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My name is Ardis and I am an avid reader and budding writer. I want to share my love of books with others. I work with kids and am interested in finding and creating books that will ignite the reader in everyone. Contact me at: ardis.atkins@gmail.com

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MsArdychan's bookshelf: read

I Owe You One
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Love, Hate & Other Filters
The Wartime Sisters
The Belles
The Gilded Wolves
Hey, Kiddo
Blackberry and Wild Rose
Queen of Air and Darkness
Firestarter
The Retribution of Mara Dyer
The Evolution of Mara Dyer


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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

ARC Review: The Absinthe Earl by Sharon Lynn Fisher

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44294578-the-absinthe-earl

Please Note:  I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions in my review in any way.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Miss Ada Quicksilver, a student of London's Lovelace Academy for Promising Young Women, is spending her holiday in Ireland to pursue her anthropological study of fairies. She visits Dublin's absinthe bars to investigate a supposed association between the bittersweet spirit and fairy sightings.

One night a handsome Irishman approaches her, introducing himself as Edward Donoghue. Edward takes absinthe to relieve his sleepwalking, and she is eager to hear whether he has experience with fairies. Instead, she discovers that he's the earl of Meath, and that he will soon visit a mysterious ruin at Newgrange on the orders of his cousin, the beautiful, half-mad Queen Isolde. On learning about Ada's area of study, he invites her to accompany him.

Ada is torn between a sensible fear of becoming entangled with the clearly troubled gentleman and her compelling desire to ease his suffering. Finally she accepts his invitation, and they arrive in time for the winter solstice. That night, the secret of Edward's affliction is revealed: he is, in fact, a lord in two worlds and can no longer suppress his shadow self.

Little does either of them realize that their blossoming friendship and slowly kindling passion will lead to discoveries that wrench open a door sealed for centuries, throwing them into a war that will change Ireland forever.


Review:
Having been to Ireland in the past year, the premise for this book really drew me in.  Irish lords, the Fey, some romance... I was really hoping for a fun faerie story set in Ireland.  But, I should have guessed by the cover that this was more of a hunky Lord bodice-ripper (i.e. erotic fiction) than fantasy historical fiction.  That being said, this was a fun little romp in the hay.
  
What I Liked:
Irish Folklore: 
I really enjoyed the use of all the Irish myths and folklore.  The author must have spent considerable time researching this to incorporate these legends into the faerie characters.  Each plays an important role in the war between the Fomorians (ancient foes of the Fey) and the Irish. 

Characters:
I liked all of the Irish characters, particularly the Irish Queen, Isolde.  She is a totally made-up character (as the last king of Ireland ruled in the late twelfth-century), but so fun and fearless, that I wanted to believe she was a real person. But all the Irish characters reminded me of why I loved visiting the Emerald Isle.  They were all friendly, open people.  No wonder Ada felt so at ease there.

Faerie Story:
The story centers around how each of the central Irish characters has an alter-ego historical Fey spirit who inhabits them.  I loved the concept of their ancestors taking over their bodies to replay ancient rivalries and passions.

What I Was Mixed About:
There was something that really bothered me about the story.  I wish the author had made it clear earlier in the novel that this is an alternate reality Ireland.  I was wondering why there was no mention of British oppression or even the terrible Irish potato famine of the mid-eighteen hundreds.  Then, about a third of the way in, it became apparent that this Ireland had seen none of those hardships.  While this served the story well, it also took away some of the core elements of what has shaped the Irish spirit.

What I Didn't Like:
Generally speaking, I am not a fan of erotic fiction.  I just think it doesn't add much to the story to include a blow by blow of who touched whom where.  But in the case of this historical fiction, it seemed completely implausible to have Ada, a young, orphaned student, fall into bed with a relative stranger.  Even in an alternate reality, she would be labeled a wanton woman.  And that would be not just scandalous, but disastrous for a single woman at that time.   



FYI:  Explicit sex scenes

Rating: 



Release Date:  October 15th, 2019

Author:  Sharon Lynn Fisher

Publisher:  Blackstone Publishing

Genre:  Historical Fantasy Romance

Page Length:  288 Pages

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:  If you enjoy erotic fiction with plenty of fantasy and alternate Irish history, this is a fun book. 
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Monday, October 14, 2019

ARC Review: The Princess Beard by Delilah S. Dawson & Kevin Hearne

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43570169-the-princess-beard?from_search=true

Please Note:  I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions in my review in any way.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Once upon a time, a princess slept in a magical tower cloaked in thorns and roses.

