23302838by Garth Nix
YA Fantasy
4 of 5 stars

I’ve been reading about the Old Kingdom since I was….12? Sabriel (remains a favorite), Lirael, Abhorsen and then Clariel the prequel and now this one, another chapter in Lirael’s story. I love this world, I love the characters, the magic–it feels as familiar to me as our world and returning for a new story is always a cozy feeling!

Lirael is trying to fit in with her newfound royal family and manage her duties as the Abhorsen-in-Waiting. She also has to adjust to her glowing, golden hand that Sam made her, and the loss of the Disreputable Dog. Sabriel and Touchstone go on holiday to enjoy the peace–which is of course when chaos returns. Ferin is trying to reach Lirael with a vital message from the north, and Nick is trying to reach Lirael about a Free Magic creature south of the Wall, and it takes some time for these events to be linked.

Although slower than some of the other books, I found the lead-in to the inevitable meeting between them all interesting, because we learn so much more about the Old Kingdom and its inhabitants, as well as about Charter Magic.

This hit all the sweet spots I expect for a continuation of a favorite series. Although the emphasis on romance was a bit disappointing, and I’ll always hope for more of Sabriel’s adventures, this was a satisfying, enjoyable read.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Goldenhand is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman – A trilogy filled with dark magic and destiny. Lyra gets drawn into the political and religious fronts about to start a war for the freedom of human souls. It’s action-packed but thoughtful as Lyra grows up and faces her role in a prophecy that could change her world forever.
  • The Chronicles of Chrestomanci vol 1 by Diana Wynne Jones – The Chrestomanci is the nine-lived sorcerer responsible for keeping balance in the Twelve Related Worlds, but first he has to learn how that’s done. Especially if he can’t seem to do magic at all. These novellas are fun and imaginative like all of Jones’ work.
  • A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab – Kell is one of the last Antari, magicians that can travel between the four parallel worlds. Officially, he works for the king of Red London (where magic is vibrant and free) but unofficially, he smuggles objects between the worlds for those willing to pay. But when he accidentally smuggles a piece of Black London (which should be extinct) into Red London, all hell breaks loose across the four worlds. See my review here. See my review here.

What’s new this month

The second part of fall release season is here! Take a look at these gems that are finally here:

2777927510/4 – This Adventure Ends – by Emma Mills

This is a case of cover love at first sight for me–so gorgeous! Sloane leaves Florida for New York, and falls in with twins Vera and Gabe. Fast friends, and maybe something more, Sloane becomes even more involved with them when their mother’s painting goes missing. I’m intrigued by the Goodreads’ hints of LGBTQ themes, and honestly I just want to see what happens and if this story lives up to the beautiful cover art. (Seriously, this aquamarine / seafoam color is my absolute favorite).

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

2822082610/4 – When the Moon Was Ours – by Anna-Marie McLemore

I am so excited for this! LGBT magical realism that sounds beautiful and incredible. Miel and Sam both have strange abilities and the two of them are inseparable. Miel has roses that grow from her wrist, and Sam hangs moons in the trees. They’re both threatened by witches who want Miel’s roses for themselves, to make anyone fall in love. There’s aspects of romance and dark magic here and I can’t wait to see how this unfolds!

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

2858834510/11 – The Midnight Star – by Marie Lu

The epic conclusion to Adelina’s story is finally here! I absolutely fell in love with this series last year. Adelina’s downward spiral into evil so well-done and so sympathetic. The writing is stellar, and I honestly have no idea if Lu is going to steer Adelina towards redemption or damnation. Now that she rules as the White Wolf, Adelina has lost everything she holds dear. What is her next move going to be? As the voices in her mind threaten to take control, Adelina must choose her legacy and her fate.

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

2330283810/11 – Goldenhand – by Garth Nix

This has been my one of my favorite fantasy worlds for almost twenty years! We follow Lirael again as she attempts to save Nick from Free Magic and learns there’s a message waiting for her with the Clayr and a woman from the north from her dead mother, Arielle. For the first time, we get an expanded map beyond the Clayr’s glacier! Although I suspect this will be much like the other stories in this realm, I can never resist the urge to return and see what’s new for the beloved characters (especially Sabriel and Mogget). I am so excited to see what lies in store for Lirael!

