Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians – Brandon Sanderson

This is a fun book – it’s a middle reader, so goes by pretty fast.

The conceit is that Brandon Sanderson is the name a young man named Alcatraz is using to get his story out to those of us in the lands the Librarians are in charge of. They’re in an evil conspiracy to hide the rest of the magical world from us, you see. The action is completely preposterous, as it really should be for an adventure story for this age group. I would have enjoyed this thoroughly when I was that age.


Soul Taken – Patricia Briggs

It really sucks getting on the bad side of any of the big bads of this world. This particular book features some particularly nasty vampire infighting, with some rather serious implications for everyone else in the area (of course).

This does seem like a bit of a placeholder story – nothing is particularly new, just variations on some things we’ve seen before. It really feels like the set up to a chess match – certain identities are revealed, powers are clarified, and things then seem to simmer back down to normal. I do hope this is setting up something epic.

Jolene – Mercedes Lackey

I enjoyed this book a lot, partially for reasons outside of the actual story. First – I love that to move the Elemental Masters series into America, the author decided to use national treasure Dolly Parton as inspiration, and that she dedicated the book to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The second is that I work with several people that live in Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee (one of my company’s main campuses is in Chattanooga). I always thought it was a curiously named town, and it turns out, it was once two different towns, and Soddy was a Company town. You learn something every day.

Story-wise, I enjoyed this. Anna lives with her parents in Soddy – she’s always been sickly. Knowing what this series is about, I immediately figured she must be pretty strong in Earth-based powers, and having the mine nearby was poisoning her. Her mother has an older sister that’s been trying to get Anna to come to live with her for years, and when Anna’s father’s health starts to precipitously decline, he finally agrees to send her away. (There was no love lost between her father and Aunt Jinny.)

Jinny is a witchy-woman who’s living in a holler outside another mine town, but far enough away from the effects of the mine. She quickly realizes the extent of Anna’s power, and starts to train her. There are also neighbors about, including a local farm with an interesting eldest son, and the mysterious Jolene, who appears where she wills, and may or may not be Anna’s friend.

I really liked who Jolene actually is, and how that worked into the story. This is a quiet book – the action feels a little formulaic to bring about the set up that you’d expect, since this is based on a rather famous song. But I really appreciate the setting, and I think it fits well into this larger series.

Thistlefoot – GennaRose Nethercott

Isaac and Bellatine Yaga haven’t seen each other in years, after Isaac left the family to go off on his own.     They’re called together when they receive an inheritance – one they have to go pick up at a warehouse.   It’s a house with chicken legs, and if you’ve noticed the last name, you know that these two are decedents of Baba Yaga, and her house has come to them.

This was a hard book for me to get into – it jumps back and forth in time quite a bit.     What it ultimately becomes is a story of deep trauma, and how that trauma lasts through generations.     At the end, when that is finally explored, I thought the book was at its best.

The Wizard’s Butler – Nathan Lowell

This is a nice, cozy book about a young man who gets hired to be the butler for a man who turns out to be a wizard.

There are two interweaving subplots about a cursed amulet, and a scheming niece who’s trying to get the wizard sent to a retirement home so she can turn his estate into condos, but at its core, the story is really about Mulligan finding something new for his life when he’d been struggling to find a place to fit into. I finished this in two nights – it was a delightful interlude against heavier reading.

Holy Sister – Mark Lawrence

I try not to read too much about books ahead of time, because I really hate being swayed by other people’s opinions. I accidently found out that this is many people’s least favorite book in this trilogy, so I was definitely a little nervous going into it. I can definitely see where people would have issues – this story jumps around in time in a way the prior two books did not, and that makes it tonally very different. That said, I did enjoy it.

We always knew the end of the series – the first book begins with the convent under attack, and two of the girls we shortly meet as novices are defending it as full nuns. So the question has always been, how did they get there? And I’m very happy with how that happens – Nona and her friends grow into some amazing, kick ass women.

Dance of a Burning Sea – E. J. Mellow

I enjoyed this book – it’s the second in a series following the lives of three sisters. They’re both the daughter of a baron in the capital city, but also the Mousai, enforcers for the Thief King, who also happens to be their father.

This is Niya’s story, and we get a taste of it in the previous book, where there is a run in with a pirate, who Niya clearly hates. We get the full story of that here – of course it turns out Alos isn’t nearly as bad as he seems, and has good reasons for some of the terrible things he’s done. And Niya really needs to do some growing up – it’s entirely her fault that she ends up bound to Alos’ ship for the next year.

So we get some interesting exploration of the outer reaches of this world, and some good character development for Niya and Alos. The final book in series is out this week, and I’m interested enough to see what happens next that I actually preordered it.

The Last Graduate – Naomi Novik

I am so loving this series. Which is making my resolution to wait until the paperback of the third book comes out very hard to stick to. If I didn’t have a ton of other stuff to read, I’m sure I would have run out and bought the hardcover already.

El’s a senior now, and after the first semester, the rest of the year is devoted to practicing their escape run through the Scholomance’s graduation hall. The first book sets up the Scholomance pretty well – you know why the wizard kids are stuck in what might seem like a hellhole. This book brings things one step further. It’s pretty clear that no one is going to be able to escape without El and Orion’s help, and it’s also pretty clear that the school itself is pushing them towards something.

The motivations of the school are not so surprising in hindsight, but what the seniors decide to do with that knowledge is amazing. And the ending! Gah! Like I said, it’s going to be hard to wait for the paperback.

Powers – Ursula K. Le Guin

Leave it to Le Guin to write a young adult book that’s a really moving story of slavery and freedom.

This book is the story of Gavir, a slave in one of the households in the city of Etra, part of a confederation of cities that constantly seem to be at war with each other, always shifting alliances. In many ways, Gavir is very lucky – his sister is with him, and he’s being educated by the current teacher (also a slave) to educate both the children of the house, and the other slaves. It seems like a happy life, where slavery is almost an afterthought.

Of course, it’s not an afterthought. Life goes on, and childhood idylls end. After an unspeakable tragedy, Gavir ends up going on a journey, and finds himself, and a new view of the world, along the way.

I actually find it hard to say more about this book – half of the experience is being in the story, and seeing Gavir grow as he encounters new places, ideas, or people. It’s an amazing book, which considering the author, should come as no surprise.

Unsouled – Will Wight

Interesting book. It’s set in a vaguely Eastern cultured world, where people use magic called madra. Lindon is born without any specific ability to shape madra, meaning he’s unsouled – more or less useless to his family. But he’s determined to make something of himself, and through sheer force of will sets out on what looks like it’s going to be a very interesting journey.

It’s a bit of slow start, but all of sudden, it’s very clear that there are Things Going On far beyond the scope of what Lindon has ever been prepared to deal with. With as much set up as was done, the end of the book opens up whole new worlds of possibilities. I can definitely see why I see this book mentioned so often online. I got the first three books in the series for free, so I have more to explore!