fantasy

All posts tagged fantasy

Everbound (Everneath #2) – Brodi Ashton

Published February 5, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Nikki Beckett could only watch as her boyfriend, Jack, sacrificed himself to save her, taking her place in the Tunnels of the Everneath for eternity — a debt that should’ve been hers. She’s living a borrowed life, and she doesn’t know what to do with the guilt. And every night Jack appears in her dreams, lost and confused and wasting away.

Desperate for answers, Nikki turns to Cole, the immortal bad boy who wants to make her his queen — and the one person least likely to help. But his heart has been touched by everything about Nikki, and he agrees to assist her in the only way he can: by taking her to the Everneath himself.

Nikki and Cole descend into the Everneath, only to discover that their journey will be more difficult than they’d anticipated — and more deadly. But Nikki vows to stop at nothing to save Jack — even if it means making an incredible sacrifice of her own.

In this enthralling sequel to Everneath, Brodi Ashton tests the bonds of destiny and explores the lengths we’ll go to for the ones we love.

What did I think?:

It’s always tricky reviewing the second book in a series so I’m going to try and keep this review as spoiler free as possible! For anybody who hasn’t come across the Everneath series before it’s heavily based on Greek mythology (one of my favourite things) but set in contemporary times. The Everneath itself is the equivalent of the Greek Hades and is ruled over by a Queen (who is slightly more tyrannical than the Greek Persephone). It’s definitely become one of my favourite YA series and not just because of the mythological nod. I love the characters, the plot and the world building – basically, it’s just a darn good read if you like your fiction a little fantastical.

Our main character is Nikki Beckett whom in the first book, experienced all the horrors of the Everneath through Cole, a resident of the area. At the time, her mother had died, she was having problems with her boyfriend Jack and generally wasn’t in a good place. However, visiting the Everneath with Cole came at a price. After coming back to her normal life, she was compelled to return to the Everneath after a period of six months for good and is desperately trying to figure a way around it after she was happily reconciled with Jack. The first book ends with a bit of a bang leaving both Nikki and Jack’s lives in danger. With the help of Cole, she must return once more to the Everneath to save both her and her boyfriend’s lives. Entering the Everneath with the hope of escaping is not going to be an easy task in any way, shape or form. Nikki must penetrate the three barriers of wind, fire and water, avoid zombie-like creatures that wander aimlessly around and the furious Queen if she can possibly help it and manage to escape out the other side, back to the real world with both her and Jack’s lives intact.

This is a brilliant and very strong second book in the Everneath series. I love Nikki as a character, she’s independent and determined and although she has been through multiple traumatic experiences she seems to come out of it relatively scar free with more motive than ever before. I’m not usually a fan of love triangles (cue eye rolling) in YA fiction but I really rate the characters of both Jack and Cole, the latter of which just fascinates me. For Jack fans, there is less of him to savour in this outing but we do get a few flashbacks of the early stages of his relationship with Nikki which was lovely to read. Finally, the world building which I mentioned earlier is just phenomenal and so imaginative. I could really picture the Everneath in my mind’s eye and whilst Nikki is there, the action is full throttle and incredibly thrilling. I’m definitely looking forward to the final book in the trilogy now and will feel a bit sad when it all comes to an end!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

Checkmate (Noughts & Crosses #3) – Malorie Blackman

Published January 4, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Can the future ever erase the past? Rose has a Cross mother and a nought father in a society where the pale-skinned noughts are treated as inferiors and those with dual heritage face a life-long battle against deep-rooted prejudices. Sephy, her mother, has told Rose virtually nothing about her father, but as Rose grows into a young adult, she unexpectedly discovers the truth about her parentage and becomes determined to find out more. But her father’s family has a complicated history – one tied up with the fight for equality for the nought population. And as Rose takes her first steps away from Sephy and into this world, she finds herself drawn inexorably into more and more danger. Suddenly it’s a game of very high stakes that can only have one winner . . .

What did I think?:

Checkmate is the third book in the fabulous Noughts & Crosses series by a woman I’ve come to think of as a YA genius – Malorie Blackman. I am going to try and write this review as spoiler free as I can for anybody who hasn’t started the series yet but it gets harder with each successive book in the series. I heartily recommend anyone who is interested in dystopian fiction, prejudice and racial tension to read these books and discover the magic of them for yourself.

