over the wicked king, Cardan, in exchange for immeasurable power.

Now as the exiled mortal Queen of Faerie, Jude is powerless and left reeling from Cardan’s betrayal. She bides her time determined to reclaim everything he took from her. Opportunity arrives in the form of her twin sister, Taryn, whose life is in peril.

Jude must risk venturing back into the treacherous Faerie Court, and confront her lingering feelings for Cardan, if she wishes to save her sister. But Elfhame is not as she left it. War is brewing. As Jude slips deep within enemy lines she becomes ensnared in the conflict’s bloody politics.

And, when a dormant yet powerful curse is unleashed, panic spreads throughout the land, forcing her to choose between her ambition and her humanity . . .

My Review
Jude, now the Queen of Faerie, has been exiled to the human world and isn’t certain she’ll ever see Elfhame again. Jude distracts herself from Cardan’s betrayal by taking odd jobs from the fey living amongst humans. After one such job she comes home and unexpectedly encounters Taryn, whose life is in danger. To save her sister, Jude must return to Elfhame and avoid being caught. But war is looming and her plans go awry, forcing her to confront her feelings for Cardan and ensure the crown doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

Still reeling from the end of The Wicked King, I felt very upset for Jude. However, as a reader, it’s interesting to get a look behind the glamor and see how some of the fey live in the human world. It’s not a huge part of the story, but it’s another tendril of creativity that helps to build out this trilogy’s world just a little further. But I semi-digress…

I was equally upset to find Taryn sitting in Jude’s apartment asking for help considering what she did to Jude in the last two books. I wasn’t as surprised that Jude agreed to help, though it would have been nice to see her push back a little bit more. In that same vein, I do feel that overall this series doesn’t have a lot of confrontation between siblings; they all seem so willing to forgive each other. Perhaps that sticks out to me because I unfortunately tend to harbor chips on my shoulder for a little while, but then again, why isn’t Jude more hesitant when it comes to Taryn’s requests?

Anyway, we follow Jude back into Elfhame where she must try to get a pardon for Taryn. Instead, after she arrives, she inadvertently finds herself whisked away to an unfamiliar area of Elfhame. There she must play a game of pretend in order to make her way back to the High Court to thwart a scheme to take the crown away from Cardan. Though I really enjoy reading about the happenings of court life, the stakes of Jude’s predicament made it hard to put the book down for fear she’d get caught. I also appreciate that the author extended our knowledge of Elfhame’s lands and citizens by plopping Jude down in an area wholly unknown to her.

And, you know that prophecy about Cardan that Black casually wrote about in the last book? That fully comes out to play. And perfect timing, too, what with war about to happen. I personally found the culmination of the prophecy to be a little underwhelming. I wasn’t as disappointed as I was with the ending of Ruin and Rising. But I feel like it all happened rather quickly given the three book build up to the end.

Though I enjoyed reading this book overall, I feel like the ending was just a little too perfect. There are certainly hardships, but maybe I’m a glutton for a couple more notches of despair. I also would have appreciated if Black explored Nicasia’s and Asha’s characters a little more, considering their complex relationships with Cardan and Jude.

Ultimately, this series, and particularly this last installment, is about finding confidence in yourself, working towards a personal (or common) goal, and learning that it’s ok to be vulnerable in order to build trust, friendship, and loyalty.

Rating: 4/5
Content warnings: non-graphic sex, battle scenes
Reading format: Paperback

Book Review: The Wicked King by Holly Black

This review contains spoilers The Cruel Prince, the first book in Holly Black’s The Folk of the Air trilogy.

Author: Holly Black
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: January 8, 2019
Pages: 336
Type: Hardback

Want to support local bookstores? Buy a copy of The Wicked King on Bookshop.org!*

*These are not affiliate links and I do not make a commission from any purchase made using these links.

Official Synopsis
You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring. The first lesson is to make yourself strong.

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.

My Review
At the end of The Cruel Prince, Jude bound Cardan to her before making him the High King of Elfhame. Taken by surprise, Cardan refuses to play the role of a good High King and instead spends his time living in gluttony and revelry. Thus, Jude, now the High King’s Seneschal, becomes the power behind the throne and makes decisions for the good of Elfhame behind the scenes. But not everyone wants to see Cardan wear the crown. There are some who’d rather see it on another Greenbriar head, and some who’d rather wear it themselves. So Jude balances her silent rule with her duties as spymaster to keep the High King safe. Only a few months into Cardan’s rule, Jude learns that someone close to her will betray her. Working against time, she seeks to identify the traitor while also trying to understand her complicated feelings for the wicked king.

This book is the second installment of Holly Black’s The Folk of the Air series. I enjoyed the first book a lot and, now that Elfhame is a firmly established setting, there’s more room for plotting and scheming. The Wicked King reminded me a lot of a “game of thrones,” but told from the viewpoint of one character, Jude.

In The Cruel Prince Jude uncovered Madoc’s plot to rule as High King as regent to Oak, Jude’s younger brother. Though Jude won that battle, Madoc is a redcap and battle is his nature and he will not fly the flag of surrender. Jude now knows that Madoc won’t underestimate her again, and she must constantly gather information to stay one step ahead of him.

