Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Title: Children of Blood and Bone
Author: Tomi Adyemi
Age Level: Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Part of a Series?: This is a debut novel, but it has a subtitle of “The Orisha Legacy”, so I am guessing it is meant to be the first in a series

*I was provided an electronic copy of the first six chapters of this novel from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:
This novel features a strong-willed heroine in a world where magic used to exist but disappeared. Non-magic users have great fear and hatred of the should-be-magic users (diviners). As a result, the non-magic users have created a society where diviners are less than human. The racial tensions and hatred in the first six chapters are clear, well-done, and very appropriate for our current world climate. The magic aspects of the book are mentioned in passing and appear to be diverse, but have not really been a part of the preview file I received.

Overall Impressions:
The tension in this book is well-done. The book starts out with a bang and keeps rolling at a steady clip for the entire length of this preview. I most definitely hope to read the rest of this book at some point.

The Nitty Gritty:
The characters in this book are magnetic and emotional: all of the main characters and many of the supporting characters (as best as I can guess based on six chapters, anyway) elicited visceral reactions from me. I was rooting for them, mentally jeering at their actions, or mourning for the way racism was impacting their lives. I am eager to find out how their personalities and lives develop over the course of however long the author writes this world.

The one concern I have–and it may be fixed by being able to read the entire book–is the ambiguity of the visual details. There are several creatures mentioned, all evidently large, but I was unable to clearly understand how big they were in relation to each other. Even when they were given a size reference–trees–there was no frame of reference for how big the trees were. There was enough there that I had a sense of it being a rich, full world in the author’s mind, but not quiet enough for me to feel as if I were actually seeing it.

Special Parenting Concerns:
The themes of this book–racism and hatred–are heavy and dark. It is important for parents to be aware of this. The first six chapters handled it well, and I believe that if the rest of the book maintains this tone and skill in handling it, this book could provide excellent opportunities for dialogue on these topics. Each parent is the best judge of their children, but for the most part, as long as parents are aware and ready to discuss these issues with their children, this is an excellent approach to the topics. In fact, it could be a great book for parents and children to read together.

You Will Like This If…:

  • You like books featuring magic
  • You want an accessible and approachable way to explore, learn about, and expand your thinking on racism

My Rating: 4 Stars

I am giving this “only” 4 stars because it is only a partial review; I don’t know exactly how the plot will work out or which of the book’s drawbacks will get straightened out. If nothing changed, however, the book would receive 4 stars. It’s exciting, fast-moving, and emotional. And that’s just in the first six chapters. I even found myself entangled with multiple characters, including ones I am guessing are going to have a smaller role in the overall novel. Some of the language felt “purposefully elevated”, rather than natural, as if the author were trying to enhance the historical feel of the world. But then some of the language also produced goose-bumps. This is certainly a book I hope to finish and, I am fairly certain the chances are high that my rating would go up once I have the entire book to read.

*this partial book review is also posted on Goodreads and NetGalley

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Short Story: Daemon Academy by Danielle Rose

daemon academy

Title: Daemon Academy
Author: Danielle Rose
Genre: Horror
Age: Young Adult (although this will depend on the maturity of the reader to some degree)
Is This Part of a Series?: No

Summary: (*taken from the Daemon Academy page on Goodreads)
Kemper Academy is over a hundred years old, but it has only recently reopened after a series of murders and stories of hauntings shut it down. Avlynn, a new student, refuses to let the rumors scare her, chalking them up to a bit of friendly freshman hazing. But when night falls and screams draw her from her room, she finds the truth is much more horrifying than any ghost story.

Overall Impression:
This was a quick read with just the right amount of scariness to make me tense, but not induce bad dreams.

The Nitty Gritty:
I enjoyed this story from the very first sentence. Ms. Rose clearly put thought into finding heavy duty words. Almost all of the sentences in Daemon Academy do more than just one job: character building, world building, atmosphere building, etc. Which is a very good thing, in this short story. (In any short story, really).

My favorite part of this story was the way it fits within the horror genre. There was plenty of tension and atmosphere, a spooky setting and a great legend to go with it, and even a set of well-developed characters. Despite all of these elements that were appropriate to the horror genre, however, the gore level (and by this I mean level of description of blood, ghosts, hauntings, etc that make horror so horrifying) was at the perfect level for me. It was scary and other-worldly, but not graphic.