When she woke, she found no Prince Charming, only a surfeit of hair and grotesquely long fingernails--which was, honestly, better than some creep who acted without consent. She cut off her long braids and used them to escape. But she kept the beard because it made a great disguise.

This is not a story about finding true love's kiss--it's a story about finding yourself. On a pirate ship. Where you belong.

But these are no ordinary pirates aboard The Puffy Peach, serving under Filthy Lucre, the one-eyed parrot pirate captain. First there's Vic, a swole and misogynistic centaur on a mission to expunge himself of the magic that causes him to conjure tea and dainty cupcakes in response to stress. Then there's Tempest, who's determined to become the first dryad lawyer--preferably before she takes her ultimate form as a man-eating tree. They're joined by Alobartalus, an awkward and unelfly elf who longs to meet his hero, the Sn'archivist who is said to take dictation directly from the gods of Pell. Throw in some mystery meat and a dastardly capitalist plot, and you've got one Pell of an adventure on the high seas!

In this new escapade set in the magical land of Pell, Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne lovingly skewer the tropes of fairy tales and create a new kind of fantasy: generous, gently humorous, and inclusive. There might also be otters.
 


Review:
Do you enjoy books with a ridiculous amount of puns?  Parodies of beloved movies and fairy tales?  Humor that is only slightly offensive?  Well, The Princess Beard, by Delilah S. Dawson, and Kevin Hearne, will certainly provide all of those things and more.  The third, and final, installment in the series is even more entertaining than the previous books, with fun characters, and send ups of pop culture that will keep you laughing.

What I Liked:
Characters:
Each of the main characters are trying to figure out who they are beyond what society expects of them.  There is Morgan, the runaway princess who would much rather be a pirate, Al, the elf who hates that his kind are tricksters, Tempest, a dryad who dreads becoming a man-eating tree, and Vic, the Centaur who is drowning in toxic masculinity.  Each character is richly drawn and has a journey that I thoroughly enjoyed following.

Story:
I appreciated each character's story and that the authors gave equal weight to all.  The pirate princess's story was just as important as Vic's.  And each story told a different tale of how we need to stop trying to conform to stereotypes and forge our own path.  

Along the way, there were very funny parodies of Harry Potter, fast-food chains, food politics, toxic masculinity, and corporate culture.  

Series Ending:
As I looked at the ratings I gave the previous books, my enthusiasm (and star rating) has increased with each novel.  What started out as a series of silly puns loosely strung together into a story has become a world of richly drawn societies and characters.  

I loved that the ending of The Princess Beard brought back some story lines from the previous books to tie together all the various characters and themes.
 
Rating: 




Release Date:  October 8th, 2019

Publisher: Del Rey Books

Authors:  Delilah S. Dawson & Kevin Hearne

Genre:  Fantasy Parody

Page Length:  384 Pages

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:  A fun light-hearted book with spot on commentary on modern issues.  An enjoyable read full of silly humor.
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Tuesday, October 8, 2019

ARC Review: The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43263520-the-grace-year?ac=1&from_search=true
Please note:  I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions in my review in any way.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Survive the year.

No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden.

In Garner County, girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, to drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.

Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for a chance to grab one of the girls in order to make a fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.

With sharp prose and gritty realism, The Grace Year examines the complex and sometimes twisted relationships between girls, the women they eventually become, and the difficult decisions they make in-between.


Review:
With the renewed interest in books such as The Handmaid's Tale, The Grace Year is an interesting mix of the Margaret Atwood classic and William Golding's Lord of the Flies.  This book started out strong, with a setting that was immediately interesting, strong characters, and a story that kept me guessing.  But the ending of this book didn't quite deliver.

What I Liked:
Setting:
I found the society that the book was set in to be intriguing and scary.  Men are so afraid of women having any power, they control every aspect of their lives.  They are constantly told they are full of evil magic, and are temptresses out to do harm to men.  There are rigid rules to follow, public punishments, and arranged marriages.  And there is a rage that is only between women (after they've gone through the Grace year), that we will understand as the story progresses.

Characters:
Tierney has never wanted to be married and has worked hard to make herself as unappealing to men as possible.  She has planned out her life to be placed as a field worker, rather than a wife.  But she soon learns that she, like all women in the book, cannot control her own destiny.

Although I thought Tierney was entirely too self-aware, I did like how she tried to take action so all the Grace Year girls would be better off.  She was a leader.