Our main character from the first book, Sephy is back and she has had a daughter, Callie Rose whom she is raising by herself with the help of her mother and Callie’s father’s mother. Callie is growing up in tough times where black people (known as Crosses) are the “superior” race and whites (known as Noughts) are treated with scorn and derision. Callie’s problem is that she has a Cross mother and a Nought father, so in effect is mixed race and suffers terrible prejudice from both sides of the divide. Checkmate is Callie’s coming of age story as she grows up in a hostile world, tries to connect with her often emotionally distant mother and finds out things about her family that may have been better left hidden and may have dangerous consequences.

To be perfectly honest, this book did not have as much of an effect on me as the previous two books in the series, Noughts & Crosses and Knife Edge, Apart from the ending that is, which is quite literally explosive and incredibly tense, paving the way for a potentially devastating final book in the series. I loved Callie Rose as a character and could see a lot of her mother in her young self but found myself becoming quite frustrated with Sephy at times as her wariness around her daughter was truly heart-breaking to read. I loved the way that this novel was told from the perspective of multiple characters once again, this is one of my favourite ways to read as I feel it gives you a much deeper insight into the mind of certain characters, especially ones where you can’t quite accept their motives. Say no more….apart from please start this series if you haven’t already and let me know what you think!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid Lit 2016 – DECEMBER READ – The Boy Who Sailed The Ocean In An Armchair by Lara Williamson

Published December 31, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

All Becket wants is for his family to be whole again. But standing in his way are two things: 1) his dad, his brother and him seem to have run away from home in the middle of the night and 2) Becket’s mum died before he got the chance to say goodbye to her. Arming himself with an armchair of stories, a snail named Brian and one thousand paper cranes, Becket ploughs on, determined to make his wish come true.

What did I think?:

I’m always a bit sad when a year of Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit comes to an end as we enjoy it so much! For the final book of the year we chose The Boy Who Sailed The Ocean In An Armchair, partially because of the brilliant title and partially because of the great reviews on GoodReads. Apart from that, we really didn’t know much about it. It was only when I read the “about the author” part at the epilogue of the book that I realised that this was the author who also wrote the book A Boy Called Hope which has also has some excellent reviews and I am still to read (but very much looking forward to it now after this book!). But honestly, I cannot praise this book enough and it was a very welcome surprise how much I enjoyed it, ending our Kid-Lit year on an undeniable high.

Just to say, the synopsis above (from GoodReads), does not do justice to how great this story is. Our main character is a young boy called Becket who lives with his little brother Billy and his father and is still trying to cope with his mother’s death after she gave birth to Billy. They had previously been living with a woman lived Pearl, who his father was seeing but for some strange reason their father packed them all up in a hurry and moved them to a dingy little flat at some distance from their old house. They have been forbidden from any form of contact with Pearl, have to start at a new school and are, plain and simple, miserable. They were hoping with Pearl in their lives, they had the chance to have a “second mother,” and finally become a family. The Boy Who Sailed The Ocean In An Armchair shows how Becket deals with this latest upheaval in his life as he struggles with the grief for his mother, tries to forge a relationship with his father and get Pearl back into their lives and makes sure that his little brother and his new friend, Brian the snail are well looked after.

This book makes me want to do a lot of love-heart emoji’s. It is so beautifully written and absolutely hilarious which I completely wasn’t expecting. It’s not often a book makes me laugh out loud, but this one – oh my goodness. The characters are so warm and loveable, especially Becket and Billy, the latter of whom is so painfully honest but in such a funny way, like small children often are. The armchair in the title was the favourite chair of the boys mother and used by them to remember her and when Billy has bad dreams, the two curl up in it and Becket tells him a story of his own that calms him down and allows him to sleep again. The whole book is very fairy-tale esque (another bonus for me!) and filled with the most beautiful, emotional moments that would help anyone struggling with grief themselves. This is a wonderful story that I’m so glad I read and I can’t wait to read more from this author!