The worst part of this story is that it ends. While nothing is as thoroughly developed as in a novel, the perception is that the depth exists for them. And then ending to the story certainly leaves me wanting to know what happens next (although this is a complete story).

Special Considerations:
As this is a horror story, I believe it is important for parents to read this before letting their younger teenagers read it. It is a quick read, so won’t take up too much of your time, and a read-through will allow you to gauge whether or not your child will enjoy this or be disturbed by this. You know your child best, after all.

Goodreads Rating: 4.86 Stars (7 Ratings)
Amazon Rating: 5 Stars (3 Reviews)
My Rating: 5 Stars

My other reviews of Ms. Rose’s work:
Blood Rose

Craft Study: Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey

dragonflight

Title: Dragonflight
Author: Anne McCaffrey
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Age: Young Adult +
Is This Part of a Series?: Yes (Book 1 of a trilogy; plus many other books set on this planet)

*I have bought this book multiple times throughout my lifetime and currently have one copy of each book in this trilogy (and a few other Pern books) on my bookcases

Summary: 
*This summary was taken from the Dragonflight page on Amazon.

To the nobles who live in Benden Weyr, Lessa is nothing but a ragged kitchen girl. For most of her life she has survived by serving those who betrayed her father and took over his lands. Now the time has come for Lessa to shed her disguise—and take back her stolen birthright.

But everything changes when she meets a queen dragon. The bond they share will be deep and last forever. It will protect them when, for the first time in centuries, Lessa’s world is threatened by Thread, an evil substance that falls like rain and destroys everything it touches. Dragons and their Riders once protected the planet from Thread, but there are very few of them left these days. Now brave Lessa must risk her life, and the life of her beloved dragon, to save her beautiful world. . . .

Overall Opinion:
This is not necessarily the best book I have ever read, but it is certainly the book I have reread the most times–and I haven’t reached my limit on it yet, either. This book captured my imagination the first time I read it, led me to reading almost all of her other Pern books, set me on the path to writing fantasy, and still leaves me day dreaming about having my own dragon-rider bond. I have always loved this book and always will.

The Nitty Gritty:
During my second semester of the Stonecoast program I was finding myself facing what I thought was burnout: books were not seeming as exciting to me. My only other theory was that perhaps I was so focused on the craft of writing that I would no longer be able to “just” read. Neither was a very pleasant thought. And then I got swept along on a week of whirlwind reading: six books in seven days. A miracle with two small children interrupting me every other breath. And one of those miracle books was my trusty old standby, Dragonflight. I decided to take a closer look at it to see why I enjoyed it. This is what I found:

The first thing I noticed was the characters: all of the characters are multi-dimensional and, more uniquely, perhaps, are established on the first page. Every time a new character was introduced, they were established in an equally succinct manner. Feeling as if I knew the character–and could relate to the character–so quickly did not, however, mean that there was nothing else to learn about them. (Even in later books in this series there are still new aspects and greater depths revealed the longer the reader “journeys” with the characters).

Another difference from traditional books was the point of view structure. Dragon flight is separated into four parts, each one separated from the others by varying amounts of time. And although each part contained the same set of protagonists, they all had a different “antagonist” as well. While not all of these antagonists were traditional bad guys, they all stood between the protagonists and their goals. Over all, it was a very interesting approach to antagonists.

Something else I noticed about this book (after comparing it with the other five books I read during that magical week), was that it was a feel good book. It dealt with strong relationships bonding characters together and providing them with the tools and perseverance to triumph over the difficulties and evils in their lives. The sort of relationships everyone would like to have and be a part of. No wonder I have read it over and over again.

Goodreads Rating: 4.08 Stars (80,146 Ratings)
Amazon Rating: 4.4 Star (372 Reviews)
My Rating: 5 Stars
There are probably things I would do differently if I were writing this story, but there are also plenty of things that I learned from reading it the way Ms. McCaffrey chose to write it. It has inspired generations of readers and writers and has helped the speculative fiction genres grow and evolve. I will always own a copy of this book and I will read it to my children–and myself–many more times in the future.

