Books I've Read

Science and Magic

alchemistsToday’s book review is an extension of this podcast episode, a review of Liesel Schwarz’s debut novel, A Conspiracy of Alchemists.

I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this book and I’m so glad I did, because this is not the kind of book I would normally pick up. I don’t read a lot of steampunk, and while this had lots of steampunky elements to it, there was also plenty of magic and mystery for me. The story is about a young woman named Elle. She is a pilot, in a time where most ladies were expected to think only of fancy dresses and who they were going to marry. She is hired to transport a package, but is kidnapped. The package is stolen and Elle is swept into a mystery that she never expected.

First, she finds out that her father has also been kidnapped and is being held by the alchemists. Her companion is Mr. Hugh Marsh, who she finds out later is a warlock. On top of all that, she learns that her mother, long dead, is not who she thought that she was. Elle also learns that she has special powers of her own, which makes everyone want to use her for their own ends.

If I had a few small complaints, it would be that Elle gets a little petulant at times, not wanting to accept things that are plainly in front of her. She also spent a little too much time being flirty with Mr. Marsh instead of worrying about her missing father. But the good parts of this book definitely outweigh these few criticisms. It’s a fast paced chase through Europe – Paris, England, Venice, Constantinople, just to name a few – meeting mythical characters such as Oracles and fairies. And let me just say – I want to play gin rummy with a vampire on the Orient Express! It’s good versus evil, but the good guys aren’t always as good as you’d hoped they were, and the bad guys aren’t as easy to spot as you’d like.

This is the first book of a series, the next one coming out in August. I will definitely be looking for it. This was a fun read.

Top Ten Tuesdays

Top Ten Tuesday – Recommendation Edition


This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic, hosted by the lovely folks over at “The Broke and the Bookish,” is an easy one for me. So without further ado . . .

Top Ten Books I Recommend the Most

1. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley – I loooove this book. It is one of my all time favorites and I always recommend it to anyone who asks, especially if they are fantasy lovers or fans of Arthurian legend.

2. Pawn of Prophesy by David Eddings – The first book in the Belgariad series will introduce you to the best fantasy story world building since J.R.R. Tolkien. And I mean that sincerely. Another must for fantasy fans.

3. Queen of Shadows by Dianne Sylvan – The first book in the Shadow World series, these are vampires done right. No sparkles. With a dark and snarky sense of humor, these books make the idea of vampires living among us seem very plausible.

4. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro – I found this book while I was in college, and it has stayed with me ever since. A seemingly sweet story, with a slightly disturbing twist at the end, it’s an amazing book.

5. Paper Towns by John Green – This book pops up a lot on my Top Ten Tuesdays, but that’s just because it’s that good. I love this book so much.

6. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling – The book that started one of the largest fandoms in history. Actually, I don’t recommend it as much as I’d like, because everyone I know has already read it!

7. Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo by Obert Skye – Another first book in a series, this one aimed at slightly younger readers. These books are silly and whimsical and just plain fun.

8. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare – Of course, with the movie coming out in August, this book will be getting a lot of well-deserved attention. The Mortal Instruments series is one of my favorites, with interesting characters, magic, adventure, romance. Everything you could want.

9. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin – I figured I ought to put this on the list, since I’ve been talking about it a lot lately. It’s a really good book and a good plan. My Friday posts really don’t do it justice.

10. Feed by Mira Grant – I’ve mentioned this book many times before as well. It’s been a long time since a book completely blew my mind, and this one certainly did that. Even if you aren’t into zombies (which I’m not, really), you will be drawn into this story.

So those are my ten. What are yours?

The Happiness Project

Belated Happiness Post

Happiness Avatar

As I said in my last Happiness post, I set some goals for March. The fact that today’s post didn’t happen on Friday is proof that I didn’t manage to accomplish one of those goals (blog five days a week). I’m not sure what happened last week, except that 1). my job decided that it wanted to torture me, and 2). my insomnia was back in full force because of that, leaving me groggy and going to bed as early as possible.

So blogging didn’t happen. I did get some writing in though, although not every day. And I did submit the scene I had written to the writer’s group and got some good feedback on it. I might have to go a different way with it, but that’s okay. It’s giving me ideas, and giving me something to think about. I’ll start the Maass exercises this week, so we’ll see how that goes.

