Today I’m excited to share the most unique Sherlock Holmes retelling I’ve run into yet! And just a fun story! (Also the lastest in E. B. Dawson Continues To Make a Sci-Fi Reader Out of Deborah O’Carroll news… XD)
Imagine a Sherlock Holmes retelling. Now imagine it’s set . . . in space . . . on the city planet of Linden (instead of London). Then picture that there are several alien cultures (I loved them all and how distinctive they were!). And Holmes and Watson are young women. I know! I adore the original Holmes stories, so I was worried some of this would bug me, but it all worked perfectly and was SO much fun!
Dr. Jenny Watson (who has a past) and Sharlotte Holmes (who is brilliant) are such great characters and I really enjoyed following both of them through this cyberpunk setting and delightful story. It’s just great sci-fi! I rarely read this genre, but every time I pick up an E.B. Dawson science fiction story, I know it’s going to blow me out of the water, and this one did, in the best way. I love E.B. Dawson’s writing and worlds SO much. Although, for some reason, I don’t think I expected this one to be so FUN, but it was and I loved that!
I love how there are mysteries and sci-fi plots of Shifters and a sinister organization called Moriarty (and the suspense at the end—aaahh!), but that it’s also filled with adventure and friend moments like apartment squabbles and going for noodles together—and oh, yes, Terrence the potted-plant robot was hilarious. XD It’s a perfect mix of cozy fun, character moments, and mystery/suspense.
The plot kept me guessing the whole way, so it’s very much its own story, but I also loved all the nods to the original Holmes stories. Lestrade can’t stand Sharlotte, which is always hilarious. XD Mrs. Hudson’s an anxious but gentle alien lady who’s slightly eccentric (but not nearly as much as Sharlotte). And there are great moments like this note Sharlotte sends Jenny: “221 B Baker Street, Doyle District. 900 square feet. You’ll have to sign the lease because my credit is rubbish. Landlady keeps giving me the shifty eye. I don’t think she really believes you’re a doctor. Come as soon as you can?-Holmes”
I loved getting to know both Jenny and Sharlotte. Their dialogue is zippy and the absolute best—I kept laughing or wanting to quote it. (I would quote the ENTIRE FIRST FOUR PAGES OF CHAPTER FOUR here to make a point if I could because that was one of the BEST conversations and entirely typical of Sharlotte especially. XD) They make a fun pair, especially with their banter, and they’re just fabulous as best friends—even when Sharlotte does stuff that gets on Jenny’s nerves, in the best Holmes-vs.-Watson way. XD They remind me of the originals in some ways, but I’ve also never met characters quite like these, and it’s the best.
In short, this is an unexpected and completely delightful book, filled with memorable characters, suspenseful moments, lots of humor, a unique sci-fi setting, and references to one of the greatest detective series of all time. What is not to love? I highly recommend checking this one out! (The audiobook is also fabulous!)
Leave a comment and make my day! I love chatting books with y’all!
Looking for more of my book reviews? Check them out here!
I’d like to blog more this summer (possibly with some book reviews coming your way every Friday? *fingers crossed that I get them written*), and since I never actually posted a wrapup of 2021’s reading . . . well, here we are at last!
Hush, I know we’re 7 months into the next year. A wizard is never late.
Before we get into a list of my top favorites, first . . . a few reading stats in the form of my new favorite thing, pie charts!
(Feel free to skip past the stats and get straight to the books!)
(I just love keeping track of stats.)
I am slightly addicted to pie-charts. XD I did these with a Google Form inspired by Kendra E. Ardnek’s book wrapups. But I’ve since learned how to use pie charts in Google Docs and have been tracking all my current reads this year in real time in a spreadsheet. So I should hopefully have some cool stats at the end of the year. ^_^
95 total things read (I hesitate to say “books” but anyway. XD)
44 new-to-me novels
15 comics/graphic novels
14 novellas/novelettes/short stories
4 short story collections
4 non-fiction books
4 picture books
3 poetry or play
And now . . .
Here are the best of the best new-to-me reads I consumed in 2021!
