The Lightning God’s Wife by Grace Draven (Master of Crows)

Title: The Lightning God’s Wife
Series: Master of Crows
Author: Grace Draven
Date Added: September 27, 2017
Date Started: October 17, 2018
Date Finished: October 19, 2018
Reading Duration: 2 days
Genre: Fantasy, Short Story, Paranormal Romance

The Lightning God's Wife coverPages: 29
Publication Date: September 17, 2014
Publisher:
Self
Media: 
eBook/Kindle


It hasn’t rained for a quarter of a century, and a dying world gasps for water. Outcast and exiled, the rain priestess Revida rescues a man and his children as they flee from the wrath of a creator god known as the Bitter Dark. But Atagartis is more than a man, and Revida soon discovers the lover she’s known only in dreams has a purpose for her and the tearless grief she’s born for more than two decades.


This short takes place in the same world as Master of Crowsoccurring after the first novel in the series.  Silhara and Martisse (the OTP) serve as a framing device for the tale at hand, as she’s telling him the story after they’re both woken up by a storm in the midst of a bad drought.

While I enjoyed reading about Silhara and Martisse again (I love when a deadpan snarker is matched with cool witticism), the Lightning God and Rain Goddess story was (ironically) kind of dry, which is a double shame because I’m pretty certain they were supposed to complement to the sorcerer and apprentice turned lovers from the first book.  The idea was good, but the execution didn’t do anything different with the motifs of *spoiler* warring sibling gods and deities falling in love with humans to whom they eventually grant apotheosis. *end spoiler*   This could be because Draven didn’t have time to flesh out these characters in this short excursion into the world, so if the story had either been longer or actually focused on Martisse and Silhara, it would’ve worked better.

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The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee (Montague Siblings #1)

Title: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue
Series Title: Montague Siblings
Author: Mackenzi Lee
Date Added: August 18, 2018
Date Started: September 24, 2018
Date Finished: October 16, 2018
Reading Duration: 22 days
Genre: Fantasy, Low Fantasy, Romance, Historical Fiction, Young Adult (YA), LGBTQ+

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and VirtuePages: 513
Publication Date: June 27, 2017
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Media: eBook/Kindle


Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores. 


CW: Contains discussions of homophobia, biphobia, racism, sexism/misogyny, ableism, and physical abuse


“Because I want you to know…that there is life after survival.”

Henry Montague or Monty, as he prefers to be called, has been allowed one last hurrah in the form of a Grand Tour of Europe by his dickhead dad before being forced to run the fore mentioned’s estates in England on pain of being disinherited.  Prior to the birth of his little brother, dubbed the “Goblin,” Monty’s status, though unwanted, was still secure as the earl had no one else to pass his title to, his only other issue being a daughter, Felicity.  Even if she could inherit, the house wouldn’t remain “in the family” insofar as she’d take the name of the man to whom she was wed.

Gif of Zendaya, a light skinned Black woman with her hair up in a bun, rolling her eyes and giving a side eye while looking off to the left

Just in case my thoughts about this were unclear…

It’s a similar situation to Samwell Tarly in ASOIAF with his father except “at least” Monty’s father isn’t threatening to kill him, only cut him off if he’s found “mucking around with boys again” (Lord Montague has no problem beating the shit out of him, though, but we’ll get to that).

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The Books of 2020

So 2020, am I right?  What else can be said about the year that hasn’t already been spoken?

Let’s talk books!

I’m going to do it a bit differently than I did it last year.  I found a template that I created but never used so this year I decided to remedy that.


Favorite Book

I haven’t reviewed this yet, so I don’t want to say too much, but I knew this had the highest chance of being my GOAT for 2020.  A bold claim, I know, since I finished reading it in February, and indeed, there was another book that almost edged it out, but I’m a sucker for fantasy/sci-fi with realistic emotional impact, and the female MC is so 2020 it hurts.  We all know the 2020 attitude of *shrug* “Yeah that might as well happen” regardless of what batshit crazy thing occurs, and after surviving literal pestilence, Sarah would react just like that to our own.