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

2548829910/11 – The Secret Horses of Briar Hill – by Megan Shepherd

Again, the cover grabbed me and the jacket summary held me! Winged horses, mirrors, and a little girl trying to protect them. The Horse Lord tells Emmaline he’s hiding one of his own winged horses, Foxfire, in her world to protect him from the Black Horse, which hunts by colorless moonlight. The magic is intriguing, and this story sounds like everything my junior high self would have loved so I am all in!

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

2741438910/25 – A Darkly Beating Heart – by Lindsay Smith

Time-travel between present-day and 19th century Japan! Reiko is an angry girl with unresolved issues. After a failed suicide attempt, she is sent to a small, historically preserved Japanese village. There, Reiko connects with the spirit of Miyu–the only person that might be more obsessed with revenge than Reiko herself. She will have to face Miyu’s demons and her own if she wants to live. I’m intrigued on multiple levels and I really hope this is good! Historical fiction seems to be the author’s strong suit so I hope to be swept away with this revenge tale.

More here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

What’s new this month

You can now search my book reviews by author – additional organization, hurrah!

Also: It’s the best time of the year for books! Here are a few I’m looking forward to this month:

10/1 – The Anatomy of Curiosity – by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna YovanoffAnatomy of Curiosity

This collection of short stories gives insight into the creative process behind writing. These three women have been critique partners for years, and not only do you get a sample of their work, you can see how they work together. For anyone who wonders “How does a writer puts those words on the page, anyway?” or writers who want to pick up some tips, I have a feeling this will be fun and informative.

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

Carry On10/6 – Carry On – by Rainbow Rowell

This is so weirdly meta, I cannot wait! Rowell’s best-seller, Fangirl, followed introvert fanfiction writer/college student Cath. Cath’s popular serialized novel “Carry On” was set in the same world as the Simon Snow series (a Harry Potter-esque series within the Fangirl universe) with the main characters Simon and Baz in a gay relationship instead. Rowell has said she isn’t writing this novel as Cath or as Gemma (the fictional writer of the Simon Snow series) so I don’t really know what to expect. But it’s real fiction of fictional fanfiction with a touch of Harry Potter satire and that is just cool.

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

10/13 – Ice Like Fire – by Sara RaaschIce Like Fire

The sequel to the wildly popular Snow Like Ashes is finally here, with beautiful cover art and the promise of more political intrigue and relational drama between Meira, Theron, and Mather. The rumored chasm of magic is discovered, and the three have very different ideas as to how to use it to best serve the kingdom of Winter and the world. The first book had some rough patches, but I’m hoping this one will iron those out. I have a feeling the battle over natural resources might mirror situations in our own lives.

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

Career of Evil10/20 – Career of Evil – by Robert Galbraith

The third installment in the crime noir series following detective Cormoran Strike and his idealistic assistant Robin Ellacott promises more intrigue, nefarious schemes, and interpersonal drama. These novels are like watching an old detective show–in atmosphere, not in cheesy dialogue–and I can’t wait to see where Strike ends up next! Robin is starting to come into her own as she develops her sleuthing powers, and the tension between her and her fiance is mounting as she puts off getting “a real job.” Although you could probably read these as standalone mystery novels, I’d recommend reading the previous books (The Cuckoo’s Calling, The Silkworm) first.

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

10/13 – The Rose Society – by Marie LuThe Rose Society

The much-anticipated sequel to The Young Elites follows Adelina as she plots revenge against her numerous enemies. Full confession, I just read the first book a few days ago! It deserves its amazing reviews and Adelina is a unique heroine among the YA crowd. I fell in love with it – this is a fantastic series and I can’t wait to follow Adelina’s journey further. By a stroke of luck, I found an ARC in the wild, so I’ll have a review ready quite soon!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

Newt's Emerald10/13 – Newt’s Emerald – by Garth Nix

Originally a Kindle exclusive, the hardcover version of this alternate England story comes out in the US this month! Lady Truthful (“Newt” to her friends) goes to London to track down her family’s missing emerald. Of course she discovers there’s more to the mysterious crime–and her disguise as a boy is precarious at best. This looks really fun and a bit different from his other work, so I can’t wait to check it out. Plus the dust jacket is beautiful!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

