Wayward Children Books 1-3 by Seanan McGuire *Series Review* (SPOILER FREE)

My first introduction to Every Heart a Doorway didn’t go so well. I got about 15% into the audiobook before I was sure that I was going to hate it, so I DNFed and it slipped my mind for a couple years. I recently posted a Tiktok video in which I listed all of the books I’ve put down and never finished and I got so many responses from people urging me to give Every Heart a Doorway another try. So I checked to see if the audiobook was still available from Scribd, and it was, so I did. And now I really think I get it.

I have mentioned previously that this past year has been very difficult for me in terms of my health. I’m dealing with a difficult condition that insists on digging its heels in no matter how much treatment I go through and it has left me in a lot of pain, unable to do much but sit at home and try to muster up the motivation to read. It’s been hard and I’ve bounced off of rock bottom more than once in the past few weeks. These books finally reached me at the perfect time, when I really needed them.

Every Heart a Doorway is the entry point into the strange rabbit hole that is the Wayward Children books. It tells the story of a boarding school for kids that have lived in and been expelled from fantasy worlds, both logical and nonsensical. As you might imagine, it’s a rough transition from dragon slaying to algebra class. And so Eleanor West and her Home for Wayward Children offers a softer landing for these kids that have been forced back into the “real world.” This first book follows Nancy, a girl who has spent time in the Halls of the Dead learning the art of silence and stillness and eating pomegrantes. She didn’t want to leave and yet here she is, back on Earth and waiting for her Doorway to open back up. We meet a cast of colorful characters who have been uniquely affected by their time in equally diverse worlds, all trying to find their way back, or at least adjust to the normalcy of our world again.

When kids start showing up brutally murdered, Nancy and her friends must try to figure out who the killer is and how to stop them before more lives are snuffed out.

“You’re nobody’s doorway but your own, and the only one who gets to tell you how your story ends is you.”

Despite this rather exciting premise, I found Every Heart a Doorway to be the weakest book in the series thus far. It’s very slow, the characters aren’t explored as deeply as I would have liked, and the tone is fairly inconsistent. Conceptually, I think it’s great. I gave it 3 stars and I feel very comfortable with its position directly in between books two and three.

Speaking of which, the sequel, Down Among the Sticks and Bones is an absolute masterpiece of a fairy tale. A dark one for sure, but that’s just how I like them. This book is a prequel to Every Heart and tells the origin story of the two characters we met previously, the twins Jacqueline and Jillian.

McGuire’s writing, to me, felt much more developed in this book and I loved it. It called to mind other authors I adore like Holly Black and Laini Taylor who write stories in such a way that they feel like fairy tales that can be enjoyed by teens and adults alike. Sticks and Bones is really dark, and we get to see every facet of the two girls, how they grew up together and then split apart, leading to the events at the end of Every Heart (which actually made me like the first book more). I gave this one 5 stars and immediately went and ordered a physical copy for myself because I want to go back and revisit it over and over again.

“Someone with sharp enough eyes might see the instant where one wounded heart begins to rot while the other starts to heal.”

Book three, Beneath the Sugar Sky, takes us from Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children to the nonsensical world of Confection where just about everything is made of sugar. The main focus here is a mixed-up timeline that went screwy after one of the murders in the first book. We get to revisit characters we’ve met previously as well as get to know some fun new ones. I didn’t expect to like this book as much as I did but it was just… so sweet. I love how all of these kids come together to overcome their own issues to help one another. I gave it 4 stars.

“But children, ah, children. Children follow the foxes, and open the wardrobes, and peek beneath the bridge. Children climb the walls and fall down the wells and run the razor’s edge of possibility until sometimes, just sometimes, the possible surrenders and shows them the way to go home.”

Now, Scribd has basically put me on lockdown for about a month since I’ve been tearing through audiobooks like nobody’s business. Unfortunately that means I have to wait a while to hear the rest of the books that are out now. I’m hooked though! Here was a series that I never saw myself giving the time of day and now I’m already picturing myself taking them down from my bookshelf to self-soothe on a bad day or when I just want to revisit some strange lands and interesting characters. I guess it really was just a matter of waiting for my Door to open. But I’m so glad it did, and I’m so thankful for the solace and hope these books have given me when I really needed that.

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Witches of Ash and Ruin by E. Latimer *Book Review*

Witches of Ash and Ruin by E. Latimer

Goodreads Rating: 3.62

My Rating: 4/5

Tongue and eye, hand and foot. Blood and bone, ash and soot.

