Young Adult

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Dreamwalker (The Ballad Of Sir Benfo #1) – James Oswald

Published December 16, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The dragons of Glwad are dying. Persecuted for over two millennia, they’re a shrunken echo of the proud creatures they once were. And yet in new life springs hope: Benfro, son of Morgwm the Green, the first male kitling in a thousand years. Long ago dragons wrought a terrible wrong to the land, and now is the time for redemption.

Every young boy in the Twin Kingdoms dreams of being chosen for one of the great orders, and Errol Ramsbottom is no different. He longs to be a Warrior Priest of the High Ffrydd, riding to glorious victory in battle. But you should be careful what you wish for; it might just come to pass.

For almost a century there has been an uneasy truce between the Twin Kingdoms and the godless Llanwennogs to the north, but as King Diseverin descends ever further into drunken madness, his ruthless daughter Beulah takes up the reins of power. A time of war looks set to descend upon Gwlad, and it will surely draw everyone, man and dragon both, into its cruel game.

What did I think?:

Dreamwalker, the first book in The Ballad of Sir Benfro series is a high fantasy novel which appears to be marketed at the young adult population although can easily be read by adults. Written by James Oswald (yes, he of the Inspector McLean thriller/crime fiction series) this was a recommendation by one of my favourite bookshops, Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights when I went there for a reading spa with my sister and fellow blogger, Chrissi Reads. I have to say, when the bookseller sold it to me, I was initially unsure as I’m not a huge dragon fanatic but as with all the reads we ended up choosing, she made it sound so fantastic that any misgivings I did have were thoroughly quashed. Generally, I found it to be an interesting story although I wasn’t as enamoured by it as I might have hoped…more on this later.

Encompassing multiple story-lines and characters, Dreamwalker is the story of a world where intelligent dragons exist but are constantly threatened by a minority of the human population that are determined to hunt them to extinction. This means that the small community that has survived have secluded themselves in a forest, protected from human eyes and those that would wish them harm by a magical spell. It is also the tale of three characters – the first, a young dragon called Benfro, the first male dragon to be born for a thousand years and destined for great things. The second and third of our protagonists are human, the first, a merciless princess called Beulah who has recently ascended the throne and will stop at nothing to get exactly what she wants. Then there is Errol, a young boy who has had a humble upbringing but unknown to himself possesses a royal bloodline that could shake everything up irrevocably. Finally, we have Inquisitor Melyn, the villain of the piece who is thirsty for dragon blood, the elimination of the species and hell-bent on using the magic system in this world for his own diabolical purposes.

This novel combines all these complex and intertwining elements to form a story that is highly convoluted at times but also incredibly imaginative. For me, there were good things and bad things about it and I have quite mixed feelings which I have to admit, does make me hesitate in continuing with the series. First of all, the intricate nature of the multiple plots mean that the novel is at times a bit of a slog to get through so if you’re a fan of fast paced narratives, this might not be the book for you. On the other hand, I did fall in love with many of the characters, including the endearing Benfro the dragon, sweet Errol and our “bad guy” Melyn who was wonderfully wicked. The magic system is also intriguing but I have to say, took me a little while to get my head round. However, if you’re looking at this purely as a fantasy novel, it’s got everything you could want so I think fans of the genre will be satisfied. Personally, I’m really torn over whether I’m going to carry on to book two. I’m interested  and care enough about the characters to wonder how it’s all going to pan out but on the other hand, the pacing does put me off slightly. If anyone has read the second book and can tell me if this is still the case I would really appreciate it! Otherwise, I’m not sure if I’ll be rushing to read it – there’s too many other brilliant books out there.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

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Book Tag – Shelfie By Shelfie #3

Published December 7, 2017 by bibliobeth

Image edited from: <a href=”http://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/frame”>Frame image created by Jannoon028 – Freepik.com</a>

Hi everyone and welcome to a brand new tag – Shelfie by Shelfie that I was inspired to create late one night when I couldn’t sleep. If you want to join in, you share a picture (or “shelfie”) of one of your shelves i.e. favourites, TBR, however you like to organise them, and then answer ten questions that are based around that particular shelf. I have quite a large collection and am going to do every single bookshelf which comprises both my huge TBR and the books I’ve read and kept but please, don’t feel obliged to do every shelf yourself if you fancy doing this tag. I’d love to see anything and just a snapshot of your collection would be terrific and I’m sure, really interesting for other people to see!

For my very first Shelfie by Shelfie please see my post HERE.