There were an assortment of other girls who were equally interesting, especially Gertie and Kiersten.  Gertie, is the one almost always a target of bullying.  She is meek, and shy, and doesn't protest when she is relentlessly taunted by her former best friend, Kiersten.  This book show an unfortunate side of human nature.  Bullies will rise, if not challenged.  Kiersten is the ultimate queen bee.  She has a charismatic personality that the other girls are drawn to.  But she uses her popularity to consolidate power, not to be a force of good.  Isn't it inevitable that Kiersten and Tierney will be mortal enemies?

Plot:
I loved the story.  What happens when teen girls are left isolated and must survive on their own?  Do the girls really possess magic or are they in an elaborate psychological experiment?  These were really fascinating to see played out in the story.


What I was Mixed About:
Narrative:
Based on the society that Tierney lived in,  I just don't think she would have had the self-awareness to be bothered by the oppression of the female characters.  As a reader in 2019, of course I was horrified by how the women were treated.  But I think Tierney would never had been such a trailblazer.  Or at least there would have been many other girls who had the same anger as she.

This all boils down to the old saying, "show, not tell" that writers are given.  It is much more effective to show the oppression, and how it affects the characters, than it is to have Tierney give a running commentary about how wrong this all is.
 
Action Sequences:
There are several action sequences where Tierney is being chased by people.  This was exciting, but also confusing.  It was difficult to follow what was happening, as some reality was mixed with hallucinations (at least that is what seemed to be going on?).  I was even confused as to if certain people died or not.  I wish these scenes would have been more straight forward.

What I didn't Like:
Ending:
The ending left me very confused as to what actually happened.  As the girls are finally taken back to the village, there is a revelation that I didn't see coming (it would have helped if this had been more explicitly hinted at earlier in the book).  This revelation changes the trajectory of the main character and puts into doubt any actual changes that might happen due to Tierney's actions.  What was it all for?

Remember when I complained that the author should show, not tell what is going on? Well, she apparently got the message at the very end.  The ending was so ambiguous, I really didn't understand what became of Tierney.  And that is a frustrating way to end a book.

Rating: 




Release Date:  October 8th, 2019

Author:  Kim Liggett

Publisher:  Wednesday Books

Genre:  YA Dystopian Thriller

Page Length:  416 Pages

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:  If you liked Lord of the Flies, or other books exploring social experiments, you will find this book to be fascinating.  Even with the messy ending, I found this book to be compelling. 
 
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Monday, October 7, 2019

ARC Review: The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43925876-the-giver-of-stars
Please note:  I received an advance copy of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions in my review in any way.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Set in Depression-era America, a breathtaking story of five extraordinary women and their remarkable journey through the mountains of Kentucky and beyond, from the author of Me Before You

Alice Wright marries handsome American Bennett Van Cleve hoping to escape her stifling life in England. But small-town Kentucky quickly proves equally claustrophobic, especially living alongside her overbearing father-in-law. So when a call goes out for a team of women to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s new traveling library, Alice signs on enthusiastically.

The leader, and soon Alice's greatest ally, is Margery, a smart-talking, self-sufficient woman who's never asked a man's permission for anything. They will be joined by three other singular women who become known as the Horseback Librarians of Kentucky.

What happens to them--and to the men they love--becomes a classic drama of loyalty, justice, humanity and passion. Though they face all kinds of dangers, they’re committed to their job--bringing books to people who have never had any, sharing the gift of learning that will change their lives.

Based on a true story rooted in America’s past, The Giver of Stars is unparalleled in its scope. At times funny, at others heartbreaking, this is a richly rewarding novel of women’s friendship, of true love, and of what happens when we reach beyond our grasp for the great beyond.  


Review:
I really have enjoyed Jojo Moyes books.  But all of the ones I have read (Me Before You, for example) have been contemporary fiction.  How would she tackle my favorite genre, historical fiction?  My opinion is that she writes it quite well!  With a unique setting, strong characters, and a story that will break your heart, this was a very enjoyable book.

What I Liked:
Setting:
The story is set in a rural Kentucky town.  Alice, a newly married young woman from England, has arrived to live with her husband and father-in-law who are owners of the area coal mine.  With her upper crust accent, she sticks out like a sore thumb.  Plus, she has no idea of small town customs in the Southern United States.

I really love the author's descriptions of the stunning mountain scenery, and the dignity of rural people.  Small towns have a particular way about them.  On the one hand, there can be a gossipy pettiness where everyone knows your business.  On the other hand, it can also band together to support one another in difficult times.  Moyes does a superb job of conveying these dueling intentions.