E. Latimer combines modern witchcraft with Celtic folklore in this gripping story about two opposing covens who must come together in the deeply religious Irish town of Carman to stop a serial killer who is targeting witches.

At the beginning of the book, Dayna has just been outted as bisexual at her school against her will. On top of her training to become a full fledged witch, she must contend with her persistent ex-boyfriend, pastor father, and the return of her emotionally unstable mother from a suspicious bible camp that was intended to make her better. She finds solace with her friend Raegan and the other witches in her coven. That is, until a second coven of three strange witches shows up to combine their forces against an impending attack.

Meiner is also a witchling with a chip on her shoulder and an attitude problem. The leader of her coven is her grandmother King, who is equal parts abusive and reckless with her magic. And that is to say nothing of Cora, her ex-girlfriend, who is also a little too willing to bend the rules.

I loved the overall atmosphere of this book. It brings to mind scenes from The Raven Cycle’s 300 Fox Way and its diverse characters. I think the characters are easily the strongest thing going for Witches of Ash and Ruin. They have A LOT going on and it was very compelling to watch them struggle with each other and try to find middle ground in order to meet a common goal. The plot itself is super interesting and despite a slow section here and there, I wanted to push through them to see what would happen next.

I didn’t have any outright problems with this book but, to me, the most lackluster aspect was the writing style. It’s very direct which is good for getting its point across, but I am a fan of a little flowery language (to an extent) that I can return to and highlight. So that being said, this book isn’t very quotable but I can’t be too upset about it since I think everything else was done very well.

One thing I think is worth mentioning is the representation of OCD in this book. It is mentioned early on that one of the characters has been diagnosed and it’s something she struggles with, but it doesn’t really come up a whole lot after that. I’ve heard mixed reviews on how this was perceived. Some people liked that, and others didn’t. It’s not an illness I have any personal experience with so I can’t comment on it myself but maybe take that into consideration.

Some other trigger warnings you should be aware of: homophobia, implied conversion therapy, implied sexual assault, self harm, familial abuse, body horror, mental illness

As of 2021 I have revamped my rating system a little and it goes like this: I have a list of criteria I grade a book on (where applicable) and I give each of those a rating from 1 to 5. Then I take the average of them all, and that’s where my final rating comes from. So this is what my breakdown for Witches of Ash and Ruin looks like:

  • Plot- 4/5
  • Characters- 5/5
  • Pacing- 4/5
  • Writing Style- 3/5
  • Overall Enjoyment- 4/5
  • Insightfulness- 4/5
  • Ease of Reading- 5/5

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So Long, 2020…

If you are reading this, then let me start by sincerely congratulating you for getting through this hell of a year. I don’t know a single person who’s had an easy time of it for the majority of 2020 and I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve gone through your fair share of trials in the last 9-12 months.

Speaking of, it’s been a while since we’ve talked hasn’t it? My last post here was in March and things pretty much went downhill for me (and billions of others, globally) from there and have only just slightly began to pick up. So let’s talk. I’ll tell you where I’ve been and we’re I’m headed. Fair warning in advance that I will be talking about some sensitive topics including mental health struggles. If that’s something you are not comfortable with, don’t worry– skip this one, and I’ll see you in the next one.

Around this time last year, I began experiencing what I thought was a really bad stomach bug, and then two months passed and it didn’t go away. I was diagnosed in February with an unidentified IBS disorder and began cutting things out of my diet left and right. It didn’t get better. On the contrary, as of right now, I can’t eat anything that isn’t egg, gluten free bread, or plain rice. I’ve dealt with doctors who misdiagnosed me or outright dismissed my concerns and it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I finally got a proper diagnosis and began the long road to recovery. So my 2020 has basically been a medical nightmare full of uncertainty, pain, and bland food.

In addition to that, I lost my cat, Mia, at 16 years of age. I first got her when I was 8 and we had been inseparable ever since. It was so heartbreaking and I miss her every day. On top of that, I thought I had completed my college degree. Twice. Only to find out that so-and-so credit/requirement was missing and/or there was a massive misunderstanding that led to said credits not being fulfilled. I was meant to graduate this past summer and I am currently gearing up for an online spring semester. So all of that was a lot to deal with and collectively, it took a massive toll on my mental health. Something I thought I had mastered finally after nearly a decade of therapy came back around and RKO’d my naïve self. I am okay now, so please don’t worry on my behalf, but I’d like to take this moment to urge you to swallow your pride and seek help when you need it. You’ll be surprised at the number of people willing to come to your defense when you do. I am extremely fortunate in so many ways despite these hardships.