For my second Shelfie by Shelfie please see my post HERE.

Anyway – on with the tag, here is the third shelf of my first bookshelf (I’ve chosen to split it up into two separate shelfies because of the sheer number of books (oops!) so here is the back shelf):

And here are the questions!:

1.) Is there any reason for this shelf being organised the way it is or is it purely random?

Yes! For once there is some proper organisation on my bookshelves! This back shelf consists of some of my favourite books, (usually five stars) some I can’t bear to throw away but weren’t necessarily five star reads and the Throne Of Glass series so far which I adore.

2.) Tell us a story about one of the books on this shelf that is special to you i.e. how you got it/ a memory associated with it etc.

I’m going to mention a book you can hardly see, the lighting is quite bad (sorry!) and it’s quite a slim little thing. It’s Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. This book is so special to me, it was one of my favourite reads from childhood and I read it again a few years ago as part of my Kid Lit challenge with my sister and fellow blogger, Chrissi Reads. I’m quite the arachnophobic so you would think a book with a spider as one of its main characters would be hideous for me but I adored Charlotte and of course, the entire story. Super nostalgic!

3.) Which book from this shelf would you ditch if you were forced to and why?

I bet my sister is laughing at me right now. When she did her Shelfie by Shelfie (check out her post HERE) she decided to do her favourites shelf and I had a chuckle at her when she told me off for this question! Ugh – okay I have to answer it….I made her answer it. It would be The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins. It’s such a brilliant non-fiction science book but I’m honestly not sure if I would read it cover to cover again in the near future.

4.) Which book from this shelf would you save in an emergency and why?

Easy peasy for this one (although I was torn for a second between two). It would be A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. I’m a bit of a Ness fangirl and this copy of the illustrated edition is actually signed by the great man himself when I met him at YALC. It’s very precious to me!

How lucky am I?!

5.) Which book has been on this shelf for the longest time?

That would be Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I’ve had this exact copy ever since I first read it when I was about fifteen I think? This is one of my all time favourite books and although it’s a bit of a beast at just over 1000 pages, I think I’m definitely due a re-read!

6.) Which book is the newest addition to this shelf?

The White Road by Sarah Lotz. I read it this year and it automatically went to the favourites shelf as a definite five star read. This is a proof copy but I’m planning to buy a final paperback version soon as it’s one I’m going to be keeping and re-reading in the future.

7.) Which book from this shelf are you most excited to read (or re-read if this is a favourites shelf?)

I think I’d really like to re-read The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger quite soon. I read it in my pre-blogging days and thought the intricacies of the story were absolutely beautiful. I’d love to write a review on it after reading it for the second time – hopefully I’ll love it just as much!

8.) If there is an object on this shelf apart from books, tell us the story behind it.

There isn’t any object on this shelf, there’s no room for anything else apart from books (and even then, not enough room for some of them, eek!).

9.) What does this shelf tell us about you as a reader?

It tells you some of my favourite books of all time and again, probably says something about the eclectic taste I have as a reader. There are so many genres up there – YA, romance, classics, thrillers, science fiction and historical fiction. I like to push the boat out in terms of what I read and don’t like to chain myself to a particular genre.

10.) Choose other bloggers to tag or choose a free question you make up yourself.

Anyone who wants to do this, please feel free, I’d be delighted but please tag me in your post so I can see your shelfie in all its glory. This time round I’m going to choose a question for myself:

Is there any book on this shelf that you’ve had a strong emotional response to?

As this is a favourites shelf, there’s been quite a few. I tend to want to keep books that elicit any emotion from me whether that’s sadness or happiness. I’m going to choose The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. It was a recommendation from a podcast I used to listen to, sadly no longer running called Books On The Nightstand. When I first started reading it, I found it a little slow but I wasn’t prepared for how much I became invested in the story and some of the events of the novel were incredibly harrowing.

COMING SOON on bibliobeth : Shelfie by Shelfie #4

 

 

The Heart Of Betrayal (The Remnant Chronicles #2) – Mary E. Pearson

Published December 6, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Held captive in the barbarian kingdom of Venda, Lia and Rafe have little chance of escape. Desperate to save Lia’s life, her erstwhile assassin, Kaden, has told the Vendan Komizar that she has the gift, and the Komizar’s interest in Lia is greater than anyone could have foreseen.

