sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

January 8, 2017

into the stacks 2017: week 1
posted by soe 2:05 am

I find when I get a huge backlog of books to talk about that it becomes very daunting to get caught up. So I’m going to try to set aside Saturday to post about what I’ve finished during the week in an attempt to stay on top of my reviews. Hopefully, that’ll mean that even if I miss a week I’ll only have a couple books to post about.

That said, of course, this week I finished three books, having finally found my reading mojo once more:

The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill
In this middle-grade fantasy novel, on the edge of a bog a solitary, downtrodden town filled with downtrodden people offer up an annual tribute of the youngest baby to the local witch in exchange for her not destroying them all. Or, at least, that’s the story the town government tells everyone. In reality, they do it as a way to control the population, leaving the baby to be eaten by wild animals. Except, of course, there is a witch, Xan, who isn’t evil at all, but compassionate, picking up what she believes is an abandoned baby every year and taking it to a home elsewhere in the land where it will be loved.

But one year, the mother of the youngest baby, an amber-skinned girl with a moon-shaped birthmark on her forehead, refuses to willingly give up her baby. Guards forcibly separate the two, and take the woman off to prison, where she goes “mad.” And that same year, the witch accidentally feeds the baby magical moonlight instead of nourishing, but benign starlight, imbuing the child with witchy powers of her own. Aware a magical child will have special needs, Xan decides to bring the baby, whom she names Luna, home and raise her as her grandchild. But all does not go according to anyone’s plan.

The story also features a poet swamp monster named Glerk, a very small dragon with a very big heart, a convent of assassin nuns, and a boy from the town who regrets the part he played in Luna’s removal from her mother’s care and, years later, takes action to right this wrong from his past.

Highly recommended for lovers of fantasy novels, particularly those who enjoy a tinge of politics in their stories. (Also, it’s been optioned to become an animated film, so if that’s your bailiwick, read this now to be prepared.)

Pages: 388. Library copy.

Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas, by Stephanie Barron
As I mentioned the other day, this was my audiobook for December. This historical fiction, the 12th in a series of mysteries featuring the British author as an amateur detective, takes place in 1814, with Jane having recently finished Mansfield Park and now at work on Emma. Jane, her mother, and her sister all travel to her childhood home to spend the holidays with her minister brother (clearly the author believes him to the model for every boorish clergy member Jane has ever written) and his family. A friend invites the entire Austen clan to spend several nights at her estate, and during their tenure there, a man is found dead. But worry not: Jane is on the case.

Set in the Hampshire countryside, the story features a game of charades that goes awry, a doll with a better wardrobe than you probably have, and a 12th Night masquerade, as well as spies, flirting, and intrigue relating to the War of 1812 and the French Revolution.

I listened to this book, which I think made the slow sections of the story less noticeable, because I’ve definitely gotten bogged down in details in a couple of the earlier books in the series. Also, because of the biographical elements of the story and its historical setting, there are way more details than normal in most cozies. So, while I recommend the book, particularly for those looking for a holiday-themed mystery or for Austen lovers, I recognize it will not be a hit for everyone.

Pages: 336. Library audiobook copy, via Overdrive.

A Seaside Christmas, by Sherryl Woods
So, this book. It’s the one I mocked the other day, unsure of whether I’d be able to get past the opening chapter, which induced a lot of eye-rolling. Apparently I was in a particularly impatient mood earlier in the week, because this is certainly no worse than several of the holiday films I streamed on Netflix this year (and better than a couple I’ve seen in the past).

Jenny, a top-notch Nashville songwriter, has returned home to Chesapeake Shores, Maryland, after many years away to contribute songs to her aunt’s holiday theater production. While she’s home, her aunt hopes she’ll mend the ties with her mother, with whom she’s been distant since her remarriage and the birth of Jenny’s half-brother. She’s also hoping to finish getting over her ex, Caleb, who broke her heart a couple years earlier during a bout with heavy drinking, but that’s going to be more challenging than expected, because Caleb, now as reformed as the Winter Warlock in Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, has followed her there, with the intention of winning her back.

Oh, and did I mention that the entire town is pretty-much populated by its single founding clan, the O’Briens (to which both her aunt and her step-father belong)?

This is definitely a light and frothy (and very white, middle class) romance, but it’s not terrible. It’s a perfectly fine way to pass the time, particularly at the holidays, even if I don’t think I’ll be reading any of the other 12 books in the series, most of which seems to follow equally predictable story lines if their Goodreads descriptions are any indication.

Pages: 280. Library copy.

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