Book Review – Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Every Heart a Doorway is about a girl named Nancy who gets sent to a boarding school for youths who have been to different worlds and come back. Like all those at this school, Nancy cannot get back through the door that led to her particular world, in this case the underworld, and so must learn to cope and live in the ‘real’ world. She makes friends, and bonds with others like her when a number of grisly murders happen at the school. Together, Nancy and her friends must find out who would commit such crimes.

I had no idea what to expect when I first started listening to this book on audio, but I absolutely fell in love. The way Seanan McGuire writes her characters is so detailed and wonderful, I wanted to know and be friends with all of these people. In addition, McGuire has created characters who represent those who do not receive much attention – Nancy herself is asexual, and there are nonbinary and gay characters as well.

This book made me feel like I did when I was a child, perhaps even how I feel now. I believed I could enter secret worlds that were entirely made for me, and like the young people at Miss Eleanor’s School, I find myself looking back to those days of whimsy and adventure, even if they were only in my head. And, much like the doors of those worlds, Every Heart a Doorway is itself like a door into a world where people can understand you. There’s so much folklore and fairytale in it as well that I now know that it is no wonder I was so enthralled with the story.

This is probably my favorite book this year, and I have read some amazing books. I recommend to anyone who wants a door back to whimsy.



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Book Review – The Deep by Rivers Solomon

The Deep by Rivers Solomon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Deep by Rivers Solomon

The Deep by Rivers Solomon is absolutely a five-star read. The premise is that the African slaves who were dumped off the side of slave ships gave birth to water-breathing children who then became mermaid-like creatures called the wajinru. In this group of people there is what is called the Historian, who holds all of the memories and, of course, history of the wajinru as a whole. Only the Historian remembers. The Deep is about one such Historian, Yetu, who breaks from tradition to find herself, and ultimately reconnect with the history of her people.

This book is about memory and who holds memories, whose job it is to remember. It is also about how remembering keeps a people and a culture alive, something I have personal experience with. I am not only a classicist, someone who keeps alive literature from the ancient world, but I am also Jewish. The latter causes me to relate to this book the most, as the wajinru, and ultimately those of African descent, try to keep memories and histories alive, so have the Jewish people after their own demise – and like Yetu, this is what I feel has been handed down to me in certain ways.
Rivers Solomon does a fantastic job depicting what she calls “Rememberings”, not only represented by the Historian, but also by the ocean that keeps the wajinru safe and their memories secure. The depth of the ocean parallels just how deeply their memories go, and us readers see how much of it gets lost when Yetu abandons the deep for a fresh start.

I recommend this book to those who keep memories alive, especially in times of turmoil like these.
Black Lives Matter, and so do their experiences and memories.



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Book Review – The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The Forgotten Beasts of Eld is a high fantasy tale that I am so fortunate to have found. A wizard woman who commands animals and learns, along with others she loves and who love her, to be a real and genuine person. Sybel the wizard woman is the link between the hidden world of magic and that of men, two of which are fortunate to be able to enter into her world.

McKillip has written a deep and real character that is Sybel, a complicated woman who learns about herself, even in the midst of the worst experiences a woman could have. She writes a mythology that I want to delve deeper into, and I hope that it exists further in her other novels. The writing is slow and contemplative, and, while the lack of action may deter some readers, I found the story to be wonderfully meditative and atmospheric.

McKillip has turned the Arthurian legends upside down, and made women and the legends of nature those that change not only the fate of the world, but also how the world chooses to live. The Arthurian king to Sybel’s Merlin-like character has yet to grow into a fine man, but he has grown with love, and that is what Sybel has had to learn to give and receive.

I’ve felt I can relate very strongly with Sybel, in terms of strength, both in possession and in wanting; of wanting to love and be loved; of wanting to know who I am and why; of learning that being is complicated and yet the most wonderful thing to be.

Readers who loved books like The Chronicles of Prydain and A Wizard in Earthsea will absolutely love The Forgotten Beasts of Eld.



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Book Review – The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo

The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This novella is a deep, fantastical read, full of myth and history, which I believe is based on Chinese history and myth. It is also about stories and storytelling; memory; female companionship in all senses of the term; the role women play. The last one is really what makes this novella. The women in this book define their own roles, from the Empress herself, to Rabbit, the Empress’ confidant and teller of her story. In the end it is Rabbit’s listener, Cleric Chih, who will go on to remember and retell the stories.

The book starts off slow, and a bit confusing. The history is the core of the story, though we as readers, as well as Chih, do not understand this until well into the story. That is okay though, as it gives the reader the sense that we are indeed listening to a complicated past unfold itself, and that we are now the storytellers. It reminds us that all is stories, and we must continue such a tradition.

I recommend The Empress of Salt and Fortune to those who love historical high fantasy, similar to books like The Black Tides of Heaven and The Encyclopedia of Early Earth.



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Mooncakes – Extended Review

“Nova Huang knows more about magic than your average teen witch. She works at her grandmothers’ bookshop, where she helps them loan out spell books and investigate any supernatural occurrences in their New England town.

One fateful night, she follows reports of a white wolf into the woods, and she comes across the unexpected: her childhood crush, Tam Lang, battling a horse demon in the woods. As a werewolf, Tam has been wandering from place to place for years, unable to call any town home.

Pursued by dark forces eager to claim the magic of wolves and out of options, Tam turns to Nova for help. Their latent feelings are rekindled against the backdrop of witchcraft, untested magic, occult rituals, and family ties both new and old in this enchanting tale of self-discovery.” – Taken from the summary on Goodreads.

Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu has been recommended so much by the internet book communities, and I was not at all disappointed. The artwork is absolutely gorgeous and the story is as heartwarming as any story could ever get. The diversity included in this novel is amazing as well, including diverse characters both real and mythological.

Overall, there really wasn’t anything I didn’t like in this novel. However, there were elements which I thought could be expanded upon. I feel like some aspects were limited, such as the mythology included in certain parts of the story. We see mythical creatures that live in the nearby forest, though with no explanation as to what they are or where they come from – all we know is that they are friends of the heroes. In addition to this mythology, I would’ve liked to have seen more lore about werewolves, which admittedly the protagonists are not so learned in. This they did a good job with, creating a limited perspective in the narration so that readers are able to learn and go on this adventure along with the protagonists. In any case, I hope perhaps Walker and Xu will go on to expand this universe a bit more, as not only do I want to know more about the mythology of Mooncakes, but I just want to read more of Walker and Xu’s work!

While there is so much explained about Tam’s (the werewolf) fight for self-realization, but not so much for Nova’s (the young witch). We see Nova at some odds with her parents about her not having left home to find herself. In the end she does decide to leave to find herself, but we don’t get much insight into the decision making that went on in her mind. While this isn’t necessarily essential to Nova’s character, I’d still like to have seen some more about her character and personality.

The following are the elements of this book I absolutely loved. One thing this book did phenomenally is portray diverse characters in abundance and depth. Nova Huang comes from a half-Chinese half-Jewish family – portrayed wonderfully by the joint celebration of Chinese New Year and Sukkot. She is raised by two grandmothers. She is also in a queer relationship with Tam Lang who is also, I assume, POC, and is non-binary. Unfortunately we don’t get to meet too many other characters besides Nova’s family and the antagonists, but I have no doubt Walker and Xu would portray them with the same care and depth.

What can I say about Wendy Xu’s art in this book other than that it is amazing. The colors remind me of Autumn (no surprise as it is very themed for Halloween), and while they are simple drawings, they are colored and expressed so vividly. I especially liked the trees and the art of the mythical forest creatures – I just want a whole book of Xu’s mythical creatures!

It is clear from the beginning that Nova and Tam have a history as childhood friends (and perhaps more), and so it was no surprise that they fell together so quickly in the beginning of the book. In addition, the two from the start are willing to work on their relationship, it’s not star-crossed or fated, it’s simply made and worked on by two people who have a lot of love to give. Of course there is a grand kiss at the end, but instead of it being a kiss after a long slow burn, it is a kiss of relief that things can finally settle.

I recommend Mooncakes to anyone who needs a bit of love and magic in their life.

I know this is my first book of 2020, but I can already see it being one of my favorites.

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Book Review – Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu

Mooncakes

Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Mooncakes has been recommended so much by the internet book communities, and I was not at all disappointed. The artwork is absolutely gorgeous and the story is as heartwarming as any story could ever get. The diversity included in this novel is amazing as well: you have a non-binary character and their deaf girlfriend who is part of (what I believe is) a part Chinese part Jewish (etc.) family. Not to mention the diverse mythical beings, which I would love to see more of in Walker and Xu’s other works!

Most of all this is a story about love, family, and growing into one’s self.
I recommend Mooncakes to anyone who needs a bit of love and magic in their life.

I know this is my first book of 2020, but I can already seeing it being one of my favorites.



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Book Review – The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, #1)

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I don’t know why I never picked up The Golden Compass before, but I really should have, because this book is brilliant.

Such a wonderful, in-depth story with complex characters (even the very background characters were as complex as the protagonists!), I could not put it down, save for the times when academia made me.
Pullman is a wonderful storyteller, and knows how to make readers keep asking questions. In addition, Pullman uses description in a remarkable way, especially during scenes of fights and intense drama, using description styles which directly reference those used by the ancient poet Vergil in his epic, the Aeneid.

The character of Lyra is someone whom all adventurers should like to be: curious, headstrong, having a clear sense of fairness, and full of love for her friends. And the daemons, the souls of the human characters, let readers in on a side of humanity rarely seen in everyday life.

I cannot recommend this book enough to those who love adventure and a sense of discovery.



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Book Review- Witches of Lychford by Paul Cornell

Witches of Lychford (Lychford, #1)

Witches of Lychford by Paul Cornell

My rating: 1 of 5 stars


I usually love myself some good, old-fashioned tales about witches. When reading the description and looking at the cover as I browsed the horror section at The Last Bookstore in LA, I thought Witches of Lychford by Paul Cornell would be right up my alley. I am disappointed to say that this novella did not at all meet my expectations, so much so that I really did not think the book was worth finishing.

Firstly, the style of writing was rather awful. Cornell has tried to make a book almost solely of the characters’ thoughts, and, in my opinion, putting too much effort into it. He also provides too much explanation of mundane things while failing to explain important points to the plot at large. It would have been helpful to know more background on the town of Lychford in the beginning, whereas it is hard to know what it’s all about until about page 80 (more than halfway through the book already!).

Secondly, the progression of the plot with the implied themes of the book did not match up. I stopped reading on page 90, and still there are no mention of witches, only implications. What there is are hints at other worlds, similar to fairy worlds one would see in books about the lore of England or Ireland. But the way it is presented by Cornell is all very random. All of a sudden things start happening with no history or indication of why it should be, other than vague experiences hinted at by the characters. That is the big trouble, this book is one big hint, which makes for rather un-compelling reading.

I would go into more detail, but I think that covers a lot of the reasons why I do not like this book. I do not recommend to anyone, unless you like big hints.



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