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review 2020-04-30 12:32
Fairies
Fairies:: A Guide to the Celtic Fair Folk - Morgan Daimler

by Morgan Daimler

 

This book is about the folklore and fairy tradition of Ireland. It may well be the most down-to-earth book on the subject on the market to date. Rather than the airy-fairy Victorian ideas of pretty little girl fairies that popular culture has spread, this is about the original tales and beliefs that are still prevalent in a mostly Christian Ireland.

 

The book is well researched. Tales from many places in the British Isles and Europe are cited and the folk beliefs are given context. Actual belief in fairies isn't required to enjoy the relation of the stories, though the author is mostly directing the information at a Pagan readership where some degree of belief is relevant.

 

There is a lot of repetition. Perhaps it was needed for context but I've seen the same information about fairy behavior in three different chapters and that gives the impression of padding. My only other complaint is that in an early chapter there was a promise to explain the difference between fairies and nature spirits, but only a passing reference to the latter later on. I pretty much understand the difference but would have liked to see it put into words to clarify.

 

Overall a good reference for anyone new to the subject, although the classic reference books are cited so often that I wonder if someone with more than a passing interest should just reading those works. Mostly well written, though it meanders in the last couple of chapters.

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review 2020-02-11 23:31
The Night Country / Melissa Albert
The Night Country - Melissa Albert

In The Night Country, Alice Proserpine dives back into a menacing, mesmerizing world of dark fairy tales and hidden doors. Follow her and Ellery Finch as they learn The Hazel Wood was just the beginning, and that worlds die not with a whimper, but a bang.

With Finch’s help, Alice escaped the Hinterland and her reclusive grandmother’s dark legacy. Now she and the rest of the dregs of the fairy tale world have washed up in New York City, where Alice is trying to make a new, unmagical life. But something is stalking the Hinterland’s survivors―and she suspects their deaths may have a darker purpose. Meanwhile, in the winking out world of the Hinterland, Finch seeks his own adventure, and―if he can find it―a way back home...

 

The follow up to The Hazel Wood. I’m still rating this one 4 stars, but it wasn’t quite as enthralling as the initial offering, in my opinion. Some of this may be due to my coming down with the flu as I was finishing up--nothing might have completely pleased me under those conditions.

While I felt like The Hazel Wood was about breaking out of the destructive patterns that hold us in bad places in our lives, The Night Country seems to be about searching for new ways to live after making that escape. It’s not easy and you continually find yourself heading back towards old, familiar patterns of behaviour instead of breaking new ground.

Alice’s mother, Ella, finds herself feeling helpless as she watches her daughter struggle with this whole situation, as generations of parents have done before her. I found myself liking Ella and Alice more than I did in the previous book and being downright fond of Ellery Finch!

Once again, I would caution other readers that although there are fairy tale elements to the story, don’t be expecting handsome princes or entrancing Fae lords. However, if you like these two books of Melissa Albert’s, I would recommend trying An Enchantment of Ravens and Sorcery of Thorns, both by Margaret Rogerson.

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text 2020-01-15 12:32
Missing: Spirited Away by Gakuto Coda, translated by Andrew Cunningham
Missing (Novel) Volume 1: Spirited Away - Gakuto Coda

When Kyoichi Utsume was a child, he and his younger brother disappeared. He somehow managed to return, but his little brother did not. Ever since then, he's been obsessed with death and kamikakushi, mysterious beings that are said to spirit people away.

Rumors start flying at Utsume's high school that he, the guy who supposedly doesn't believe in love and romance, has found a girlfriend and is introducing her to everyone. Utsume's friends in the Literature Club discover that the rumors are true when he brings Ayame, a cute but oddly easy to overlook girl, to meet them. Ryoko and Takemi, two members of the Literature Club, decide to follow the couple and come back with gaps in their memories and a strange story of visiting a terrifying other world. Since there's no longer any sign of either Utsume or Ayame, it looks like Ryoko and Takemi's story may be true. Can the members of the Literature Club somehow retrieve their friend from the other world? Will he even want to come back?

My first impression of this was that it was better than I expected. The translation was relatively smooth, and the lack of the usual anime cliches in the story was a welcome change of pace from many of the more recently published light novels I've read (no boob jokes! no harems composed of several well-worn character types!).

