Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, Jack Thorne)

Ah, Harry Potter. One of the great loves of my life.

Image courtesy of Scholastic
Image courtesy of Scholastic

This will actually be a pretty short review, simply because to write something longer would run the risk of spoilers. I don’t want to be that jerk.

For those of you who have been living a deep, dark hole for the last year or so, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth Harry Potter story, in the form of a script. But please, don’t let that deter you, it is still just as magical as the original stories.

The script format is weird at first, but it didn’t take to long for me to fall into the rhythm of it. Did I like it as much as I would have a regular book?  I can’t honestly say that I did, however, it was still enjoyable. I just felt more disconnected to the story that I would have with a more traditional format. It doesn’t give you the same glimpse into the character’s thoughts and emotions.

That being said, it was still full of delightful surprises for any fan of the series. It took multiple turns that I wasn’t expecting. The original characters still felt comforting and familiar. It was like seeing an old friend after a long absence. But now, they are all grown up, with grown up concerns. That’s something I think people need to keep in mind here: 20 years have passed. They have children, the world is a different place than it was in the original books. These are not flawless heroes, but humans. I liked that in particular about this play.  There were also plenty of new characters to fall in love with.

I know many are torn: this is a play, it’s meant to be seen. I agree with that. However, living in the middle of Missouri, it’s not likely to be showing near me anytime soon and my budget does not allow me to travel to it. If I couldn’t imagine the visuals, I wouldn’t be much of a reader anyway, and the stage directions really helped build those visuals in my mind. Although, there was still a fair amount of wondering exactly how they will pull some of those things off on stage. I still plan on trying to go see the play as soon as I am able.

As a voracious fan, I couldn’t stand to wait any longer to find out how this story would develop. I think it was well worth it. It brought a certain sense of closure to some things. And I know J.K. Rowling has said this is for sure the end of Harry Potter, but I can’t help but fell this left some wiggle room for more. A girl can hope, anyway.

And I shouldn’t even have to say so, but please, PLEASE don’t post spoilers. I will delete your comment and wish for unpleasantness to befall you.

The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest (Melanie Dickerson)

I really wish I had done some more research before picking up this book.  I found it on my library’s app as one of the books recommended for me.   I saw a pretty cover.  I saw what looked like a YA fairy tale.  I snatched it right up.

Random forest picture: more interesting than the book.
Random forest picture: more interesting than the book.

As it turns out, this is apparently for adults.  I did not get that reading the book, I picked it up from reading reviews on Goodreads.  It’s also Christian fiction, which is not a deal breaker, but not my top choice nor what I expected going in.

The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest is a sort of mash up between The Swan Princess and a gender swapped Robin Hood.  The beautiful Odette poaches deer from the Margrave of Thornbeck’s forest in order to feed poor children living along the city walls.  She meets and falls for the handsome Jorgen, who just so happens to be the Margrave’s forester, and is charged with keeping poachers out of the forest.

So, where to start here?

Both of these characters are just so wholesome and sweet they make my teeth hurt.  Even the villains of the piece (whose identities I won’t spoil, just in case you have a real hankering to read this one) aren’t really that bad, for the most part.  Odette and Jorgen don’t really seem to have any flaws.  Even Odette’s  law breaking ways are entirely altruistic.  Ugh.  They are just beautiful and perfect and painfully boring.  I kind of hated them both.

Even though this is supposed to be a medieval setting, you only sort of vaguely got a sense of that.  All of the focus seemed to be on the characters and how great they were that the rest of the setting was sort of superfluous.  Aside from the occasional German word thrown in, this could have been set almost anywhere European-ish pre-1900 or so.  She does describe the clothes, if Odette or Jorgen are wearing them.

As far as the Christian aspect goes, it was only occasionally a little heavy handed.  I could live with it.  However, by the end of the book, while the wrong doers were punished (relatively mildly), there was one conversation that would have ruined the whole book for me, had I not already disliked it.  As Odette is getting ready to head to church for her wedding, she is talking to her married friend Anna.  The gist of this conversation seems to be that, as a woman, it’s ok to have your opinions, but you should always do as your husband tells you.