Though Jude begrudgingly secured the loyalty of some courts, discontentment still simmers, particularly in the Undersea, ruled by the powerful and influential Queen Orlagh. Cardan’s ghastly behavior creates further dissatisfaction among those who’ve pledged their loyalty to the crown. And Locke’s appointment as Master of Revels does little to improve Cardan’s reputation and threatens to jeopardize Jude’s silent rule. Disapproving of Cardan’s behavior, confused by her feelings for him, and worn down by her responsibilities, Jude avoids the High King as much as possible, but can only do so for so long.

Once again, Jude’s tenacity and fortitude impress me. Cardan is unspurprisingly frustrating, but the slow burn is there and I’m here for it. The story mostly focuses on the political chess game, but there some moments allow us a glimpse into what makes Cardan do what he does. There are a couple of scenes which “humanized” the Bomb and the Roach into characters who are more than just spies. Though still minor characters, there is more page time with Vivi and Heather, Vivi’s girlfriend. I think most of us agree that Taryn’s and Locke’s relationship is toxic, but I feel similarly about Vivi and Heather.

(Mild spoiler ahead.) I don’t think their relationship is nearly as toxic as Taryn’s and Locke’s. But Vivi, who seems to have a vivid understanding of right and wrong where Madoc is concerned, seems strangely unable to be truthful with Heather. Since this story is from Jude’s point of view we don’t know exactly why Vivi isn’t forthcoming with Heather, but I hope she finds it within herself to be honest in the next book. (End mild spoiler.)

The character who betrays Jude surprised me. There are a couple of betrayals, one of which I expected, and the other, not so much. Not to mention the ending of this book shocked me and, if you follow me on Twitter, you got to see my reaction after I finished it. I was so mad! I truly hope these characters redeem themselves in the final installment of this trilogy.

Rating: 4.25/5
Content warnings: murder
Reading format: Paperback

Book Review: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

At seven years old, Jude Duarte’s parents are murdered. She abruptly finds herself carried off with her two sisters to live in Elfhame with her parents’ murderer. After ten years, Jude no longer has a desire to return to the human world. Despite the fact that it’s a dangerous place to live for humans, she realizes she wants to rise and find her place in the High Court of Faerie. But Jude’s proud and headstrong personality attracts the attention of Prince Cardan, the youngest and most cruel son of the High King, and his friends. They’re used to getting their way and make life hell for those who don’t conform to their demands. To win a place at Court, Jude must plot, scheme, and decide who to trust as she navigates through young love, betrayal, and threats against her life.

This book has been on my radar for a while, ever since I picked up the A Court of Thorns and Roses (ACoTaR) series, and it didn’t disappoint. I feel like the blurb on the back of the book doesn’t do the plot justice. This is an urban fantasy in which Jude and her sisters, Vivienne and Taryn, are whisked away from their home in Maine and brought to live in the land of the fey. They spend the next ten years living with their parents’ murderer, Madoc, whom they learn to call father.

Naturally, this evokes a lot of complicated emotions in Jude, her twin Taryn, and Vivi, which we see manifested in how they try (or not) to acclimate to their new home. Vivi wants nothing more than to return to the human world and isn’t shy about letting Madoc know it. Taryn wishes to stay in Elfhame and so works to please everyone in order to find her place. Jude also wishes to stay, but refuses to acquiesce to the notion that humans have no business at the High Court, which she quickly finds makes her life more difficult.

This book also has a lot more court intrigue and political scheming than I expected. Whispers of the High King wishing to pass on his crown to one of his heirs tests other courts’ ties of loyalty and breeds plots abound to ascend to the throne. There were definitely a couple of moments in the book that surprised me. One particular character’s life choice and betrayal definitely frustrated me. I suspected this person’s betrayal for a while, and hoped it wouldn’t come to pass; but it still upset me for Jude when the truth came to light.

Though The Cruel Prince is the first book in a trilogy, I think Black did a great job with the world-building. Rather than describing every little aspect of Elfhame, we learn about it through Jude’s interactions with others and her surroundings. I feel like this kept the pace moving without bogging the reader down with long descriptions of the different beings or settings in Elfhame.

I also enjoyed Black’s writing style. It’s to the point, but not dry. I recall encountering a few words that I don’t think I’d ever seen before. Kudos to introducing me to new vocabulary! If you read my reviews on the ACoTaR series, then you know the author’s writing style frustrated me at times (even though she’s great at portraying complicated emotions). So I also feel I should mention when the writing style is enjoyable, if that’s an aspect you as a reader like to know.

Overall, I highly recommend this book, particularly if you enjoy reading about a strong female protagonist, scheming, and stories set in a world with elves. Though romance is not a central component of the plot, what does manifest is slow-burning, which I personally prefer.

Reading format: Paperback
Content Warnings: murder, blood, violence
Rating: 4.25/5

Product Details
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: January 2, 2018
Pages: 384
Type: Hardback

Want to support local bookstores? Buy a copy of The Cruel Prince on Bookshop.org!*

*These are not affiliate links and I do not make a commission from any purchase made using these links.