The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien

Source: Goodreads

Bilbo Baggins is a typical hobbit. He likes tea and smoking his pipe in front of his fireplace and has no intention of going on an adventure.
Gandalf the wizard has other plans.
So it comes to pass that 13 dwarves barge into Bilbo’s home, eat all of his food, insult his abilities as a burglar (of which he has none, anyway), and then leave for an adventure without him.


While the story itself was intriguing, the overly parental way in which Gandalf basically dragged everyone where they needed to be and the subsequent whining that went along with it from the other 14 adventurers was eye-rolling levels of exhausting.
I loved the world-building, especially Tolkien’s descriptions of of forests. I just can’t help but feel that there would’ve been less whining if at least one of the party had been a woman. There were exactly zero female characters excepting the odd villager, and it definitely affected the plot.


****Also **Spoiler** but I very much did not like that the whole book was about how the dwarves were going to kill Smaug and take back their mountain and then Smaug was ultimately killed by a white male chosen-one type character who we really didn’t need. ****


I am glad I didn’t read this as a kid because I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed it due to the sheer amount of telling > showing, and again, the whining. If you’re going on an adventure of your own volition, you have forfeited the right to complain about how terrible, boring, and hungry the trip is. Suck it up, buttercup. Overall this one was meh for me, but I think a lot of that was due to the fact of it being written in much the same style as Peter Pan, which I also did not really enjoy. Here’s hoping The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Silmarillion go much better for me.


HHC Rating: 3 Stars.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January – Alix E. Harrow

Source: Goodreads

January Scaller has spent the majority of her life within the grounds of Locke House, her only glimpses of the outside world contained within cars, trains, and ships at the side of Mr. Locke on a rare field trip. Raised in her father’s absence to be good and obedient, intelligent and quiet, January has tried her best to fit the mold laid out before her. However, even Mr. Locke’s company cannot completely erase her obvious heritage, on full display in the shade of her skin and the unruliness of her hair. Nor can all of Mr. Locke’s nurturing completely block out her inherent nature – to wander, run wild, and dream as if her life depended upon it.

January’s journey is told in alternating chapters between her life and the stories she reads in a mysterious book, The Ten Thousand Doors. While eventually this story-weaving pays off, it does mean that the first 125 pages were all character introduction and world building, which was interesting intellectually, but not gripping. I actually flipped ahead to see if it got more interesting a couple times, despite many friends telling me the book was really great. There is a marked difference between the first 125 pages and the following 235 pages. Once the story gets going it moves well and everything weaves together beautifully. If I hadn’t flipped ahead, I definitely would’ve been at least a little surprised by the twists the story took, and even after I knew they were coming, they still made me tear up. Ultimately, that’s what pushed me to a higher rating. If I hadn’t gotten so bogged down in the beginning of the book, this would easily have been a five star read. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right head space when I started it – it was the middle of finals, after all – but by the end I was firmly invested in January’s journey and the 10,000 doors.

Shout out to my friend Taylor for lending me her copy, and also for making this her staff pick at our bookstore! I hope many, many readers get the chance to visit January and reignite their imaginations.


HHC Rating: 4 Stars

Notes:
*Off-page animal cruelty, but the animal is ultimately fine*
**This book alludes to physical intimacy, but doesn’t contain any explicit scenes, so it’s a great option for your teen who loves fantasy but isn’t ready for those scenes yet.**

Spinning Silver – Naomi Novik

Source: Goodreads


Miryem comes from moneylenders on both sides of her family, but while her grandfather has made a name for himself in a walled city, her own father has trouble even approaching his clients in their small town. When Miryem tires of living in squalor while the warm and well-fed townsfolk spin wicked stories about her family and others like her, she takes it upon herself to reclaim her mother’s lended dowry. In doing so, she sets off a chain reaction that leads to dark consequences with the Staryk, who haunt the forests and have raided the surrounding towns for gold each winter for as long as anyone can remember.

A story of faeries and witches and demons who try to push the seasons around for their own gain, Spinning Silver is a masterpiece of interwoven storylines. Heroes all, Miryem, Wanda, and Irina must band together to bring nature back into balance and return peace to their families and their kingdom.



