Boundless (Unearthly #3) – Cynthia Hand

Published September 1, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

The past few years have held more surprises than part-angel Clara Gardner could ever have anticipated. Yet from the dizzying highs of first love, to the agonizing low of losing someone close to her, the one thing she can no longer deny is that she was never meant to live a normal life.

Since discovering the special role she plays among the other angel-bloods, Clara has been determined to protect Tucker Avery from the evil that follows her . . . even if it means breaking both their hearts. Leaving town seems like the best option, so she’s headed back to California – and so is Christian Prescott, the irresistible boy from the vision that started her on this journey in the first place.

As Clara makes her way in a world that is frighteningly new, she discovers that the fallen angel who attacked her is watching her every move. And he’s not the only one. . . . With the battle against the Black Wings looming, Clara knows she must finally fulfill her destiny. But it won’t come without sacrifices and betrayal.

In the riveting finale of the Unearthly series, Clara must decide her fate once and for all.

What did I think?:

This is the final book in Cynthia Hand’s riveting Unearthly trilogy and provides readers with one last look into the world of teenager and part-angel Clara Gardner, who hasn’t had it easy since finding out about her strange powers and having to lose someone she loves. However, Boundless is a fantastic conclusion to a gripping story that had me hooked from the very first novel. It begins with our heroine Clara beginning college at Stanford accompanied by her best friend Angela and the enigmatic Christian. Clara is starting the next phase of her life far away from her first love Tucker Avery, as much to protect him as anything else, but no matter how hard she tries, the memory of their time together does not fade easily which kind of puts an obstacle against any new relationships occurring while she is at Stanford. Clara’s father, a very interesting. mysterious and incredibly powerful angel, plays a bigger part in this section of the trilogy, as he begins to prepare Clara and Christian for a battle with the evil Black Wings that he is sure is coming, and he wants her to be ready for.

In Boundless, as Clara’s purpose becomes clearer, we also find out a lot about her best friend Angela, who has a huge role to play in the destiny of all three teenagers, and there is also an intriguing insight into the mind of Clara’s troubled brother Jeffrey as he wrestles with his own inner demons. What else can I tell you without spoiling the series for readers who haven’t begun it? Well, there are some mind-bending interactions with Black Wing Samjeeza that really got my head in a whirl, beautiful and poignant moments that will definitely bring a tear to your eye as Clara struggles to come to terms with everything she has gone through, realising that it has made her a much stronger person able to face any danger coming her way and lastly, a terrifying glimpse of Hell that sent a shiver down my spine and that I still think upon from time to time – please let it not be true, please let it not be true!

I really enjoyed every moment of this beautiful, well written series and I was very sad when it had to come to a close. I even had that open-mouthed “NOOO!” moment at one point, but I’ll let you find it for yourself. For me, it was a satisfying conclusion to an excellent story that fans of paranormal romance will gobble up and hugely enjoy. Our lead character is a heroine to be proud of, and the strength of the supporting characters like Christian (who improved book upon book) Tucker, Angela and Jeffrey holds up to the closest scrutiny. An action-packed plot is mixed with more tender and poignant moments that balance out perfectly making the heart beat just a little bit faster with each turn of the page. Yup, I loved it… so if you haven’t started it yet, what on earth are you waiting for?

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Short Stories Challenge – Cain Rose Up by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew

Published August 27, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s Cain Rose Up all about?:

Cain Rose Up is about a college student called Garrish who goes on a frenzied killing spree from his dorm windows.

What did I think?:

This is one of Stephen King’s “shorter” short stories and a lot of action is packed into just a few pages. It is one of the few Stephen King stories that I have had to read again just so I could formulate my thoughts properly before writing a review! Cain Rose Up follows a student called Curt Garrish as he is about to finish the semester and has taken his final exams. We the reader sense that something is not right about Curt from the beginning as he talks to a friend, Beaver and admits that he thinks he has flunked the chemistry paper. Beaver seems shocked to hear this, so perhaps normally Curt is an excellent student? He is fairly short with him saying that he needs to take a shower and proceeds to his room on the fifth floor. On the way, he meets a number of people that might be “better off dead,” in his words, like the counsellor Rollins who he can see:

“lying dead in a ditch with maggots in his eyes. Rollins wouldn’t care. Neither would the maggots. You either ate the world or the world ate you and it was okay either way.”