Favorite Series

I have so far completed the second book of this series, but it’s still my favorite for 2020.  I mean it’s a paranormal romance series about ANGELS ffs, so easy sell.  Anyway, per the the third book’s blurb, the main angel’s evil mom shows back up to drive him into wrathful insanity so that’ll be a totally new thing for me to read about *nods* EXCITING.

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The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Title: The Graveyard Book
Author: Neil Gaiman
Date Added: April 13, 2013
Date Started: August 9, 2018
Date Finished: September 13, 2018
Reading Duration: 35 days
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal/Supernatural, Young Adult (YA), Mid-Grade

Cover of The Graveyard Book by Neil GaimanPages: 286
Publication Date: September 30, 2008
Publisher: HarperCollins
Media: Paperback


In this ingenious and captivating reimagining of Rudyard Kipling’s classic adventure The Jungle Book, Neil Gaiman tells the unforgettable story of Nobody Owens, a living, breathing boy whose home is a graveyard, raised by a guardian who belongs neither to the mortal world nor the realm of the dead. Among the mausoleums and headstones of his home, Bod experiences things most mortals can barely imagine. But real, flesh-and-blood danger waits just outside the cemetery walls: the man who murdered the infant Bod’s family will not rest until he finds Nobody Owens and finishes the job he began many years ago.

A #1 New York Times bestseller and winner of many international awards, including the Hugo Award for best novel and the Locus Award, The Graveyard Book is a glorious meditation on love, loss, survival, and sacrifice . . . and what it means to truly be alive.


Per the blurb, this is a retelling/fanfiction of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, but without the blatantly racist aspects of the original work.  In using the graveyard as a paranormal stand-in for Mowgli’s jungle, Gaiman’s novel serves as a perfect parallel to the “return to your own world” narrative, and could in fact surpass Kipling’s motif to the same.  While Mowgli will never belong to the jungle, one day the graveyard will be Nobody’s place, and the somber meaning of his name will be fulfilled.

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The Riddle of the Wren by Charles de Lint (DNF)

Title: The Riddle of the Wren
Author: Charles de Lint
Date Added: August 24, 2014
Date Started: August 26, 2018
Date DNF: September 5, 2018
Reading Duration: 10 days
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult (YA)

Cover of The Riddle of the Wren by Charles de LintPages: 295
Publication Date: 1984
Publisher: Firebird
Media: Paperback (Library)


Minda Sealy is afraid of her own nightmares. Then, one night, while asleep, she meets Jan, the Lord of the Moors, who has been imprisoned by Ildran the Dream-master-the same being who traps Minda. In exchange for her promise to free him, Jan gives Minda three tokens. She sets out, leaving the safety of her old life to begin a journey from world to world, both to save Jan and to solve “the riddle of the Wren”-which is the riddle of her very self. “The Riddle of the Wren” was Charles de Lint’s first novel, and has been unavailable for years. Fans and newcomers alike will relish it.


The Riddle of the Wren is the type of old school fantasy novel I would’ve devoured in my younger, high school days.  Published in 1984, it’s exactly the thing that would’ve caught my fancy, and while I started reading Charles de Lint during that time, I cut my teeth on his later works, and this one flew under my radar.  You can definitely tell he was a fledgling author in this novel, and it turns out Riddle is his first.  Like so many books of that era, it begins with the locale’s description before it gets to the main character.  It does fascinate me how the conventions of writing change through the decades, and what was acceptable and expected then would earn an immediate rejection now.

Both the main character Minda and her best friend Janey are likable, and the trope of Missing Mom/Dickhead Dad is strong with regards to the former.  Janey’s description leads me to believe she’s a WOC, too, so score one for de Lint being inclusive even back then.  Minda’s father Hadon blames her for her mother’s death even though she didn’t die in childbirth (not…that that would make it valid either), but rather when she was between one and two.  Arguably, of course, women can still succumb to complications even after that length of time, but either way Hadon is still a jackass.  Minda has a paternal uncle who would be a much better father than her bio, but even if she did manage to escape, Hadon would just “drag her back,” and apparently Tomalin, the uncle, would let him.   While Hadon isn’t nearly as abusive to his daughter as the father in Deerskin *shudders* we do not diminish abuse by those degrees.