Briar Rose by Jane Yolen

Briar Rose

Title: Briar Rose
Author: Jane Yolen
Genre: Fairy Tale/Fiction
Age: Young Adult through Adult
Is This Part of a Series?: Yes (the Fairy Tale Series created by Terri Windling)

*I purchased a used copy of this book for a seminar on Fairy Tales taught by Theodora Goss

Summary:
Rebecca and her grandmother, Gemma, have a special relationship with each other. One centered around Gemma’s own version of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. This tale of Briar Rose, as told by Gemma to the younger Rebecca, is interspersed between chapters of Rebecca as a young woman. In these chapters with grown-up Rebecca (the “present”), we follow along as she attempts to learn about her grandmother’s past after Gemma claimed, as she lay dying, that Gemma was, in fact, the Briar Rose from her story. In the chapter set in the past, we get to hear the wonderful story that Gemma wove and see the development of the special relationship that grew between Gemma and Rebecca.

Overall Impression:
I loved this book–and not just because these characters are Polish and of Polish descent like I am, either. Since reading it the first time, I have recommended it to many people. It touched me, reaching below the surface of my reader’s brain to the part of me that is made up of more than just a person needing a diversion. It is one of those books that I aspire to be able to match when writing my own novels and, recently, I have been feeling as if it is time for a reread. This book is definitely a permanent member of my personal library.

The Nitty Gritty:
This was a great book. Nothing else need be said about it, except go read it! Of course, since the whole purpose of this blog is to provide you with a hoard of book reviews, and I believe a book review should look at at least some elements of craft, I’ll be kind and give you a bit more to go off of. But seriously. Read it. It’s worth it.

I loved the format of alternating chapters between the story Gemma was telling and the journey that Becca was going on. It is rare that I enjoy this sort of formatting. I tend to get impatient with not seeing enough of one side of the story at once. I will get impatient and skip chapters, chunking them together in a different order based on which character I am most interested in and then going back to catch the rest. In the case of Briar Rose, however, Ms. Yolen did such a wonderful job of thoroughly linking the chapters together that I felt no need to skip around. Each chapter built on the character development, theme, and suspense provided in the previous chapter. So even though they were set in two separate time periods and advanced through their respective time periods at a different rate, they were all integral to both the previous chapter and the following chapter, creating a snowball effect that kept me glued to the pages–in the order that Ms. Yolen had settled on!

In fact, I was impressed with how much of a page turner it was, despite the fact that it was a more of an emotional book than an action novel. I will admit that it hit home a little more than it might otherwise have done because it was following a Polish family, which is significant for me, because my maternal lineage is Polish and I have always strongly identified with it. The section about Josef Potocki also brought to mind the time I got to visit the Holocaust Museum in D.C. I was about six months pregnant with my first child and it all hit home how my husband and I both would have been seen as defective (glasses, bad teeth, coloring not quite right, etc) and that the baby I was carrying wouldn’t have been allowed if Hitler had had his way. There were also some bricks from one of the Polish ghettos and I had the idea that I could be standing on the same bricks as family members. I actually had a family member die in Auschwitz. All of that said, however, and I still feel it would be an emotional book for anyone reading it. The characters are relatable to the point of having an every man feel–but they are distinct and complex too, allowing for an easy connection between the book and the reader. The drive to know your family history and the journey and discoveries Becca encountered; the idea of what is happily ever after; weaving it in with a fairy tale…it was all great. It was all relatable, thought-provoking, and impactful. This is a book I will always be grateful that I read!

Book Club Chatter:
There are the obvious questions surrounding the Holocaust that could be addressed, but which most people are familiar with and have probably dealt with one or more times in the past. So I’m going to go ahead and skip those, although they are certainly worth covering if that is something your book club is interested in. Here are some other themes and questions to consider:

  • What counts as happily ever after? How do you determine if you, or someone in your past, have “reached” happily ever after? Is it the same for everyone?
  • What makes this a fairy tale?
  • Is it important to know your family history? Why or why not?
  • How do negative events in world history (large scale events that impact many people), impact individuals? Is there an event that personally impacted you or your generation? How do you think it shaped you?

Goodreads Rating: 3.78 (9,609 Ratings)
Amazon Rating: 4.1 (219 Reviews)
My Rating: 5 stars (along with a permanent spot on my bookshelves and a future date on my reading schedule)