Category Archives: fantasy

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

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A fantasy novel, Six of Crows follows a crew of seven characters who decide to take on a dangerous heist. Set in the city of Ketterdam, the novel switches between the perspectives of the characters as it goes through the heist as well as their own backstories and interactions. It has a really good found family aspect with well written and diverse characters and relationships, and all of the heist and action scenes are incredibly interesting as well.

Availability: COSMOS, USMAI
Review Submitted by:  Esther Markov
Rating:  Must Read
Challenge: Book to TV

Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas

book coverA modern retelling of Peter Pan, the book focuses on Wendy, who went missing with her two brothers in the woods, only to return months later by herself (and with no memory of what happened). Now five years later as other kids are starting to go missing, Wendy has a chance to get answers when she runs into a boy in the road, a boy Peter who she thought lived only in stories. The book is incredibly interesting as it combines the childhood story we know with a sinister mystery. Both the characters and the relationships are good, and it’s definitely a book that will keep you on your toes and eager to find out what happens next.

Availability: COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Esther Markov
Rating:  Highly Recommended

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

book coverI wasn’t ever going to read The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes on the assumption that, like many books written as late additions to an already stellar series, it wouldn’t hold up. I decided to give it a try and this book is a wayyyy better end than Mockingjay. I 100% recommend this book to anyone who liked the Hunger Games, since previous knowledge gives you more of those “omg I get what’s happening!” moments, but honestly you could read this as a solo book as well. Totally gripping and creepy.

Availability: USMAI and COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Izzy Lott
Rating: Recommended
Challenge: YA with diverse cast of characters

Black Water Sister by Zen Cho

book coverJessamyn Teoh, an unemployed recent Harvard graduate, has just moved back to Malaysia with her family to help her parents get back on their feet. Once she arrives, she starts hearing the voice of her estranged dead grandmother who is angry and seeking revenge on behalf of a god… the Black Water Sister. This book features a queer main character and Malysian folklore. It also touches on the immigrant experience, Asian family dynamics and the challenges of being closeted.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Jo Hoppe
Rating:  Highly Recommended
Challenge: Book with a color in the title.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan

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When twins Jack and Jill were 12, they found a stairwell while seeking refuge from their overbearing parents who tried to fit them each in neat boxes. There they found the Moors, a place of the undead, werewolves and Drowned Gods. In order to survive the harsh world they found themselves in, they learn they need to embrace their true natures which their parents tried to stifle. After all, doors lead to where children need to go.

If you enjoyed the first novella in this series, Every Heart a Doorway, then you will enjoy this sequel. I liked this one more than the latest released and standalone book in the series, Across the Green Grass Fields.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Jo Hoppe
Rating:  Highly Recommended

Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire

book coverAcross the Green Grass Fields is the latest and sixth installment of the Wayward Children series (the first being Every Heart a Doorway). It is a stand alone and can be read without any prior knowledge of the series. After mistakenly revealing a secret about herself to the wrong person, Regan discovers a door that leads to a world of centaurs and other magic equines. There she learns to accept herself and that she is destined to save the Hooflands.

This book has LGBTQIA and lovable characters, and is set against an interesting world. However, even for a novella I found the ending a bit abrupt and sometimes a bit slow. However, if you are looking for a fast, easy read and to scratch your inner horse girl itch, then this book is for you.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Jo Hoppe
Rating:  Recommended
Challenge: Book with a color in the title

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

book coverSomething Wicked This Way Comes feels like a 20th century folk tale. A coming of age story that influenced numerous successful writers in the horror and fantasy genres, it has long been praised as a masterpiece of its genre.

This coming of age dark fantasy is not very violent, not very gory – it’s fear is derived from the genre itself- the fear of the coming of age, of natural order, and all of the limitations and outcomes it must inevitably place upon us. The story is allegorical based on the names, symbols, and folkish quality, but seeing it only as allegorical would not give it enough credit. I think there is more character development and meaning going on than a surface level metaphor.

Perhaps part of that deep meaning comes from how much philosophy and homily Bradbury manages to fit into a short book. He gives us lots of his ponderings of his subject material. Bradbury’s writing is comfortable, consumable, and captures a poetry in his prose that is infectious. Therefore, I can’t find any fault in the amount of extra verbiage, because I found it all very readable. This review is becoming verbose as well, so who am I to talk?

For me, the strongest parts of the novel are the ones that focus on how each of us affect one another – “mold” each other and the give and take we all participate in to get along and belong. The relationship of Jim to Will, Will and his father, and the visitors to the town brings the story home in a way that is relatable beyond a simple allegorical folk tale that hits us on a generic human level. It relates to us as people who were children, are or will be adults, parents or offspring, naive of aging or burdened by it. Parts of it could almost be your own memory, or a look into your future; that perhaps is what gives it the magical and horrific quality people have praised it for, and as Halloween arrives, you could let it arrive early to you like it did Jim and Will by reading this novel in the coming months.