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The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

Title: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
Author: Leslye Walton
Date Added: August 2, 2016
Date Started: August 6, 2018
Date Finished: September 3, 2018
Reading Duration: 28 days
Genre: Fantasy/Magical Realism, Paranormal, Young Adult (YA)

Cover of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye WaltonPages: 301
Publication Date: March 27, 2014
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Media: Paperback


Magical realism, lyrical prose, and the pain and passion of human love haunt this hypnotic generational saga.

Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava—in all other ways a normal girl—is born with the wings of a bird.

In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naïve to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the Summer Solstice celebration.

That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava’s quest and her family’s saga build to a devastating crescendo.

First-time author Leslye Walton has constructed a layered and unforgettable mythology of what it means to be born with hearts that are tragically, exquisitely human.


Note: I’m going to split this into two sections: Review and Analysis.  The Analysis section will have spoilers whereas the Review will be just that.


Review

Foreseeing the future…means nothing if there is nothing to be done to prevent it.

Ava Lavender is a girl born with brown speckled bird wings in a world where magic might blend with the mundane but does nothing to mitigate grief.    Ava’s life is seeped with sorrow, and she came by it honestly.  The first part of the novel lays out the past to feature her French forebears with the apt surname of “Roux.”

Picture of Common Rue from Wikipedia

Pronunciation the same as the plant

All of them saddled with unlucky love and dying too young to reap the full sorrows.  Only her grandmother Emilienne survived to birth her mother Viviane who herself suffered love unreturned.

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The Last Thing You See by Marie Batiste (Rachel Dixon #1)

Title: The Last Thing You See
Series: Rachel Dixon
Author: Marie Batiste
Date Added: March 26, 2020
Date Started: June 23, 2020
Date Finished: July 9, 2020
Reading Duration: 16 days
Genre: Fantasy, Supernatural/Paranormal, Horror, Mystery/Murder Mystery

Cover of The Last Thing You See by Marie BatistePages: 185
Publication Date: February 5, 2020
Publisher: Self
Media: eBook/Kindle


Riley Green’s parents came home one morning to find their daughter missing and human organs in their dining room.

Following a ten-month suspension, forced rehab and a tumultuous divorce, New Orleans Detective Rachel Dixon is finally stitching her life back together when she is called to a strange crime scene. Joined by her new partner, Elias Crowe an intuitive elf dealing with discrimination in the department, Rachel starts the search for Riley’s killer.

Soon the investigation leads them to a series of strange murders not just in the city but across the nation. Desperate to find the killer the detectives seek help from an undead blood analyst, a standoffish necromancer, a tree spirit, and a living sculpture. But when the killer seems to have set their eyes on Rachel all the help and magic in the world may not be enough to catch the elusive serial killer.

Join the detectives as they maneuver through a familiar world stitched together with magic, blood, and animosity.


Rachel Dixon is a flawed but intensely likable detective who is being overly punished for the mistakes she’s made in the past.  The world merged with a magical one around twenty years ago, and the oddness and curiosity around this event is maintained throughout the novel as even the inhabitants of it remain clueless to the entirety of the effects.  The characters treat the world like their world (as you do).  There’s no info dumping; you’re given enough to understand how things work, and that’s all it is.  It’s like if you lived in a reality where magic existed, you wouldn’t bat an eye at it when it manifests, because it would be as commonplace as a smartphone.

