Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
Series: Alex Stern #1
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Mystery/Thriller
Published by Flatiron Books on October 8, 2019
Also by this author: Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, Ruin and Rising, Six of Crows, Summer Days & Summer Nights, The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic, Wonder Woman: Warbringer, Crooked Kingdom , King of Scars
Format: Audio/Physical (461 pages) • Source: Audiobooks.com, Library
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Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?
Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.
Oh man, that was a ride. I put off reading this one for a long time because I was honestly just nervous. The story definitely intimidated me, and I was right to be a little nervous! It took me a very long time to settle into this and really understand what was going on. (Even though I plan to read HELL BENT soon, I’ll be watching or reading some kind of summary of this one…) Leigh Bardugo is really masterful at writing though – she’s the main reason I picked this up. I do fantasy/paranormal and mysteries but usually not ones quite like this.
It’s pretty dark but Bardugo manages to inject humor in certain scenes and keep intrigue up even when I was confused. Truthfully, I almost DNFed this after the first 100 or so pages but I decided to press on. Luckily, the literal next chapter I listened to helped pull things together and keep me interested.
The other reason I wanted to read this is that it’s set at Yale in Connecticut. New Haven is really its own character, and it was fun to line up the locations/setting with my experience going there and walking around Yale. I forgot that Bardugo went there, so it was nice to see her accurate depictions of the area.
I really liked Alex as a character, as well as Darlington and Dawes. Even her roommates, who weren’t in this too much, were enjoyable to read about. The timeline went back and forth for most of the story, with one perspective as Darlington’s in the past and Alex’s POV in the present. It created a lot of intrigue early on because you kept wondering why Darlington left or what was actually going on with him throughout the story.
I’m curious to see where things go based on how the book ended and the setup for the future… I’m glad the next book is out already but I know the wait for the third book will be miserable once I finish that!
Shady Hollow by Juneau Black
Series: Shady Hollow #1
Genres: Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Published by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard on January 25, 2022
Also by this author: Cold Clay , Mirror Lake, Twilight Falls
Format: Paperback (222 pages) • Source: Library
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The first book in the Shady Hollow series, in which we are introduced to the village of Shady Hollow, a place where woodland creatures live together in harmony--until a curmudgeonly toad turns up dead and the local reporter has to solve the case.
Reporter Vera Vixen is a relative newcomer to Shady Hollow. The fox has a nose for news, so when she catches wind that the death might be a murder, she resolves to get to the bottom of the case, no matter where it leads. As she stirs up still waters, the fox exposes more than one mystery, and discovers that additional lives are in jeopardy.
Vera finds more to this town than she ever suspected. It seems someone in the Hollow will do anything to keep her from solving the murder, and soon it will take all of Vera's cunning and quickness to crack the case.
This was exactly what I expected a cozy murder mystery starring woodland creatures would be. I really loved the setting of Shady Hollow and all of the animals living and working like humans in this community. This series-starter features Vera Vixen, the local fox reporter, trying to find out who killed the curmudgeonly toad in town. The book has a third-person omniscient kind of POV where we are mostly in Vera’s head but we do get to go in and out of other people’s perspectives on a whim. It was cute and clever given the nature of the story.
I didn’t try very hard to solve the mystery – I don’t think it was super obvious who the culprit was, but I could be wrong and maybe people figured it out right away haha. It actually took me a little while to settle into the story and I kept getting distracted while reading, but then I was cruising along really quickly. This is a book you could read in one or two sittings very easily.
This wasn’t perfect but it was cute, cozy, and met all of my expectations. Really glad I requested the next books from the library before finishing this!
Emily Wilde's Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett
Series: Emily Wilde #1
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Published by Del Rey Books on January 10, 2023
Format: Audio/Physical (321 pages) • Source: Library, Libro.fm
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A curmudgeonly professor journeys to a small town in the far north to study faerie folklore and discovers dark fae magic, friendship, and love, in this heartwarming and enchanting fantasy.
Cambridge professor Emily Wilde is good at many things: She is the foremost expert on the study of faeries. She is a genius scholar and a meticulous researcher who is writing the world's first encyclopaedia of faerie lore. But Emily Wilde is not good at people.
She could never make small talk at a party--or even get invited to one. And she prefers the company of her books, her dog, Shadow, and the Fair Folk to other people.
So when she arrives in the hardscrabble village of Hrafnsvik, Emily has no intention of befriending the gruff townsfolk. Nor does she care to spend time with another new arrival: her dashing and insufferably handsome academic rival Wendell Bambleby, who manages to charm the townsfolk, get in the middle of Emily's research, and utterly confound and frustrate her.
But as Emily gets closer and closer to uncovering the secrets of the Hidden Ones--the most elusive of all faeries--lurking in the shadowy forest outside the town, she also finds herself on the trail of another mystery: Who is Wendell Bambleby, and what does he really want? To find the answer, she'll have to unlock the greatest mystery of all--her own heart.
Finally a five-star read this year! A few have come close but no cigar. I’m not entirely surprised this one got there but it was also kind of a slow and steady read for me. I didn’t really get a lot of traction until I decided to grab the audiobook (highly recommend this format!) in addition to reading my copy from the library.
I’m a huge sucker for faerie books, especially historical ones that feel more like “our normal world plus faeries” (vibes like The Cottingly Secret and The Falconer). I don’t read a ton of historical books but this is one subgenre I always want to read. I’ve been wanting to get back on my faerie bullshit and this book was a perfect way to continue those feels.
Emily Wilde is not great with people; she prefers to study the fair folk and hang out with her dog Shadow. When a fellow professor/kind-of-friend Wendell comes to the remote place she’s working at during break, all of her plans are upended… in some good ways and some not so good! I loved reading about their relationship and watching it grow throughout the story, as well as Emily’s connection to the locals in town that she didn’t make a great first impression on.
The faerie feels are really fun and casual throughout the story. It’s very much a cozy, low-stakes fantasy, which I’m excited to read more of this year actually. There is a bit of a climax in the story but still didn’t feel super dramatic or tense, which made for a lovely reading experience overall.
One small issue I had is that it’s set up to be Emily’s journal so it can be a little hard to connect the dots sometimes without seeing the events of the story happen live. It’s slightly disconnected or at arm’s length. I also feel like that’s just Emily’s personality too, so not a big enough issue to detract anything.
Overall, I have a feeling this will be a hit with a lot of readers this year and really hope the second one is just as good! I want to see what Emily and Wendell get up to next.