Review: Pilu of the Woods by Mai Nguyen

Pilu of the woodsPilu of the Woods follows Willow, a little girl who obviously has been going through some emotional turmoil and at some point has had some trauma in her life. This story explores grief, loneliness anger and a number of other strong emotions that many people must learn to handle at a young age. Throughout her journey she meets Pilu and the girls bond while they learn how to handle their emotions and exactly what those emotions cause within them.

I was not prepared for the emotions I experienced while reading this. The emotions were so heartfelt and real with both little girls having to learn things about themselves and how they feel about different situations. I was prepared for this to be a sweet story, but it was so much more than that. At times what both Pilu and Willow were feeling were very raw, real emotions that are hard to deal with and accept, but they find a way. The girls have clear personalities that make them relatable to the reader and when they struggle the reader can certainly feel it.

I absolutely loved the art style of this story. Muted earth tones along with the style itself gave the story a beautiful, whimsical look. It was easy to follow and so easily draws one in with clear details. Everything from the characters to the backgrounds was well thought out and so enjoyable to experience.

Pilu of the Woods comes out on April 16, 2019 from Oni Press.  I definitely recommend pre-ordering or picking up this one when it comes out.  It was an absolutely enjoyable read and would be a great addition to any library.

Happy reading!

Author Spotlight: Ellie Alexander

Earlier this year while browsing Booktube I was introduced to the Bakeshop Mystery series by Ellie Alexander.  I was instantly intrigued as this series was set in Ashland, Oregon, which is a place near and dear to my heart.  I have many fond memories of Ashland and the Oregon Shakespeare festival throughout my life, going to the Shakespeare Festival was a tradition for my dad and I. Needless to say, I was both excited and cautious when I picked up the first book in the series, Meet Your Baker.

meet your baker

This series centers around Juliet, who has recently returned home to Ashland, Oregon to help her mother at their bake shop, Torte.  Obviously murder and mayhem ensues and soon Jules is knee deep in the mystery.

I was pleasantly surprised by how vividly Ellie Alexander painted Ashland and how accurate the descriptions of this section of the city were.  After reading this first book I was completely hooked.  Her writing is descriptive and rich, with humor and playfulness woven in. While reading this book I was completely immersed, not just because of the story but because of how perfectly she painted the atmosphere of Ashland itself. It’s one of my favorite places so I readily admit I’m biased, but that may have also made me a harsher critic if it wasn’t as perfect as it is.

I immediately started collecting the next couple books in the series but as of yet hadn’t had a chance to continue (the TBR struggle is real). I added not only the books from the Bakeshop series to my wish list, but also her other series both under Ellie Alexander, but her other name Kate Dyer-Seeley.

This past week I got an email from my favorite local bookstore, Oregon Books, notifying me of an author event they were having. Imagine my surprise (and delight) when it was Ellie Alexander.  My internal fangirl did a little dance and I immediately put it on my calendar. I didn’t know what to expect, but was just excited that I would get to meet a local author whose work I truly enjoy.  The event was amazing, the intimate setting allowed us to have a great discussion about her different series, how they came to be, her writing process and more. If I didn’t already want to read everything she had written, this would have definitely made me want to. It was obvious that she puts some of herself into each story she writes and that serves to make her work more inviting and full of depth.  Listening to her talk about the places she writes about (all of which she has visited) made me want to visit them all, even those I’ve been to many times throughout my life. I was able to get books from a couple of her other series which I can’t wait to pick up.

I would have recommended her books before meeting her, but after meeting her and getting to spend time with her I want to recommend her even more.  If you are looking for a new cozy mystery, definitely check her out.  If a bakeshop/food centered mystery isn’t your thing, she has three other series available that focus on other themes.  There’s the Pacific Northwest Mysteries (her first series) which center around Meg, who wants to be a serious investigative reporter but ends up working for an outdoor magazine – even though she doesn’t know much about outdoor activities. Her Rose City mystery series centers around a floral shop in Portland, Oregon where our main character Britta works with her aunt Elin.  Last (but definitely not least) is the Sloan Krause Mystery series, set in Leavenworth, Washington with a theme of brewing craft beers.
scene of the climbnatural thorn killerdeath on tap

(All cover images link to the Amazon pages for the books)

Be sure to also check out Ellie on her website and her new youtube channel.

Happy Reading!

Review: Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

Shadow of the Fox

Release: October 2nd

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Goodreads Link / Amazon Link

One thousand years ago, the great Kami Dragon was summoned to grant a single terrible wish—and the land of Iwagoto was plunged into an age of darkness and chaos.

Now, for whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers, a new wish will be granted. A new age is about to dawn.

Raised by monks in the isolated Silent Winds temple, Yumeko has trained all her life to hide her yokai nature. Half kitsune, half human, her skill with illusion is matched only by her penchant for mischief. Until the day her home is burned to the ground, her adoptive family is brutally slain and she is forced to flee for her life with the temple’s greatest treasure—one part of the ancient scroll.