This book is good for:

1. People who enjoy coming of age stories with a mature or darker look at the subject matter
2. A good Halloween read that is creepy but not gory.
3. Stories that use many character foils.
4. You fear the passing of time and need someone to tell you it is going to be ok.

Overall Rating: Highly Recommend
Availability: COSMOS, USMAI, SMCM
Reviewer: Nick Huber 2013
Challenges: Books adapted to Film or TV

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

book coverChildren often go missing. Sometimes, they reappear as mysteriously as they vanished, telling stories of the world they went to through a magic door that appeared just for them, clearly a figment of their wild imagination…or is it? Nancy is one such child. After returning from her world of the dead, she is sent to a boarding school, Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, that specializes in helping other children with her same “condition”. However, when she arrives she discovers all the students, and even the headmaster, have all gone through their own doors and are learning to cope with being back in this world in which they feel they don’t belong to any longer. Soon after Nancy’s arrival, students start to be found dead, and as the new girl suspicion against her starts to mount.

This book was a very enjoyable and fast read. While only 169 pages, interesting characters against a mysterious backdrop. This is an excellent start to a series of novellas that explore other characters and their world.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Jo Hoppe
Rating:  Highly Recommended

Galatea by Madeline Miller

book coverGalatea, the story of the statue of a woman come to life, will leave you wanting more. I would describe this short story as dark and brutal. So much intense emotion is packed into 23 pages. I gave this a rating of “recommended with reservations” because I would recommend looking into the trigger warnings before reading. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in mythology. Madeline Miller has proven to be fantastic at retelling classic mythology. I enjoyed her other books Circe and The Song of Achilles very much.

Availability: COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Erin Crawford
Rating:  Recommended with reservations
Challenge: Book with a one word title

A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle

book coverI remember my best friend in 6th grade reading A Wrinkle in Time and absolutely LOVING it. She would carry it around and try to convince me to read it. When I saw the audiobook available on Libby I decided to finally give it a try. With grand depictions of other dimensions and creatures throughout, this would have been a good first introduction to science fiction. I am happy that I was able to listen to this book in audio format because it had a afterward read by Madelleine L’Engle’s granddaughter. It was nice to hear her speak about the author’s thoughts on the book and how she would brag in her classes that her grandmother wrote the book they were reading. Honestly, I probably would’ve enjoyed it more if I read it as a kid, but it was still fun to listen to as an adult. It’s a fairly quick read (or listen) and I recommend it to anyone like me who felt that they missed out on something big as a kid.

Availability: COSMOS, SMCM, USMAI
Review Submitted by:  Erin Crawford
Rating:  Recommended
Challenge: Book to Film and Audiobook

Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard

cover artEight years ago princess Thanh was given as a hostage to a neighboring kingdom in order to ensure her homeland’s safety. After a fire destroys the palace where she miraculously is saved by a servant girl nobody else has seen, she returns to her home as a diplomat. Things become complicated as unexpectedly, the princess of her host family who Thanh has feelings for arrives just as the mystery of how she survived the fire starts to come to light.

This novella features a diverse cast of characters and is set in a world inspired by precolonial Vietnam. While it’s quite short, there is still some world building and character development which makes me wish the book was longer. I recommend this book for people who are looking for a quick read about a romance set in an interesting world.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Jo Hoppe
Rating:  Recommended

Miranda in Milan by Katharine Duckett

book coverMiranda has spent her young life on an island with her father in exile where he toiled to refine his magical skills. But after she becomes betrothed to Ferdinand, ruler or Naples, they return to Milan and her father’s rightful castle and throne. Miranda is forced to wear a veil at all times and is avoided by all of the servants except Dorothea, a witch and an outcast. While in this golden cage she hears whispers about the mysterious death of her mother, whom she barely remembers. Together, Miranda and Dorothea must unravel the mystery behind her mother’s death and uncover what exactly her father has been working towards during their exile.

This novella would have benefited from being longer. Certain characters weren’t very developed, which would have made the story overall more interesting. It was a quick read, partially because of its length but also because the prose is enjoyable and atmospheric. If the story and characters were more detailed and fleshed out this book would’ve received a higher rating. I recommend this book to people who are interested in a fast story with a focus on a queer relationship and the love between a mother and daughter, and one that evokes the feeling of a modern fairy tale.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Jo Hoppe
Rating:  Recommended