And I did do something fun this past weekend – my daughter had her very first soccer game! She did a really good job and it was fun to all get together to cheer her on. Her team didn’t win, but they did pretty good – the score was 2 to 1 at the end. Not bad at all, especially since they’ve only had two practices so far.

Here’s to hoping that this week is a bit better than last week.

Top Ten Tuesdays

Top Ten Tuesday – Procrastination Edition


I don’t usually let books sit around in my house, but lately I have been slacking a bit. Actually, several of the books I listed last week on my Spring To-Be-Read list should be on this week’s list too, but I didn’t want to list them twice. So here are a few more that I really need to get around to reading.

Top Ten (or Four) Books that I HAD TO BUY . . . but are still sitting on my shelf unread.

1. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – I’ve talked about this one on my blog before and I really want to read it. I even asked for it for Christmas! I just never got around to actually picking it up and reading it.

2. Magician:Apprentice by Raymond E. Feist – Bought this at the used bookstore because it’s Raymond Feist. It’s a classic of the fantasy canon. Still haven’t read it, although the Tavern Book Club will be reading it soon, so eventually I will get around to it.

3. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman – Bought this at the same used bookstore, possibly the same trip, when I got Magician. Bought it because it’s Neil Gaiman and who doesn’t like Neil Gaiman? I’ve heard loads of good things about this book. Still haven’t read it.

4. Kushiel’s Chosen by Jacqueline Carey – This is the second book in Phedre’s Trilogy, which I bought shortly after finishing book one, and yet never got around to reading it. At this point, I will need to re-read Kushiel’s Dart before I can read this one, because I can’t remember much about it except that it was good.

I’ll get around to these, I promise! Are there any books you have lying around that you haven’t read yet?

Books I've Read

Unexpected twists of fate . . .

A while back, I wrote a review of Sabriel by Garth Nix. Since I made it a resolution to try and finish series that I start, I had to go to the library and find the next book, Lirael. And I have to say – it was even better than the first.

LiraelLirael was nothing like I expected. I expected a continuation from the last book, which this really wasn’t. Sure, Sabriel and Touchstone are still around (they got married too, which I was glad to see), but they are in the background for most of the story. The main story focuses on a young girl named Lirael. She is one of the Clayr, an ancient group of seers who live on the glaciers of the north. Unlike the other Clayr, Lirael hasn’t received the gift of sight yet, despite being well past the age when this normally happens. She feels like an outsider, always left behind with the children, and never able to fully be part of the community.

Here’s my favorite part. They decide to let her work in the library, so that she can feel like she is making a contribution to their work. I want to work in their library! Although Lirael finds out that the library isn’t just a nice place to sit and read. It is so immense, many Clayr don’t even know how far deep into the glacier it goes. Lirael finds many horrible things secreted away (and nearly gets killed in the process). But she also spends a lot of time reading and learning, which brings me to my next favorite thing: the Disreputable Dog. Lirael decides that she wants to create a Charter sending, which is sort of like a creature made out of pure magic spirit. What she gets instead is the Disreputable Dog, a creature somehow created out of Charter and Free Magic, but still very real. The Dog is sweet and kind, but also very powerful, and becomes Lirael’s constant companion.

Cut to the other side of the Old Kingdom, where we meet Sameth, the second child and only son of (you guessed it) Touchstone and Sabriel! Touchstone has been crowned king of the Old Kingdom, and Sabriel is his queen, even though she is still the powerful necromancer known as “the Abhorsen.” Sameth is supposed to be studying necromancy in his position as Abhorsen-in-waiting. If something happens to his mother, he is the kingdom’s next Abhorsen. But Sameth is unsure of himself, and frightened of the prospect of fighting the dead, since he had nearly died himself during an encounter with an evil necromancer. Once he hears that a friend of his from Ancelstierre might be in danger from this necromancer, Sameth knows he has to go and try to save him.

At the same time, the Clayr receive a vision about Lirael. She is to be sent out of the glacier on a mission, to find a strange boy who is unknowingly bringing about some evil designs. Of course, you know that Lirael and Sameth have to team up at some point, since they are in fact looking for the same person. Their personalities clash, but the are ultimately able to work together, along with the Disreputable Dog, and Mogget, a servant trapped into serving the Abhorsens who is kept in the form of a very haughty cat.