TOP 10 BOOKS OF 2021
Wrought of Silver and Ravens + Wrought of Serpent and Snow (E. J. Kitchens)
This series is EVERYTHING, I tell you! I adored the first book with its Twelve Dancing Princesses story, its ancient-Greek flavor of a fantasy world, brilliant worldbuilding and magic systems, and most of all the CHARACTERS! These characters, though! I could rattle off the entire cast on a favorites list. Then the sequel was EVEN BETTER, which I didn’t think possible, and was just sheer perfection, IMO. Some of the most delightful books I’ve ever read, and I highly recommend them! The stunning writing, skillful fantasy, whimsical humor/camaraderie/dialogue of the characters, and Galen, Athdar, Breccan, Murray, Floraison, Ayrton, the magical lion cubs . . . I told you I could go on forever but I’ll stop now. 😉 All of it is just sheer excellence and I cannot recommend these books enough!
Blood of the Seer (C. M. Banschbach)
Aaahh, this book! I adored the first book (Oath of the Outcast) and this one takes everything up a notch. It’s full of so many fabulous things like brothers, snark, much stabbiness, Celtic fantasy vibes, a band of outlaws, redemption, and several favorite characters — particularly a certain Mountain Baron, Rhys MacDuffy (don’t let him catch you saying his name, though), who’s a character I’ve dubbed my “Smol Floof of Anger Management Issues” and . . . yeah. *grinning* Rhys and his story are life! I adore him and this book, and I highly recommend this duology! Plus, there were some great twists for some side characters, especially that epilogue — OH MY WORD. I just cannot with this book. It’s SO GOOD. (Read my review here!)
In the Land of the Everliving (Stephen R. Lawhead)
I’m planning to review this second book and also the final book (In the Kingdom of All Tomorrows) of the Eirlandia trilogy soon. This series set in ancient Ireland has been a massive homecoming for me, and when I say they mean a lot to me, that’s quite an understatement. Mr. Lawhead’s writing, characters, and world together form a magnificent story, and I wanted to LIVE in these books. After reading each one, and ever since, they echo in my mind — “We’re your home,” they say. Book 3 will be going on 2022’s top reads, for sure, and book 2 was another fabulous Celtic fantasy from last year’s reads. In the Land of the Everliving was a fabulous center book of Conor mac Ardan’s trilogy in this green and magical land my heart aches for. (Review of book one.)
Sing To Me of Rain (E. B. Dawson)
This book! It’s the most delightfully whimsical tale full of all the best kind of fantastic things, from a certain fox (aahh!) to a tiny mermaid-like naiad to trees with flaming leaves to pangolins . . . It’s both deep and fun and is such a heartfelt book that had a huge impact on me. It’s like George MacDonald meets Studio Ghibli and I could just LIVE in this gorgeous setting of exotic locales with this whimsical cast of characters on a journey figurative and literal. Plus, you will never look at rain the same again. I JUST ADORE IT and it’s the best middle grade fantasy I’ve read in a couple of years, so I was extra ecstatic this last weekend to find out it won the Middle Grade Realm Award! SO deserved and I hope more people will discover this beautiful little book and experience it like I have! *all the heart eyes* (Read my review here!)
Pretense (Tara Grayce)
This one is here because Edmund and Jalissa finally get their own story in this wonderful elven/human series featuring our very own Farrendel and Essie. I adore this series and elf/steampunk world and these characters, and I was blown away by Edmund and Jalissa’s adventure full of twists and spy-shenanigans and court intrigue and secrets and ups and downs. Edmund’s been one of my favorites from the beginning, and it was amazing to get his story at last! And, of course, Farrendel and Essie are still being amazing and adorable, and the other characters are still fabulous. A favorite series, for sure. It just…it is such a comfort-read series for me!
Stolen Midsummer Bride (Tara Grayce)
I know, another Tara Grayce book, but this one was just so whimsical and delightful and it made me so happy! The magical world, the library, the semi-sentient cottage, the Door, Buddy the Talking Equine Companion (he’s a pony, but he’s marvelous), and of course our mild-mannered librarian Basil the fae who meets up with spitfire human Meg. The fae courts and Midsummer Night’s Dream twists just made it more delightful. It may not be for everyone but it was just the whimsical read I needed last spring and the hall of doors has actually helped inspire a new organizational system for my writing. The magical things like the cottage and Door made me think of House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones, too!
