Face the Fire (Three Sisters Island #3)

Face the Fire

Dance Upon the Air (#1)
Heaven and Earth (#2)

(Spoilers abound.)

This is easily the weakest book in the trilogy. Mia Devlin is the red-headed, older, wiser witch. She’s helped both Nell and Ripley through their magical awakenings – Nell discovering that she has power, and Ripley with controlling hers. But the third test still remains, and with the darkness exorcised from Jonathan Harding, there’s a gross evil shadow wolf lurking about the island, working to drive Mia to her ancestor’s fate of jumping to her death in despair.

That premise alone is shaky. Bolstered by the prior success of her two “sisters,” it stands to reason that Mia would be confident about facing her demons. She’s been presented to us as nothing but the confident leader, and with a complete circle and full support, we would expect her to just absolutely flatten anything that comes her way. Her thoughts of suicide just don’t add up with everything we’ve seen so far in the serious.

I also don’t like how Sam Logan, her former lover, just comes back to the island and barges into her world, and she gives into him almost instantly. Their first kiss is him grabbing her and forcing himself on her – not totally down with that – and then she just grabs him for more kissing. Honestly their “romantic” entanglement isn’t hot because I don’t believe it. I don’t believe that a strong, smart, 30-year-old woman who is a powerful and knowledgeable witch who teaches and leads others would act like this. It’s like Nora Roberts just guessed at what a suicidal person might have running through their heads and had her think it – and it doesn’t add up.

I hate the ending. I hate it so much. I already have to suspend belief about the previous two books, but having it end with a shower of stars and her being a starry eyed babe wanting marriage and children ASAP and that’s how the curse is broken…I don’t know man, I know it’s a romance novel and ending it with an independent woman who don’t need no man isn’t how these things go, but could we at least have had a second love interest? Like, new love versus old love, and she has to choose? But no, we end right where we expected to, with marriage and babies for everyone! Yuck. Just a complete 180, out of character resolution to the trilogy. Okay, I guess.

It’s still one of my favorite trilogies of hers, because the first two books are so strong and I love the magic and the curse. But this last book always makes me mad that Mia, the best of them, couldn’t have been more than this. I wanted more for her.


Heaven and Earth (Three Sisters Island #2)

Heaven and Earth

Dance Upon the Air (#1)

The second installment of the Three Sisters Island trilogy focuses on Ripley Todd, a policewoman on the island and the direct descendant of the witch called Earth that originally formed the island sanctuary. Her central issue is control; she wields the most power of the three, but has locked it away instead of learning to use and control it.

With the vanquishing of Evan Remington on Samhain, and Nell finally free, the first seal on the curse is broken. Ripley knows that she must face her demons next, or the island will perish as as result of the curse.

The actions that the three “sisters” took to drive Evan Remington mad have caught the eye of two men. Jonathan Harding, a reporter, and MacAllister Booke, a paranormal researcher. Booke comes straight to the island to do research, and Harding travels to meet with Remington, who he discovers is now a raving lunatic, and walks away with more than he bargained for. Both men head for the island for answers.

Booke is a hot nerd, and he and Ripley have this fight-a-little, kiss-a-little, get-so-angry-we-have-sex kind of courtship. He’s patient with her, which is nice, because she’s the kind of person that only resists destiny harder when she knows she’s being forced into it. So she comes around to liking him without him doing anything but his normal day to day activities – studying the history of the island and the magic that is done on it. Ripley finds his clumsy nerd act combined with hot bod endearing, and so the love story portion of the tale is born.

So Ripley has to control her power and find a way to have both justice and compassion at the same time in order to break her ancestor’s piece of the curse. Will she succeed? Will she get to keep the sexy nerd? Read to find out!

(PS – This is definitely the sexiest of the three books.)

The Song of Achilles

Song of Achilles

There isn’t anything that I am particularly nerdy about. When I say nerdy, I mean something that I love so much that I have taken the time to know it inside and out. The closest example of what I mean is how Stephen Colbert knows just about everything about the universe of The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit. He’s read everything, asked questions, collected information, and not because anyone told him to, but because he wanted to know it.

If I could have been ultra-nerdy about anything, I think it would have been Greek and Roman mythology. Every time I read something even loosely based on it, my brain feels…I’m not sure how to describe it…like a horse in the starting gate before a race. Poised? Anticipatory? Like if I had the time I would immediately go get three other books just about this topic and read them too. Like I wouldn’t know how to stop.

As a teacher, I also appreciate when this kind of information is brought to the present, and given to me in the colloquial. Reading the Iliad or the Odyssey can be fun as long as the language isn’t all tangled in ancient terms. The stories are good, otherwise they wouldn’t have stood the test of time through an oral tradition, so there is no reason why we can’t tell them in our modern day terms.