I haven’t even mentioned the giant, planet-sized elephant in the room. You all know about Corona Virus I’m guessing. I won’t get into that mess besides saying that I sympathize with every single person who has felt the effects of this plague first hand. As we go into the new year, please continue to be kind and considerate of the people around you. Wear a mask. Please.

As you may have imagined, all of this going on has kept me from social media for the most part. This blog has been devoid of content, my Instagram has been looking sad and neglected, and honestly it’s been Tumblr and the book community on Tiktok (or, Booktok, if you will) of all places that have helped to keep me going.

Despite my absence, I have been reading lots and I’m excited to tell you guys about all the wonderful books that have quite literally kept me from losing it. Let me just start by telling you what’s been going on behind the scenes of @foxingfae.

First, I have my own domain now! If you’re here, you’re currently on foxingfae.com. Welcome! I’ve been spiffying up the site and putting a few updated touches to old posts of mine. I’ve also made some pretty big changes on Instagram. Bookstagram and I sort of have a love/hate relationship that I’ve been trying to reconcile on my hiatus. On the one hand, I adore it as a community and I’ve met so many beautiful individuals and discovered so many amazing books. It’s a lot of fun to interact with it and I could honestly lose myself for days there. And that’s sort of where my problem begins. Bookstagram, to me, can feel really unhealthy.

Hidden below the surface of colorful photos and super sweet comments, is a clique-y and competitive nightmare that makes reading books feel like a contest, and follower counts feel like a reflection of your value as a person. There is a consumer culture that stresses me the hell out. I felt like I had to participate in follow trains, and shout-out swaps just to remain relevant, and still, every time I lost a follower, it would ruin my day. I would spend hours agonizing over my posts and hating what I came up with in the end, anyway. This site that I came to for relaxation and a good time felt like a huge weight on my shoulders.

So I’ve essentially started over. I’ve deleted over half of my posts and completely restarted my following list from scratch. There is nothing personal behind this decision, I don’t have an issue with any one individually, this is just something I needed to do for my own peace of mind. I hope you understand. If not, that’s okay. I’ve come to realize how important it is to curate your own online experience. I’ve taken the gravitas out of the action of blocking or unfollowing people. It’s not an attack, it’s a way to make my own time online more positive and enjoyable for myself. I would highly encourage you to do the same, even if that means you don’t want to follow me anymore. I won’t take it personally, I promise.

Whew okay, that was kinda heavy wasn’t it? I’m sorry. Let’s get into the fun stuff!

In addition to my IG, Tumblr, and blog (here) I’ve made a bookish account on Tiktok. I’ve had a lot of fun learning to make content with a whole new medium and I’ve met some really lovely people there. I’ll be doing a giveaway on there once I hit 5K followers! I will be back to posting on Instagram tomorrow (1/1) and my Tumblr is just as active as it’s always been.

I’ll be posting here again as well! I already have some new content planned. While you can mostly expect to see book reviews here, you’ll see a post about my Goodreads 2020 Reading Challenge, my favorite and least favorite books of 2020, and definitely a TBR or two. You might see the occasional post about music as well but this is still going to be a 95% book space as it’s always been.

So as 2020 ends and 2021 begins, the topic of resolutions is bound to come up. I really only have two for myself and they are: 1.) I want to heal, and 2.) I want to be happy.

Sure, I have some other goals in mind. I want to set my 2021 Goodreads goal to 50 books (same as last year) and I’d like to actually get to the Nevernight trilogy finally. But I think setting all kinds of “rules” for myself is sort of just setting myself up to fail. After such a stressful year, I want to be able to just… be. Life is so short, and most of it can’t be planned for anyway.

So I don’t know about you guys, but I’m just going to get the new year started right by burying my nose in a book. I have a few different ones I’m reading right now: A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire by Jennifer L. Armentrout (I looooooved From Blood and Ash), Into the Wild by Erin Hunter (Yup, I’m reading Warrior Cats for the first time in my 23 years of living), Witches of Ash and Ruin by E. Latimer, and I’m also reading the Death Note and Tokyo Ghoul manga.

If you’ve read this far, thank you so much and know that I love you. I hope you have a wonderful New Year’s. Please be safe and responsible, and let me know what you’re reading!!!

.✫*゚・゚。.☆.*。・゚✫*.

Most sincerely,

Liv

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