Truesilver (DJ Edwardson)
This one I technically read in 2020 (since I copyedited it), but it hadn’t been published yet when I did my 2020 book wrapup, sooo I’m adding it to 2021’s favorite reads since it didn’t get to go in the previous year’s . . . and I simply can’t pass up including this amazing book on a top-favorites list! It’s an excellent tale and I love it so, so much! Ranger’s Apprentice meets the Wingfeather Saga, with a dash of Prydain, in this masterfully woven tale featuring a sentient sword (eep!). The bright threads of a lush, original world and the whimsy, humor, and peril at turns all twine together to tell the story of a cast of colorful characters who stole my heart. ^_^ (Read my full review here!)
Into the Heartless Wood (Joanna Ruth Meyer)
This author’s books always enchant me and this lusciously written novel was no exception! I adored the Welsh-type names and the haunting woods and dash of technology (like trains) and the heartfelt story of family (like all a certain big brother will do for his little sister), but I especially loved the heartrending love story of a tree siren girl and a cinnamon roll of a character named Owen. Owen and Seren! Be still my heart. (Okayyy, I’ll stop with the heart words! But I seriously “heart” this book…) It’s just such a rich, enthralling tale and I breathed each poetic word of this story which is like a bright star in the dark woods. Fans of Echo North or of the Maleficent movie should love this one. 🙂 (Read my review here!)
ALSO. If you haven’t read it, be sure to pick up the paperback edition of Into the Heartless Wood because the paperback (which released this year) has an exclusive short story in the back which is sort of like an extended epilogue, and I just read that this month (yay for birthday giftcards), and aaaahhh it was everything my heart needed! *happy tears*
Moonscript (H. S. J. Williams)
There are two (main) reasons for this book being here and they are: ERRANCE and ELVES! I adore elf books after having grown up on The Silmarillion (I don’t even want to know how many times I read it before I was even a teen and during my teen years too), so this book makes me ALL THE HAPPY. The characters were all AMAZING and I just adored so many of them (Rendar and Coren, anyone?), and all the different locations were sooo cool. Just. Such a rich world. And then there’s Errance and I’m basically him but he’s also really, really cool, so there’s that. XD The epicness and humor and character moments and aching and darkness defeated by redemption and light were just so inspiring! I just really enjoyed it.
FAVORITES IN NON-NOVEL CATEGORIES
My favorite . . .
Short Story: Birth of a Soldier (C. M. Banschbach) — This is available (at the moment, at least) on Claire’s newsletter and is an ABSOLUTELY PERFECT short story about when Rhys/the Baron was young and — MY HEART. T_T
Re-read:Howl’s Moving Castle (Diana Wynne Jones) — I actually tried the audiobook, and at 2x speed I quite enjoyed it. ^_^
Poetry: We Are Storm and Starlight (Sarah Delena White) — I’ll read anything she writes and this was gorgeous!
Non-fiction: Trusting God When You’re Struggling (C. E. White) — I just really enjoyed this one. 🙂
Graphic Novels: I can’t decide! I really enjoyed the middle grade steampunk duology City of Secrets/City of Illusion by Victoria Ying, and the superhero-dating-a-supervillain (do they know it? No, they don’t. XD) series Flying Sparks by Jon Del Arroz, and the post-apocalyptic duology Eden and The Aftermath by Skillet. They were all really different but really cool. I’m kind of new to graphic novels, so. XD (They’re all clean, as far as I remember, though there’s of course some violence in the superhero and post-apoc ones.)
Leave a comment and make my day! Have you read any of these?
Aaaaahhh! You guys! I read the MOST DELIGHTFUL BOOK recently and I’m so excited to share about it!
It’s releasing TOMORROW (May 22) and the paperback and e-book versions are both up for pre-order, and it’s DEFINITELY one you’re not going to want to miss! One of my favorite books I’ve read this year, for sure!