Can I just go ahead and say it?  BULLSHIT.  I won’t get too feminist here, but just leave it at that, except to add: good luck to any man who thinks I’m going to constantly defer to him.  I’ve had relationships end for that garbage.  I understand that this is supposed to be the Middle Ages, and that was sort of their thing, but it was completely unnecessary to the plot. I don’t like that the author, who is a woman, is pushing this crap on her readers.

I read many other reviews that said you would be super surprised by the twist in this book and would never see it coming.  Those people must not read many things with any sort of complexity, because the foreshadowing was practically a brick to the face and it wasn’t too hard to figure out where things were going.  That is part of why I never realized this book was really for adults until after I had looked into more.  It was pretty simplistic.  In fact, most YA books are way, way more complex.

Obviously, this is not a book I recommend.  In fact, it’s fairly safe to say I hated it.  Don’t read this book.  Find something interesting.

Menagerie (Rachel Vincent)

For the second week in a row, I must mention that I received a free copy of this book (through Edelwiess) in exchange for an honest review. This didn’t affect my opinion of the book.

“But if monsters could look like humans, and humans could look like monsters, how could anyone ever really be sure that the right people stood on the outside of all those cages?” (Rachel Vincent, Menagerie)

When Delilah Morrow visits Metzger’s Menagerie for her 25th birthday, she is a completely normal bank teller. After an incident at the Menagerie pushes Delilah to her breaking point, things go too far and within 24 hours she finds herself stripped of all rights, chained, considered property and in a cage, an attraction in the very Menagerie she was visiting. In a world where the “monsters” are real, her life is now worth less than nothing. But who are truly the monsters? Those inside of the cages, or the keepers and spectators at the Menagerie? Will Delilah’s spirit break, or will she break free?

pexels-photo-102159

I couldn’t stop reading this book. The world within was so richly built and so easy to picture. Was it horrifying? Absolutely, but incredibly believable. Most of the book takes place within Metzger’s Menagerie. At first, it seems like a completely magical place, where you can see creatures like griffons, mermaids, werewolves, chimeras. But, it doesn’t take long to see the true horror of the place peaking through, the mistreatment and abuse of sentient creatures. Even knowing that this is fiction, its still completely heartbreaking.

This all takes place in a world where cryptids are real and considered the enemy. Families have been ripped apart by the tragedy of the Reaping, a horrible event that took place in the 80s. After that, cryptids became outlawed, they have no rights and their lives are forfeit.

While some reviews I have read said that there wasn’t enough character building to create real connection to the characters, I disagree. Claudio and Genni, in particular, are heart wrenching. Gallagher, Delilah’s handler, and Eryx, the minotaur, both keep you wondering. And while some found Delilah annoying, I love her strength and her smart ass spirit. This book is incredibly dark, but her refusal to give up, makes it seem as if there is always a light at the end of that tunnel.

I cannot wait for the next book in this series to come out. There are so many possibilities and such big hopes built up for me that even after one book I feel truly invested in the lives of these characters. I’ll eagerly await the next book.

This is only the first book in the series. It’s out in paperback in September, for those who don’t want to spring for the hardcover, the wait isn’t long. The next in the series, Spectacle is out next year.

Why I Love Books

This post is a little bit different for me, which is why I’m posting it separately from the usual Friday book review. I feel like it’s time to get a little bit personal.

I really know very few people in my personal life that read. Not those who are often too busy to read as much as they would like, but those who actively dislike reading. They do not understand at all how I can spend the money I do on books and how I can want to spend so much time on them.

I find this painful. I don’t understand how they simply don’t read when books are like air to me: a necessity for my very existence. To simply not read is completely unfathomable for me.

I couldn’t say exactly what triggered this love of a lifetime for me. It’s possible that it was my mother forcing books on us while we were in the tub (a captive audience that couldn’t run away). I do know that at least a few of these books have made their way into my favorites, even now. Nancy and Plum by Betty MacDonald and The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner are the two I remember the most and are still just a complete comfort to me. She was the one who insisted I read Harry Potter when I dismissed it as a silly book for children. Whew. Was I wrong about that one.