Meanwhile, nothing is straightforward: There’s Rafe, who lied to Lia but has sacrificed his freedom to protect her; Kaden, who meant to assassinate her but has now saved her life; and the Vendans, whom Lia always believed to be savages. Now that she lives among them, however, she realizes that may be far from the truth. Wrestling with her upbringing, her gift, and her sense of self, Lia must make powerful choices that will affect her country… and her own destiny.

What did I think?:

The first book in the Remnant Chronicles, The Kiss of Deception, was a huge surprise for me a couple of years ago in that I was shocked how much I enjoyed a novel quite heavy on the romance side of things. If you’ve followed my blog for a while you might remember I tend to roll my eyes/turn my nose up a little bit when things get a bit romantic. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy love in novels, I do of course but it has to be done in just the right way otherwise things can get a little bit cringey. The Kiss Of Deception really spoke to my cynical little heart and I kid you not, I was practically swooning at the sweetness of it all. My worry with The Heart Of Betrayal is that it wold suffer from the dreaded second book syndrome and my expectations for the series were already sky high. Whilst it was not a five star read like its predecessor, it was still a brilliant read and I’m excited to see how the story is going to conclude in the final novel, The Beauty Of Darkness.

So, trying to avoid major spoilers, Lia has become a prisoner in Venda, under the rule of the dangerous Komizar, taken there by a man she thought she trusted. Her magical gift has been discovered and the people of Venda begin to revere her and are delighted by her presence. Meanwhile, Rafe hot-foots it to Venda too in an attempt to rescue Lia, in disguise as the Royal Emissary of Dalbreck to disguise who he really is. Both struggle to maintain their relationship when the memories of their mutual deception threaten to overwhelm them. Lia is also wrestling with her opinion of Kaden who she feels has betrayed her but ultimately, the real test of her strength lies in pacifying and fooling the Komizar of Venda, who develops a rather particular and obsessive interest for her. Set against war, major political upheaval and dastardly plans, Lia must draw on all her resources and make some questionable allies if she is to have any hope of escape.

A lot of people have expressed their thoughts on the love triangle in this series and I’d like to throw my own opinions into the mix. I honestly don’t believe there actually is a love triangle to speak of in this novel – in that the main female protagonist has feelings for both of the male leads in love with her. It is pretty clear to me where Lia’s heart lies and I think she deals with the situation very well. Kaden as a character I have to admit I’m not warming towards and indeed at times I was a little bit frustrated with his thoughts and actions. However, I adore Lia for her determination, pig-headed stubbornness and kindness of heart and there were a number of other secondary characters introduced that I also enjoyed. The Komizar was a fantastic “love to hate him,” villain with such darkness and brutality behind his character that he made for a tantalising reading experience. The world-building as with the first novel was top notch although I would have liked a little more political intrigue and a little more action, rather than all the thrills being concentrated in the final moments of the story. This made for a jaw dropping ending, that’s undeniable but I felt it kind of threw the pace of the entire book off slightly. Saying that, this was a wonderful sequel to The Kiss Of Deception and I’m now one hundred percent invested in this world, the characters and their future, however tenuous that might seem.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

December 2017 – Chrissi Cupboard Month #8

Published December 1, 2017 by bibliobeth

It’s December, and that means….drum roll please…it’s Chrissi Cupboard Month!

Hello everyone! Every other month I alternate what I’m reading quite specifically between three things. It’s either Real Book Month (in February and August) where I try and read all the physical books just waiting to be devoured on my bookshelves. (and that’s a lot!) Then there’s Book Bridgr/NetGalley/ARC Month (April and October) where I try and catch up on all those ARC/review copies sent to me by authors, publishers, NetGalley and Book Bridgr. (also a lot!) Finally, there’s Chrissi Cupboard Month (June and December) where I try my best to get through all the books my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads lends me (you’ve guessed it – there’s lots!). So this is what I’ll be reading for the month of December:

Paper Butterflies – Lisa Heathfield

The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas

The Savages (The Savages #1) – Matt Whyman

Conspiracy Of Blood And Smoke (Prisoner Of Night And Fog #2) – Anne Blankman

The Last Beginning (The Next Together #2) – Lauren James

I honestly can’t pick out a single book from this little pile that I’m most looking forward to, Chrissi has told me great things about all of them. I’m excited about completing the two duologies from Lauren James and Anne Blankman and there’s obviously been a lot of hype about the Angie Thomas novel, The Hate U Give which I was absolutely determined to read this month. Have you read any of these books? I’d love to know what you think!