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Preacher, Volume 1: Gone to Texas by Garth Ennis (Preacher #1) (DNF)

Title: Preacher, Volume 1:  Gone to Texas
Series: Preacher
Author: Garth Ennis
Artist: Joe R. Lansdale
Date Added: September 13, 2017
Date Started: August 23, 2018
Date DNF: August 23, 2018
Genre: Graphic Novel/Comic, Fantasy, Horror, Supernatural/Paranormal

Cover of Preacher: Volume 1, Gone to Texas by Garth Ennis and Joe R. LansdalePages: 336
Publication Date: 1995
Publisher: Vertigo
Media: Paperback – Library


One of the most celebrated comics titles of the late 1990s, PREACHER is a modern American epic of life, death, love and redemption also packed with sex, booze, blood and bullets – not to mention angels, demons, God, vampires and deviants of all stripes.

At first glance, the Reverend Jesse Custer doesn’t look like anyone special-just another small-town minister slowly losing his flock and his faith. But he’s about to come face-to-face with proof that God does indeed exist. Merging with a bizarre spiritual force called Genesis, Jesse now possesses the power of “the Word,” an ability to make people do whatever he utters. He begins a violent and riotous journey across the country in search of answers from the elusive deity.


I love when I’m reading something and BAM, racial slur.  I was already on the fence about this and that sealed it for me.  This isn’t to say I’ve never read or never will read anything with slurs.  There are definitely valid reasons to use them in a work, so please don’t get it twisted and assume that’s the reason I shelved this.  It was more the final straw in a story I wasn’t that into in the first place.

This one of those narratives you’d think I’d be in love with: a small town preacher forcefully merges with a half-angel, half-demon being named Genesis and parts of the story takes place literally in Heaven with angels (Seraphi and Adephi), but it’s not really my style or aesthetic.  The story also jumps around so much, it comes off as frenetic.  I know it’s a big fan favorite (it has over four stars on Goodreads), but it’s not for me.

The Crow Box by Nikki Rae (Shadow and Ink #1)

Title: The Crow Box
Series: Shadow and Ink
Author: Nikki Rae
Date Added: July 8, 2016
Date Started: August 9, 2018
Date Finished: August 22, 2018
Reading Duration: 13 day
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror

Cover of The Crow Box by Nikki Rae (Shadow and Ink #1)Pages: 164
Publication Date: January 14, 2016
Publisher: Self
Media: eBook/Kindle


The small wooden box is dirty, the size of a human fist, and sealed with wax. When Corbin takes it upon herself to clean it and break the seal, a voice she has tried to ignore gathers strength. Shadows play on the walls at night, and with a family history of mental illness, Corbin fears the worst. But the voice tells her it is real. That its name is Six and it will prove it in time.

Drawn to this mysterious entity, Corbin isn’t sure what to believe and the line between reality and her imagination blurs more every day.

Some doors should not be opened; can this one be closed?


This novel did many good things.  It established its characters really well from the start.  We know Corbin’s mother is a hoarder without the MC needing to blatantly say it, and it makes it all the more real because we’re shown.  She (the mom in this case) has some kind of mental health condition that allows her to collect disability (which in and of itself is a privilege), and she has her “good” days where she can put on a bathrobe, fix her hair and makeup, and cook burnt toast and runny eggs.

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Two Hearts by Peter S. Beagle (The Last Unicorn #1.5)

Title: Two Hearts
Series: The Last Unicorn
Author: Peter S. Beagle
Date Added: August 24, 2014
Date Started: July 27, 2018
Date Finished: August 10, 2018
Reading Duration: 14 Days
Genre: Short Story, Fantasy

Cover of Two Hearts by Peter S. BeaglePages: 36
Publication Date: October 2005
Publisher: Online
Media: Website


Coda to The Last Unicorn – a novelette. Available for free on the author’s website.


Do not be ashamed of me because I am old.

If there was one work of fiction or fantasy I would recommend to everyone, it would be The Last Unicorn.  Ahead of its time and meta before meta was cool, it is not your typical fairy tale even though it contains all the elements: a mythic creature, a forlorn quest, an evil king, a hero prince.  Yet, there was an elusive awareness embodied in all of the characters not hitherto seen , as if they, too, were aware they lived in a story, but even with this knowledge, they were still beholden to the rules, tedious though they might be.  Written and published in the late 60’s, Beagle professes it took two years to write, and “it was hard every step of the way.”

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