I remember discovering my aunt’s old Nancy Drew books in the closet at my grandmother’s house. Today, I have a fairly impressive collection of Nancy Drew myself, including an almost complete set of the original 1930s books.

I’ve loved ghost stories since I was little. I sought out ghost story books at the library and in books stores. I was lucky to be a kid during the height of the Goosebumps craze. Now, I own a large, but my no means complete, R.L. Stine collection.

Exhibit A: Part of giant R.L. Stine collection. Behold it's glory.
Exhibit A: Giant R.L. Stine collection. Behold it’s glory.

 

Exhibit B: Well worn and much loved ghost stories from childhood.
Exhibit B: Well worn and much loved ghost stories from childhood. Yes, I know the shelf is dusty. Ain’t nobody got time for that. There are books to be read…

I recall devouring books on the Ancient Egyptians and mummies in third grade (another love I’ve had most of my life) and picking up adult novels by fourth grade or so. I always eagerly picked out a ridiculous number of books in the Scholastic book order pamphlets and at the book fairs. I was lucky to have parents who did not stifle my deep affection for books. I certainly wasn’t given all the books I wanted, but I can’t remember the reading ever being discouraged, and I was certainly indulged a fair amount.

I’m sure there was a time when I didn’t love to read, but I don’t remember it. I can’t even imagine it.

So basically, here is what I’m building to: I have anxiety. I have had it in varying degrees since I was a kid. I’ve been medicated for it, but I don’t like the side effects and these days I try to do without it as much as I can stand. If you’ve never had it, for one, lucky you, but for two, it’s very hard to explain. For me, it’s a tightness in my chest that won’t go away, I obsess over things completely out of my control, I don’t go places and do things because it’s nothing but constant worry. I can’t sleep because my brain won’t stop. My jaw hurts and I have headaches because I can’t stop clenching my teeth. And the worry. Just constant worrying over EVERYTHING in my life. When it’s at it’s worst, the anxiety owns me. I’m certain that it makes me very hard to live with.

But, when I read, I can make all of that seem peripheral for a little while. Reading makes it possible for me to be unmedicated and still function. It’s an escape. I can live in a different world and be someone else. When my reality gets bad I can read an entire series in no time at all.

I wish I could share that feeling with all the people I know who say they hate to read. When I read a really good book it is an unbelievably comforting, satisfying feeling.

It is probably a little dramatic to say that reading has saved my life, but I don’t know who I would be or what kind of shape I would be in mentally without it. Sometimes, just knowing I can read at the end of the day is the only thing that gets me through things. I have overflowing bookshelves and no space, and they are a HUGE pain to have to move, but I wouldn’t give up my collection for about anything. I’m very lucky to live with someone who doesn’t mind that I fill every available space with books (although I have been assured that should we ever move, I’m responsible for moving all of them, unassisted).

I’ve always wanted to be a writer myself. So far, I haven’t been able to make that happen. It may never happen for me, but I’ll keep trying. Someday, I would like to know that words that I have written have helped someone else in a situation similar to mine. In the meantime, this blog is the most fun I’ve ever had. It’s completely wonderful to be able to look at reading books as a job. I might never make any money doing this, but I can’t see myself stopping. I’ve had another blog before, but didn’t stick with it. It turned into work in the most pejorative sense. This blog I CANNOT WAIT to write each week. That’s job satisfaction I certainly cannot claim from my 9-5.

To those who write: what you’re doing matters so much. I would not be the person I am without you. Or my mom… who forced me to listen to all those books when I didn’t want to appreciate them. I certainly appreciate it now. And most profound thanks to a lifetime of patient and helpful librarians, and family and friends who understand when I say I want books, I really mean it.

0722161722
More books. Because: books.

These Dark Wings (John Owen Theobald)

Just to keep things on the up and up, I received a free copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for a review. Promise, this didn’t change my opinion of the book…

… Which is that it was fantastic. John Owen Theobald killed it with this one.

When I submitted a request to read this book, it wasn’t because I knew anything about the author. No, I thought the cover looked cool. I did actually read the synopsis, which really only solidified my decision. I read kids books, but I have a tendency these days to really stick to rereading those that I liked when I was younger, I don’t (typically) get so eager about a book aimed for a significantly younger crowd. But, this looked like a seriously cool book.

