Title: The Last Days of Magic by Mark Tompkins
Published by Viking
Published: March 1st 2016
Format: Trade Paper
An epic novel of magic and mysticism, Celts and faeries, mad kings and druids, and the goddess struggling to reign over magic’s last outpost on the Earth
What became of magic in the world? Who needed to do away with it, and for what reasons? Drawing on myth, legend, fairy tales, and Biblical mysteries,
The Last Days of Magic
brilliantly imagines answers to these questions, sweeping us back to a world where humans and magical beings co-exist as they had for centuries.
Aisling, a goddess in human form, was born to rule both domains and—with her twin, Anya—unite the Celts with the powerful faeries of the Middle Kingdom. But within medieval Ireland interests are divided, and far from its shores greater forces are mustering. Both England and Rome have a stake in driving magic from the Emerald Isle. Jordan, the Vatican commander tasked with vanquishing the remnants of otherworldly creatures from a disenchanted Europe, has built a career on such plots. But increasingly he finds himself torn between duty and his desire to understand the magic that has been forbidden.
As kings prepare, exorcists gather, and divisions widen between the warring clans of Ireland, Aisling and Jordan must come to terms with powers given and withheld, while a world that can still foster magic hangs in the balance. Loyalties are tested, betrayals sown, and the coming war will have repercussions that ripple centuries later, in today’s world—and in particular for a young graduate student named Sara Hill.
The Last Days of Magic
introduces us to unforgettable characters who grapple with quests for power, human frailty, and the longing for knowledge that has been made taboo. Mark Tompkins has crafted a remarkable tale—a feat of world-building that poses astonishing and resonant answers to epic questions.
Mark Tompkins’ The Last Days of Magic
is about the Celts and the old days of magic before it supposedly disappeared from the world. Aisling and Anya, twin girls, were born to unite the Celts with the faeries of the Middle Kingdom. And while the clans of Ireland fight against each other, England and Rome want to drive the magic out of the Emerald Isle. War looms on the horizon, and political tensions twist and stretch among allies and enemies.
I really liked the concept of this book. I expected a story full of history of the Emerald Isle, the warring clans of Ireland, the threats of invasion from Rome and England, and I feel like I got that, for the most part. Sometimes I felt like the history was explained and told to me rather than shown throughout the narrative, and sometimes I felt like it helped me understand the story a little bit better.
However, the thing that bothered me the most about this story was actually the prologue and the epilogue. In the prologue and epilogue, we find out that a young woman named Sara Hill has some family secrets that she is just discovering from her grandmother, and while en route to escaping with some documents that important people have been after for centuries, something happens to her (I don’t want to spoil it too much). I felt like none of that truly tied in with the story at hand until the very end when I realized that most of this book is just a prelude to a potential, as-of-yet unannounced sequel. I feel like this story could have easily stood on its own without the prologue and epilogue or could have incorporated more of Sara’s story through alternating chapters of the past and Sara’s present.
I did enjoy reading it, and I’ve always loved stories set in old Ireland, old England, and old Scotland because I find those histories so amazing and complex, so I was very pleased to see such a well-researched concept explored in this book. I think it’ll be great for anyone who has either a passing interest in the magical history of Ireland and anyone who enjoys historical fiction infused with magic. The mythology is entwined with history so well that this story about the last days of magic is very believable.
Thank you to Viking and Goodreads for an advance copy of this book! All opinions are my own.
Title: The Devourers by Indra Das
Published by Del Rey Books
Published: July 12 2016
Format: Trade Paper
Yes, you looked at me and I wished you were not human, that I could cleave your soul in two and watch your second self emerge, a beast as lovely as your first.
I received this book last year as part of a Goodreads giveaway, and am just now getting around to reading it and reviewing it. I’m making a serious effort to reading and reviewing those review copies I get, and I feel like I read this at just the right time. I started it last year when I received it but couldn’t get into it the way I had hoped. Sometimes we just have to wait for the right moment to read something!
Anyway, I was initially interested in this book because The Devourers draws comparisons to Margaret Atwood and Neil Gaiman, two of my favorite authors, and I can see why it does. The Devourers is a violent, fantasy-infused exploration into India’s shapeshifting mythology. If you are turned off by graphic mentions of violence and rape, then this might not be the read for you, but if you can stomach that sort of thing, then this might be something to consider picking up! Das explores concepts of gender identity and expression in The Devourers, and this exploration becomes really apparent in the last third of the book.
