Category Archives: fantasy

Prose and Cons by Amanda Flower

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I chose to read Prose and Cons by Amanda Flower based entirely on the name of the title. Although it wasn’t labeled as such, it is actually the second book in the “A Magical Bookshop Mystery” series; it was a fine entry point of the series and I thought the backstory was adequately explained. The murder occurs during a Poe-try reading (reading of the works of Edgar Allan Poe during an October good and wine festival). I don’t think it is possible to really deduce the murderer.

It was a very light read and is recommended for anyone who likes that type of mystery books. I will probably not read any more in the series.

Availability: COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Andy Ashenfelter
Rating: Recommended

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

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I selected The Magicians (the first book of The Magicians trilogy) by Lev Grossman because I enjoyed the first season of the SyFy tv show. In this urban fantasy, the story’s central character, Quentin Coldwater, attends a school for magic and then has “magical adventures” with his friends (I don’t want to give anything away). This is a little different from the typical “magic school” books i have all read: all of the school is compressed into “part I” of the book (versus a book per year) and Quentin is older (starts as a senior in high school) with more adult past times.

This one is hard to rate. I don’t feel as compelled to rush out and read the other books in the series (in the other series books I reviewed this summer, I quickly finished the series), but I did enjoy that some of the battle magic was based on Dungeons & Dragons, the effort it takes to learn magic, and Quentin’s enjoyment of a fantasy series of books. Some people like a flawed main character– they will really like Quentin, but I found him a little too annoying for my taste.

Availability: COSMOS, SMCM, USMAI
Review Submitted by: Andy Ashenfelter
Rating: Recommended
Challenge: A book made into a film or TV show. The books have been adapted as a SyFy television series (debuted in 2016).

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

Subtle Knife coverThe second book in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series has a well paced plot, but overall it is a less rewarding story than the first. The story starts where the last book left off, with Lyra entering an unknown world, but the vibrant mystery from the previous book has lost a bit of it’s intrigue. The book is full of mysterious elements that drive the plot steadily forward. But this time around, there are fewer characters who readers are asked to invest in, and more characters who are necessary for the plot but don’t stay around very long. There is, on the other hand, one significant character addition that helps balance this out.

Overall, The Subtle Knife is a classic that’s worth reading.

Availability: COSMOS, USMAI,
Submitted by: Sage Burch
Rating: Recommended with Reservations

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets coverI don’t think I need to say much about this book. Harry Potter was everywhere in my childhood, but because I was introduced to the movies first it was hard for me to read something that wasn’t new. I tried to read the first book and was bored. Now as an adult, I decided I’m going to finally read them! I can appreciate the details that weren’t included in the films, and I know as the books go on those differences will be even more meaningful. It may take me a while to get through them all, but I’m really enjoying getting back into this world.

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

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

I read the first book of the Red Rising series, Red Rising, by Pierce Brown. It is young adult, dystopian, science fiction. It is about Darrow, a miner in the Red caste who was proud to be sacrificing for the good of humanity, but eventually realizes that Reds are really just slaves.

It starts out a little slow, but at about 1/3 in, it became very captivating. I enjoyed the world, caste system, and the characters. Although I enjoyed the story and wondered “what next,” I was never worried about Darrow – I did worry about other characters. I was willing to suspend belief on the results from his medical transformation, but some may not be able to.

I also really enjoyed the references to other books:

  •  “So this kid is what? A predestined Alexander? A Caesar? A Genghis? A Wiggin? I ask.” (I assume this is an Ender’s Game reference)
  • In the third book one of the ship names is Dejah Thoris (I assume this is from the princess in the Warlord of Mars books)

Availability: COSMOS,
Review Submitted by: Andy Ashenfelter
Rating: Highly Recommended (with the caveat that it is YA, so not for everyone)
Challenge: A book with a color in the title

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

I usually joke that most of the male protagonists in Neil Gaiman novels are thinly veiled author inserts. That’s not to say I don’t love Gaiman, but that’s just something I’ve noticed. However, that is not the case in “Anansi Boys.” Charlie is a young black man working a dull 9-5 in London, engaged to a woman who does not seem to care much for him, with a soon-to-be mother-in-law who has it out for him. Then his dad dies, and all the pent-up family secrets hiding in Florida come flooding out, and Charlie meets a long-lost brother named Spider.

I enjoyed “Anansi Boys.” The humor was spot-on, and I liked learning more about a mythology that is not as commonly celebrated in Western culture. I can’t speak to the accuracy of the novel’s depictions, but I think it all made for an entertaining read. There were many times in the novel when I couldn’t put the book down due to the fast pace and suspense. While this will never replace my favorite Gaiman novel, “Stardust,” I’d say it’s a close second.

Availability: USMAI
Review Submitted by:  Kimberly Boenig
Rating:  Must Read

From the Dust Returned by Ray Bradbury

From the Dust ReturnedRay Bradbury is a man of many gifts. If you like sci-fi or horror fiction with a dash of fantasy, chances are Bradbury has something for you. From the Dust Returned by Ray Bradbury is one of his later books, and collects a few stories published elsewhere throughout Bradbury’s career, as well as some new ones. Everything is tied up around one family of sorts in Illinois that is made up of all sorts of strange creatures, from a kindly uncle with wings to a sleeping Egyptian princess whose mind explores the world and minds around her. The main conflict that is explored throughout the book is the threat of an increasingly unfazed and secular world against creatures who rely on their fear to thrive and exist.

If you read one story in this book and find it isn’t for you, there’s a good chance that you will find some character and story to hold close to your heart. There’s mortal Timothy’s preparations for the family Homecoming and his inner conflict over whether or not to join his mysterious family in immortality. There’s Cecy and her journey to experience mortal love. There’s Uncle Einer’s adventures into the world, and the life he finds out there. Uncle Einer’s marriage is particularly touching to me, but it may be different for you depending on what you like. I wouldn’t call this my favorite Bradbury book, but it’s still well worth a read.

Availability: USMAI
Review Submitted by: Kimberly Boenig
Rating: Highly Recommended