What I’m Reading #6

Some of you may know that I had major surgery a while ago. Although the recovery isn’t fun, it’s going very well. Nevertheless, I’ve been forced to slow down a bit from my normal energetic pace. I’ve had more time to read, which has been lovely.

Here are a few of the books I’ve been reading:

Spindle cover image Spindle by W.R. Gingell – I have discovered another favorite indie author. This was the first book I read by Gingell, and it’s a retelling of Sleeping Beauty. That was never my favorite fairytale, and I haven’t really jumped into the fairytale retelling trend anyway. But I decided to take a chance, and I’m so glad I did. This book seemed to start off a little slowly; my initial thought was that Gingell took a while to find her stride with the story, but in retrospect I think it was more a result of the narrator’s personality and the curse/situation than a writing issue. Nevertheless, be forewarned… it doesn’t start out with grab-you-by-the-throat tension, but rather with funny interactions and some not-entirely-urgent story questions. Just go with it and enjoy the ride. Also, if you’re a Whovian, you’ll find that Luck may seem irritatingly and endearingly familiar.

“A roller-coaster ride of creative and fantastic fairy tale retelling! I think I just found a new favourite author!” -Wishful Endings Book Blog

She’s not a princess . . . but then, he’s no prince.

Polyhymnia is deep in enchanted sleep. High in a tower, behind an impenetrable barrier of magical thorns, she sleeps, dreams, and falls ever deeper into her curse.

Woken by a kiss, Poly finds herself in an alien world where three hundred years have passed and everyone she has ever known is dead. Luck, the enchanter who woke her, seems to think she is the princess. Understandable, since he found her asleep on the princess’ bed, in the royal suite, and dressed in the princess’ clothes.

Who cursed Poly? Why is someone trying to kill her and Luck? Why can’t she stop falling asleep?

And why does her hair keep growing?

Sometimes breaking the curse is just the beginning of the journey.

Masque by W.R. Gingell – I loved this. Seriously loved it. It’s classed as dark fantasy on Amazon, but don’t be turned off if you’re not into “dark”… most of the characters are absolutely charming and the world is far from grimdark. It’s “dark” because there is indeed bloody murder; the reader doesn’t have to wallow in the darkness, but it’s definitely on the page. But it’s so much fun! The interactions between Isabella and Lord Pecus reminded me of Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing – teasing, poking, prodding, irritating, infuriating each other while falling in love. Even though you know the ending, you’ll enjoy every minute of the journey there. It’s free on Amazon, too.

“…an inventive and funny mystery with a dynamic lead, which will make you want to pick up the next book in the series.” Self-Publishing Review, 4½ Stars

Beauty met the Beast and there was . . . Bloody murder?

It’s the Annual Ambassadorial Ball in Glause, and Lady Isabella Farrah, the daughter of New Civet’s Ambassador, is feeling pleasantly scintillated.

In the library is Lord Pecus, a charming gentleman whose double mask hides a beastly face, and who has decided that Isabella is the very person to break the Pecus curse.

In the ball-room is young Lord Topher, who is rapidly falling in love with an older woman.

And in the card-room, lying in a pool of his own blood, is the body of one of Isabella’s oldest friends: Raoul, Civet’s Head Guardsman. The papers sewn into his sash seem to suggest espionage gone wrong, but Isabella is not so certain.

Lord Pecus, as Commander of the Watch, is of the opinion that Isabella should keep out of the investigation and out of danger. Isabella is of the opinion that it is her murder to investigate, and that what a certain Beast-Lord doesn’t know won’t hurt him. . . .

Will Isabella find the murderer before Lord Pecus does, or will she end her investigation as a bloody spatter on the parlour floor?

Playing Hearts cover image Playing Hearts by W.R. Gingell – Did I mention I liked Gingell’s writing? I totally do. This one is free to her newsletter subscribers (and since I am a fan, I subscribed immediately) but also for sale if you don’t want to subscribe. It’s obviously loosely based on Alice in Wonderland, but there’s so much more. There’s a lot of story here for such a short book. It’s darker than the other two above but still far from grimdark. I’ve never really loved Alice in Wonderland, but I loved Playing Hearts anyway – it was wildly imaginative and dark and funny and brilliant.