The thing that bothered me the most was the rape and then the constant referral later on to the act. It felt like a third of the book just kept constantly referring to it in a very weird way, as if it affected the shapeshifter who did the act more rather than the woman who experienced it. I did like, however, that the woman brought up her assault every time the man who attacked her tried to dismiss his behavior. It’s difficult to talk about, in real life and in books, and I think once I got to the end, I liked how Das wove it into the story.
It’s a very interesting story, very much a fairytale that explores the deepest, darkest parts of humanity, and once it’s done sweeping you away, it leaves you with a lot to think about.
Thank you to Del Rey and Goodreads for a copy of this book to read and review! All opinions are my own.
Title: The Whale: A Love Story by Mark Beauregard
Published by Viking
Published: June 14th 2016
A rich and captivating novel set amid the witty, high-spirited literary society of 1850s New England, offering a new window on Herman Melville’s emotionally charged relationship with Nathaniel Hawthorne and how it transformed his masterpiece, Moby-Dick In the summer of 1850, Herman Melville finds himself hounded by creditors and afraid his writing career might be coming to an end—his last three novels have been commercial failures and the critics have turned against him. In despair, Melville takes his family for a vacation to his cousin’s farm in the Berkshires, where he meets Nathaniel Hawthorne at a picnic—and his life turns upside down. The Whale chronicles the fervent love affair that grows out of that serendipitous afternoon. Already in debt, Melville recklessly borrows money to purchase a local farm in order to remain near Hawthorne, his newfound muse. The two develop a deep connection marked by tensions and estrangements, and feelings both shared and suppressed. Melville dedicated Moby-Dick to Hawthorne, and Mark Beauregard’s novel fills in the story behind that dedication with historical accuracy and exquisite emotional precision, reflecting his nuanced reading of the real letters and journals of Melville, Hawthorne, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and others. An exuberant tale of longing and passion, The Whale captures not only a transformative relationship—long the subject of speculation—between two of our most enduring authors, but also their exhilarating moment in history, when a community of high-spirited and ambitious writers was creating truly American literature for the first time.
I love reading fictional works about author’s lives, I can’t help it. It’s like literary gossip magazines, and I eat it like candy. Aside from knowing a little bit about Nathaniel Hawthorne’s life due to early American literature courses and my own delving for the science fiction course I taught this semester, I had basically no clue about Hawthorne’s relationship with Herman Melville. Mallory’s review
at Goodreads pretty much sums up my reaction to the novel in the end: “Never in my WHOLE LIFE did I expect to be breathlessly swept along like if they don’t kiss I am going to die
over Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne, but here we are.”
The most incredible thing about the novel is that in the novel Herman Melville’s letters to Hawthorne are like 98% real. Obviously with historical fiction, liberties are taken and there are about two letters that have been added to or fabricated, but the rest of Melville’s passion in any capacity for Hawthorne is clearly evident. Most, if not all, of Hawthorne’s letters to Melville don’t exist anymore, but Beauregard does an excellent job of filling in the gaps.
Until this novel, I thought of Hawthorne and Melville as part of those stuffy early American authors that lead stuffy lives and wrote convoluted, dense novels, but now more than ever I want to read Moby Dick and Hawthorne’s major novels that he wrote before, during, and after this brief period of their lives. It’s magical, and sometimes historical context means everything.
I know a lot of people set goals and resolutions for the new year, but it’s such a great time to do it! I’m moving at the end of this month (ick, timing), so being in a new place in the new year will be absolutely a great time to start reinforcing good habits and practices. I won’t list my personal goals as they don’t really fit in with the bookish theme I want to keep with this blog, tf
- Read a minimum of 100 books (tracked by Goodreads and my spreadsheet). 100 is a good number for me. I don’t feel too bad if I just read a hundred, but when I read more than that, it feels like a real accomplishment.