Putting all of this together made The Song of Achilles a book that latched onto my face like an alien and bored itself into my brain as quickly as humanly possible. I read the first half of the book in the span of like 3 hours. It’s the story of Achilles, told from the point of view of his lover Patroclus. It follows them from their childhood all the way to the siege on Troy. It’s written like a YA novel, focusing more on the gay love story than the actual details of the myth. What Madeline Miller used to her advantage here is the general knowledge of the myth – she had the ability to tell a different story while telling the same old story, couching the new in the very familiar, and in doing so making the book both a comfort and a revelation.

I do not want to spoil the ending for you. Its beauty is something that should unfold before you without anyone giving you any information. When I read the last italicized words I felt relief. I felt thankful. I felt at peace.

Go get you some.

Dance Upon the Air (Three Sisters Island #1)

Dance Upon the Air

I have recently done away with the phrase “guilty pleasure,” mostly because I’m coming to an age where I am ready to like what I like and as long as that thing doesn’t harm other people, then other people can go kick rocks. But when I was in a stage where I was ashamed of things, books by Nora Roberts definitely fell into the guilty pleasure category. I don’t care for most of her books (they get a little ~marriage and kids are the only goal~ for me) but a few of her trilogies have stuck with me. When I found myself between being out of library books at home, and needing to pick up more that have come in from my holds list, I decided to pick up an old favorite: the Three Sisters Island trilogy.

Honestly I’ll give anything that involves witches or elemental magic a try. I love the idea of an ordinary woman having extraordinary powers and using them to get justice or revenge. It warms my heart. Even better is when a woman doesn’t realize she has powers, and discovers them slowly, enjoying the newfound freedom.

In this, the first book of Roberts’s trilogy, Nell Channing arrives on Three Sisters Island at the end of her escape from an abusive husband. Her husband is a wealthy socialite in Los Angeles, and after going to the police about his behavior, and having them not believe her (and being beaten for “embarrassing” him) she doesn’t see a plausible out. She changed her name and her appearance, and even faked her death to get away. Now she’s looking for a fresh start in a new place, far from her terrible past.

What she didn’t count on was a hot sheriff who is kind and interested in her, and two other women on the island who seem to be connected to her in strange ways. And her chosen location, the island itself, has a history that she cannot escape and a future that she must help to ensure. What she didn’t count on was discovering that she is one of a trio of witches destined to be together in this place, at this time, and she must discover and take charge of her powers to prevent calamity.

If you’re looking for tons of hot sex scenes you won’t find them here, but there are two or three that make sense with the story and help to build to the final confrontation. It’s one of the things I really like about all of Roberts’s books – the sex works in the story, not as an aside. For this particular book it was also important that the sex scenes be handled with care, especially considering the history of abuse involved. The sheriff, Zach, handles Nell with such care and kindness that she opens up to him like a flower. It’s believable and careful, which makes this first book my favorite of the three.

if you love magic and powerful women and “coming home” stories, you may want to check out Dance Upon the Air. I think you’ll be hooked and want to finish out the trilogy. Go get you some.

Unbury Carol

Unbury Carol

I don’t watch a lot of horror movies, but I am familiar with the feeling that you know something that the protagonist doesn’t and the urge to yell “HE’S RIGHT BEHIND YOU!!!!” Josh Malerman’s Unbury Carol starts at this moment, and it’s a race to the finish from there.

Most of the books that I read are what I think many people would call character-driven. This book is 100% plot-driven and it was actually a breath of fresh air. You don’t need details about the characters or their backgrounds or what they look like or how old they are blah blah blah. You are given what you need to know and then all that matters is WHAT HAPPENS NEXT FOR GOODNESS SAKE!

Carol has a condition that causes her to fall into a two-day coma, and she appears dead to everyone that does not know about how her condition works. Her mother knew, she told an ex-lover who then ran away, and her current husband knows. Her best friend knew, but the book begins with his funeral, leaving only her husband left to know. The stress of her friend’s death sends her into an episode, and we discover that the husband is planning to use this to his advantage – claim she’s dead, and then claim her fortune. News of her “death” reaches her ex-lover, who knows the truth and sets off to save her from being buried alive. He is pursued by an assassin who has been hired by a witch who is working with the husband to gain Carol’s fortune.

All of this is wound so tightly and efficiently that you are strapped in from page one. You see the demons in the closet and you are powerless to stop them. You’re floating with Carol in her coma, able to see what happens around her but without the ability to change anything. There were a few chapters where I found myself holding my breath, dreading the next event, hoping everything would be okay. The ending was also strangely satisfying.