It begins the way it has always begun: with a card on Mabel’s pillow. But Mabel has been in Underland–or Wonderland–before, and she’s not so anxious to go back. No matter what name it takes, Underland is always bizarre, always mad, always dangerous.

There’s the Queen of Hearts, terrifying, powerful, and possibly insane.
There’s Hatter, purple-eyed and undoubtedly mad.
March Hare has always been one sandwich short of a picnic, and Sir Blanc is missing his wits.

And then there’s Jack. Jack the aristocratic son of the Queen. Not quite mad, but not far off. Disinclined to help anyone but himself. A liar.
And, thanks to an ancient ceremony performed by the Queen, Mabel’s fiance.

Fall into the rabbit hole with Mabel as she climbs through tea-pots, battles the Jabberwock, and attempts to overthrow the Queen of Hearts herself.

Don’t lose your head.

And whatever you do, don’t be late…

 The Brass Giant by Brooke Johnson – This is an adorkable steampunk adventure about a smart, brave girl who gets pulled into something bigger and scarier than she’d anticipated. Heavy on the gears and and building things and scent of machine oil, light on the “punk” and magic (is there any magic? Not really. Just implausible clockwork and engineering.). I am slightly acquainted with the author on G+ and am pleased to say that I enjoyed the book.

Sometimes, even the most unlikely person can change the world

Seventeen-year-old Petra Wade, self-taught clockwork engineer, wants nothing more than to become a certified member of the Guild, an impossible dream for a lowly shop girl. Still, she refuses to give up, tinkering with any machine she can get her hands on, in between working and babysitting her foster siblings.

When Emmerich Goss–handsome, privileged, and newly recruited into the Guild–needs help designing a new clockwork system for a top-secret automaton, it seems Petra has finally found the opportunity she’s been waiting for. But if her involvement on the project is discovered, Emmerich will be marked for treason, and a far more dire fate would await Petra.

Working together in secret, they build the clockwork giant, but as the deadline for its completion nears, Petra discovers a sinister conspiracy from within the Guild council … and their automaton is just the beginning.

 The Changelings by Elle Casey – I think I got this while it was free. The cover drew me in, and I wanted to see what someone else did with Fae. Everything about it was competently done – the writing, the pacing, the imagination, the editing, etc. I should have known from the blurb that it wasn’t really going to be “my kind of book”, but I tried it anyway. The introduction to the main character (language, attitude, voice, etc.) in the beginning seemed particularly heavy-handed to me, but that’s a matter of taste.

Jayne Sparks, a potty-mouthed, rebellious seventeen-year-old and her best friend, shy and bookish Tony Green, have a pretty typical high school existence, until several seemingly unrelated incidents converge, causing a cascade of events that change their lives forever. Jayne and Tony, together with a group of runaway teens, are hijacked and sent into a forest, where nothing and no one are as they seem. Who will emerge triumphant? And what will they be when they do?

Content Warning: Mild violence and significant foul language within. Meant for older Young Adult readers (age 15+).

 Tiger, Tiger by Lynne Reid Banks – Did you read The Indian in the Cupboard books? I devoured them, and then had dreams (both daydreams and actual dreams) for years that I had a horse that I kept in my jewelry box. He would get bigger and smaller when I wanted him to. *ahem* Anyway, I was entranced, and when I saw this at the library while picking out books for CutiePants, I had to get it. Tiger, Tiger is perhaps a bit darker than the Indian in the Cupboard series, but still a beautiful and complex novel for young readers. I love that Banks doesn’t “write down” to younger readers. Tiger, Tiger is for ages 12+. If you’re interested in other books by Banks, I also very much enjoyed I, Houdini (a fictional memoir of an escape artist hamster). I always wished it were longer; it was both funny and tender (and written for younger readers, grades 4-7).

Two tiger cub brothers are torn from the jungle and taken to Rome. The stronger cub is trained as a killer at the Coliseum. Emperor Caesar makes a gift of the smaller cub to his beautiful daughter, Aurelia. She adores her cub, Boots. Julius, a young animal keeper, teaches Aurelia how to earn Boots’s trust. Boots is pampered while his brother, known as Brute, lives in the cold and darkness, let out only to kill. Caesar trusts Julius to watch Aurelia and her prized pet. But when a prank backfires, Boots temporarily escapes and Julius must pay with his life. Thousands watch as Julius is sent unarmed into the arena to face the killer Brute.

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