Rollins appears slightly puzzled at Curt’s demeanour but doesn’t follow it up and carries on his way. Big mistake. Because we are dealing with a very disturbed, depressed and confused individual who clearly needs help and feels like the whole world is against him. In his room, which he keeps neat in a kind of military style we have a poster of Humphrey Bogart with an automatic pistol in each hand, and then things start to get a bit hairy when he pulls a rifle from his closet, sits down on the bed and weeps. A fellow student interrupts him briefly who he imagines dying of cancer or renal failure. From the point of the reader, it is obvious that Curt has completely given up on life as it seems to be a waste of time. Then talking to the Bogart poster, we get a deeper insight into what Curt is feeling as he rails about Cain, God and his treatment of Cain.

Cain and Abel were the sons of Adam and Eve – the first humans. Cain was put in charge of cultivating the land and Abel became a shepherd, tending the flock. Both made offerings to God, and while Abel’s was accepted, Cain’s was rejected. Cain was furious at this and immediately killed his brother in a fit of jealousy and anger.

Is Curt himself railing at God for his life, which is obviously miserable? Getting back at the world (and God) he proceeds to go to the dorm window and shoot at students and others that he picks out to die repeating what seems to be his mantra – “you eat the world or the world eats you.” The ending is very open, which I loved, and Stephen King lets us make up our own minds about what happens next in the story.

Yet again, another piece of brilliant writing from King, which I actually enjoyed more on the second reading. His characters are intriguing and the plot is intense and builds tension throughout which is actually not released at the end due to the openness of it. This may feel frustrating to some readers, but I enjoyed re-playing the story in my mind and trying to guess what would have happened if King had continued writing. I’m very much looking forward to the next story in this collection.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: Peep Show by Nathan Englander from the collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank

Mr Mercedes – Stephen King

Published August 26, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

In a mega-stakes, high-suspense race against time, three of the most unlikely and winning heroes Stephen King has ever created try to stop a lone killer from blowing up thousands. In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes. In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the perp; and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy. Brady Hartfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again. Only Bill Hodges, with a couple of highly unlikely allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands. Mr. Mercedes is a war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable.

What did I think?:

Mr Mercedes, the latest release from Stephen King at the time of writing, sees the author dabble in the world of crime fiction which he accomplishes very well but I may be ever so slightly biased being a huge fan. Does it stand out amongst other books in the genre? Well, yes I think it does, mainly due to the strength of characters that King creates. Our main character is a police detective called Bill Hodges who has recently retired but is not really enjoying or making the most of all the free time he now has on his hands. Bill is overweight, bored, depressed/positively suicidal and haunted by one of his old cases which remains unsolved. This is the case of the Mercedes killer who killed/seriously wounded a number of people waiting in line for employment as he drove a Mercedes car right through them and managed to escape the scene, leaving behind just a clown mask. Unfortunately, the killer doesn’t seem to be done yet and in a taunting letter to Hodges, threatens to carry out a deed with even more carnage and impact than you could ever imagine. The good thing about it this is that it gives Hodges a well needed kick up the backside to hunt down the killer and try to prevent another massacre from happening.

We, the Constant Reader are let in on the secret of who the Mercedes killer is, of course which proved maddening for me personally as I found myself willing Hodges to “Look over there! Don’t do that! Watch out! (he’s behind you….) Sounds a bit like a pantomime, sure but believe me, this is one “baddie” you’re certainly going to love to hate. His name is Brady Hartfield, and he has some serious issues going on. He lives with his alcoholic mother, has a tragic back story, is completely doo-lally and works two jobs, the first in IT where he is called out to repair home computers and the second driving an ice cream van. Both are very convenient for him so that he can interact with certain individuals while maintaining a relatively low profile. Hey, is anybody going to suspect the guy selling children some ice cream? But this guy is no Child-Catcher, he’s worse. After pushing all the right buttons and getting a response from Bill Hodges, they communicate on a regular basis through a chat site where he cannot be identified. He got a little taste for murder as the Mercedes killer, but it’s been a few years and he can feel the hunger coming back – a hunger that will only be sated by causing even more damage to as many people as possible. So can Bill Hodges unmask the villain this time? Can he foil the Mercedes killer’s dastardly deeds?