Title: Sing To Me of Rain
Author: E.B. Dawson
Date read: May 10, 2021
Rating: 5 stars, 6 stars if I could
Age: Middle Grade or anyone, really (teens and adults will also love it)
Year pub: 2021
Pages: 205 (e-book)
Fave character: Ujio but really all of them
Source: The author
Notes: I received a free e-ARC of this book from the author. I was not required to write a review. All opinions expressed are my honest thoughts.
I CAN’T ADEQUATELY EXPRESS MY LOVE FOR THIS BOOK. 😍😍😍 Studio Ghibli meets George MacDonald and Lloyd Alexander in this utterly enchanting Asian-inspired Middle Grade Fantasy novel from E.B. Dawson!
This book has everything: a tiny mermaid naiad, a fox, pangolins, hidden motives warring against innocence, ever-changing quests for truth, redemption AND heroism, a broad range of exotic locales from jungle to desert to mountain, a story through seasons and elements, and neat cultures and delightful fantasy worldbuilding that swept me off my feet. And so much more!
I loved Plip the little naiad and Akino the boy SO MUCH, and a certain other character who I won’t give away but his story was SO unexpected and I adored it! Part hero, part antihero, part mentor . . . let’s just say I have a new favorite unpigeonholeable character. (Watch for a certain fox is all I’m saying. ;))
I adored every second of this book! It’s full of twists and turns and I could never predict what was going to happen next, which made it exciting, but despite the suspense it was also a COZY story that I simply enjoyed the act of reading.
The settings remind me so much of a Studio Ghibli film, soft and peaceful and detailed, from river to mountain forest, rice fields, desert, waterfall . . . all of it! And the feeling we get that we’re passing through this vast world full of people living their lives which we only glimpse on our way through. I loved that. It’s just so RICH and like one thread winding through a tapestry, and fills me with a marvelous childlike wonder and joy and delight.
I loved how, with the perspectives of Plip and Akino, we saw the world through their eyes and the schemes of humans or grownups seemed outside and unnoticed, like levels of innocence and sneakiness. Felt true to life.
The depth and truths and levels of everything in this book were fascinating and one of the things I think older readers will like too. It asks hard questions and doesn’t talk down at all, which is something I dislike about some middle grade books these days — it’s just a book that happens to be about young characters, which young readers and teens and adults alike will find delight in.
It feels Deep and made me think and showed me things, and I highlighted sooo many quotes in my ebook copy, but it’s also very fun and I just ENJOYED it. It makes me so happy! *hugs book*
This is definitely going on my favorites list and is one of the top five books I’ve read so far this year. I’m going to need to add the paperback to my wishlist because I need SING TO ME OF RAIN on my shelf to read and reread forever. I JUST LOVE IT SO MUCH. (I know the answer next time someone asks what my favorite middle grade book is.)
I can’t recommend this book enough! Just go read it! You need it in your life! (And you will never look at raindrops the same again. :D)
I received a free e-ARC of this book from the author and voluntarily wrote a review. All opinions are entirely my own.
You may also like . . . / For fans of . . .
Avatar: The Last Airbender show
Studio Ghibli films in general
The Day Boy and the Night Girl by George MacDonald (original fairy tale)
The Golden Key by George MacDonald (original fairy tale)
The Remarkable Journeys of Prince Jen by Lloyd Alexander (Asian-inspired fantasy)
The Iron Ring by Lloyd Alexander (India-inspired fantasy, YA)
Time for a review of a very cool anthology from the Phoenix Fiction Writers! And scroll to the end for a cover reveal for their next anthology, coming in June! Also, two of the short stories in Of Myth and Monster were just announced as finalists in the 2021 Realm Awards in the short story category, which I thought was super exciting! 😀 (The Eyes of the Barghest by Jillane Purrazzi and H.E.R.O. by Beth Wangler.)
Title: Of Myth and Monster
Author: Phoenix Fiction Writers
Featuring stories written by: Hannah Heath, Kyle Robert Shultz, Beth Wangler, E.B. Dawson, C. Scott Frank, Grace Crandall, Deck Matthews, Nate Philbrick, and J.E. Purrazzi
Date read: March 20, 2021
Genre: Anthology / Short stories / Science Fiction and Fantasy
Year pub: 2020
Pages: 276 (e-book)
Source: The publisher
Notes: I received a free e-ARC of this anthology from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own.