To Hold the Bridge

23213811by Garth Nix
YA Fantasy/Science Fiction
3 of 5 stars

Reviewing a book of short stories is hard, even if they are all by the same person. In a collection this size, there were some that I absolutely loved–so much that I wished they were full-length novels–and there were others I struggled to get into, despite knowing they would only be 20-30 pages long. Overall, I’m a fan of his work, and I would recommend these as a way to explore a bunch of worlds and premises in a short amount of time. These are well-written and the majority do an excellent job of pulling you into some level of suspense within the first few pages.

I was most excited about the Old Kingdom novella, To Hold the Bridge. The Old Kingdom Trilogy (Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen) is one of my favorites, and I was excited to get back into that world. It wasn’t quite what I’d hoped–much of the novella is set-up, and the only action occurs at the very end. There’s a lot of exposition, but I was hoping for more from the characters. As always, it just left me wanting more of the Old Kingdom! Another story is a prequel to his novel Shade’s Children, so fans of that book would probably enjoy this peek at that world. It made me want to read it!

The rest of them were a nice surprise and I enjoyed the obvious creative freedom he had with this collection. It felt like anything he ever felt like writing about but couldn’t put into a book deal was included in this volume, and it’s a fun read!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, To Hold the Bridge is available on Goodreads and its parent company Amazon. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • Sabriel by Garth Nix – My favorite Nix novel and the first book in the Old Kingdom trilogy. Sabriel must fight the Dead as she tries to save her father and their kingdom. See my review here.
  • Shade’s Children by Garth Nix – The enigmatic computer-generated Shade rescues children from the Overlord’s dormitories before they are killed and harvested to make war machines. All he wants in return is for them to provide information from increasingly dangerous missions. I haven’t read it yet but this sci-fi novel is one of his more well-known works.
  • Rags and Bones edited by Melissa Marr and Tim Pratt – This collection of short stories crosses all genres with a paranormal thread running through all of them. See my review here.

What’s new this month

These are some books I’m excited about this June. Here’s a little bit about each of them:

To Hold the Bridge6/9 – To Hold the Bridge – by Garth Nix

We are finally returning (however briefly) to the Old Kingdom and I couldn’t be more excited! The Abhorsen trilogy is some of my favorite YA fantasy, and I’m looking forward to this collection of 18 short stories. It will cover a lot in addition to expanding the Old Kingdom collection, and I always like seeing one of my favorite authors delve into shorter formats. Nix’s world-building and characterization are awesome, and although I was a little disappointed in Clariel, I’m hoping these stories have the same verve as his earlier work.

More info here: Goodreads and Amazon

The Stars Never Rise6/9 – The Stars Never Rise – by Rachel Vincent

I like reading about siblings, so this story of a ramped up Hunger Games/Forest of Hands and Teeth relationship caught my eye. I’m apprehensive about the writing style since the presumed love interest’s “deep green eyes” are mentioned in the blurb, but I’m hoping my cringe-reaction is unnecessary. I’m always suckered in by the inclusion of a Dark Secret in the blurb – it drives me crazy until I find out what that is, even if I decide to skim the story for it. I’m terrible sometimes. Not entirely sure if this story/world will have enough series potential to sustain my interest but we’ll see.

More info here: Goodreads and Amazon

Sacred Lies Minnow Bly6/9 – The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly – by Stephanie Oakes – Debut novel

Cults seem to be the thing for 2015, but this one sounds more intriguing than most of the premises I’ve seen so far. It’s darker and more brutal, combined with an old German fairy tale, “The Girl with No Hands.” This promises tight pacing and the kind of subtle, sharp character development I like, so I’m hoping it delivers! The comparisons and blurbs I’ve seen so far are very promising, in particular the Goodreads reviews of the ARCs. I have a feeling her missing hands won’t be the most shocking element of this story.