Of course I’m not going to answer that question, you’ll have to read it and find out! I highly recommend this novel, for fans of the big man’s work and also for newbies who haven’t discovered his magic way with words. King does a wonderful job of making his characters so memorable and there are some damned fine ones here – the evil Brady Hartfield aka Mr Mercedes, Bill Hodges and a vulnerable woman turned crime-fighter called Holly are favourites for me. Each one is written in such a way that you feel you really know them and could meet them on the street the next day. (Except for Brady Hartfield – if you met him you should just RUN, okay?) The tension builds up to almost unbearable levels as the plot reaches its climax, but this novel is definitely action-packed throughout. There is never a dull moment, and even some shocks and surprises just to keep us on our toes. Mr King, you’ve done it again. I bow down to you…

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Banned Books #2 – The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler with Chrissi Reads and Luna’s Little Library

Published August 25, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

“The heroine’s transformation into someone who finds her own style and speaks her own mind is believable — and worthy of applause.” — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

Fifteen-year-old Virginia Shreves has a larger-than-average body and a plus-size inferiority complex, especially when she compares herself to her slim, brilliant, picture-perfect family. But that’s before a shocking phone call — and a horrifying allegation — about her rugby-star brother changes everything. With irreverent humor and surprising gravity, Carolyn Mackler creates an endearingly blunt heroine who speaks to every teen who struggles with family expectations, and proves that the most impressive achievement is to be true to yourself.

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Welcome to a new feature on my blog! It’s Banned Books that I’m collaborating with Chrissi Reads and Luna’s Little Library on.

Every month for the rest of 2014 ChrissiReads, Luna’s Little Library and myself will be reading one Banned/Challenged Book a month. We’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book.

If you’d like to join in our discussion (and please feel free!) below is a list of what we’ll be reading:

September

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Chosen by: Beth

October

Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks (as “Anonymous”)

Chosen by: Chrissi

November

Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden

Chosen by: Luna

December

Lush by Natasha Friend

Chosen by: Beth

But back to this month….

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler
First published: 1st January 2003
Most recently in the Top Ten of Frequently Challenged Books in 2009 (
source)
Chosen by: Luna’s Little Library
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
 What did WE think?:
Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged originally?
BETH: Okay, so the reasons for it being challenged originally is the offensive language, it being sexually explicit and unsuited to the age group. Some things I kind of agree with, some I don’t. I don’t really remember instances of very offensive language to be honest so I don’t agree on that level. After all, teenagers may hear more foul things in the streets or on television (or maybe in their own homes?) than what is written in this novel! And as for it being unsuited to the age group I completely disagree with this. Some teenagers read at a more mature level, others at a more immature one and you can’t really put everyone into a nice neat little box and tell them what they should be reading and at what age. 
CHRISSI: I somewhat understand why it’s challenged. This isn’t necessarily to do with me agreeing that the content should be challenged. It’s a tough one. I DO think that teenagers need to be reading about this sort of thing and I completely support that. However, I think it has to be a very brave teacher that takes on this book. Not because it’s ‘bad’ but mainly because I can imagine parents would get very uptight about their children reading about these issues. I think Luna’s right, we do underestimate teenagers. They can read this material. They should! But should they in school? That’s where I begin to wonder. I think if I was about to train to be a secondary/high school teacher instead of a primary school teacher, then I’d definitely recommend this book to my class. Would I read it with my class? No. I’d be scared of the reaction from parents. That’s a wimpy way of looking at it, but I wonder if parents are part of the problem with books like these. Can we as educators, suggest books for teenagers to  read in their own time to get around this problem? Perhaps.
LUNA: I have this feeling I’m going to be permanently moving into the NO Camp for the all books we read (you can read my previous rant here) but upon finishing The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things I thought: “Are you kidding me?”
1) “offensive language” – There is one scene where Virginia’s brother swears at her and yes is real swearing but it’s completely within context. Be it in 2003 or now I promise you that teens will have heard and used that word themselves. They’ll probably know a lot more.
2) “sexually explicit” – *sighs* I wasn’t sure which part of the story this was referring to but regardless it just made me roll my eyes. Either it’s the beginning of the book when Virginia and Froggy are making out and she’s talking about her ‘bra’ and shock horror the word ‘nipples’ is used or it’s to do with what her brother Bryon does.
SPOILER ALERT Virginia’s older brother is suspended from university following a date-rape allegation which is upheld. The rape happened butthis is Virginia’s story so as the reader you know of it but you never actually read about the experience. Carolyn Mackler doesn’t include a first person account from the victim.
3)  “unsuited to age group” – shall we just pretend I gave you the long version of Don’t underestimate teenagers! Yes? Excellent. Moving on…
 
