2016 Finished Reading Challenges

Since I really only do two challenges a year anymore, I think it’s safe to record my finished challenges for 2016:


Once Upon a Time X 3/21/16 – 6/21/16 – finished 6/14/16


RIP XI Reading Challenge 9/1/16 – 10/31/16 -finished 10/26/16

RIP XI Reading Challenge – 9/1/16 to 10/31/16


With the last book finished, I can safely say I’m done with RIP for the year. I read:

I’d settled on Peril the Second, which was only two books in the challenge categories, and managed to make it up to a third.

Her Fearful Symmetry – Audrey Niffenegger

bf18af069cc200b59354f585941434f414f4141Read for the RIP XI Reading Challenge.

Edie and Elspeth were twins, but something tore them apart. Edie moved to America, while Elspeth stayed in London. Edie ended up having twins of her own – Julia and Valentina. And when Elspeth dies, it’s Julia and Valentina she leaves her flat to – with the stipulation that they must live there for a year before they sell it, and their parents are not allowed to set foot there.

And so Julia and Valentina, who have never left the United States, find themselves in their flat in London, which backs onto Highgate Cemetery, where a number of notable Victorians (as well as their aunt) are buried. The girls have always done everything together – but this a new world, with neighbors like Robert, who does tours of the cemetery, and was Elspeth’s lover, and Martin, who composes crossword puzzles, but has such crippling OCD that he never leaves his flat.

I really liked Niffenegger’s previous book The Time Traveler’s Wife. It was a very much a slow burn, where bits and pieces of the story dribble in until you finally have the full picture. This book was very much like that, and there were parts I very much enjoyed, like the atmosphere in that flats, and the neighboring cemetery. And I liked Julia’s interactions with Martin – whose wife has just left him because she can no longer live the way he forces them to. He has an open invitation to join her in Amsterdam, if he can only leave the flat.

What I didn’t like was the end. I won’t go into it, because it makes no sense without the build up, but it was not the way that story should have ended, and it didn’t even really end. I found myself very grumpy at the end of it.

The Ragwitch – Garth Nix

1682f8fb78f54935932556f6141434f414f4141Read for the RIP XI Challenge.

Paul has always been in the shadow of his outgoing sister Julia –she’s the one that’s always determined what they’ll do, or where they go. But one day, as they’re playing on the beach, she finds a rag doll, and it’s quickly clear that this doll has powers. Julia’s pulled into another world, and Paul immediately follows. It’s the first decision he must make in a string of decisions to save his sister.

It turns out the Ragwitch is a being of dark power that had once taken over in the land that Paul finds himself in, before the king found help to cast her out and trap her in a rag doll’s body. She’s using Julia’s body now, and awakening all her old minions. Paul must awaken all the old allies against the Ragwitch, but Julia is still inside the Ragwitch, and she finds surprising allies to fight the Ragwitch from within.

This is older Nix – about five years before the first book of the Abhorsen series, and it is a bit rougher around that edges. The world building isn’t as complete, but it’s still an interesting world that Paul and Julia are navigating through, and fairly decent growing up story. It’s also relatively scary for its audience, which is why I’ve decided to include it in my RIP reading – I’m sure this story would have freaked me right the heck out if I’d read it first when I was in the proper demographic.

The Devil’s Novice – Ellis Peters


Read for the RIP XI Reading Challenge.

This is the eighth book in the Brother Cadfael books, and while all of the books deal with the civil war between King Stephen and Empress Maud in some degree (and it does touch this story), this book ends up being more about family drama, which is a bit unexpected when your main character is a monk.

The Abbey in Shrewsbury accepts a postulant from a local family of the gentry. He’s nineteen, so well old enough to make the decision, and seems eager to embrace a life in the church, but he’s clearly not cut out for that life. To make matters worse, he suffers from terrible nightmares, and the screams from those (which he does not remember), quickly label him the Devil’s Novice, and most of the abbey wants him gone.

Coincidentally, a powerful bishop visits on his way through, investigating the disappearance of an envoy the church has sent to one of the factions in the civil war. That envoy is a cousin of the new novice, and it was at his family’s home that the envoy was last seen alive. Brother Cadfael can tell there’s a connection, and it’s up to him to figure it out.

Like I said, this ends up being a family drama – Cadfael visits the home of the novice, and it’s a complex emotional situation he finds there.

I really enjoyed this book – I’ve always liked the period details in these stories, but the sheer drama of this particular one was the draw – putting together the pieces and finding the right place for everyone at the end was very satisfying.