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2017 – NOVEMBER READ – Witch Child by Celia Rees

Published November 30, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Enter the world of young Mary Newbury, a world where simply being different can cost a person her life. Hidden until now in the pages of her diary, Mary’s startling story begins in 1659, the year her beloved grandmother is hanged in the public square as a witch. Mary narrowly escapes a similar fate, only to face intolerance and new danger among the Puritans in the New World. How long can she hide her true identity? Will she ever find a place where her healing powers will not be feared?
Just two weeks after publication, Celia Rees’s WITCH CHILD spirited its way onto the Book Sense Children’s Only 76 list as one of the Top 10 books that independent booksellers like to handsell. Within a month, this riveting book sold out its first two hardcover printings. Now, Candlewick Press is pleased to announce the publication of WITCH CHILD in paperback.

What did I think?:

Chrissi and I have been very lucky with the choices for our Kid Lit challenge this year and I’ve been delighted with what we’ve read so far. However, I’m sorry to say Witch Child fell a little bit short for me in comparison and if it hadn’t been so short and I hadn’t been so intrigued by the main character, I probably would have given up. It’s not written like many other pieces of young adult fiction and I think that’s a positive thing to say about it. In a way, it feels quite adult and not a book that specifically panders to a younger audience but personally speaking, I just found it too slow in points to capture my attention like I had hoped.

Witch Child is a historical fiction novel told in the format of a diary from the 1600’s, written by our young female protagonist, Mary Newbury. When the story opens, she has had to witness the brutal death of her grandmother after being put on trial for being a witch and yes, she floated which instantly made her a friend of Satan. There have been whispers about Mary too, being her grand-daughter of course, but she manages to escape overseas to America on a ship with a group of Puritans to start a new life and escape the rumours surrounding her “powers.” However, on reaching the settlement, Mary is once again in danger, especially as she fraternises with the Native American people whose way of life/ideals are seen as blasphemy to the Puritan way of life. The threat to her life becomes once again very substantial leading to her taking drastic measures to save herself from certain death.

I’ll start with the things I liked about this novel. Firstly, I loved the character of Mary herself. She was extremely personable, very easy to like and sympathise with and I did find myself eager to find out what her fate was going to be. As I mentioned before, I think it’s written in quite a unique style and I appreciated the difference when I compare it to other works of young adult fiction. Sadly however, points of the narrative were just so very tedious, especially the parts where Mary is on the ship that I found myself skipping entire paragraphs just to get to another part that I could feel slightly more excited about. Furthermore, I didn’t really feel that other characters, for example, Rebekah and Martha were as fleshed out as they had the potential to be and this was a shame as I was quite interested in both their personalities and back stories. This book has so many terrific ratings on Goodreads, I’m sure I’m in the minority that feel the way about it, perhaps it was just a case of wrong reader? I’d love to know if you’ve read it and what you think, especially if you feel the exact opposite and adore this story. I’m open to being talked round!

For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please check out her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

COMING UP IN DECEMBER ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: Finding Jennifer Jones (Jennifer Jones #2) by Anne Cassidy.

Six Of Crows (Six Of Crows #1) – Leigh Bardugo

Published November 29, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he’ll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:

Break into the notorious Ice Court
(a military stronghold that has never been breached)

Retrieve a hostage
(who could unleash magical havoc on the world)

Survive long enough to collect his reward
(and spend it)

Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done – and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable – if they don’t kill each other first.

What did I think?:

I’ve read some reviews of Leigh Bardugo’s work and generally, people seem to have quite strong opinions of her Grisha trilogy (Shadow And Bone, Siege And Storm, Ruin and Rising) compared to the Six of Crows duology in that they prefer one over the other. I was one of those people that loved the Grisha trilogy and when I heard all the hype about this novel I was beyond excited. To be perfectly honest, I thought it was just as brilliant although I did find it quite different stylistically speaking, and you can clearly see a stronger development of writing in the creation of some fantastic, unforgettable characters and an intricate, thrilling and very nail-biting plot.

Told from a number of different perspectives, Six Of Crows focuses on a motley crew of six main characters (hence the name!) that are all flawed, wanted criminals, tricky and sneaky in their endeavours or lost and just seeking a family to call their home, never mind how unconventional it might be. All our characters: Kaz, Inej, Nina, Matthias, Jesper and Wylan have their individual little secrets or tragedies in their pasts and all have their own motives for attempting to pull off the most unbelievable heist. They are offered a vast sum of money and in return must recover a notorious scientist imprisoned in the impenetrable Ice Court. Impenetrable, as its boundaries have never, ever been breached. However, with confident Kaz Brekker in the lead, this dysfunctional group of friends start to believe that they might just be able to pull it off.

