~ Opening of Ink and Bone
Ink and Bone (The Great Library, #1) by Rachel Caine
New American Library (NAL), 2015
Fantasy; 374 pgs
I enjoyed Rachel Caine's urban fantasy Weather Warden series, and have been wanting to read something else by her. So I was glad when Ink and Bone won my August TBR list poll.
I do not believe the synopsis of the book does it justice. Rachel Caine has created an intricate and rich world in this series. The Great Library is extremely powerful--and ruthless. It controls the flow of knowledge around the world, and it is illegal for anyone to own books of their own. If caught with books, they will be severely punished, possibly by death.
Jess Brightwell comes from a family of book smugglers, having grown up stealing and selling books for his family. He has never quite fit in though, and when his father suggests he apply for a position with the Great Library in hopes Jess will be the family's spy, Jess recognizes he does not have much of a choice. At the same time, he is curious--always having appreciated the worth of the printed word. Joined by other candidates vying for a coveted spot in the Great Library, Jess quickly learns the competition will be fierce during their training with only six slots available. There are many more candidates than that.
Jess has always held the library in high regard, as do many of his fellow trainees. Underneath the surface, however, those in control of the Great Library will do whatever it takes to hold onto their power, even if that means imprisoning alchemists in a tower, arresting and killing those who speak out against the Library in the name of justice, and stomping out innovative and forward thinkers who threaten the status quo.
This novel was an unexpected surprise. The description I have shared above does not do the depth of this book justice. There is war and sacrifice, family strife, loss and grief, and much personal struggle. I loved the detail Rachel Caine used to create this world for us--from the technology to the history to the setting itself. Although the novel is told from Jess's point of view, the other characters are equally as interesting. I would not mind getting to know more of their personal stories. Perhaps in future books. Days after finishing this first book in The Great Library series, I still found myself under its spell (I love it when a book does that to me). I look forward to reading the next in the series.
Books ran when they grew restless, when they grew unruly, or when they grew real. ~ Opening of The Library of the Unwritten
The Library of the Unwritten (Hell's Library #1) by A.J. Hackwith
Ace Books, 2020
Fantasy; 384 pgs
Source: NetGalley for an honest review
Claire Hadley has looked over the Unwritten Wing for three decades. It is a place where the books, unfinished and unwritten, reside. The Library is located in a neutral space in Hell. Sometimes their characters get restless and step outside their books' bindings. While Claire's job includes caring for and repairing those unwritten books, it is also her job to watch over the characters, including tracking them down if they escape. When demon courier Leto is sent to her by Lucifer himself about an escaped book, Claire does not hesitate to put together a search party made up of her assistant, former muse Brevity, and a relectuant Leto, and rush off to bring the book and its character back.
Nothing goes quite as planned for Claire and her colleagues, however. The routine task of tracking and bringing home an escaped book turns into something much more involved. For a fallen angel is on his own hunt, that for missing pages of the Devil's Bible. His search leads him to Claire. In an effort to stave off a war between Heaven and Hell, it is up to the librarians to find the power-bearing pages before the angels--and other forces--do.
Is it any wonder I was drawn to this book after reading the description? Imagine the untold stories kept inside a library like the Library of the Unwritten. Imagine the characters stepping out of the pages and coming to life. A.J. Hackwith does an amazing job of world building and crafting characters the reader can relate to and root for all along the way. I really liked the way the author set up the afterlife--taking into account various belief systems. Heaven and Hell are not the only places people can go when they die.
While a bit of a slow start, the novel gets better and better as it goes, and by the end, I wanted more. More Claire. More Brevity. More Hero. More Damsels. And more about the Library itself. There are many layers to this novel, and to the characters. Watching them grow and evolve over the course of the novel was half of the fun. There is a lot of action and intrigue mixed in as well, which makes this an even more compelling read. I had not idea what to expect once I stepped into this novel, and what a wonderful experience it turned out to be!
We think stories are contained things, but they're not. Ask the muses. Humans, stories, tragedies, and wishes - everything leaves ripples in the world. Nothing we do is not felt; that's a comfort. Nothing we do is not felt; that's a curse. [Excerpt from The Library of the Unwritten]
"Stories are, at the most basic level, how we make sense of the world." [Excerpt from The Library of the Unwritten]
"More coffee?" I asked Dylan as I got up from the table to pour us both a refill. ~ Checked Out for Murder
Checked Out for Murder (The Haunted Library Mysteries #4) by Allison Brook
Crooked Lane Books, 2020
Crime Fiction/Cozy/Paranormal; 320 pgs
Source: NetGalley for an honest review
Coming off of two fabulous fantasy novels, I was not sure how I would receive Checked Out for Murder. I should not have worried, however. Setting foot in Clover Ridge was a bit like coming home after too long away. It's such an idyllic place (with the exception of the murders, of course). I enjoyed visiting with Carrie Singleton, the library's head of programs and events, again, along with her sexy and smart boyfriend, her cat Smoky Joe, and, of course, Evelyn, the library's ghost.
In this fourth installment of the series, Carrie steels herself for her mother's visit. The two are not exactly close, but with her mother and stepfather in town for the filming of her stepfather's latest movie, they will likely be spending more time together than they have in years. The entire town is excited about the prospect of the movie being filmed in their community. Nothing could possibly go wrong, right?
First the body of a local who had returned after years of being away is discovered and then one of Carrie's stepfather's costars is found murdered. The two victims appear to have no connection at all--could there be two murderers out there, or is there a connection no one is aware of? Carrie is especially torn up over the murder of the local woman, whom she had recently become friends with. The brother of the woman knows of Carrie's history of solving murders in town, and begs her to help, despite Carrie's reluctance. I mean, she did promise both her boyfriend and the chief of police she would not get involved in any more murder investigation. But, the woman was her friend . . . And then, with the death of a moviestar casting suspicion on Carrie's own mother and her stepfather, Carrie cannot exactly stay out of that investigation either. Especially when her mother and the other cast members ask her to get involved.
Checked Out for Murder was a lot of fun in terms of character interactions and seeing how everything would play out. Carrie takes initiative in talking to possible witnesses and suspects, and some of her contributions helped the investigation go in the right direction. She was much more careful this time around about not putting herself in harm's way. I really like her relationship with Dylan. It's obvious he cares about her and wants her to stay safe, but he also respects that she is going to do what she wants to do, and does not try to stifle her. Over the course of the novels, I have enjoyed getting to know Carrie and her backstory, seeing her relationship with her parents evolve.
I guessed early on the who even if the why took a bit longer. Not that it hurt my enjoyment of the novel. I very much enjoyed my time in Clover Ridge! Checked Out for Murder can certainly be read as a stand alone, but if you want more of the backstory, I do recommend reading the books in order.
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