“I waited for you winterlong”

bear and the nightingale

I chose this book when we were in the midst of the Polar Vortex because it seemed like a great cold weather book, and it was. It was also a beautifully written fairy tale of a historical fantasy novel that is the first of a trilogy. The story centers on takes place in medieval Russia and centers on Vasilia Petrovna, the youngest daughter of lord of a remote village. The villagers have always left offerings for the various forest and household spirits of Russian folklore but Vasya is actually able to see and speak with them. She soon catches the eye of Morzko, the Frost King who wants to claim her for his own for reasons unbeknownst to anyone but him. The real trouble begins when Vasya’s father returns with an fiercely pious wife from Moscow (Vasya’s mother died when she was born). The wicked stepmother is followed shortly by a charismatic new priest who frightens the villagers out of worshipping the old gods and spirits. Soon the village is beset by crop failures and bad luck which they blame on the “witch-woman” Vasilia.

There was never a moment that I was not completely enraptured by this store and this writing. It’s definitely not necessary to wait until mid-winter to feel the wind and the chill or the warmth of the kitchen oven that is the center of the family life in Vasya’s home. Yes there is an “evil stepmother” but she’s more tragic than she is truly evil. The characters are richly drawn and the imagery is lovely. I cannot recommend this book enough to anyone who wants to get lost in a fairly tale for a little while.

“Beautiful girl, lovely dress. Where she is now I can only guess”

good as gone

How does it affect a family when the worst thing imaginable happens? How do parents influence their child’s decisions without even realizing that they’re doing it? How do you deal with the fact that your long lost loved one might be an imposter? These are some of the themes throughout Amy Gentry’s suspense novel Good as Gone. The novel begins eight years from the present day when young Julie Whitaker is taken from her bedroom at knife point by an unknown abductor never to be seen again. The only witness is her terrified younger sister. We rejoin the family in the present and a young woman whom they immediately recognize as Julie knocks on the door. After the initial excitement dies down, her mother Anna begins to have doubts that this young woman is her long lost daughter. She is contacted by a private investigator who only serves to inflame those doubts.

While I did kind of figure out where this book was going, it was after several wrong guesses and it was very late in the book. The book switches perspectives between Anna and MaybeJulie and once you get used to the format it flows nicely. The characters are a little bit infuriating but given their history of trauma and loss it’s understandable. The action moves along swiftly but it never feels rushed or glossed over. The ending is the sort of neatly tied up package the never happens in real life but sometimes that’s just what you need.

I immediately added Amy Gentry’s next book, As Long as We Both Shall Live to my TBR list as soon as I finished this one. She has the potential to be as great a suspense writer as Megan Abbott.

“Master of puppets I’m pulling your strings”

flavia deluce 2

This is the second book in the Flavia de Luce mystery series of which there are currently ten. For those that don’t know Flavia is a precocious, motherless eleven year old with a passion for poisons who lives in a crumbling country house in the village of Bishop’s Lacy in England in the 1950s. She lives with her father who has emotionally checked out and her sisters Ophelia and Daphne who seem to despise her. Like all protagonists of mystery series, Flavia lives in a town with an inordinate amount of murders and manages to come to the aid of local law enforcement whether they’d like her to or not. This second book finds Flavia investigating the mysterious death of puppeteer Rupert Porson, who is electrocuted during the performance of a show.

Half the enjoyment of a good cozy mystery isn’t merely solving the puzzle but meeting all the tertiary characters in whatever setting the mystery takes place. Bishops Lacy in 1950 has these in spades. There’s a vicar (there’s always a vicar) and his deeply unpleasant wife, the late puppeteer’s lovely but somewhat shifty assistant and two delightfully dotty old biddies that run the local tea shop. This particular volume seemed to wander a little bit more but I don’t mind this so much early in a series as there’s a lot of scene setting that needs to be done. Flavia herself is aware of her weirdness and does her best to disguise it around most people. Reading her adventures through town is a lot of fun.

A good cozy mystery is like a palate cleanser for a lot of heavier reading if you can find a good series. If you’re all caught up on your favorite cozy mystery or you’d just like a new one I’d highly recommend the Flavia de Luce series.

“Perhaps it’s just the way the light hits, but everything looks like a target to me”

deadly class

This is a graphic novel I’ve had on my shelf for quite some time but didn’t pick up until I heard the television adaptation had come out on SyFy. I love nothing more than being a smug book reader. I’ve heard it described has Harry Potter for assassins and the description is apt but I think you need to throw a little John Hughes in there to make it a perfect comparison. Deadly Class is the story of Marcus Lopez, a homeless teen in 1987 who is accepted into Kings Dominion, a super secret high school for potential assassins. Instead of jocks and preps, the cliques in his school consist of the kids of top KGB agents, white nationalists, South American drug lords and powerful Yakuza. Marcus fits in with none of them, making his high school experience exponentially more precarious than the average misfit teen from the 80s

This book, as you might expect is extremely graphically violent. So if that sort of thing puts you off, this is not the graphic novel for you. This first volume follows Marcus’ first days at King’s Dominion and introduces us to a slew of potential friends and enemies. He already has a reputation due to an incident at boy’s home that isn’t fully fleshed out in this volume. There’s also a mysterious mad man with a burned face stalking him due to the same incident. Volume one ends with some of Marcus’ problems solved but with much bigger ones on the horizon.

Aside from being a lovely bit of nostalgia for anyone who was a high school misfit in the 1980s (I did not see my teens until the 90s), this book starts out with interesting characters, great action and some genuine laugh out loud moments. Not to mention the fact that the art is stunning. If you’re not put off by the violence you should add this one to your graphic novel collection.

“You’ve got to pick up every stitch”

practical magic

 

I recently started getting into an actual magical practice. I’ve had an interest in it for years but never but never seriously practiced it. Since a lot of books on magic can be pretty esoteric, I wanted bare bones basic book to give me a general idea of where to start. Practical Magic for Beginners did a nice job of that. It begins with short exercises designed to improve focus and direct your energy works up to some basic rituals that you can personalize and make your own.

The instructions and writing are straightforward and easy to follow, though I could have done with some more illustrations as I am not a particularly visual thinker. It doesn’t dive particularly deep into particular types of magical practice bu that’s to be expected. I would have liked some references to different books or websites for those who wanted to study more about a particular type of magical practice. It did have some good tips. I have no started a magical journal which I add to daily and I am doing the basic exercises referenced in the beginning.

If you’re interested in started a magical practice or just curious about magic in general, this book is a great way to dip your toe in the waters. It also gives you some great hands-on activities you can do to get started.