How about now?
BETH: This book has a relatively recent publication date (2009) and I don’t think things have changed much in the past few years but I think regardless of what year it was published my opinions would still be the same. I do think this book should be read by teenagers, especially those that may pick on someone slightly larger than average. (Hey, what’s average anyway?) But should it be taught in schools? Quick and easy answer to this one… I don’t think so. I think I have valid points to back this up though. Virginia shares with the reader some of her diet tips, like drinking a lot of water to feel fuller so you don’t eat so much and puts pictures of skinny girls on the fridge for “thinspiration.” Now, do we really want to be reading these kind of things to vulnerable kids that may feel they need to lose some weight?! And yes we might not give a lot of credit to how sensible teenagers can be etc but there only needs to be one that is slightly more naive or less worldly and BANG – welcome to eating disorder city. 
CHRISSI: Again, like Luna… see my answer above. I really wish we could read more contemporary books in schools. I think the problem with contemporary books is that they seem much more explicit compared to the classics. The classics do deal with issues as well, but I guess in some ways they don’t seem as relevant to teenagers as contemporary reads do. I think it’s a good thing that there’s relatable literature out there for teenagers.
LUNA: *pfft* see above answer and yes I said this for Perks but we’re already teaching classic literature that deals with the same themes in schools.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is on the GCSE reading list in the UK (source) and taught in the US. It’s strongly implied that the monster rapes Frankstein’s wife on their wedding night. While not nearly as frequent as Frankstein I did still find Tess of the D’Urbervilles as recommend reading for High Schoolers and despite the fact that Thomas Hardy is ambiguous on purpose the general opinion is that Alec rapes Tess.
I’m repeating myself but if we’re already dealing with the reasons The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things was challenged in “classic” literature (that are being taught in schools) then why is this a problem for a modern book?
Romeo and Juliet has teenage sex, plenty of violence and suicide. Shakespeare is pretty graphic so why is that ok but not a book written in the last fifteen years? Somebody explain this to me because I just don’t get it.  
What did you think of the book?
BETH: Despite my earlier rant I do think this is a good young adult read. Virginia is a likeable character that I think teenagers will love and I hope that they will take home all the positive messages in the novel, of which there were plenty.
CHRISSI: I thought it was a decent read! I haven’t read anything by this author before, but I felt like she dealt with the issues really well with a relatable, likeable character.
LUNA: I really liked The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things. I previously read The Future of Us and loved it.
Virginia is such a relatable character, especially for me. I thought that Carolyn Mackler handled the issue of weight/self-confidence really well. Even though her parents fail at the beginning there is character growth (be it small steps) for them and it was good that Virginia has positive adult influences, Dr Love and her teacher for example.
I went through a lot of emotions while reading this book: sympathy, heartache, joy, rage, hope, etc. but the overriding feeling was that of pride for Virginia – you girl are awesome. :)
 
Would WE recommend it?
BETH: Probably!
CHRISSI: Yes!
LUNA: Absolutely
BETH’s personal star rating (out of 5):
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This was a great book for discussion, and I’m really glad I read it and as always, really enjoyed the opinions of my partners in crime Chrissi Reads and Luna’s Little Library. But what do you think? Have you read it? Should it be banned/challenged? We’d love to hear your thoughts.
Join us again on the last Monday of September when we’ll be discussing my choice of banned books – The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.
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Talking About Before We Met by Lucie Whitehouse with Chrissi

Published August 22, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Hannah, independent, headstrong, and determined not to follow in the footsteps of her bitterly divorced mother, has always avoided commitment. But one hot New York summer she meets Mark Reilly, a fellow Brit, and is swept up in a love affair that changes all her ideas about what marriage might mean.

Now, living in their elegant, expensive London townhouse and adored by her fantastically successful husband, she knows she was right to let down her guard.

But when Mark does not return from a business trip to the U.S. and when the hours of waiting for him stretch into days, the foundations of Hannah’s certainty begin to crack. Why do Mark’s colleagues believe he has gone to Paris not America? Why is there no record of him at his hotel? And who is the mysterious woman who has been telephoning him over the last few weeks?

