Magical Mondays: Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Magical Mondays: Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen ChoSorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
Published by ACE CHARTER on September 1st 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Historical, Literary, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
In this sparkling debut, magic and mayhem clash with the British elite... The Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers, one of the most respected organizations throughout all of England, has long been tasked with maintaining magic within His Majesty’s lands. But lately, the once proper institute has fallen into disgrace, naming an altogether unsuitable gentleman—a freed slave who doesn’t even have a familiar—as their Sorcerer Royal, and allowing England’s once profuse stores of magic to slowly bleed dry. At least they haven’t stooped so low as to allow women to practice what is obviously a man’s profession… At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers and eminently proficient magician, ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up. But when his adventure brings him in contact with a most unusual comrade, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, he sets on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large…

Being an unabashed Anglophile and proud Potterhead, I thought this book would be right up my (Diagon) alley. The author took quite an interesting approach to magical England, a kind of 18th century Harry Potter meets Parliament. Not surprisingly, I found certain parts of Sorcerer to the Crown quite enjoyable, but it had some pitfalls that kept me from falling in love with it.

Perhaps my favorite thing about this book was the way it was written–it was delightfully British. I think this particular sentence exemplifies it perfectly:

“Despite these brave prophylactics against disappointment, Prunella was inclined to be crestfallen when she drew out of the valise a sheaf of old papers–newspapers and torn receipts, of no account.”

(Translation in American: “She was sad because there was nothing in the bag.“)

The vocabulary was also quite dazzling, but became tedious the further along I read (seriously, my Kindle dictionary was no match for some of these words). Initially, it felt as if the author was just trying to show off her mad thesaurus skillz, but upon further reflection, I appreciated her use of archaic terms that truly enhanced the historical feel of the book.

I also enjoyed how the author created a world parallel to 18th century England, with all its white, patriarchal privilege, and then chose to create main characters who defy those cultural norms. Zacharias, the freed slave, held the highest magical position in the land. He faced overt discrimination from the magical society despite his true claim as Sorcerer Royal (as well as being a gifted thaumaturge), with his adversaries looking for any way to unseat him. There was also a restriction on women using magic, which made the feminist in me bristle. Although I generally disliked Prunella’s character, I enjoyed her complete dismissal of these rules, rising to heights previously unattainable to low born, mixed race women.

So, yea, this book totally matches what I usually enjoying reading. But there were a couple of things about it I couldn’t overlook. First of all, it was slooooow at times. I almost gave up on this book around the 1/3 mark. But what I truly struggled with was supporting the story’s heroin. Despite my earlier remarks about her, Prunella was reckless and rash, and something about her character rubbed me the wrong way. I also felt that she took advantage of Zacharias, whose temperament reminded of Jane Bennett and who was completely naive when it came to women.

The verdict: good, but not great. It looks like this might become a series, and I haven’t yet decided whether I’ll read the next book.

Sunday Salon: Research and Readathon Edition

Happenings// This was a full week! In addition to midterms, research, and readathoning, I’ve finally decided what I’m going to do re: graduate school applications. While I would prefer to apply to schools all over the country, I must also consider my hubby’s career, and he currently works for a geographically limited institution. So, I will be applying to only one PhD program this year. Fortunately, this happens to be the same university where I interviewed last year, so I’m hoping second time is the charm.

Submitted// a couple of abstracts to the Southeastern Psychological Association to present research posters at the 2016 annual conference: one with the health psychology lab and one based on my thesis data. Here’s hoping those get accepted, but since the conference is in New Orleans this year, I’ll be going regardless!

Progressing// on my thesis. The last couple of months I’ve struggled with physical illness and writer’s block, and I’ve had to push back my graduation a couple of times now because I haven’t been able to put cogent thoughts on paper. But something clicked this week and I’m getting going again. It may not be 100% complete by the end of the month, but it’ll be mostly done. And that will be a huge load off!

I also managed to get a couple of blog posts drafted this week! (The writer’s block also affected my ability to write reviews…) It feels really good to be back in the groove!!!

Reading// Because of school, I didn’t get to read much during the week. I’m still working on Packing For Mars by Mary Roach. I wanted to use Dewey’s readathon to finish it, but didn’t quite make it. I discovered two things about myself during the readathon: I am better at binge reading fiction; and reading about astronauts and space barf when you’re queasy is a really bad idea.

Listening// to the Harry Potter series read by Stephen Frey. I finished HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban Friday night as a readathon appetizer, and got through about 160 pages of listening to HP and the Goblet of Fire throughout Saturday. I absolutely adore listening to Frey read these books. Not only does he have a fantastic voice for narrating, his character voices are on point!

It feels good to have a good week! How was yours, readers? 