What a delightful rollick! XD This one was so much fun and just such a wacky, amusing adventure. I especially loved the voice of this one — such character! — and the strong cultural flavor was neat. It’s probably one of the most unique short stories I’ve ever read. Such colorful sci-fi! Marvelous!
The Boy Who Listened (by Kyle Robert Shultz)
Full disclosure: I copyedited this short story, but my unbiased reader opinion is that it was a vibrant, fresh tale, with a fun take on the “chosen one” and “magical academy” tropes, as well as being full of heart and clever twists! And, of course, despite not being an Afterverse story, there’s still a dash of signature Kyle Robert Shultz humor. 😉
H.E.R.O. (by Beth Wangler)
Thrilling with a side of precious! With a relatable heroine who is part of a team of agents, this was an intense story which also had moments of fun. I loooved Poof the little phoenix! Such a cute side character. ^_^ This one dealt with fear and bravery, and I loved the mix of mythology creatures and technology, the agent aspect, and the twist at the end!
The Gods of Troy (by E.B. Dawson)
What a unique blending of Odysseus and space! E.B. Dawson always delights in her tales, and this was no exception, although with a bittersweet aspect which of course comes with the retelling. I really liked Odysseus and how the black hole and mythology and war of Troy and ship in space worked so well together. Fascinating!
The Unicorn Tamer (by C. Scott Frank)
A very amusing story, very tongue-in-cheek, about a fluffy, bear-like hero who’s rather grouchy but relatable. I loved the unicorn character! Almost the whole thing was wonderful and funny, although I confess that the ending horrified me. I guess I wasn’t expecting that dark of humor! But for the most part it was such fun and I really enjoyed the writing style.
Lamp of Silver (by Grace Crandall)
That was intense and fascinating! I was utterly immersed in this pirate tale-within-a-tale. A nautical adventure penned with skill. I love pirate stories and this one was amazing! I don’t want to give anything away, but the characters were fascinating and the twist on a genie was so unique. This was my first story from Grace Crandall and I definitely need to read more by her!
The Staff of Callewhyr (by Deck Matthews)
This was also my first taste of this author’s writing, and wow, I’m definitely curious to explore more, especially if there’s more in this world! This was a fascinating tale with a classic fantasy feel but its own original twists. The worldbuilding was so neat, the story edge-of-your-seat, and I found myself getting more and more curious about these characters, especially the secrets hinted at. A wonderful fantasy adventure!
Aura (by Nate Philbrick)
MY FEELS. *clutches heart* I’m pretty sure I forgot to breathe during this. Wow, wow, wow. This was SO unique and feelsy and I loved every second of it — well, it toyed with my emotions and was a bit sad near the end, but it could have been worse and overall I loved it. WWII-era but with a unique mountainous setting and just the right thread of fantasy threaded throughout. The characters were amazing and I loved them so much. I CAN’T. IT WAS SO GOOD. It felt like Lloyd Alexander but more feelsy. I can’t get over this one. I loved the journaled bits, too. I can’t stop thinking about this one!
The Eyes of the Barghest (by J.E. Purrazzi)
This was so spooky and atmospheric — pretty sure the snow made ME feel cold reading it! The Barghest was totally unexpected. Some of this was sadder than I liked, but I liked the story by the end with the oddly hopeful twist. And it was another one that totally sucked me in and made me forget I was reading. And kind of a Nordic flavor, which was cool!
All of these stories were just so good! These were all delightful stories by skilled authors and I definitely recommend checking the anthology out!
Speaking of anthologies, the Phoenix Fiction Writers have a new anthology coming soon — and the cover was just revealed! Check it out!
*flailing* Isn’t it so cool? I’m excited for this one too! Visit the Phoenix Fiction Writers here.
I physically can’t properly review this. I couldn’t handle that ending but otherwise AHAB was amazing and until then I loved every second of it!