More info here: Goodreads and Amazon

Backlist Bonus: Sabriel

518848by Garth Nix
YA Fantasy
5 of 5 stars
Debut novel – May 11, 1995

This book was published twenty years ago today, and for Sabriel Day I thought I would finally post a review here. This is one of my favorite books (as in I’ve read it at least twenty times and the pages are curled and turning yellow). I say this to indicate that I’m not sure it’s possible for me to leave an unbiased review, but I can recount why I want everyone to read it.

There are more teenage girls kicking ass and taking names these days, but they don’t typically have magical powers, a strained alliance with a shape-shifting spirit, or the ability to come and go between Life and Death. Most importantly, they don’t have confidence in these abilities. I love Sabriel because she stays cool under pressure–even when things get completely out of control, she doesn’t freeze up or panic or expect someone to save her–she tries something, anything in her arsenal to save herself. So much of YA is following a character as they grow into their destiny or their powers, but Sabriel has these, and instead we have to watch her grow into being independent and using those gifts as the Abhorsen.

Sabriel’s father is the Abhorsen, the only person in the kingdom who protects everyone from the Dead spirits that try to return to Life and destroy everything in their path. Sabriel’s struggle is taking up this mantle as the next Abhorsen. Her story is the experience every 18-year-old has when they leave high school and realize the world expects them to be an adult now, and no papers or tests prepared them for this responsibility.

There’s excellent world-building, humor, and beautiful lines as we follow Sabriel’s transformation from a schoolgirl to the protector of her kingdom. She learns to trust herself as she discovers her destiny. It has every element I love in a good fantasy novel and there’s a reason it’s in print twenty years later!

Similar reads:

  • Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas – This series is about an assassin trying to subvert the tyrannical king while hiding her true nature. High fantasy with a female protagonist who is tough as nails with a sharp wit. See my
    Throne of Glass review here and my Crown of Midnight review here.
  • The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley – Another tale from a time when girls weren’t allowed to be the center of a story that involves dark magic, slaying dragons, and choosing her own fate. Still fantastic almost thirty years later. See my review here.
  • Alanna, The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce – From the era of girls passing as boys and becoming knights comes this quartet following Alanna, the first female knight in the kingdom, destined for many more adventures once she gets her shield. See my review here.
  • The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman – Another trilogy filled with dark magic and destiny. Lyra gets drawn into the political and religious fronts about to start a war for the freedom of human souls. It’s action-packed but thoughtful as Lyra grows up and faces her role in a prophecy that could change her world forever.

Rags & Bones: New Twists on Timeless Tales

17310066Edited by: Melissa Marr & Tim Pratt
4 of 5 stars

Featuring: Saladin Ahmed, Kelley Armstrong, Holly Black, Neil Gaiman, Kami Garcia, Melissa Marr, Garth Nix, Tim Pratt, Carrie Ryan, Margaret Stohl, Gene Wolfe, Rick Yancey

These twelve short stories are a collection of famous works re-imagined by an excellent group of writers who grew up on them. Some of them, such as The Castle of Otranto, Sleeping Beauty, and The Awakening, I was familiar with, but for the most part this was a fun introduction to new and old tales for me.

Although not all of the original stories were in the fantasy genre, this collection adds a sense of magic and mystery to each one, and it struck the perfect balance of thematic connections between vastly different worlds. There’s something refreshing about reading an entire story in one sitting. These are perfect for a lunch break or those in-between moments in your day. The characters grapple with what it means to be human as they traverse Earth thousands of years in the future, fantasy kingdoms with evil witches, and dystopian futures ruled by cold machines and colder crime lords. Each character has such powerful goals and feelings, and despite only spending an hour or less in their company, you care about them so much. I can honestly say I enjoyed them all!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Rags & Bones is available on Goodreads and its parent company Amazon. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  •  The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – Of course, he’s one of the author’s in this collection. This book is a novella, so you can read it quickly and it has the same fast bonding with characters in a strange setting. See my review here.
  • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen – Her semi-parody of The Castle of Otranto is light-hearted and dramatic (Otranto was sort of the Twilight of her time). This is the quickest read and most accessible of her novels, in my opinion, because it’s just as much about a teenage girl exploring a mysterious mansion as it is about romance or Austen’s social commentary.
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving – One of the best-known Americana ghost stories, and a fun read.

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