Utsume made me roll my eyes, with the way the other characters referred to him as "Dark Prince" and "Your Majesty." Utsume's personality was cold and didn't seem like the sort that would attract a bunch of devoted friends. It helped, a little, that Coda spent time establishing why the other members of the Literature Club cared so much about him. Toshiya had been around when Utsume and his brother originally disappeared and had seen the changes in him after he'd come back. Utsume had helped Ryoko through an exam-inspired panic attack. Aki was a prickly girl who recognized parts of herself in Utsume. Of all of the characters, Aki was probably my most favorite, but I wish she hadn't been quite so focused on Utsume.

The teens' efforts to rescue their friend took them in a couple different directions, and I'm hoping at least some of that comes up in the second book as well. One half of the Literature Club talked to a mysterious magician named Jinno, while the other half talked to a man who was essentially part of Japan's version of the men in black.

The books' ending was confusing. What happened? It seemed like one particular character had been shot, but then for some reason they were fine. Why did another one of the characters disappear? Was that Ayame's influence?

If it weren't for the confusing ending, I think I might have liked this a bit more. I'm still looking forward to reading the second book in the series, at any rate.

Extras:

A short afterword written by the author, an excerpt from the next book, and an excerpt from the manga based on this book.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2019-09-26 01:55
The Unkindest Tide / Seanan McGuire
The Unkindest Tide (October Daye) - Seanan McGuire

Hundreds of years ago, the Selkies made a deal with the sea witch: they would have the sea for as long as she allowed it, and when the time came, she would call in all their debts at once. Many people assumed that day would never come. Those people were wrong.

When the Luidaeg—October "Toby" Daye's oldest and most dangerous ally—tells her the time has come for the Selkies to fulfill their side of the bargain, and that Toby must be a part of the process, Toby can't refuse. Literally. The Selkies aren't the only ones in debt to the Luidaeg, and Toby has to pay what she owes like anyone else. They will travel to the fabled Duchy of Ships and call a convocation of the Selkies, telling them to come and meet the Luidaeg's price...or face the consequences.

Of course, nothing is that simple. When Dianda Lorden's brother appears to arrest Dianda for treason against the Undersea, when a Selkie woman is stripped of her skin and then murdered, when everything is falling apart, that's when Toby will have to answer the real question of the hour.

Is she going to sink? Or is she going to swim?

 

I can’t tell you how much I enjoy spending time in October Daye’s world--the land of Faerie right adjacent to our own world. Where Hobs, Pixies, and Brownies (among many others) inhabit the land and Mermaids, Selkies, and octopus-headed Cephali live undersea in the Kingdom of Saltmist. I keep meaning to find some books on fairy folklore to brush up on my fae identification skills.

This book features the Luidaeg (the Sea Witch) prominently. As one of the First Born of Faerie, she has awesome powers and anyone with any sense is scared witless of her. Except for our dear Toby, who has seen through the Luidaeg’s thorny disguise to the caring person on the inside. Controlled by a geas laid on her by one of her sisters, the Luidaeg is compelled to only tell the truth and to help those who request assistance, although she is allowed to charge high prices for that help.

This is the point where shit gets real if you are a Selkie--the Sea Witch is calling in their chips and calling on Toby to seal the deal. Toby has a soft spot for the Selkies--her first fiance was Connor, a Selkie. Selkies also straddle the line between humanity and the Fae, just as Changelings do, so Toby can relate to that too. The trick is to find a way to both let the Luidaeg keep her word and to let her be merciful.

Seanan McGuire’s inventiveness never fails to please me. I am so glad that the next book is set up in the plot of this one. Forget Finding Nemo, we’re going to be Finding Simon.

If I have any frustration with this series, its the constant irritation of October’s estranged daughter, Gillian. October has been rejected by her, her father & step-mother (who, curiously is also October’s grandmother) for reasons that seem spurious to me. Toby has saved her repeatedly and gets zero credit for it. I’m not sure where McGuire is headed with this particular plot line, but I’m sure it’s not random. OMG, I’m like a soap-opera fan, I must tune in to the next installment to see what happens.

Please keep writing, Ms. McGuire! I will keep reading.

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review 2019-09-13 04:36
Days Gone Bad by Eric R. Asher
Days Gone Bad - Eric R. Asher

Damian Valdis Vesik is a necromancer in St. Louis. His shop, Death's Door, provides spell-craft supplies, crystals, and other artifacts that sorcerers and Wiccans might be interested in. His sister, Sam, is a vampire - as far as I could figure out, Damian met his teacher, Zola, in the aftermath of his sister being attacked. Since then, he's also acquired several fairy lodgers and their annoyingly bitey cu sith puppies.

