Bindings (The Books of Magic, #2) by Carla Jablonski

Bindings (The Books of Magic, #2) by Carla Jablonski

bindingsFaerie is slowly dying from a mysterious wasting disease. Tim Hunter, the new and as-yet-untrained magician, may be the only one who can save it.

But could Timothy Hunter, who briefly visited the realm of the Fair Folk, be the child of the prophecy?” pg 2

You don’t have to read the previous entry in the series about Timothy to understand this stand-alone story. Carla Jablonski does a good job recapping what has gone on before.

“Throughout all the journeys, it seemed like there were always people trying to kill him or take his magic.” pg 12

My beef with this book is, even though she uses Neil Gaiman’s characters, she doesn’t write with the magic of Gaiman.

The plot is incredibly straight-forward, the bad guys are sadly predictable and it just doesn’t sparkle.

Even Tamlin, the man who went to Faerie long ago and fell in love with its Queen, isn’t as complex as I wish he would be.

Tamlin knew that to the Fair Folk, as something was, it always would be. Nothing ever changed. The ability to see reality and to change was man’s magic. My magic, Tamlin thought.” pg 42

It’s not her fault. Jablonski has written a thoughtful young adult novel about reality not always being what it appears to be and explaining some of Tim’s origins.

She’s just not Neil Gaiman. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you’re going to write someone’s characters, you need to embody who they are.

Now that he was in a real-life fairy tale, complete with its own monster, he realized how unlikely those stories really were.” pg 111

Read this entry in the series if you’re a completionist. Otherwise, may I recommend The Sleeper and the Spindle.

See my reviews of the first entry of The Books of Magic on my blog or the third entry in the series, Free Country: A Tale of The Children’s Crusade.

Thanks for reading!


The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue

The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue

thestolenchildIf you must give me a name, call me hobgoblin. Or better yet, I am a changeling- a word that describes within its own name what we are bound and intended to do. We kidnap a human child and replace him or her with one of our own.” pg 7, ebook.

The Stolen Child is the story of a changeling and the boy whose place he took, Henry Day.

The chapters alternate between the real Henry Day and the false Henry Day. It is a captivating story about magic, family and belonging.

“This is my confession, too long delayed, which I have been afraid to make, and only now reveal because of the passing dangers to my own son. We change. I have changed.”

It also addresses the issues of the modern world and how technology and humanity has driven nature into corners.

The changelings are basically immortal children (but they can die through accidents) who live in the woods until their turn comes to rejoin the human world. Years before, they were all ripped from their families and made a part of the same group their replacement just deserted.

Their world is brutal, cold and always on the verge of collapse. One of their only rules is they don’t discuss a new changeling’s prior life during his new one.

The adjustment period from human to changeling is difficult enough without keeping the memories alive through the long years of their unchanging childhood.

But things aren’t much easier on the changelings who take the child’s place. If they are discovered, in the past, the changelings have been killed or their family members have gone mad from the strain.

They must carry a secret with them for the rest of their lives. It is as a lonely an existence as the changeling group separated from humanity in the forest.

I enjoyed this story. Keith Donohue has a way with making the fantastical seem real and the miraculous into the mundane.

But that ending. It didn’t complete the excellent characters and storyline Donohue had constructed, in my mind.

Recommended for those who like to read modern fairy tales. Just don’t expect a life-changing finale.

Thanks for reading!

Weird Illinois by Troy Taylor, Mark Sceurman, Mark Moran

Weird Illinois by Troy Taylor, Mark Sceurman, Mark Moran

weird illinoisWeird Illinois is a mix of stories, speculation and ghost lore from my home state, Illinois. And it is really weird.

The chapters cover topics from local legends and lore to bizarre beasts and roadside oddities. But I’m not sure how true it is.

The road-side attractions seem to be the “most real” part of this book, but the legends and ghost stories could be simply myths or urban legends.

It makes me want to put together an investigation, or several, to go find out what is true or not. That is part of the charm of this book.

