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7.2/10
Review: The Paper Magician Series by Charlie Holmberg

Title: The Paper Magician Author: Charlie N. Holmberg Genre: Fiction Publisher: 47North Release Date: July 8, 2014 Format: Kindle Source: Amazon Read Date: Feb 17, 2015; May 11, 2017; May 23, 2017 Under the tutelage of magician Emery Thane, Ceony Twill discovers the wonders of paper magic, but when her teacher’s life is threatened, she must face the extraordinary dangers of forbidden magic to save him. The Paper Magician Series — Charlie N. Holmberg In The Paper Magician, set in an alternate turn of the 20th Century, Holmberg has created a unique magical world for the series.  Trained and licensed magicians work with only one particular medium among those available — all involving man-made materials. We first meet Ceony at the close of her education when she is to begin her apprenticeship.  Ceony wants to work in metal — to be a smelter. However, after completing magic school (all theory because students can’t perform magic until they bond with their material) she is instead assigned to apprentice with a folder — a paper magician because there are only eleven left in England. Ceony is not happy about it, but finds that she wants to please her teacher, Magician Thane. The…

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9.8/10
Review: An Untamed State by Roxanne Gay

Title: An Untamed State Author: Roxane Gay Genre: Adventure stories Publisher: Corsair Release Date: January 8, 2015 Format: Kindle + Audio Pages: 384 Source: purchased Narrator: Robin Miles Read Date: 26 August 2015 Mirielle Duval Jameson’s fairy tale life is shattered when, during a visit to Haiti with her American husband and their child, she is kidnapped. Her father, a self-made millionaire, refuses to pay the ransom; and so Mirielle’s captors take their revenge – pushing her beyond what she previously thought possible to endure. In An Untamed State Roxanne Gay takes a hard, unsparing look at race, complicity, privilege, violence against women, and how one woman survives the horror of an abduction. Mireille is Haitian-American, a daughter not of poverty but of wealth and a sheltered life. She admits that she has a fairytale life. That is, until visiting Haiti from their home in Miami, when she is abducted by a group of men seeking a ransom from her father. At first, she wants to believe that such kidnappings are business transactions and that no serious harm will come to her. She desperately wants to believe her father will pay the ransom and she will be returned home. But, the…

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9.5/10
Review: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Title: Neverwhere Author: Neil Gaiman Genre: Fiction, Fantasy Publisher: Harper Collins Release Date: July 1, 1997 Format: Kindle + Audiobook Pages: 352 Source: Purchased Narrator: Neil Gaiman Read Date: 06 April 2016 Richard Mayhew is an unassuming young businessman living in London, with a dull job and a pretty but demanding fiancee. Then one night he stumbles across a girl bleeding on the sidewalk. He stops to help her–and the life he knows vanishes like smoke. Several hours later, the girl is gone too. And by the following morning Richard Mayhew has been erased from his world. His bank cards no longer work, taxi drivers won’t stop for him, his hundred rents his apartment out to strangers. He has become invisible, and inexplicably consigned to a London of shadows and darkness a city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, that exists entirely in a subterranean labyrinth of sewer canals and abandoned subway stations. He has fallen through the cracks of reality and has landed somewhere different, somewhere that is Neverwhere. For this is the home of Door, the mysterious girl whom Richard rescued in the London Above. A personage of great power and nobility in this murky, candlelit realm,…