Characters:
I really like Alice, a misfit British girl doesn't fit in English society, and finds it difficult to navigate her new surroundings.  At first, I thought she was going to be rather wimpy, letting others bully her into submission.  But even Alice has her limits.  Seeing her find her confidence is really satisfying.

Margery, is the town's original misfit.  Her family's reputation as local troublemakers has followed her, and she really doesn't care.  She wants to live as she pleases.  But the town has different ideas.  Women who step out of line are suspect.  This will bite Margery late in the story.

Besides the some truly infuriating male characters, there are also men who were very admirable.  Sven, Margery's boyfriend, is supportive, but also itching to make their relationship legal.  Fred is also a man who has immense patience with a different female character.  I love that he shows his affection in small ways:  cutting wood for the library, making food, driving this person home when it is too cold or rainy.  I love these subtle gestures. 

Story:
This book is based on true circumstances that happened in Kentucky.  As a means to employ more people, a rural "packhorse" library was set up.  Women were employed to ride horses up into the mountains to bring library books to isolated families.  At a time where illiterate, these books were often their first introduction to reading.  Besides reading, the librarians also brought recipes, farming tips, and personal advice to these people.

This story was so compelling.  I love that families who begin as suspicious of the library grow to look forward to their weekly visits.

The story also follows Alice and Margery's various challenges.  Alice's marriage is not as picture-perfect as it seems.  Her husband is uninterested in becoming intimate, and her father-in-law is a bully.  Margery tendency towards unconventionality does her no favors when a man (who has been in a feud with her family) turns up dead.  Could she have killed him?

What I Was Mixed About:

Historical Details:
Even though this book is set in the 1930's, at times it seems as though the story could have been happening in anytime from the 1880's on.  The author does begin many chapters with quotes from a guidebook about Kentucky from that time period.  But I would have loved more details about how people lived day to day in the early 1930's.  How did people keep house?  What kinds of things did they do for entertainment?  Some of this was briefly covered, but I wanted more.

Trigger Warning for domestic violence.

Rating: 




Release Date:  October 8th, 2019

Author:  Jojo Moyes

Publisher:  Pamela Dorman Books

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Page Length:  400 pages

Source:  Edelweiss

Format:  E-book

Recommendation:
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Wednesday, October 2, 2019

ARC Review: Where I Come From by Aaron Sanchez

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43908944-where-i-come-from?from_search=true
Please Note:  I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  This has not influenced the opinions in my review in any way.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Before Chef Aaron Sanchez rose to fame on shows like MasterChef and Chopped, he was a restless Mexican-American son, raised by a fiercely determined and talented woman who was a successful chef and restaurateur in her own right—she is credited with bringing Mexican cuisine to the New York City dining scene. In many ways, Sanchez, who lost his father at a young age, was destined to follow in his mother Zarela’s footsteps. He spent nights as a child in his family’s dining room surrounded by some of the most influential chefs and restaurateurs in New York. At 16, needing direction, he was sent by his mother to work for renowned chef Paul Prudhomme in New Orleans.

In this memoir, Sanchez delves into his formative years with remarkable candor, injecting his story with adrenaline and revealing how he fell in love with cooking and started a career in the fast-paced culinary world. Sanchez shares the invaluable lessons he learned from his upbringing and his training—both inside and outside the kitchen—and offers an intimate look into the chaotic and untraditional life of a professional chef and television personality. This memoir is Sanchez’s highly personal account of a fatherless Latino kid whose talent and passion took him to the top of his profession.


Review:
I've watched Aaron Sanchez over many years, first on the Food Network show Chopped, and later on Fox's Masterchef.  Each appearance showed he was a respected chef who really knew his way in the kitchen.  I was excited to read his memoir, Where I Come From.  It is filled with stories about his career, what he has learned, and most importantly, with recipes!  I really enjoyed it.  

What I Liked:
Career:
I really only know about Aaron's career on television, and I was eager to learn more about his culinary career.  With a combination of talent and timing, Aaron seemed destined to be on a fast-track to success.  But "fast" may be an overstatement.  Aaron has worked a long time to get to his current level of achievement.  With a compelling narrative, Aaron brought his struggles to life.  

I also felt a strong connection to his story because I am also Mexican-American.  He discussed whether being Mexican has pigeon-holed him into cooking solely Latino foods, or has allowed him to use his background to explore Latin-American foods in a way few other chef were able to do.  

