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THE ABC BOOK CHALLENGE – S

Supernatural killer horses, a musician with a deadly secret, beautifully written Irish myth, and a pair of English ladies battling magic.

FAVORITES

The Scorpio Races, Maggie Stiefvater.

This was on my to-read list for a long time, and I’m happy I finally got around to it. The titular races happen every November and involve vicious water horses who would just as soon kill their riders than reach the finish line.  All the contestants have been men, until Puck Connolly enters in a desperate to win the prize money and  keep her home. Along the way she has a low-key romance with the returning champion, a rather moody young man. Fast-paced and involving. A strong YA read.

Seraphina, Rachel Hartman.

An outstanding debut about humans and dragons that fold themselves into human shape in the kingdom of Goredd. Tensions run high as the anniversary of a peace treaty nears. The plot revolves around Seraphina Dombegh, an unusually gifted musician, who joins with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, Prince Lucian Kiggs, to investigate a murder at court. But Seraphina has a secret that explains her musical genius–and it’s a secret so awful  she’ll be destroyed if it’s revealed. A wonderful read, especially if you think you don’t like dragon stories.

The Sevenwaters Trilogy, Juliet Marillier.

Marillier is a New Zealand author who writes delicious fantasy, although sometimes the pace is a bit slow. This trilogy covers three generations of a family and its struggle to save magic in Ireland. The series: Daughter of the Forest, in which Sorcha must save her brothers from a spell that turned them into swans; Son of the Shadows follows Sorcha’s daughter, Liadan, a healer and seeress whose quest to keep her family safe leads to unexpected love; and Child of the Prophecy, the tale of Fianne, a Druid’s daughter who is blackmailed by her sorceress grandmother into taking vengeance on the clan that thwarted her initial enchantment of the six brothers.

Sorcery & Cecelia: The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, Patricia Wrede, Carolyn Stevermer.

An absolutely delightful romp through Regency-era England, told through letters between the title characters. The ladies, one in the country, one in London, get caught up in a magical plot. Clever, witty, a quick read. Written by the two authors who actually sent letters in character, neither knowing how the other would respond. First of a trilogy.

WANT TO READ

Sapphique, Catherine Fisher.

This is a sequel to the wildly inventive and engrossing Incarceron, the story of a living prison. In this follow-up Finn has escaped from Incarceron, but his brother Keiro is still inside. Outside, Claudia insists he must be king, but Finn doubts his identity. Is he the lost prince Giles? Or are his memories no more than another construct of his imprisonment? Meanwhile, the crazy sorcerer Rix may have found the Glove of Sapphique, the only man the Prison ever loved. I’ll be sure to re-read the first one before tackling this.

The Star-Touched Queen, Roshani Chokshi.

With a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, May is scorned and feared in her father’s kingdom until he  arranges a wedding of political convenience, making Maya queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. As a queen, she finds her voice and power. As a wife, she discovers desire. But Akaran has secrets — thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree bearing memories instead of fruit. Maya suspects her life is in danger and doesn’t know who to trust. Features Indian myth.

Strange the Dreamer, Laini Taylor.

Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has a been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but won’t cross half the world to find it. Then a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors offers him a chance to do so. Will he learn why Weep was severed from the rest of the world 200 years ago? Discover what the Godslayer slew that went by the name of god? Suss out the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving? The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries. Taylor is a strong writer, so this looks promising. First of a duology.

That’s it for now. Any suggestions? Thanks for reading.

 

THE ABC BOOK CHALLENGE – R

Romance, rodents, and witchcraft, oh my!

FAVORITES

Radiance (Wraith Kings #1), Grace Draven.

I love, love, love this book! And the cover–so perfect! It’s a sexy romantic thriller about two people who wed for political purposes. Brishen is a prince of Kai, a race of dark-skinned, sharp-toothed, white-eyed (no pupils) people who flourish in the dark and considers all humans ugly. Ildiko is a noblewoman whose value to the king of Gauri rests in her ability to make a strategic marriage, even if it’s to someone humans consider monsters. It sounds like your typical “opposites attract” trope, but Draven has created two wonderful characters and completely pulls you into the story of how they come to respect and love each other. NOTE: includes fairly graphic sexual scenes. First of a duology.

Redwall, Brian Jacques.