My favorite chapter was about the “bizarre beasts” of Illinois which is a collection of animal oddity or cryptozoological stories from the area. I really want to see the “Albino Squirrels of Olney” mentioned on page 95.

I was creeped out by the stories of the “Murphysboro Mud Monster” on page 84. That’s not very far from here!

I think this book could be useful for travelers who are looking for entertainment that is off-the-beaten path in Illinois or trivia fans.

Make sure to read it with a discerning mind, as I said, I’m not certain how much of this is “non-fiction.” I can say: it’s good fun.

Thanks for reading!

The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak

The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak

impossiblefortressA cute coming-of-age novel about a boy, a computer, a Playboy magazine and first love.

Billy and his awkward friends are in love with Vanna White, the girl-next-door who flips the letters on Wheel of Fortune. When some pictures of Vanna appear in Playboy, they know they have to get that magazine, at any cost.

One problem, none of them are even close to eighteen years old.

This was the moment of truth- the moment I’d rehearsed with Alf and Clark again and again. They’d coached me to keep my pitch exactly the same- to speak the words like I used them all the time: “Just some Tic Tacs,” I said, “And a Playboy.” pg 29

Part of this story is enjoying the humor and innocence of the boys in an era before the internet. The other part of this story, the one that occupied my book club, was reminiscing about technology and early computers.

We spent most of the time at book club talking about what our first computers were, who knew coding, and what were our favorite early games.

“If I was serious about Planet Will Software, I couldn’t work on a Commodore 64 much longer. Newer computers offered more memory and better graphics, and C64s would be obsolete in another year or two. I needed to upgrade to the latest technology, and the contest was my best chance to do it.” pg 43

That part of the evening seemed to entertain the older members of our book club more than me. It’s not that I didn’t have an early computer, I did, I was more interested in the coming-of-age part of this story and the heist-type scenarios the boys go through to get their dirty magazine.

I also enjoyed Billy’s struggles to understand Mary and the cute dynamic between them. I liked learning about his loyalty to his friends and his dreams for future computer programming greatness.

“I’m going to make video games,” I said. “I’m going to start my own company, and I’ll only hire cool people.” pg 81

If I ever start my own company, in whatever business sector that it may be (not computer programming), I’ll only hire cool people too.

Recommended for book clubs or if you just want a sweet, light read by the pool, The Impossible Fortress just may fit the bill.

Thanks for reading!

Bloodsucking Fiends (A Love Story, #1) by Christopher Moore

Bloodsucking Fiends (A Love Story, #1) by Christopher Moore

bloodsucking fiendsJody was attacked by a man who bit her neck and left her for dead in an alleyway. She woke up a vampire. What is she going to do now?

“(Jody) was twenty-six and pretty in a way that made men want to tuck her into flannel sheets and kiss her on the forehead before leaving the room; cute but not beautiful.”

C. Thomas Flood wants to be an author, but where he comes from (Indiana) that’s not an acceptable trade for a man. He flees to San Francisco to “starve in the city.” After some misadventures with too many roommates and turkey bowling at the Safeway, he meets Jody and his life is never the same.

“Turkey bowing is not recognized by the NCAA or the Olympic Committee. There are no professional tournaments sponsored by the Poultry Farmers of America, and the footwear companies do not manufacture turkey bowling shoes. … Despite this lack of official recognition, the fine and noble tradition of ‘skidding the buzzard’ is practiced nightly by supermarket night crews all over the nation.”

Christopher Moore takes on the “vampire genre” and it’s not his best effort. If you’re going to read one of his books, I recommend Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal.

It’s still ridiculous fictional literature, but I enjoyed the characters in Lamb more. In Blocksucking Fiends, everybody reads like one cliché after another.

“In another time she would have called a girlfriend and spent the evening on the phone being comforted. She would have eaten a half gallon of ice cream and stayed up all night thinking about what she was going to do with her life. .. But that was another time, when she had been a person.”