E.B. Dawson’s scifi is my favorite, and this one blended old and new, a wonderful Moby Dick retelling set in space, chilling and charming at turns. And Ahab and Starbuck are everything. Buddy stories are the BEST. This came SO close to being one of my top fave books of the year. 1800s-ish feeling but IN SPACE?? So amazing. 💚
I need happy endings, though. I NEED them.
I saw this sad ending coming but foolishly held out hope. Heh. So yeah, while I hated the ending and will not apologize for that (#happyendingsadvocate because #hope), the rest of the book was AMAZING and if you like buddy stories and don’t mind some feels/tragic-to-bittersweet endings, you will LOVE this.
(It also says something about the sheer quality of this book that I don’t hate the book, only the ending–which often makes me write a book off completely. It was utterly entrancing, overall.)
So yes. Good book. Sad ending. Like, couldn’t fall asleep, type sad. 😭 (If you need even MORE feels while reading, you can listen to In the Embers by Sleeping At Last, Brother by Kodaline, and Burn the Ships by For King and Country, which is what I did accidentally. Um. Yeah. Some awesome songs I’ve been listening to lately and a very feelzy combination with this book. It felt quite…ironic.)
The book was amazing while I was reading it, though. Just. Wow. Every word was just–on point. And, again, that 1800s feel? But scifi at the same time? It was perfection. How often do you get a buddy story with intense space voyages but also a gorgeous ball/party and walking 1800s-type streets. I could read this foreverrrr. All of it was incredible until the last chapter or so.
Now excuse me while I go lowkey imagine a (non-heartrending) alternate ending and also flail about how spectacular the rest of the book was.
Aaand I’ll just go cry now, thx. 😭
(Confession: I’ve never actually read the original, and the Moby Dick “book” in this picture is actually a wooden bookend. 😂 Maybe the original prepares you for the ending? 😬 I wouldn’t know. 😅 Also, I adored getting to the part near the end which is basically the Voyage of the Pequod short story, just a little different. I reread it along with the book and enjoyed it immensely. And hey, if AHAB sounds amazing but like me you can’t handle tragicness, do pick up VOYAGE OF THE PEQUOD.)
Thanks to the author for the e-ARC even though I ended up reading the final ebook I ordered since I read it after release because I’m so behind on my reading. 😂
And I adore Sarah Pennington’s retellings, plus Twelve Dancing Princesses is my favorite fairy tale, so when I heard about this epic-sounding novella with mystery and fae and the jazz age, I got super excited!
I will hopefully be reviewing both of these books here when I get the chance, but I simply HAD to shriek about them and tell you all to go check them out! 😀
Ahab by E.B. Dawson
After a devastating interstellar war against the machines known as Mechanized Intelligence Cruisers, the Commonwealth is ready to return to normal life.
Captain Ahab is not.
Tired of being paraded around the capital as a war hero, Ahab finally secures a commission to hunt down the last remaining MICs in the outer planets.
He gets more than he bargained for with Moby Dick.
Ahab’s first encounter with the massive white MIC leaves Ahab without a ship and without a leg. Plagued by fever during his recuperation, Ahab becomes convinced that Moby Dick is a threat to the Commonwealth’s newfound peace. But his willingness to do whatever it takes to destroy the MIC leads his best friend and first mate Starbuck to wonder if their captain is in his right mind.
This mystery is the case of his dreams — and her nightmares.
By day, Dayo Temitrope is a swinging singer, an up-and-coming star with a shining career ahead of her. By night, she’s . . . well, she’s not sure, but whatever she does leaves her every morning with sore feet and worn-out shoes. And after six months, she’s had enough.
Enter Bastian Dennell, a private investigator just trying to get by. When Dayo hires him to find out where she goes at night, he’s sure it’s his big break: his chance to establish himself and get the funds to pay off his family’s debt. Plus, he gets to work with his favorite singer, even if she isn’t exactly what he expected. What could be better?
But first he has to solve the case — which means navigating a tangled web of strange dreams, fair folk schemes, and show business. It will take all Bastian’s wits, along with the shining talents of Dayo herself, to figure out the truth before the curtains close for good on Dayo’s career.
A jazz-age-inspired twist on the Twelve Dancing Princesses from the author of Blood in the Snow.