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8.6/10
Review: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Title: Water for Elephants Author: Sara Gruen Genre: Fiction, Historical Publisher: Algonquin Books Release Date: 2006 Format: kindle & audiobook Pages: 335 Narrator: David LeDoux & John Randolph Jones Read Date: 21 January 2016 Ninety-something-year-old Jacob Jankowski remembers his time in the circus as a young man during the Great Depression, and his friendship with Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, and Rosie, the elephant, who gave them hope. Any novel written in the first person runs the risk of a common, unremarkable narrator, far more than a third person narration. Part of the joy of reading Gruen’s Water for Elephants is the memorable narrator in Jacob Jankowski, particularly when it is the elderly version of Jacob speaking. He describes himself as “90. Or 93.”  The elder Jacob’s narrative is interwoven with that of a Jacob in his twenties. The elder’s storyline — Jacob in a nursing home — is amusing and sad at the same time, but ends wonderfully, bringing the story to full circle. Jacob’s descriptions of the fellow home residents, the caregivers, his family, and the vagaries and trials of growing old are amusing and touching.  Jacob feels abandoned by his family and frustrated by the…

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8.9/10
Review: Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

Title: Station Eleven Author: Emily St. John Mandel Genre: Fiction, Literary Fiction, Dystopian Publisher: Alfred a Knopf Incorporated Release Date: September 9, 2014 Format: Kindle Pages: 337 Source: purchased Narrator: Kirsten Potter Read Date: 05 March 2016 2014 National Book Award Finalist An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity. Emily St. John Mandel wrote Station Eleven with a more literary slant to her post-apocalyptic world than the bulk of end-of-the-world narratives out there. You won’t find many action-filled scenes of crazed road-warriors or zombies or gun-toting survivalists chasing down the ‘good-guys’.  There are no long explanations of how society collapsed. Instead, the story focuses on a handful of characters, before and after a plague that wipes out most of the world’s population. The major players in the story are all connected, yet they connect through tenuous threads, and there is no big moment where their stories converge. Kirsten a child actor when the end came, now travels with a symphony and acting…

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8.9/10
Review: When She Woke by Hillary Jordan
Fiction , Reviews , Throw-back-Thursday reviews / February 23, 2017

Title: When She Woke Author: Hillary Jordan Genre: Fiction, Sci-Fi, Dystopian Publisher: Algonquin Books Release Date: 2011 Format: Hardcover Pages: 344 Source: purchased Read Date: 23 February 2013 In the future, abortion has become a crime as a series of events threatens the existence of the United States. One woman wakes up to discover that her skin color has been changed to red as punishment for having the procedure done. Now she must embark on a dangerous journey in order to find refuge from a hostile and threatening society. With When She Woke Hillary Jordan has written a powerful dystopia that tackles, among other ideas, our attitude towards criminal justice, and what it means to pay for one’s crime, separation of church and state, and freedom.Combining Hawthorne’s public humiliation of sinners (even the protagonist’s name, Hannah Payne, echoes Hester Prynne and the opening chapter is titled “The Scaffold”) from The Scarlet Letter with reality TV, abolitionists’ Underground Railroad, the extreme religious/political right, big brother technology, and a personal awakening story, Hillary Jordan gives us a scary glimpse into an all too possible near future. The novel opens with two great sentences: When she woke, she was red. Not flushed, not sunburned,…

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9.8/10
Review: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Title: Never Let Me Go Author: Kazuo Ishiguro Genre: Fiction Publisher: Vintage Books Release Date: 2006 Format: Kindle & Audiobook Pages: 288 Source: Purchased Narrator: Rosalyn Landor Read Date: 29 January 2016 A reunion with two childhood friends draws Kathy and her companions on a nostalgic odyssey into their lives at Hailsham, an isolated private school in the English countryside, and a confrontation with the truth about their childhoods. Ishiguro, a master of subtle and understated prose, has another excellent novel in Never Let Me Go. The narrator, Kathy tells the story of her friendship with Ruth and Tommy, from their earliest days at their private boarding school to adulthood, through its ups and downs, until only Kathy is left. While many come to the novel knowing what makes these characters special, even those without prior knowledge should figure it out with little difficulty, early on. While never stating things explicitly, the clues are in plain sight, even if Ishiguro never tackles the topic head-on. What is the true focus and brilliance of Ishiguro’s novel isn’t the what, but rather, the how. The reader follows these three characters, raised to this purpose that unnerves contemporary audiences. In a masterful play…