This book was fabulous. Novik’s writing astounds me every time I crack a book. It haunts me well after I’ve closed it, and sticks its nose into whatever projects of my own I’m working on, saying “Ohhh, but can we make this more complicated and awesome?!” Which is wonderful, but also frustrating when I’m just outlining.

This was the second book I’ve read by Novik, the first being Uprooted, which simply took my breath away. I think this one was slightly harder to follow, just because it took me a few sentences into each chapter to figure out whose POV we were supposed to be in, because, hey, there are many, and three of them are girls who are all roughly the same age and think in similar ways. Nevertheless, I very much appreciated the different personalities and the subtleties in which they were different, and it was most interesting, to me at least, to see three similar people react to things in totally different ways.

I can’t say much about the storylines themselves because SpOiLeRs, but the scenery was beautiful: Winter in Russia, similar to the Winternight trilogy by Katherine Arden vibes (Catch my review of the first novel in that series here!), but definitely set a few years later because transit seems to be much easier in this universe than that one. The three heroes from vastly differing backgrounds and yet all facing similar fates really hits home, while also giving you a much broader view of the world than if it had only followed one of them. This is a book I will not be forgetting any time soon.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars.

Other books by this author:
Uprooted

The Guns of Avalon (Amber Chronicles, #2) – Roger Zelazny

Source: Goodreads

There are infinite worlds made of shadow, and only one born of the royal Amber line can navigate them. Among the shadows now move creatures of chaos and darkness, venturing off the black road to incite war, disease, and suffering among the shadow lands. The black road cuts through all, right up to light that is Amber. Corwin of Amber is an expert at navigating the shadow realms, but faced with his own anger and hatred in the flesh, will he be able to overcome it?


The second novel in Zelazny’s epic Amber Chronicles picks up where the first left off, with Corwin recovering form his injuries and going in search of new avenues to the throne of Amber. As we meet a slightly wider cast of characters among the shadow worlds, we also learn more of Amber’s history and the intricate family dynamics. Most importantly, we see the results of Corwin’s curse on Eric – a curse even he doesn’t know the bounds of.

All of these novels are on the short side, but this one actually felt shorter despite it actually being longer than the first. There was a lot of travelling and explanation of how Corwin was morphing the shadows he was passing through, and not a lot of plot or character development. Typical second book slump. The female characters might serve some sort of point in the future, but in this particular volume they felt rather gratuitous. As a man over 100-years-old, you would think Corwin would be a little better at controlling his urges. He also spends a lot of his time thinking about these women, which is why I think they might have some purpose later on – Dara especially. Overall, this installment didn’t wow me, but I’m curious to see where the plot goes.


HHC Rating: 3.5 Stars.



Other Reviews in this Series:
Book 1 – Nine Princes in Amber
Book 3 – Sign of the Unicorn (Review Available July 23rd)
Book 4 – The Hand of Oberon (Review Available August 6th)
Book 5 – The Courts of Chaos (Review Available August 27th)
Book 6 – Trumps of Doom (Review Available September 17th)
Book 7 – Blood of Amber (Review Available October 8th)
Book 8 – Sign of Chaos (Review Available October 29th)
Book 9 – Knight of Shadows (Review Available November 19th)
Book 10 – Prince of Chaos (Review Available December 10th)

Heart of Iron (Heart of Iron, #1) – Ashley Poston

Source: Goodreads

Ana and Di were found floating in an escape pod seven years ago, with no memories of what came before. They’ve built their own family out of Captain Siege’s misfit pirate crew, beings from all parts of the galaxy, ravaged by plague and run out by oppression. To Ana and Di, they are perfect. They are home. But Di, an illegal robot called a Metal, has started to glitch, and Ana will risk just about anything to avoid losing her best friend in the universe.

Robbert Valerio lost his father in the Metal rebellion that also took away The Iron Kingdom’s royal family. As the celestial convergence approaches, and with it the crowning of a new emperor, Robb finds new information that could be the key to finding his father. The possible proof that he survived the rebellion after all is too much to ignore, and Robb begins the hunt for truth.

As the luck of the goddess would have it, the search for an answer to Di’s glitching leads Ana right to Robb, and the two realize that there could be a lot more aboard the mysterious ship Tsarina than each originally imagined.