There are many who would claim the dragon’s wish for their own. Kage Tatsumi, a mysterious samurai of the Shadow Clan, is one such hunter, under orders to retrieve the scroll…at any cost. Fate brings Kage and Yumeko together. With a promise to lead him to the scroll, an uneasy alliance is formed, offering Yumeko her best hope for survival. But he seeks what she has hidden away, and her deception could ultimately tear them both apart.

With an army of demons at her heels and the unlikeliest of allies at her side, Yumeko’s secrets are more than a matter of life or death. They are the key to the fate of the world itself.

I was not expecting to love this book as much as I did. Kagawa’s writing is so beautiful and rich. This is not something I would call a fast read, but not because it was slow in any way. I found myself needing to absorb chunks of it before continuing. The descriptions were well developed and I felt each of the main characters (or semi-main) were well fleshed out with individual personalities.  Exploring Yumeko and Tatsumi’s personal relationship growing and forming was a joy to watch, even if you knew certain things had to happen that may affect it.  As each new character became more central it was wonderfully woven so that they seemed natural and weren’t out of place or unwanted. They all had their own journey to add to the story and I can only imagine where they may go in the next book.

This is the first time I have read one of Kagawa’s books and after reading this I definitely want to not only get the sequel as fast as humanly possible but I may pull out the few of her books I have on my TBR shelf and read them sooner rather than later. I was captivated by her writing style and just loved the pacing and language so much.

I could see some things within the story that other people may have issues with, but for me this was just perfect. I did not want the story to end and found myself not wanting to finish it simply so I could prolong it somehow. For me that is always a good sign but also a little heartbreaking because I need more.  I won’t lie, books set in Asian settings are some of my favorites, but this one was amazing.

The details and cultural/mythological references were so well done and well developed in the story. There’s just enough explanation that I immediately knew and could envision what was going on.

All in all this was one of my favorite reads of this year and I CANNOT wait for more in this story.  Shadow of the Fox is out today, so go pick up your own copy and enjoy the adventure.

Happy reading!

Anthology Appreciation

Not everyone enjoys anthologies, but they are some of my favorites.  I’ve always been a lover of the short story and that love was fostered by some teachers who also thought they were a great medium.  In some ways they can be more difficult to write as they must be much more concise and concentrated than a full length novel.  In this post I’m going to talk about a few I’ve recently read as well as some of my favorites.  All pictures of the covers will be linked to the book’s Amazon page so that you can pick them up if you want to.

Recently I was given the opportunity through NetGalley to read two anthologies which recently came out.  They were very different genres and subjects, but I thoroughly enjoyed both of them.

Toil and Trouble CoverToil and Trouble: 15 Tales of Women and Witchcraft, which was edited by Tess Sharpe and Jessica Spotswood, included stories that represented a number of cultures, mythologies and genres.  My detailed review of each story is on my Goodreads so I won’t rehash that here, but I can say that while there were some stories I didn’t enjoy as much as others it was an enjoyable read.  It would be perfect for reading not only around Halloween, but anytime during the year.

The other anthology I received on NetGalley was Fresh Ink, which was done in Fresh Ink Coverpartnership with We Need Diverse Books.  Having already read Flying Lessons, I was super excited to be able to read this one ahead of time.  I wish there were more anthologies like these two as they explore topics and situations that often need to be explored and discussed by wider audiences.  Again, I didn’t love every story in this anthology, but it exposed me to a number of authors I had not previously read. That’s another great thing about anthologies, you get to read stories from so many authors who you often may not have read from before.

My True Love Gave To Me CoverI have a number of anthologies on my bookshelves, so picking out Summer Days and Summer Nights Coverfavorites is not always an easy task.  I have anthologies in different genres and with different subject matter, but I’ve chosen a few that I really loved when I read them.  My True Love Gave to Me and Summer Days & Summer Nights are collections which were edited by Stephanie Perkins. One has love stories based in the winter while the other is set during the summer (bonus, the story in Summer Days & Summer Nights by Perkins is a continuation of the story she wrote for My True Love Gave to Me and I LOVED them both).

Slasher Girls and Monster BoysSlasher Girls and Monster Boys and Unnatural Creatures both tackle Unnatural Creaturesdarker subjects and were both amazing. They are perfect to read closer to Halloween and each have a spooky vibe that I enjoyed immensely.  There are some stories in them which are definitely not for the faint of heart.  I especially loved that Unnatural Creatures was edited by Neil Gaiman.  A lot of the stories in these two anthologies had great twists and were very addictive.

Meet CuteMeet Cute is an anthology purely about the initial interactions between characters that lead to a romance, or the “Meet Cute.” There are some stories in this one that are absolutely amazing and each one leaves you wanting more, but in a good way.

 

Do you enjoy anthologies and short stories in general? Feel free to comment and let me know!  Happy reading!