This wasn't the cover that hooked me originally, this is the paperback version, but it's cook, nonetheless.
Here is the paperback cover. Looks good, right?

Anna is 12 years old when her mother is killed in the Blitz. With her father dead years before, she is sent to live with an uncle she barely knows. Her uncle is a Yeoman Warder in the Tower of London and is the Ravenmaster. At first, Anna despises the ravens and life within the Tower walls. The legend is, if the ravens leave the Tower, then England will fall. As the Blitz rages on and things begin to happen to the ravens, Anna gains new perspective on not only them, but her own life and tries to find answers for what exactly is going on.

I’ll admit, I don’t have a great deal of knowledge about Britain during the Blitz. Most of my mental picture comes from two (really amazing) episodes of Doctor Who. Given that I have a degree is art history, the rest of my WWII knowledge has more to do with the looted art work. And of course the rest is filled out with several books I read growing up about the Holocaust (Night, The Big Lie, The Diary of Anne Frank). This was a welcome addition to help me fill in the gaps in my picture of the war.

I certainly felt like this book captured some of the tension of what it was like living in London at the time: the fear and the fatigue, some people turning to looting and threats, while others retained kindness for those in need. Most of the book takes place within the Tower of London, but there are several glimpses of what was happening outside of those walls, as well. It was easy to picture life in London at that time.

This book was definitely directed to a younger audience, but never felt like it was talking down to any children reading. It was mature without being pretentious or condescending. This is a hard topic and I didn’t feel like he shied away. It wasn’t needless graphic, but he didn’t sugarcoat, either. It just as readable for adults, it didn’t feel like a book only for children.

And surprise for me! It’s only the first in a series! I did not realize this going in and there is a pretty huge cliffhanger at the end of the book. I will certainly eagerly await the next installments in this series.

Part of what drew me to the book what that a great deal of the book centered on the Tower’s Ravenmaster. You can actually follow the current Ravenmaster on Facebook. For the more brave at heart, Chris Skaife (the aforementioned current Ravemaster) has a blog with Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris called Grave Matters. This may of course lead you to Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris’s blog The Chirurgeon’s Apprentice, which is an amazing blog of medical history and I read the entire thing in a day when I first discovered it a few years ago. And is also wildly off topic. At any rate, that should be quite enough to send some of you down the rabbit hole for a few hours.

But definitely check out These Dark Wings.  I think it holds plenty of appeal for adults, but if that isn’t your thing, recommend it to your children, or grandchildren, or random children you see out and about. Happy reading!

True Crime Addict (James Renner)

I made a little bit of a mistake when I was reading this book. I plowed through the last half or so of the book in one evening. But, that wasn’t the mistake. The problem was, I read it right before bed. While home alone. And there were parts that were a little freaky.

True Crime Addict is primarily about the disappearance of Maura Murray. Intertwined with Maura’s story is that of the author, James Renner, and the effects that his own personal true crime addiction has had on his life.

Here's something that looks mysterious, because I couldn't find any better pictures.
Here’s something that looks mysterious, because I couldn’t find any better pictures. Or get permission to use the cover image in time for this post. There’s probably a lesson here in procrastination. Moving on…

I first heard about Maura Murray’s disappearance pretty recently, actually, on a comedy website, of all places (Cracked.com, which you should also read, it’s fantastic). She was listed in an article called 5 Weirdest Disappearances No One Can Explain. I absolutely love a good mystery, in real life or fiction, and this one was certainly compelling. The All-American girl abruptly leaves school. She gets into an accident on the way to locations unknown and vanishes before the police can arrive, only minutes after she was last seen by witnesses.

I’ve seen a fair amount of criticisms that this book was basically exactly the same as James Renner’s blog. However, never having even heard of James Renner before I found this book, I can safely say that that fact does not bother me in the slightest. For me, the book almost read like a novel. It was impossible to put down. On one hand, this sometimes made it almost too easy to forget that this was something that happened to real people. The family of Maura Murray did not want this book written, most of them declined to even speak with the author. On the other hand, it made it ridiculously hard to not get sucked in.

