Summer is usually thought of as a time to chill out, vacation, and sit outside devouring books by the armload – at least that’s how I’d like to think of it! However, I actually get very little reading done. Sometimes Sunday afternoons are the only time during the week that I can steal a few hours at a time to read, and those hours are precious. Earlier this year I was doing well with my Goodreads Reading Challenge, but in the last couple of months I’ve fallen behind ? It’s only to be expected, though, between work at work, work at home, and work on my book (which is coming along better than I’d hoped!??)
The books that have accompanied me over the last couple of months, though, overall, have been pretty great.
An Echo of the Fae ─ This book came out in June, and I’d signed up for an ARC in exchange for an honest review, plus to help celebrate its release. I’ve not read a lot (okay, hardly any) fairy tale retellings, and I didn’t even know that was a thing until a couple years ago. I wanted to give it a try. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t so sure how I was going to like it, and the first few chapters were a little rough for me to get into. However, once the first twist wound up and popped like a jack-in-the-box, I was IN. The story had a classic feel to it, and yet was all new to me, full of daring, courage, and sacrifice. I had a lot of fun reading it, and each twist in Echo’s quest excited me to find out what happens next. It focuses a lot on family bonds, and the doubt of an adopted child when faced with the question of if and where they truly belong. Echo’s determination and faith is inspiring, her weaknesses real, and her journey both full and fantastic. It’s a heartwarming story of redemption, newfound friendships, and overcoming fears, not shying away from the dangers and deceptions of the faerie courts and the mortal heart. I highly recommend it as family friendly and worth every moment spent with it.
The Ancient Realms Collection ─ This anthology promised dark fantasy at its finest, with endings that were not happy. The cover is GORGEOUS. I was excited. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. The first half consists of six novelettes featuring Nordic lore and fairy tales that go back to their Brothers Grimm roots, but the endings were more bittersweet than the kind of tragedy I was expecting. Nevertheless, the stories themselves were fairly interesting. I can’t say as much for the compilation of short stories in the latter half. Only one of the seventeen actually drew me in, the rest were mostly trippy or confusing. My biggest beef with the book as a whole, though, is that the entirety needs both proof and copy editing in a bad way. Glaring typos, repeat character names across stories, even though they weren’t related, spelling inconsistencies ─ I hate to be a Debbie downer, but the experience could have been improved so much with a little more attention to the presentation.
Dare ─ This was my third indie book in a row, and I’m finding it rather gratifying to read indie books. Dare has been on my to-read list for a long time, and finally being able to crack it open was a real pleasure. I mean, it has espionage, interesting characters, and SPY-ASSASSINS. I know, right? Who doesn’t love a cool spy-assassin? What I found interesting about the story is that it gave me a sort of ‘Victorian mid-west’ feel, with its setting in prairie land, complete with mansions, fancy gowns, and lords and ladies. Oh, and an evil king in his dark castle. The plot is strong in the vein of Christian persecution, too, and focuses on the journey of main character Leith as he learns more about this God that the king is so bent on denying and the people he is so bent on quashing. It displays a lot of biblical truths, and it helped put into perspective the fear, danger, and even hope that people experience in those places where faith in Christ is illegal. All wrapped up with conflicted loyalties, burgeoning affections, betrayed friendships, and the sacrifice of fragile physical freedom for the gaining of an untouchable spiritual one.
The Fiddler’s Gun ─ I’ve never been a big fan of the ocean and sailing, but I have loved every seafaring book I ever read, so I knew this was a book I wanted to try. For some reason I was anticipating it being a lighthearted, swashbuckling adventure like all the others. Not quite so. It goes far deeper, capturing the reality of privateering and piracy in the eighteenth century, and what’s interesting is that while the story is set during the American Revolution, it’s not actually about the war. It’s about a headstrong firecracker of a girl learning about life and loss the Hard Way, struggling with fear and faith in a very real sense. Not to say that there isn’t some good fun in the mix as well. It’s hard not to with this cast of characters! Every step of the journey is met with the good, the bad, and the ugly ─ and every combination thereof. Bartimaeus broke my heart, and Knut would have to be my favorite crewman of the entire motley collection aboard the Rattlesnake. To top it off, the writing is gorgeous. Peterson has a way with words that made the story actually feel like it was written in the spirit and culture of the American colonies.
The Bark of the Bog Owl ─ After reading the first chapter, I knew I was going to love this book. The writing has so much of the wit and whimsy that I’ve come to love, with a heart and soul that gives it life. Something I picked up on a couple chapters in is that it feels so much like David’s story in 1 Samuel that at times it seems more like a retelling ─ except it’s set on a swampy island with alligators and feechiefolk. The story is clever and exciting with adventurous twists that had me gobbling it up in no time.
How I Magically Messed Up My Life in Four Freakin’ Days ─ Interesting title, no? It works, though, because it got me to read the book, and it was hilarious. Dystopian/contemporary fiction is not my favorite genre and first person is not my favorite POV, but I’ve been learning lately that stories done well transcend my list of preferences, and I thoroughly enjoyed this story. The main character, Bryant, has such a creative voice, and his wizardly misadventures through New York City were a great companion over many pre-shift mornings and lunch breaks at work. It was fun, clever, well-told, and hugely entertaining.
Shiloh ─ I fell head over heels for the cover of this book, and was intrigued by the premise: a world literally shrouded in shadow, a boy with power over fire, the search for hope and light beyond the darkness ─ all the YES. I’ll be honest, though, at first I wasn’t too sure I was going to like it, since the style of narrative is a little different than I’ve been accustomed to; then I realized something. It actually reads like an old legend, and has very much a storyteller feel to it. There’s prophecy and ancient powers, the unyielding bonds of destiny, perilous journeys, joyful victories and heartrending tragedies. All of it. It’s a story of losing hope and finding it again, of love, of remembering, and of redemption. I had the feels real bad after finishing the book, and it’s definitely worth the experience.
What books have you been reading lately? Have any stood out to you in particular as gems?