One of the things that I really enjoyed about this book is the way it expanded the story world. It goes into more detail about Charter Magic versus Free Magic, the purpose of the Clayr, and how these three bloodlines (the royal family, the Abhorsens, and the Clayr) fit together to rule and protect the Old Kingdom. It made the entire thing even more rich and vivid than the first book.

I can’t wait until my reading schedule clears a bit and I can get back to reading book three.

Books I've Read

We’ll always have Paris . . .

I loved this book so much. I had been reading a lot of stuff that was of the epic, dystopian, saving-the-world ilk. Nothing wrong with any of it. Usually my favorite type of stuff to read. But I needed a break, something a bit more lighthearted to break the gloom. Along came Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss. I blame Amazon – there was a one day sale where the Kindle edition was only $1.99. Of course, I had to jump on that!


Anna is a teenage American girl sent away to a boarding school in Paris. Her father (a Nicholas-Sparksian type novelist) has made it big with movie adaptations of his books and thinks his daughter needs to go abroad in order to be more cultured. Anna hates the idea, of course. She will miss her friends, her job at the movie theater, and especially Toph, her cute co-worker. Once in Paris, Anna is immediately homesick, until she meets a few new friends – Meredith, who lives in her dorm, Josh and Rashimi. And Etienne St. Clair. Who happens to be an adorable boy, with an English accent, who has lived in San Francisco, London, and Paris. He also happens to have a girlfriend, who graduated last year, but goes to a university in the city.

Naturally, Anna has a mad crush on St. Clair. She is torn between accepting her new life in Paris and missing her life back home. It soon becomes fairly obvious that St. Clair likes Anna too, and he becomes her guide to learning all that Paris has to offer. It’s a sweet friendship that becomes something more, all set in the most romantic city in the world.

This book is so sweet, clever and enchanting, it makes me want to go to high school in Paris right away. Except that I’m in my 30’s. Oops.

Top Ten Tuesdays

Top Ten Tuesday – Spring Reading Edition


Not counting the books I have in progress (see previous post – oy), I have several books that I am looking forward to reading this spring. If I ever get caught up on everything else I’m reading that is. Hopefully that will happen soon.

Top Ten Books on my Spring To-Be-Read Pile

1. The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson – The second book in the Shades of London series, I got this book two weekends ago, at a book signing no less. And no, I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. I’m really looking forward to it, especially since I have heard that there is a knock-your-socks-off shocker at the end of it. Which brings me to the next book on this list.

2. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson – I read this last year, but I definitely need to read it again before I read The Madness Underneath. I’ve forgotten who most of the people are, which isn’t good. I do remember that this was an amazing book, so reading it again will be fun.

3. Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins – Another prize from the book signing that is sitting here begging to be read. I’m getting to them, I swear!

4. Fire by Kristin Cashore – I stumbled across this book by accident at a bargain store and have yet to read it. I really enjoyed the first book in this series (Graceling). I just wish I could get around to reading this one. Which leads me to . . .

5. Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore – Only if I can find this one. The third book in this series is proving to be elusive. I haven’t seen it in a bookstore yet and there’s a wait at the library.

6. Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen – I found this one at my local used bookstore. The premise sounds interesting – what would have happened had one of Robin Hood’s “Merry Men” actually been a girl in disguise? Sounds like a good kick-ass heroine to me!

7. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – After finally seeing the movie, I really want to re-read this one again. Seriously, that movie was so good!

8. The Belgariad by David Eddings – So this is actually five books, but I’m only going to count it as one. The podcast that I co-host, Bibliophiles Anonymous, is doing a tribute to David Eddings to celebrate the anniversary of the publication of the first book in the series, Pawn of Prophesy. I love these books, so this should be fun.

9. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness – This is the April book club book at the Mallorean Tavern. I’ve heard good things about it, so I’m really looking forward to reading it.

10. Paper Towns by John Green – I absolutely love this book and it’s been a while since I read it. I desperately need to carve out some time for a re-read.

So that’s my to-read list for Spring. What’s yours?