James Renner was also sucked in, so much so that it had an adverse affect on his life. This wasn’t a first for him either: after getting deeply involved in the murder investigation of Amy Mihaljevic (whom he also wrote a book about), Renner suffered PTSD.

My own criticisms are fairly small, but, I do wish he had gone into more detail on certain things. When he spoke to one of the Murray daughters’ former husband, he says that he asked him a sensitive question about the girls’ father. Now, obviously, you can read a certain amount into this, but I would rather know what exactly it was that he asked. I kept waiting for the answer to that, and he never revealed it. Considering that there was a fair bit of speculation going on about what exactly had happened to Maura, I don’t feel like revealing the contents of that particular question would have been out of line. Ok, maybe it would have been somewhat invasive. Maybe, I’m a little nosy. I can live with that.

Ultimately, nothing is really definitely concluded. Not all mysteries are going to have answers that wrap up with a neat bow. However, James Renner does make some decently compelling arguments for his theory of what happened to Maura and where she might be.

All in all, I recommend this for any fans of true crime, or even crime fiction. It’s a quick read and very hard to put down. That being said, I can’t really suggest reading it before bed. It definitely shines a light into some of the darkest corners of mankind.

The View from the Cheap Seats (Neil Gaiman)

I’ll be honest here: I’m not really sure why I decided to pick up this book in the first place.

I can’t in all reality admit to being a huge Neil Gaiman fan. Sure, I’d read The Cemetery Book several years ago and had enjoyed it, but had never read further. He’s one of those authors I’ve for some reason always felt like I should read, however for one reason or another never really had. He comes up on my radar frequently. Turns out it’s because Neil Gaiman is, in fact, awesome. But that isn’t something I really understood before I read this book.

Books of speeches and/or essays aren’t really my thing either. Once in a great while, okay, they’re alright, but I don’t go actively seeking them out.

But, for whatever reason I had at the time, I picked this up, and am terribly glad I did.

index
Seen here: awesomeness (I promise, it’s totally a word).

It begins with essays and speeches about my favorite things (books, duh) and ends on a few very poignant notes. In-between is full of books, comics, music and other miscellany.

Typically, I’m the type of person who will sit and read until I can’t prop my eyes up any further. For me, the format of this book was actually a rather nice change. While each section had a connection, it wasn’t a straight narrative, so I felt more comfortable forcing myself to find a stopping place. Most of the essays are only a few pages, so once I finished one, it was easier to make myself stop and again easier to pick it back up after I had.

More truth: I didn’t know what was going on 100% of the time. I don’t read much sci-fi and never really got into comic books. However, I can safely say I’ve walked away from this with a list of things to delve into further. Not only the works (books, comics, even movies) of Neil Gaiman himself, but of the many others whose talents he acclaims in this book. This was definitely a doorway for me to broaden my horizons considerably.

More than once, I found myself thinking, ‘Wow, I’m not the only person who thinks this!’ Of course, I’m not the only one with thoughts on many things, but its always nice to see someone saying what you are thinking, albeit far more eloquently than I ever could. His thoughts on books were, of course, spectacular. The sections on Doctor Who and Edgar Allan Poe in particular had me nodding along with my reading.

The last two essays of the books are beautiful, honest, and touching. A perfect way to end.

If you are already a Gaiman fan, I cannot recommend this enough. No doubt you will take away much more from it than I possibly could with my limited knowledge. If you are not already a fan, I still recommend it. I have no doubt that you, like me, will find something in this book with which you have a connection, and possibly an author you cannot wait to read more from. I really do feel that in these musings there is something for everyone, and I have no doubt that, like me, he will lead you down other roads to explore.

My Top 5 Summer Reads (And Cocktail Suggestions)

So now that summer is officially upon us, some of you may be wondering, “Sara, what books do you recommend for summer reading? And what libations should I enjoy while reading these books?”

Or maybe not.

pexels-photo-26890

At any rate, I can certainly make a few suggestions, whether you really wanted to know the answer to that question or not.