I read this book in less than 24 hours. I didn’t have a choice. The story had me by the balls and I had to go where it took me. Bravo. Go get you some.

The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic

Language of Thorns

Six of Crows

Crooked Kingdom

Shadow and Bone

Siege and Storm

Ruin and Rising

The Language of Thorns was released at the end of 2017 as a follow up to Bardugo’s release of Crooked Kingdom in 2016. It is a collection of six stories that would be the fairy tales for the children in the universe of the Grisha. There is a beauty/beast type tale, a Hansel and Gretel type tale, and a little mermaid type (this was my favorite). The other three were brand new and just as wonderful.

Adding to the beauty of the words in this book were the illustrations. They snaked along the margins of the pages, and as the story progressed, so did the pictures until all margins were full of gorgeous art, and every story concluded with a full page artwork which represented the conclusion of the story.

Leigh Bardugo is a creative genius. Her stories introduce alternatives, realism, and valuable lessons to life situations that we often keep hidden or refuse to acknowledge. These stories would ask children to face hard questions, much like the original Grimm Fairy Tales might have, but Bardugo adds a feminist flair to familiar fantasy. And as always, we learn that magic may be wonderful, but it always dangerous and always comes at a cost.

If you are already a fan of Leigh Bardugo you cannot leave this book out of your collection (I’ve placed it on my Christmas list!) and if you are not already familiar with her work I have linked all my reviews of her work above. Read those, and then let The Language of Thorns be the frosting on the cake. Bardugo is an author not to be missed. Go get you some.

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle #1)

The Name of the Wind

I am not sure anything I write about this book would do it justice. I wish I could just say GO READ THIS BOOK RIGHT THIS MINUTE and be done with it and let it stand on its own two feet. But that’s not how book reviews work and it’s definitely not what you come here to get, so I’ll cover just a few things with the central idea being that this is one of the best books I have ever read. Period.

The story is set up as a story within a story: we meet an innkeeper named Kote who begins to tell his life story to the regional Chronicler – a keeper of records and stories. We find out that his real name is Kvothe and he is a man of legend hiding out in this small town. He agrees to tell his life story across three days (which seems to line up with a trilogy of books, the third of which fans have been waiting on since 2014 and don’t seem likely to get anytime soon).

The story is written as though some great storyteller was performing it for you live. That’s the only way I can describe how it felt to read. My mind creates a movie to accompany any book I read, but for this particular book is was so easy and so beautiful that I didn’t want to push pause. I was 100% entertained and delighted every time I picked up the book. Imagine riding in a well-oiled sports car driven by an expert driver along winding roads – the journey through this book is exciting, yet smooth. Exhilarating yet dangerous.

I appreciated that there was very real danger in this book. The rules behind the magical practice are unique and it was fun to learn them. The enemies are considered mythical, and those that encounter them rarely survive, so the fact that our hero walks away as a child and seeks them in his studies at the University makes him something of a laughingstock among the professors at first; they think he’s obsessed with children’s boogeymen.

His constant poverty adds a lot to the suspense of the book. For most of his life he is one step away from being murdered, going hungry, or dying in a gutter. He survives on a healthy diet of smarts, perseverance, and luck. I appreciate when an author deals with this issue realistically – at no time does Kvothe come into a windfall. He scrimps and saves, steals and deals, works and performs, and you’ll feel exhausted as his need for funding dogs his every step along the path to learning and independence.

I related to Kvothe so hard throughout this story that when a lady came slamming into the picture it was disorienting. Denna (Dianne, Dennae, etc. – she goes by many names) is a constantly disappearing, coy, smart, beautiful woman that Kvothe gets obsessed with and chases all over. She comes and goes as she pleases and disappears on Kvothe many times. I think he thinks he loves her, but they don’t ever do anything (I don’t think they ever even kiss) and she’s seen in the company of many other men while she’s friendzoning Kvothe. My reading pace slowed down significantly when she came on the scene, and while I still enjoyed the book, it wasn’t as compelling when it became 65% about this girl.

It ends with a shady creature coming into his tavern, speaking a weird language and picking a fight with the locals, so his first day of giving his story comes to an end. It doesn’t feel like much of a cliffhanger, but you’ll definitely want to stop by the Waystone Inn in book 2 to hear more of Kote’s story.

Some asshole put the book on hold at the library and it looked like I wasn’t going to finish it, but I liked it so much I bought it, fools. This book is 98% fresh on Angry Angel Tomatoes and you should go find it immediately. WHY ARE YOU STILL HERE, HURRY!