He also talked about the cultural taboos surrounding mental health issues.  Typical of a Mexican-American family with a history of depression, it was never openly discussed.  When he finally started to confront his issues, THEN he learned that several people in his family had the same challenges.  I can SO relate!

Life Lessons:
Aaron has also had a huge learning curve in how to be a responsible adult.  Even with good intentions, Aaron has taken some detours, especially in his teenage years.  At one point, his behavior was so frustrating to his mom that she actually enrolled him in the Outward Bound program for troubled teens. Following his transformation from a teen with a chip on his shoulder to a renowned and respected Chef and business owner was compelling.

Recipes:
Cooking and eating Mexican food is a large part of my life.  I don't really use recipes, as most of what I've been taught was passed down from the women in my family.  Aaron had similar experiences.  But then, he went a step further and researched (as his mother did before him) to find out about the many variations of Mexican, and Latin-American cooking.

The recipes in this book are a sampling of some delicious looking foods.  I am already making plans to try out many of them.  These alone would make this book well worth buying and I plan on getting this as a Christmas gift for several relatives (hopefully they won't read this review!).

What I Was Mixed About:
I think that this book would appeal most to people who are already fans of Aaron Sanchez.  If you don't already know of him from television, I don't think you would necessarily find his story so engaging.


Rating: 




Release Date:  October 1st, 2019

Author:  Aaron Sanchez

Publisher:  Abrams Press

Genre:  Memoir

Page Length: 288 Pages

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:  If you are a fan of Aaron Sanchez, or if you enjoy behind the scenes tales of the restaurant industry, you will love this book. 


 
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Tuesday, October 1, 2019

ARC Review: Cursed by Thomas Wheeler, Illustrated by Frank Miller

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39678996-cursed?from_search=true#
Please Note:  I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions in my review in any way.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
The Lady of the Lake is the true hero in this cinematic twist on the tale of King Arthur created by Thomas Wheeler and legendary artist, producer, and director Frank Miller (300, Batman: The Dark Night Returns, Sin City). Featuring 8 full color and 30 black-and-white pieces of original artwork by Frank Miller.

Whosoever wields the Sword of Power shall be the one true King.

But what if the Sword has chosen a Queen?

Nimue grew up an outcast. Her connection to dark magic made her something to be feared in her Druid village, and that made her desperate to leave…

That is, until her entire village is slaughtered by Red Paladins, and Nimue’s fate is forever altered. Charged by her dying mother to reunite an ancient sword with a legendary sorcerer, Nimue is now her people’s only hope. Her mission leaves little room for revenge, but the growing power within her can think of little else.

Nimue teams up with a charming mercenary named Arthur and refugee Fey Folk from across England. She wields a sword meant for the one true king, battling paladins and the armies of a corrupt king. She struggles to unite her people, avenge her family, and discover the truth about her destiny.

But perhaps the one thing that can change Destiny itself is found at the edge of a blade.


Review:
I was very interested in this book when I heard that actress Katherine Langford was developing Cursed, by Thomas Wheeler, into a show on Netflix.  After reading this novel, which is an origin story of the Arthurian Lady of the Lake, I am all in!  With compelling characters, and an action-packed story, I loved this sweeping fantasy.

What I Liked:
Characters:
Nimue, who has a deep connection with The Hidden (a magical force), has always been an outcast.  Her abilities create fear among most people and so she yearns to leave her small village for a fresh start.  But fate steps in.  Suddenly, she has the Sword of  and is tasked with delivering this to Merlin the Magician.  

I loved Nimue's journey from a girl who's only concerned with herself, to a young woman willing to fight and sacrifice for her people.  She was fierce, brave, and heart-breaking in her yearning to connect with others.

I was also fascinated by Merlin.  He begins as a man who's glory days are long over.  Instead of the mentoring future kings, he's a con artist who is drunk most of the time.   Finding out how this came to be was really captivating.

There are also appearances by several of the characters who will be central to the Arthurian legend. Gawain, Percival, Lancelot, Morgan, Arthur, and many others create a promise of further adventures. 

Story:
The story begins with a raid on Nimue's village and never lets up.  Besides Merlin, many others are ruthlessly pursuing the sword.  There is Father Carden, a sadistic priest who sees it as his mission to "purify" anyone who stands in his way with torture and death.  King Uther Pendragon, who's legitimacy to rule is tenuous, seeks the sword to seal his claim to the throne.  The Viking Ice King, who also has a claim to the throne, jumps into the fray, as well.   