 

 

1.The Historian (Elizabeth Kostova)

Engrossing, complex and more than a little dark, this book makes for an absorbing read, one that certainly might make you long for a little sunshine to chase away the shadows. It has plenty of two of my favorites: history and vampires. Everyone likes vampires.

Drink suggestion: Red wine. Obviously.

rotwein flasche mit glas / red wine bottle and glass

2.  The Secret History of the Pink Carnation (Lauren Willig)

A fun combination of chick-lit and historical romance, this is the first book in a great series if you are looking for something that might be described as a “romp”. Flowery named spies in Napoleonic France? Yes, please. The Pink Carnation is just the first book in a series that is just absolute fun. Although, I have discovered since finishing this series that that description is apt for all of Lauren Willig’s books. You can’t lose.

Drink suggestion: Lemonade. Just kidding. Try a Lavender Lemon Drop. A much more fun version of the lemonade Amy insists on (sort of) with a flowery twist to tie into the books.

3. The Diviners (Libba Bray)

Set in 1920s New York with a paranormal angle, this was one of those books I just couldn’t put down. This book felt like what I wanted the 1920s to be like. Add in a cast of fascinating paranormal characters and it was just about perfect.

Drink suggestion: A Sapphire 75. This drink has gin (which just feels right for a book set during Prohibition) and Prosecco, for a little sparkle I feel is perfect for Evie’s bubbly personality.

4. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)

If its drama you’re looking for, forget crappy reality TV and grab this oldie-but-goodie. It tells the story of the Cleary family, in particular their daughter Meggie, over the course of years. Mostly set on a sheep station in Australia it has all the drama you could ask for: mean spirited plots, forbidden love, dramatic deaths! There is even a great 80s miniseries if you need more.

Drink suggestion: A Wildfire martini. Not only is this a drink with a fair amount of its own drama, but there is wildfire in the books. It had tragic results, so perhaps a nice martini might help.

pexels-photo-25921

5. Beautiful Creatures (Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl)

I know what you’re thinking: another YA series? Yes. Another. I may be in my thirties now, but many of the best books being written these days are for young adults and I’m still happy to pretend that I am one. Anyway, this whole series was one I really enjoyed reading. It was dark, Southern and full of magic. There is also a spin off series, Dangerous Creatures, if you enjoy this one. However, I can’t really recommend the movie. It was pretty awful. Although, it does have Alden Ehrenreich (a.k.a. the new Han Solo), who is pretty dreamy.

Drink suggestion: The Charleston Bog. Summery and Southern, a perfect drink to help lighten up the darker moments in the book.

This list is really just scratching the surface. What are your favorite summer books (or drinks, for that matter)? Let me know in the comments!

The Raven Cycle (Maggie Steifvater)

I’m a little ashamed to say that the first book in this series was recommended to me via Goodreads over a year and a half ago by a high school friend who is now a librarian. Normally, I try to pay more attention when people who I know appreciate books tell me to read something. I slacked off in this regard.  I recall being intrigued (the email sat in my account forever), but at some point I forgot about it.

Enter: this blog. While wracking my brain for books to add to my TBR pile, The Raven Boys, the first book in the series came back across my radar. Lucky for me, my local library’s app had the ebook, so I put a hold on it and waited. About a week later, it was all mine for 21 days. I finished it in two. It would have been less, but, sigh, the need to actually go to work and sleep got in my way.

The next day I got online and ordered not only The Raven Boys for my very own, but also the rest of the series (The Dream Thieves, Blue Lily, Lily Blue and The Raven King).

IMG_20160611_121908
Pictured: poorly photographed book porn

Wow.

Guys. Guys. If you have not already, you must read these books. I was floored.

Sometimes there are books that just are so enjoyable and so satisfying that it makes it difficult to function in the real world. I can give a book no higher compliment. These books fall solidly into that category.

I didn’t plan on reviewing them as a whole unit, but given that I consumed them so quickly, it just seemed right that I look at them all together.