There’s been many comparisons of this novel to a young adult version of Oceans Eleven and I would definitely agree with that although it does have some quite violent scenes, which adults might want to be aware of for younger readers. However, the absolute power in this beauty of a novel comes with the characterisation. I don’t think I’ve ever rooted for a gang of characters as dubious as these for such a long time – I really wanted them to succeed in their mission and I really loved the complexity of their personalities, their difficult pasts and their relationships with each other, which were just gorgeous and quite heart-breaking at times. Like most reviewers, I fell head over heels for the romance between Kaz and Inej (which was portrayed just delicately enough for this cynical romance reader right here!) but I also loved the difficult relationship between Nina and Matthias and Jesper’s wonderful humour brought some much needed light relief to the narrative during the multiple nerve-wracking moments. Just writing this review has brought back memories of how invested I was in the characters when I read it and I’m determined to read Crooked Kingdom as a priority early next year. I can’t wait to see how the story ends!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

Banned Books 2017 – NOVEMBER READ – George by Alex Gino

Published November 27, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

BE WHO YOU ARE. When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl.

George thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part. . . because she’s a boy.

With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte – but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to the eleventh banned book of 2017! As always, 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 would like to read along with us, here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of the year:

DECEMBER – The Agony Of Alice – Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

But back to this month….

George by Alex Gino

First published: 2015

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2016 (source)

Reasons: challenged because it includes a transgender child, and the “sexuality was not appropriate at elementary levels.”

Note: This month’s book was supposed to be The Color Of Earth by Kim Dong Hwa but unfortunately we have not been able to get hold of a copy for a reasonable price so we’ve had to make a last minute switch!

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: I’m really looking forward to hearing Chrissi’s thoughts on George, she said to me she had “a lot to say,” and I’m very intrigued! I found out about this book a while ago through my sister who has already read and done a full length review of it on her blog. I could have already guessed why the book might be challenged but I was really hoping that it wouldn’t be for the reason stated. *Sigh* of course it is. I was really hoping that in 2016, when this book was originally challenged (published in 2015) we were much more enlightened as a species about transgender issues and a book aimed at children about this subject would not be a big deal. Sadly, I was wrong.

CHRISSI: It actually hurt my heart that this book was challenged. It’s aimed at elementary children and in my eyes isn’t inappropriate at all for that age group. It actually makes me mad that it is challenged. The reason why it’s challenged was because ‘the sexuality was not appropriate at elementary levels.’ I mean WHAT? Many children know from an early age if they feel like they’re in the wrong body that they were born into. It’s told with a child’s voice. How can it be challenged? I really, really don’t get it.

How about now?

BETH: As George is a very recent release, I’m sure attitudes have not changed very much in the year that it was first challenged. I’d be upset to see it appear again when the list for 2017 comes out but you’re always going to get those people that feel uncomfortable with children’s sexuality, particularly if it happens to be a child determined that they are the opposite sex from the body they have been born into. I think this book is entirely appropriate for the elementary level as it is handled in a very intelligent and sensitive way. In fact, I think children definitely shouldn’t be shielded from these things because in a way, isn’t that confirming to them that being transgender might be strange/wrong (when obviously it is not?!). Of course, if it can help a child that is struggling with their gender assignment and can see themselves in George then that can only be a good thing, I think.

CHRISSI: It definitely has a place for elementary aged readers and those beyond. I think it’s such an innocent read about a topic that isn’t talked about enough. I have experienced teaching a child who is absolutely determined that she’s a boy. It wouldn’t surprise me if she was transgender. I know a lot of people think it’s just a ‘stage’ and for some children it is, but we’re devaluing those for which it’s not by challenging a book like this. Argh, it makes me mad. Children should read books like this, so they know they’re not alone and that people are different. Such a valuable lesson.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH:  I really enjoyed it. I thought it was a sweet, quick and easy to read novel. I loved the characters and the message it conveyed although I was quite cross for a little while with a couple of the characters which you might understand if you’ve read this book yourself!

CHRISSI: I think it’s an inspiring read. I’m really pleased I’ve read it and I’d certainly recommend it to elementary aged children!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH:  But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

four-stars_0
Join us again on the last Monday of December for our final banned book this year when we will be talking about The Agony Of Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.