Hannah begins to dig into her husband’s life, uncovering revelations that throw into doubt everything she has ever believed about him. As her investigation leads her away from their fairytale romance into a place of violence and fear she must decide whether the secrets Mark has been keeping are designed to protect him or protect her . . .

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: What were your first impressions of Mark?

BETH: It was obvious to me that the author was playing mind games with the reader from the start, I was instantly primed to feel suspicious of Mark. It was clear that he was a man with a few secrets and maybe a few skeletons in his closet. When he came clean about some issues to his wife which explain his actions to a certain extent, I did feel sorry for him but then a few more twists and turns come in and by about halfway through I really didn’t know what to think!

BETH: What did you think of the character of Hannah?

CHRISSI: I have to be honest, Hannah took a long time to grow on me. I thought she was incredibly dramatic, but then again, the whole story is dramatic! However, as the story progressed I did begin to sympathise with her. I tried to put myself in the same position and it’s totally believable that Hannah would become paranoid about whether she really knew her husband. It really does make you wonder if you know everyone as well as you think that you do!

CHRISSI: Before We Met has been described as a ‘marriage thriller’ – why do you think there has been an increase in this type of thriller and what is it that appeals to the reader?

BETH: Great question! I think that a lot of books like this are coming out from the huge success that was Gone Girl and Before l Go To Sleep, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. For myself, I really enjoy reading about those relationships that have something hidden beneath the surface and are not completely perfect. Tie in a couple of twists and a psychological edge that make you catch your breath or leave your mouth wide open and I think you have the recipe for a perfect novel!

BETH: How do you think Hannah’s relationship with her mother affects her marriage to Mark, if at all?

CHRISSI: I think that Hannah is determined not to turn into her mother. She wonders if her paranoia is due to her living through her parent’s  marriage troubles. I think it definitely had an affect on Hannah’s marriage. Even if you convince yourself you won’t have the same insecurities as someone else, if you’ve lived with the person for long enough their traits do start to rub off on you, or they’re always there in the back of your mind. I felt like Hannah was aware of how paranoid her mother was and wondered whether history was repeating itself. It almost drove her mad.

CHRISSI: Did you find the book predictable at all?

BETH: Unfortunately, I did, which was a bit of a shame as there was great potential in the story. I think this might be the downfall of novels marketed as “the next Gone Girl,” as it leaves the reader always looking for the twist. In this novel, I did actually guess what was going on before the big reveal which was slightly frustrating as I prefer to be surprised.

BETH: Do you think that we can ever really know everything about another person?

CHRISSI: Quite simply…no. We are close as siblings, but I’m pretty sure there are things hidden from each other.  Nothing major, I hope. Like the secrets hidden in this book ;) but I do strongly believe that you don’t know everything about another person. In most cases I love learning new things about others, as long as it’s not freaky or scary things!

CHRISSI: Discuss the sibling relationships in the novel.

BETH: I loved Hannah’s relationship with her brother as they are very close and he worries about her constantly. As she doesn’t get on too well with her mother, it is nice that she always has that constant person that she can call on in times of need. Their relationship is a polar opposite of Mark’s relationship with his brother. Even when growing up, the boys didn’t get on, and Mark often felt pushed out and let down by his family so that they could appease his brother. This then has huge implications for how the men relate to each other when they become “grown-ups” which was intriguing and exciting to read.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I’m not sure. I think the writing was good and the pace of the story was set well. I just found it incredibly dramatic. I think it would depend on the story itself. If the synopsis intrigued me then yes, I would!

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: Probably!

CHRISSI: Yes!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

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CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

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Short Stories Challenge – The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Published August 21, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s The Selfish Giant all about?:

Oscar Wilde’s beloved tale tells the story of the selfish giant who built a wall around his beautiful garden to keep children out. It was always winter in the garden, for no other season would venture there. Then one morning, a special child brought Spring back, and the giant’s heart melted along with the snow.

What did I think?:

My only brush with Oscar Wilde up until now has been The Importance Of Being Earnest, widely classed as his masterpiece which I adore. I’ve always meant to read more and was excited to see The Selfish Giant as part of this collection. Stories To Get You Through The Night is broken up into small sections, The Selfish Giant being the last of “Stories to make you glad to be alive,” and while I’m not jumping down the street in a mad sort of glee, I guess I’m kind of glad to be still around! The story is essentially a fairy tale about a giant who comes back home after a holiday of seven years visiting his old friend the Cornish Ogre. He is startled to see children playing in his garden and making those terrible happy sort of noises so he scares them away, builds a huge wall around his property and even goes to the lengths of putting up a notice: TRESPASSERS WILL BE PROSECUTED. After all, thinks the Selfish Giant:

“My garden is my own garden, anyone can understand that, and I will allow nobody to play in it but myself.”