Like The Nightshade Chronicles by Hilary Wagner, this is another wonderful book that features a heroic mouse. Jacques’s book tells the tale of peace-loving mice of Redwall Abbey, who must defend themselves against an army of rats. They need the legendary sword of Martin the Warrior to win, a forgotten weapon that falls into the hands of a bumbling young apprentice, Matthias. Great adventure, a bit simplistic in how it presents characters, but still endearing and fun. First of a series.

Rosemary’s Baby, Ira Levin.

Yes, I’m going way back for this one, but it’s a classic for a reason. Levin is a master at creating a seemingly ordinary world that simmers with tension. The story follows Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse, who move into a building with a reputation for witchcraft and murder. They’re befriended, obsessively so in Rosemary’s opinion, by neighbors who, it turns out, worship the Devil. When Rosemary becomes pregnant after a very disturbing “dream” she starts to believe she’s carrying Satan’s son. Eerie, chilling, best read in a well-lit room.

WANT TO READ

Relic (Pendergast, #1), Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.

From Goodreads: Visitors are being savagely murdered in the New York Museum of Natural History’s dark hallways and secret rooms. Autopsies indicate that the killer cannot be human… But the museum’s directors plan to go ahead with a big bash to celebrate a new exhibition in spite of the murders. Museum researcher Margo Green must find out who–or what–is doing the killing. But can she do it in time to stop a massacre? Sounds dark but intriguing.

Ruthless Magic (Conspiracy of Magic #1), Megan Crewe.

From Goodreads: Each year, the North American Confederation of Mages assesses every sixteen-year-old novice. Some will be chosen. The rest must undergo a procedure to destroy their magical ability unless they prove themselves in the mysterious and brutal Mages’ Exam… Okay, this has the tang of fanfiction, with two teens who fight to keep their magic, become unlikely allies, and begin a poignant romance. Reviewers have noted similarities to Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. Still, it looks promising, if only to see how Crewe makes it all work. First of a series.

That’s it for now. Any you’d recommend?

Thanks for reading.

 

THE ABC BOOK CHALLENGE – P, Q

Royalty living and dead, and supernatural worlds.

FAVORITES

The Princess of Death, Courtney Pearson.

Cali is a spoiled princess whose world is turned upside down when a plague strikes her country, forcing her to try and cross a mysterious boundary to find a cure. A bit slow to start, but the story picks up with lively interactions between Cali the pirate king, Bae.  An intriguing premise behind the goddess of the sea as well. Pearson does a good job of exploring Cali’s dilemma over whether she should pursue duty or love. First of a series.

The Queen of the Damned (Vampire Chronicles #3), Anne Rice.

While I consider much of Rice’s work after Interview with the Vampire to be seriously bloated, I love this one. It features Lestat, whose kiss rouses Akesha, progenitor of the undead, from a 6,000-year ear sleep. She kills most of the world’s  vampires, saving a few to join her in a crusade against mortals.  Meanwhile, vampires and psychic humans around the globe are dreaming of twin red-haired women who weep over the body of another woman, whose eyes and brains are on a plate nearby. And then there’s Jesse, a member of the Telamasca, the secret society that collects data on paranormals. It’s a vast saga of dark sensual beings and has one of the most satisfying climaxes in her work. (BTW, the movie is so-so, although Stuart Townsend is good as Lestat.)

WANT TO READ

Paranormalcy, Kiersten White.

I’m not a big reader of urban fantasy but this series might change that. From Amazon: “Evie’s always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through supernatural glamours. She’s also about to find out that she may be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures. So much for normal.”

Palimpsest, Catherynne M. Valente

Sounds a bit kinky, to be honest: a world only accessed during sleep after sex? But the blurb is intriguing: “Between life and death, dreaming and waking, at the train stop beyond the end of the world is the city of Palimpsest. . . . Those fated to make the passage are marked forever by a map of that wondrous city tattooed on their flesh after a single orgasmic night. To this kingdom of ghost trains, lion-priests, living kanji, and cream-filled canals come four travelers: Oleg, a New York locksmith; the beekeeper November; Ludovico, a binder of rare books; and a young Japanese woman named Sei. They’ve each lost something important—a wife, a lover, a sister, a direction in life—and what they will find in Palimpsest is more than they could ever imagine.”

Any suggestions?

Thanks for reading.