To briefly give you an idea of the plot, Blue lives in a house full of psychics and is a girl destined to have her true love die after a kiss. Gansey, Ronan, Adam and Noah are all Raven Boys, students of the affluent private school Aglionby. Aglionby boys are trouble and Blue wants nothing to do with any of them. Reluctantly, she is drawn into their orbit and ultimately for their search for the mythical Welsh king, Glendower. All of them are much more than they seem, including Blue herself.

These books are at once lush, dark, dreamy and real. They were magical while at the same time they seemed made the impossible seem more than possible, made it seem almost normal. It was a really glorious experience. I finished The Raven King less than 30 minutes ago as I write this and I already cannot wait to read them again.

And the descriptions!! Holy moly. Unbelievable! I found myself rereading sentences more than once because I was just so amazed at their construction, at the word she used to describe objects, people, situations. She describes things in such a way that, even though they wouldn’t be the words anyone else might pick, they are exactly right. I could never have thought of it, but it was wonderfully perfect. That really helped to add to the dreamlike atmosphere.

I also loved that the romance didn’t have a complete chokehold on the whole series. As you may know, I really love my YA books, but with so many of them, the love story between the protagonists is almost cloying. With these books, that romantic connection is there, it is in fact rather key to the story, but it doesn’t overwhelm the entire plot. It compliments it, which makes it much more convincing.

The Raven Cycle truly makes an outstanding summer read. So, go read them. Read them now! What are you waiting for?

Bay of Sighs (Nora Roberts)

Allow me a moment to go all fangirl here for a moment: I. Love. Nora. Roberts.

I picked up my first Nora Robert’s books in college, and I was somewhat skeptical at the time. I ordered her Circle Trilogy with a gift card right after Christmas for next to nothing. I loved cheesy romance novels, but Nora Roberts? It was quantity, not quality, right? I was not convinced, but was willing to give her a try.

I fell in love pretty quickly. In particular I’m weak for her paranormal books. Is there a bit of a formula to them? Yeah, probably. However, there is something completely relaxing about her books for me. They are light, fun books where I can count on a happy ending.

And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

To that end, Bay of Sighs did not disappoint. This is the second entry in The Guardians series. Sorry to start this with the second book, but I didn’t have a blog when I read the first book.  It was good.

To summarize, six people are charged with finding three stars created by three goddesses to celebrate the rise of their queen. The first book follows the romance of Sasha and Bran, a seer and sorcerer, respectively, and the hunt for the fire star, along with Riley, Doyle, Annika and Sawyer. Long story short, they fall in love and find the star and kick the ass of the villain, Nerezza, an evil goddess trying to capture the stars, setting her back in her quest to obtain the stars for herself.  All of this is set against the back drop of Corfu, Greece.

That brings us to Bay of Sighs. This book follows the mermaid Annika and Sawyer, a traveler, who can move through time and space with the help of a magical compass, as they seek the water star.  Here, they have moved the party to Capri, providing another gorgeous location for my imagination to play with.

Sort of like what I pictured...
Sort of like what I pictured…

Annika is not my favorite character in the series. Prior to this, she just came off as naïve and simple, but there is something likeable about her unfailing optimism. She is naïve, but as a character who spent her life living in the ocean, I suppose I can forgive that.  And Sawyer is like most other male Nora characters: handsome and a good man. He also cooks, what’s not to like?

This one surprised me a little. There are often scenes in Nora’s books that could be considered dark. I’m not squeamish, really, but there was a torture scene that was a little darker than normal, but it more or less fit.

I’ve read other criticisms of this series that say it’s boring, or just follows a predictable formula. I didn’t think it was boring. There was a decent amount of action to balance the romantic elements, as well as the “planning” scenes.  As far as the formula goes, I have to admit, it doesn’t bother me. I go into any Nora Roberts’ book with certain expectations, and this fulfilled them for me. They are brain candy, comfort books for me. It’s a chance for me to shut down the parts of me that are stressing and escape.

The only negative for me, is that I can breeze through one of these books in no time. Less than two days, and I had killed this book. This now leaves months of waiting until the final book in the series, Island of Glass comes out in December. I just have to keep in mind that slightly over five months is really not that long to wait for a new book in a series.  Until then, I’ll be patient… and possibly reread the In the Garden series again (spoiler: It’s wonderful).