And perhaps that was Moore’s point. It was as if he was mocking the sub-genre of vampire novels by his one-dimensional characters and thin plot.

Or maybe it is just a sub-par effort.

I don’t think I’ll be picking up the other books in this series.

Thanks for reading!

The Motion of Puppets by Keith Donohue

The Motion of Puppets by Keith Donohue

motionofpuppetsThe Motion of Puppets is a clever play on an ancient Roman myth.

Orpheus was a musician who was so talented he could charm the birds from the sky and make the forest spirits weep. He madly loved a woman named Eurydice.

One day, she stepped on a serpent and died. Orpheus nearly lost his mind out of grief for her. So, he made his way to the underworld to beg Lord Hades for his bride.

Orpheus plays such sweet music that Persephone weeps and Hades allows the bard to take the shade of his dead wife back to the living world. There’s one condition, he can’t look back to see if she’s following.

I think we all know what happened then. This book takes that tragedy and places it in the modern world.

Everything is fine until Theo’s wife, Kay, goes missing. “She should be more responsible, should know that he would worry, but he could hear her laughing it off when she came home. You’ll give yourself ulcers, she’d say. You fret too much. I just went out for croissants.” pg 18

He assumes she stumbled into the bed of one of her coworkers and is sleeping off a hangover. But the truth is much worse.

Kay has been transformed into something else, something magical and monstrous. “We lucky few can move about as long as the people are not watching. Midnight to first light, we are free.”pg 41

She is trapped in a metaphorical “underworld,” ruled over by an ancient power and his minions. “You cannot go home,” he said. “You cannot ever leave the Back Room.” pg 76

Even if Theo can figure out where she’s gone, how on earth will Kay go back to the shape she had before?

Keith Donohue has crafted a clever and haunting novel, putting a horror-tinged lens on the myth.

“And, besides, let me tell you a secret: all art needs a little sadness in it, a small tragedy to balance the human comedy.” pg 111

Like Moulin Rouge, Baz Luhrmann’s musical take on Orpheus and Eurydice, the elements of the original story are in both works of art. I think The Motion of Puppets is more weird and other-worldly.

To truly enjoy this tale, you have to be willing to believe in magic.

Highly recommended for readers who like twists on mythology or not-too-terrifying horror stories.

If you like mythological re-tellings, you may also enjoy The Snow Child or Circe.

Thanks for reading!

Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry

Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry

undertheharrowNora’s sister is dead. Through the fog of her grief, one thing is clear: Nora is going to find out who did it. And she’s going to make him pay.

The sky foams, like the spindrift of a huge unseen wave is bearing down on us. Who did this to you, I wonder…” pg 9.

As she frantically tries to piece together the last days of Rachel, her sister’s life, Nora discovers things she never knew about her secretive sibling. There are some secrets that should have gone to the grave…

“He might have come in the house on one of the days he watched her. She left a key under the mat, he could have let himself in when she was at work or asleep.” pg 62

Like other thrillers, Under the Harrow slowly dishes out the clues to the mystery and introduces elements of danger just when the reader is starting to feel comfortable.

“There are too many people I don’t recognize, which I hadn’t expected. I thought I would be able to note any strangers. Whoever did it might come today.” pg 69

It also flirts with the “unreliable narrator” trope. Not in an annoying, over-done way, but, just enough so it makes the reader question the bits of information we are receiving.

Is what we’re learning true or only true in Nora’s mind?

“I wanted both of us to forget what we had learned. For the past five years, I’ve pretended that we did forget, and ignored any signs otherwise.” pg 83.

Readers experience Nora passing through the stages of grief, sometimes making better choices than other times. She desperately misses her sister.

“It is so easy to think about her. Each memory links to another one, and time doesn’t seem to pass at all. I sit for hours remembering, until the first commuters, unbearably sad, begin to arrive, waiting in the darkness on the platform for the early train to London.” pg 111

Recommended for readers who enjoy thrillers and quick reads. At less than 250 pages, you can finish this book in one afternoon. I did. 🙂

Thanks for reading!