While some of us may understand where the Giant is coming from, the children now have nowhere to play and become very miserable. Soon, even the seasons, birds and flowers come out in sympathy with the kids and as a result, it is always Winter in the Giant’s garden. The trees remain covered in snow and frost, no flowers bloom and no birds chirp. Before long, the Giant begins to see the error of his ways but this may be also due to the North Wind and Hail being invited to stay who find the wintry garden delightful. The children meanwhile have crept back into the garden and with their return, almost immediately blossom covers each tree branch whilst birds fly overhead. In one corner of the garden however, winter remains while one little boy attempts to get up onto a tree branch but is too tiny to reach. The sight of this breaks the Giant’s selfish heart and he hurriedly lifts the boy to where he may sit on the tree. The Giant’s heart is filled with so much love that he declares that the children should always play in his garden and knocks down the huge wall.

Although this story is shorter than I expected it to be, it did have quite a remarkable ending that put a religious slant on things which I wasn’t expecting. Thinking back on it, I’m still not certain how I feel about the ending but can understand how it ticks that little box of making you glad to be alive. I love a good fairy tale and Oscar Wilde writes absolutely beautifully, giving unique little quirks and personalities to every living and inanimate object that made it very fun to read.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: Cain Rose Up by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew

Siege And Storm (The Grisha #2) – Leigh Bardugo

Published August 20, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Darkness never dies.

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

What did I think?:

My sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads introduced me to this series and it was a last minute addition to Chrissi Cupboard Month back in June as I enjoyed the first one so much earlier in the month. When we catch up with our main character Alina, she is on the run with Mal desperately trying to evade the clutches of the mysterious Darkling by trying to remain in disguise and under cover as much as possible. However, things don’t go exactly to plan and worse of all the Darkling has returned with a new ancient and highly destructive power which allows him to create shadow creatures that become his dark warriors. They are a considerable threat to Alina’s new power (which is also making her slightly power hungry) and she can see no choice but to find another amplifier so that she may have a real chance of defeating the Darkling.

Enter stage right the next intriguing character, Sturmhond who captains the ship sent to retrieve Alina and Mal and bring them to the Darkling. Sturmhond however doesn’t really take to being ordered around and has his own hidden agenda. Please note, he is definitely not what he seems in more ways than one. I absolutely loved this character and thought it was a solid addition to our line-up. But guess what? Mal is not as enamoured by him as others and it is not for the first time that Alina and Mal’s relationship may be teetering on the brink of failing. I didn’t get on too well with “jealous” Mal in this sequel, although it is obvious that a lot of barriers are put in their way that may be too strong to overcome. This is especially true when Alina is put in command of the Grisha soldiers that are on the “good” side, widening the gap between them further still as Mal is drafted into a more lowly position.

Alina is fully committed to saving her country Ravka against the evil forces of the Darkling, perhaps in part due to the responsibility she feels for a number of deaths in the Shadow Fold previously. The worry is that she will not be able to find and exploit the Darkling’s weak spot and to make things slightly hairier she is having vivid dreams where the Darkling is appearing to her, almost if he was controlling her mind. She feels she cannot confide in Mal about this and this only serves to widen the gap that is slowly forming between the pair as he becomes more distant and she works on strengthening her powers.

I enjoyed this second offering from Leigh Bardugo as much if not more than the debut, although I must say that Sturmhond really made the story stand out.  His wit and banter with Alina is fun to read and he is quick to goad and wind up poor Mal who ends up in a very dark place in this novel. There are a few questions that come out of it as we reach the finale – who can Alina trust? Can she defeat the Darkling? Who is Sturmhond really? And finally, when is Mal going to snap out of it and stop sulking?! Once again, the author creates a beautiful and imaginative world with a strong cast of characters that leave plenty of wiggle room for further development. I loved every moment of it and can’t wait to read the final instalment: Ruin and Rising, although in part I don’t want it to be over so I may stall for a while. Leigh Bardugo is a huge talent that mixes the perfect blend of fantasy and adventure to create a memorable and exciting series.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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