This whirlwind adventure takes the old-as-time story of Anastasia and launches it into space, where it takes on a life of its own. Multiple races from across the universe find danger, hope, and love (in many forms), in this interstellar saga. Poston does a fantastic job of world building through her characters’ eyes, showing the reader the world as they see it, rather than info-dumping huge amounts of data abut space colonies and future-world-orders. With plenty of nods to all the Sci-Fi stories of our youth, this book was a delight form start to finish. I, personally, cannot wait for the second and final book in this duology to be published next month.

This is one of those books that is definitely YA – the characters are mostly in their late teens – but also appeals to readers of just about any age. So far, there’s nothing inappropriate for younger readers either, so barring anything happening in the second book, this one would be safe for precocious younger readers who’ve exhausted everything else in the middle grade range.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars.

Other reviews in this series:
Book 2 – Soul of Stars (Book available July 23rd, Review available August 13th)

Other reviews for this author:
Once Upon A Con, Book 1 – Geekerella
Once Upon A Con, Book 2 – The Princess and The Fan Girl (Review Coming Soon!)

Nine Princes in Amber (Amber Chronicles, #1) – Roger Zelazny

Source: Goodreads

A man wakes up in a hospital, sure he is in danger, but unsure of just about anything else. After escaping, he makes his way to the one place where he might find some answers, and ends up unraveling his past – which is decades longer than he imagined – and starts a daring adventure that could lead him to some interesting discoveries about his future.

After more than a year of insisting I was about to start this 10-book arc, I’ve finally finished the first one! My mother read these books growing up and has always raved about them, but it’s actually quite hard to discuss them without any spoilers! The books themselves are short – 100-200 pages – but rich is description and plot, and fascinating in concept. Oberon, the former lord of Amber, the one true city, has disappeared, and his many children are at odds about who should take the throne. Corwin, one of 15 sons of Amber, has been missing for almost a millennium, but even memory loss and near-death experiences cannot prevent him from going after what he believes should be his.

I loved where this story went, and seems to be going, and the character development is absolutely stunning and yet subtle: I felt that I knew them and then realized we as readers had been fed breadcrumbs along the way to make it that way. This was in large part due to Corwin acting in certain ways and then making discoveries about himself and his personality and actions previously. It’s a rather novel way of writing, and I can’t wait to jump into the next book and see what awaits our main character. I’m not even sure if he is a hero or is destined to be the villain. Only time can tell.

HHC Rating: 4 Stars


Other Reviews in this Series:
Book 2 – The Guns of Avalon (Review Available June 25th)
Book 3 – Sign of the Unicorn (Review Available July 16th)
Book 4 – The Hand of Oberon (Review Available August 6th)
Book 5 – The Courts of Chaos (Review Available August 27th)
Book 6 – Trumps of Doom (Review Available September 17th)
Book 7 – Blood of Amber (Review Available October 8th)
Book 8 – Sign of Chaos (Review Available October 29th)
Book 9 – Knight of Shadows (Review Available November 19th)
Book 10 – Prince of Chaos (Review Available December 10th)

May Bird Warrior Princess (May Bird, #3) – Jodi Lynn Anderson

Source: Goodreads

May Bird is adjusting to life in the land of the living just fine. Her particular brand of fame means that she’s part of the popular crowd in her middle school, and she works hard to stay there. But sometimes she misses exploring her imagination, wandering around the woods of Briery Swamp, and she especially misses her friends from the after-life. But ever since the lake dried up, she hasn’t been able to find a way back. Just when she’s ready to give up hope of ever being able to save her friends, Briery Swamp gets its first snow storm in history and May is swept off on another adventure into The Ever After – only this time, it’s the fate of the universe on the line, not just the land of the dead.

I really enjoyed how this story was told. At the end of book two, May had the choice to return home or stay and fight… and she chose to return home. But now that’s she’s back, she’s ready to take Bo Cheevil head on. Everything is on the line, and May refuses to fail this time. The three year gap between the second and third books allowed May to mature as a human and also weigh all of her options. Her interactions with her classmates and family helped the reader see her as a regular person, and her actions in The Ever After showed her to be a true hero, full of heart, and ready and willing to put the safety of others before her own. This series ended up being 100% delightful, one I got used to the creepy ghouls, zombies, and vampires. There is always something new to discover in The Ever After, and that is always one of my favorite parts of books – especially in middle grade books.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars.

Other reviews in this series:
Book 1 – May Bird and The Ever After
Book 2 – May Bird Among The Stars