Anything Can Happen Thursday: Countdown to #Readathon

ACH Thursday banner

Right now, this is my favorite day of the week. On Wednesdays, I have weekly thesis meetings and then class, so Thursdays are for unwinding, and getting ready for the next week. What’s great about this coming week is…. NO CLASS! Thank the gods for a professor who loves Back to the Future so much she cancels class on October 21st!

So, what’s the big deal?

I can do fun stuff without having schoolwork hanging out head!!

So here’s my plan for the weekend… I caught up on my shows tonight (any Haven fans out there?), so Friday will be for adulting: making progress on my thesis, doing some laundry, maybe visiting the grocer. This’ll pave the way for a glorious Saturday spent participating in Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon!

Here’s what I hope to accomplish:

  • Read Packing For Mars and Why I Killed Pluto
  • Catch up on some reviews
  • Finish Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban on audiobook

I’ll be posting my progress on Twitter, so follow me @beesbookbuzz (I also share great pet photos, IMHO)! Who else is excited for a readathon?!

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Mental Health Musings: Do Authors Have to Get Everything Right?

mental health musing

Last month, I decided to read Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. So far, I’ve read the first four (of seven) books, and while I’ve most enjoyed the first and fourth so far, I have much more time thinking about the second installment, The Drawing of the Three. Admittedly, this has been my least favorite thus far for a variety of reasons, but that isn’t the source of my rumination. What has continued to plague my thoughts in the month since turning the last page was a grossly inaccurate mental health diagnosis.

About a third of the way through the book, the reader is introduced to two characters, O’Detta and Detta. However, these characters inhibit but one physical body. These split characters are supposed to be the result of the very rare mental health diagnosis, dissociative identity disorder (formerly known as multiple personality disorder). However, in the book, the diagnosis King used was schizophrenia. Despite a common misconception that these two disorders are the same or similar, they are vastly different. This is what has been on my mind so much lately. I was so irritated with the misdiagnosis that I almost dropped the book and abandoned my journey to the Dark Tower.

Since then I’ve been thinking a lot about the portrayal of mental health in books (and television and film for that matter). And the question hanging on my mind is this: does it matter if the author gets it right?

I’m currently finishing my Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology, and one year of that time was spent as an intern counselor. Mental health is kinda my jam, so as a pre-Masters professional and mental health advocate, my initial reaction is to stand on the rooftops and shout, “Hell no! Get your shit together!” There are so many misconceptions out there about mental health and psychotherapy, and such misconceptions can affect whether an individual in need seeks appropriate care.

But…. how many other things are misrepresented in our books?

I recently read that there was a huge scientific error in The Martian regarding windstorms on Mars, which is ultimately what left Mark Watney stranded. I loved this book before I knew about this, and now having that knowledge hasn’t altered my opinion of the book. Are there astronauts, physicists and engineers racing to their rooftops for the same reasons I have? And how many procedural crime shows on TV today are riddled with procedural inaccuracies? I mean, seriously, in what world would the FBI give a psychologist a gun and send him out into the field? How many legal procedures are grossly simplified or outright wrong? (I could go on and on about some psychological aspects of these shows that also make me want to pull out my hair, but I’ll save that for another day.)

Hence my current dilemma. Should writers be getting mental health right, or do the laws of fiction allow some flexibility?

I would love to hear what you all have to say about this subject, readers!

September Reading Wrap-Up: RIPX 2015 and Library Checkout

Reading Wrap-up

Photo Credit:

Oh, September! You came and went far too quickly! What a fun month of reading, which I dedicated solely to the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril 2015 Readathon! After a 15 year hiatus, I gave The Dark Tower series another chance. I don’t know what changed, but, this time, I’m loving it.

Another thing I fully embraced this month was my local library!! Because I was initially unsure if I’d get through The Gunslinger, I opted to check it out rather than buy a Kindle edition. And all but one book I’ve read this month was checked out!! Why didn’t I start doing this sooner?! I’m really pleased with my local branch (which is a close enough to walk or bike) as well as the main downtown branch. It also lifts my spirits to see how many people who are also using the library system. Every time I go, the place is packed. I love it!!

So, here’s how my month turned out…

Peril the First Reads (“read four books that fit R.I.P)

  • The Gunslinger, The Dark Tower I by Stephen King
  • The Drawing of the Three, The Dark Tower II by Stephen King
  • The Wastelands, The Dark Tower III by Stephen King
  • Wizard and Glass, The Dark Tower IV by Stephen King (still working on this one!)

Peril of the Short Story Reads

  • Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King (my favorite was Fair Extension)

In Progress

  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Up Next in October – Library Checkout

  • Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach
  • How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming by Mike Brown

Up Next on Kindle

  • Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie

How was your September reading? I’d love to hear from the Dark Tower fans!!