But it's Nimue who has the sword and she's not afraid to use it to defend her people, the Fey.  As she cuts down her enemies with ease, one begins to wonder who is in control:  Nimue, or the sword.  Can she wield the weapon and remain untouched, or will this unbridled power drive her insane?

As the various forces close in on Nimue and her friends, the tension rises to a fever pitch.

Warning:  Graphic scenes of torture (especially considering this is a YA book).

Rating: 




Release Date:  October 1st, 2019

Author:  Thomas Wheeler

Illustrator:  Frank Miller

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Genre:   YA Fantasy

Page Length:  416 Pages

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:  Very entertaining! 
Be prepared to stay up late reading this book because you won't be able to put it down.
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Monday, September 30, 2019

ARC Review: The Library of the Unwritten by A. J. Hackwith

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41961994-the-library-of-the-unwritten
Please note:  I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions of my review in any way.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Many years ago, Claire was named Head Librarian of the Unwritten Wing—a neutral space in Hell where all the stories unfinished by their authors reside. Her job consists mainly of repairing and organizing books, but also of keeping an eye on restless stories that risk materializing as characters and escaping the library. When a Hero escapes from his book and goes in search of his author, Claire must track and capture him with the help of former muse and current assistant Brevity and nervous demon courier Leto.

But what should have been a simple retrieval goes horrifyingly wrong when the terrifyingly angelic Ramiel attacks them, convinced that they hold the Devil's Bible. The text of the Devil's Bible is a powerful weapon in the power struggle between Heaven and Hell, so it falls to the librarians to find a book with the power to reshape the boundaries between Heaven, Hell ... and Earth.


Review:
Any book, especially a fantasy book, about a library will most certainly get my attention on NetGalley.  The Library of the Unwritten, by A.J. Hackwith, is a fun fantasy adventure story that I would best describe as Percy Jackson for grown-ups.  It has a fun mix of heroes and villains, religious themes from many cultures, and a story that is filled with many locations and adventures.  This is a highly entertaining book.

What I Liked:
World-building:
The story is set in Hell, specifically, Hell's library where the manuscripts of unfinished novels dwell.  All that unrealized potential, just sits on the shelves.  At times, the characters in these works "wake up" and try to escape.  This is where the librarian comes into play.  It is their job to put these fictional characters back in their story.  

I thoroughly enjoyed the descriptions of this library, the librarian, and her assistant, and the escapee characters.  Also, there is a second story line set in Heaven. It seems that there is a tremendous bureaucratic machine (where lines literally take an eternity) processing people entering Heaven.  Although neither Hell or Heaven is described in great length, we can sense that entering Heaven will be worth the wait.

Characters:
The librarian, Claire, has a mysterious past that we will learn about as the story progresses.  But for now, we see that she is strong, efficient, and no-nonsense.  She collects a random array of lost souls, all realizing that Claire has their best interest at heart.  But that has not always been the case...

Ramiel is an Angel who is assigned to find the pages of a book called The Devil's Bible.  He is full of righteousness as he encounters Claire, assuming she is evil because she works for the Devil.  But, because he is also working towards redemption for something in his past, he begins to see there is more to Claire and her friends than meets the eye.

There are many wonderful side characters, but I particularly like the ones who are fugitive characters from the unfinished novels of the library.  The author has fun playing with common archetypes such as the Hero and the Damsel.  There is also a exploration of how a story is created.  Does the plot create the characters or do the characters drive the story?

Story:
The book centers around finding the lost pages of The Devil's Bible, a book that holds tremendous power.  The Librarian must travel to the earthly world, as well as otherworldly realms such as Valhalla, to find the missing pages.  As with any quest, each new destination presents a challenge Clair must pass to prove herself worthy (as in the Percy Jackson books).  This was fun, and not always straight-forward.

What I Was Mixed About:
Slow Beginning:
The beginning of the story was slow to get going.  I was worried that the novel would be one cliche after another.  It was starting to annoy me when finally the story picked up with Ramiel and other characters that added more variety to the story.  Going to many different locations, also created a sense of unpredictability.  I just wish the author would have done this faster.
 Rating: 




Release Date:  October 1st, 2019

Author:  A. J. Hackwith

Publisher:  Ace Books

Genre:  Adult Fantasy

Page Length:  384 pages

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  E-Book

Recommendation:
Apparently, this is the first novel in a series.  I had lots of fun getting to know the universe of this book, and I look forward to reading about the further adventures of these characters.
   
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2019 Reading Challenge
MsArdychan has read 10 books toward her goal of 120 books.
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