- Read all of (or at least a majority of) the ARCs I’ve been approved for (on Netgalley and Edelweiss). There are fewer than 15. Sometimes about a third of them I don’t finish because I don’t like them, but I want to be better about this and get my percentages to 75% or higher. I get approval happy and have had a few books sitting on my iPad from… over a year now. I’m going to start with the oldest first and move forward. It doesn’t necessarily help that I just got a little download/request happy and filled up my queue with a bit more. I’m just really excited about these titles and need to read them now!
- Use my library more. I want to save a good amount of money in 2016 to travel and to pay off some lingering bills, so instead of buying a lot of books (not working at a bookstore currently helps with that) I want to use my library!
- Purchase no more than two books a month. The only times I can purchase more are when I’m taking books to my local used bookstore and have the credit for them, when I finish one of the Penguin Drop Caps and want to read the next letter, or during my birthday month (April).
- Write about the books as I’m reading them. I started doing this last year when I started Madame Bovary (which I currently haven’t finished but I remember everything that happened). I paused every three or four chapters and wrote something about it: a summary of what happened and/or my thoughts about it, even if it’s just a few sentences. This also ties into my own personal goal of writing in a journal more. I’m going to use a journal as a catch-all for everything rather than have individual journals for different things.
- Post at least three times a week (hopefully Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, but whenever I feel like it because sometimes scheduling these things doesn’t always line up with my work schedule). If it makes it easier for me, I might have “writing days” in which I write a lot of posts and schedule them to be posted at a later date. Scheduled posts would work well with ARC reviews, too, because I wouldn’t want to post reviews too early.
- Comment on blogs I like and use social media more! I visit a lot of blogs but I never comment, mostly because I feel like I have nothing to say but most of the time I feel too shy to say anything. Oops.
- Use more images in my posts! I’ve been teaching myself Canva because it makes it really easy and helps make everything uniform!
I’ll make specific posts for these soon! Some of them are happening around the book blog world and some of them are my own personal challenges.
- Flights of Fantasy – read at least 12 new to me fantasy titles.
- #RockMyTBR – read at least 40 books I already own, cannot combine with other challenges.
- Classics Challenge – personal challenge; read at least 24 classics, 12 must be new to me.
- Star Wars/Star Trek – personal challenge; read at least 5 Star Wars novels and 5 Star Trek novels and review them.
- Strips/physical ARCs – personal challenge; working for a bookstore allowed for stripped titles and ARCs to be taken home. I have quite a few of these so I’d like to read at least 10 of these and review them.
If I finish my above challenges, that puts me really, really close to my 100 title goal for 2016. I’m ready for it!
For the rest of July (the 10th through the 31st), I’ve given myself a personal reading challenge! I love Urban Decay’s lipsticks, and I really want the UD Naked Smoky palette, so I’m using those things as my motivation. Each day I have to read at least 200 pages with a total of 4,400 pages read by 31 July. If I reach that goal, I can treat myself to a new lipstick color! If I exceed those 4,400 pages by at least 1,600 pages, I can get the new Naked Smoky palette!
The main reason for this little personal challenge of mine is that I’m spending too much time browsing the internet and not reading when I have all of these books on my shelves, from the library, and from NetGalley that I want to read! Time just seems to slip away. I don’t like that.
I’m currently reading four books: Heller’s Catch-22, Le Carré’s The Night Manager, Chu’s Time Salvager, and Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Two of those I’ve been picking at since March and April, one’s an ARC I received from a Goodreads giveaway that I want to read and review in a timely manner, and this summer I’m doing a Harry Potter reread!
It’s been easy to meet the goal today thanks to Harry Potter, because today I’ve read at least a third of Prisoner of Azkaban and more than 200 pages of Goblet of Fire. I’ve even managed to squeeze in about fifty pages of Catch-22 in an effort to get that book done and finally be able to say I’ve read it (there’s something about American fiction in certain decades that doesn’t really resonate with me too much, and Catch-22 is one of them, particularly on the grounds of its military focus). Either way, it’s nice to spend a day off mostly reading and it’s nice to be ahead, especially if I want that makeup!
And! I finally figured out child themes! Pink is one of my least favorite colors and that was the main color of this theme, so I’m glad to have something a bit more to my liking! And it wasn’t difficult at all. Thanks, Google and YouTube! Maybe I’ll be more inclined to post more often now that I don’t have to keep looking at pink all the time.