RIP Reading Challenge XI 9/1/16 to 10/31/16

It’s September, and the RIP Reading Challenge has rolled around again.    I skipped last year, but I’m in the mood for some good mystery or dark fantasy reading again, so I’m back for this year.     I’m going to aim for Peril the Second, which is two books in the challenge categories (Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Gothic, Horror, and Dark Fantasy), but we’ll see if I make it up to Peril the First, which is four books.

The Spirit Ring – Lois McMaster Bujold

Read for the Once Upon a Time X Reading Challenge.

Fiametta is the daughter of a goldsmith in an alternate Renaissance Italy where magic controls many of the arts, including her father’s.   Fiamatta herself is a mage, but her father has not trained her – as a daughter, her abilities will eventually be lost to him through her marriage.

Still, Fiametta has studied on her own, and is still a pupil of her father’s art – the story opens with him allowing her to cast her first gold ring.    Unknown to him, she also puts a little spell into it – one that will come into play later the story.

Thur is a miner in the Swiss Alps – his older brother Uri went south, and is the captain of the guards in Fiametta’s town.      Knowing his abilities with metal, Uri has asked Fiametta’s father if Thur could apprentice with him.     Thur is on his way south, and Fiamatta and her father are attending the bridal celebrations of the Duke’s daughter to a neighboring lord, when all hell breaks loose, and that Lord Ferrante assassinates the Duke and seizes power for himself.    Fiamatta and Thur will need to work together to help rescue their home.

I really enjoyed this story- Bujold has a way of making instantly likeable characters.     This is her first fantasy book, and I’ll confess I do like the Chalion books more – but this is a solid outing, and a nice tale of two young people growing up quickly and making their own way.

Nordic Gods and Heroes- Padraic Column

Read for the Once Upon a Time X Reading Challenge.

This is a nicely redone edition of a 1920 Dover compilation (originally entitled The Children of Odin).   It covers the range of Norse mythology – from the creation of the world, Odin’s many adventures, Loki’s many adventures, and Sigurd and the Twilight of the Gods.

If you want a reference so you can figure out who’s talking about who in these myths, or even The Avengers – this book is a great one to have around.

Spinners – Donna Jo Napoli and Richard Tchen

Read for the Once Upon a Time X Reading Challenge.

This is a really interesting take on the Rumplestiltskin tale – it begins with a young man trying to win the right to wed his sweetheart, when the father would rather she marry the miller.    So he promises to spin her a wedding dress made of gold.    He is himself a tailor, but does not own a spinning wheel.   He steals one from an old woman, and through sheer determination, spins straw into gold, but makes himself lame in the process.    He is so obsessed that the young woman eventually spurns him, even though she carries his child, and she marries the miller.     She dies in childbirth.

The daughter, Saskia, grows up herself to be a great spinner, and her father (well, the miller – neither she nor he knows her true parentage), boasts to the king that she can spin straw into gold.     The rest of the story is familiar, but with the additional background of Saskia’s real father added in, it gives additional motivation – he wishes to have the family he never had, that he lost through his obsession.      It’s a great spin on the tale.

Phoenix and Ashes – Mercedes Lackey

This book is in Lackey’s Elemental Magic series, where fairy tales are told against the Edwardian era, with elemental magic (Air, Water, Earth and Fire) thrown into the mix.

This book is Cinderella, but set in the time of World War I.    Eleanor Robinson has been chained to the hearth of her home by her stepmother, Alison.   Alison is an Earth Master who uses the evil side of the Earth powers, and bewitched Eleanor’s father into marrying her, and then convinced him to enlist, where he was promptly killed.    Unfortunately, she was not able to get him to change his will in time, so she needs to keep Eleanor around to control her fortune.

Reggie Fenyx is the son and heir to the local baron.     He’s a pilot, and Eleanor, a bit of a tomboy, had been among the boys that went to the airfield to admire Reggie’s plane.    Reggie naturally enlisted in the army, and was shot down over France.     He ended up buried alive in a bunker for several days, which is bad enough for a normal man, but Reggie is an Air Master, and Earth is the opposite to his element, so he was plagued by the bad earth elementals that were drawn to the battlefield until his rescue.      He’s badly afflicted with shell shock, and has been sent home to recuperate.

At the same time, Ellie discovers that her mother was a Fire Master, and Ellie may have inherited that full power.    Helped by her godmother (her mother’s friend, the local witch), if she can learn to harness that power, she may be able to escape from her step mother’s spell.  Things become more urgent when it becomes clear that Alison will stop at nothing to get Reggie to marry one of her two daughters.

You absolutely know where this story is going – it’s is Cinderella, after all, but it’s done so skillfully in this setting that there is still an element of suspense.      It’s nice to put a real face to the Prince – Reggie has his own journey to go through in this story, and while Eleanor has people giving her guidance, she’s really the one that seizes her own destiny, and wins her way free of her step mother.     It’s a great book.