The book starts with a wedding invitation. Sam's ex-boyfriend is getting married, and she's pissed. Damian isn't 100% sure about her self-control, so, in order to appease her, he offers to attend the wedding and somehow make it horrible. Meanwhile, Zola is back, with news that there's something worrisome going on involving demons.

That's the story as I understood it. One of this book's problems (it had several) was that it didn't feel particularly focused. I generally understood that the primary storyline was supposed to be about the demons (demon?), but I couldn't get a handle on whether the author was setting it up to the the overarching storyline of the series, with something else as the true focus of this particular book, or whether it was actually this book's story. Or both.

Everything kicked off with the wedding invitation. Even though this was one of my Book Bonanza purchases and the author himself told me that this was the first book in the series, I still found myself wondering whether I'd actually started with the first book. Damian kept mentioning a bunch of characters like I should know them already - his vampire sister probably threw me the most. After a flurry of character introductions, the story fell into a frustrating pattern: the characters would eat junk food and/or spend some time joking around, something serious would happen, and then the characters would go back to eating junk food and/or joking around. This pattern held even as the characters were attempting to escape a zombie horde - during a brief quiet moment, Damian managed to find some expired Moon Pies and chowed down.

At some point during all the joking, chimichanga/pizza/beef jerky eating, and violent but largely forgettable vampire/demon/zombie scenes, Damian remembered that there was a wedding he was supposed to go to. He went, and then a scene occurred that utterly ruined the book and main character for me, and left me regretting that I'd purchased both Book 1 and Book 2 together because, hey, why not? (This is why not.) Warning: it involves animal abuse.

Just prior to the wedding, Damian learned how to do a bit of fairy magic. In particular, he learned a growth spell that could cause plants to grow extremely quickly. While at the wedding, he recalled a pet parrot of his who'd died from eating rice, and who he'd then raised from the dead. After scaring off a flower girl in a contrived little scene (based on what little I know of small children, I think she'd have been more fascinated by his story than terrified), Damian took her bag of rice and scattered it for the pigeons outside to eat. He then used his new growth spell to cause all of the pigeons in the area who'd eaten the rice to suddenly explode. Both he, his sister Sam, and Ashley, a Wiccan priestess and wedding attendee, thought this was hilarious. Any and all goodwill I had for Damian evaporated.

At a later point in the book, the characters found themselves caught in a trap that had required a massacre to set. Zola commented: "The power and disregard for life it would require are unthinkable." (189) I imagine she meant human life, because not one person had a negative thing to say about Damian blowing up a bunch of pigeons essentially for giggles. I was similarly stony-faced about all the "feeding ferrets to vampires" jokes. Damian didn't like pigeons, so it was okay for him to kill a bunch of them just to ruin a wedding.

(spoiler show)

Damian also didn't like ferrets, so it was hilarious that one of Sam's vampire friends bought a pet ferret each week and ate it.

The ferret thing didn't even make sense. If vampires could feed off of animals and did so in order to avoid harming humans and drawing attention to themselves, why spend so much money on ferrets and run the risk of the pet store owner (the ferrets were always purchased from the same store) finally becoming suspicious? Why not keep, say, a few large dogs around, and bleed them on a rotating basis?

This book had an editor, but I suspect she only did copyediting. This needed more than that. I liked Asher's "voice," for the most part, and I think there was a decent story in here somewhere. Unfortunately, it was buried under a bunch of crap: a large cast of characters I had difficulty remembering and keeping straight, an "everything but the kitchen sink" list of fantasy/paranormal beings, and lots of eating and jokes that tended to fall flat. Nothing seemed to matter. One of the character died, but I could barely remember why I should care. Damian was frequently injured in ways that should have either resulted in his death or extended hospitalization, but someone would always show up to heal him in a matter of hours or days.

There were a couple characters I sort of liked: Zola, Damian's teacher, and Happy the ghost panda. I'm still disappointed that not even Zola told Damian off for what he did to those birds, though, and Happy felt emotionally manipulative, the author's way of making sure that there would be at least one appealing thing in the book. Even Damian admitted that Happy didn't behave like an actual panda. He was more like a cross between a teddy bear and a giant breed puppy.

I will probably read the second book at some point, since I foolishly already purchased it, but I'm not really looking forward to it. It's disappointing, because Asher was one of the handful of Book Bonanza authors I was convinced would be a good fit for me.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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