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating:

four-stars_0

BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT 2017 – THE TITLES ARE REVEALED – COMING 2ND JANUARY!

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2016 – NOVEMBER READ – The Bad Beginning (A Series Of Unfortunate Events #1) – Lemony Snicket

Published November 30, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Dear Reader,

I’m sorry to say that the book you are holding in your hands is extremely unpleasant. It tells an unhappy tale about three very unlucky children. Even though they are charming and clever, the Baudelaire siblings lead lives filled with misery and woe. From the very first page of this book when the children are at the beach and receive terrible news, continuing on through the entire story, disaster lurks at their heels. One might say they are magnets for misfortune.

In this short book alone, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, and cold porridge for breakfast.

It is my sad duty to write down these unpleasant tales, but there is nothing stopping you from putting this book down at once and reading something happy, if you prefer that sort of thing.

With all due respect,
Lemony Snicket

What did I think?:

I have been meaning to read The Unfortunate Series Of Events books for so long now and with a new series about to be released on Netflix I thought it was the perfect opportunity to begin finding out what exactly everyone has been raving on about! I didn’t realise that this was such a long series (thirteen books) but the first book was so short and easy to read that I don’t think it will take me long to catch up with things. Overall, I was completely charmed by this first offering in the series, in the introduction the author warns the reader that there may be no happy endings or Enid Blyton-esque fairy-tale adventures for his characters, but, to be perfectly honest, that just made me warm to the story even more.

So, in a nutshell, this story focuses on three children (the Baudelaires) who have become orphans when their parents tragically perish in a fire at their house. Violet, Klaus and Sunny are sent to live with a (very) distant relative, Count Olaf who treats them abominably. They have to do multiple chores, mainly to cater to his and his theatre friends every whim and it is also clear that he is no way interested in their well-being or happiness. However, he IS very interested in the fortune left to them by their parents which at the present time will revert to Violet when she comes of age. Unless their wicked guardian can get his hands on it earlier of course, by any means necessary.

This first volume in The Unfortunate Series Of Events was a real delight to read, although I was pretty certain I was going to love it just going on the synopsis alone. I only have a slight niggle to report but positive things first! The characters were wonderful and I instantly fell in love/hated them very early on. We have brave, intelligent Violet who has a great mind for inventions and her quick wits come in very useful in defying our dastardly villain. Then there is sensitive Klaus who loves his books (a boy after my own heart) and little Sunny who is can hardly talk yet but manages to make herself completely understood and is obsessed with teeth – not sure why…but I loved it! Then of course, the nasty Count Olaf who by the ending of the first book I’m guessing we’ll be hearing more from in the future and I’m so glad as I did rather enjoy hating him. The only niggle I have with the excellent narrative is that the author chooses to explain a lot of words to the reader which I felt interrupted the flow slightly and I could have done without it. However, this does not take anything away from a powerful beginning to a series that I can clearly see going from strength to strength. I can’t wait to carry on with it!

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

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Short Stories Challenge – The Haunter Of The Dark by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Published November 20, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s The Haunter Of The Dark all about?:

The Haunter Of The Dark follows a male protagonist as he becomes obsessed with an old church which he can see from his own lodgings not far away. Of course, in typical Lovecraftian style, there is something evil within the church that leads our main character to a bit of a sticky ending.

What did I think?:

I think it’s fair to say that the Lovecraft stories I have read in this collection have been a bit hit and miss for me. Sometimes I can see the excellence in the writing, sometimes the stories are a bit eerie and give me a few shivers, then… there are other times that I find myself irritated by the over-flowery vocabulary and too many similarities between the stories. With The Haunter Of The Dark, I’m afraid I found myself of the latter opinion and didn’t really enjoy this tale too much.

The Haunter Of The Dark is famous for being the last-written of the author’s known works and is part of the Cthulhu Mythos (which I guess explains the similarities between other stories?). This is a shared fictional universe of Lovecraft’s where other authors have contributed work that can stand alone but may also fit into the development of the plot, characters or general world. I am in no way, shape or form an expert on this world from the few stories I have read that describe the creature Cthulhu or its genesis/development and must confess to feeling slightly confused over the whole thing – if any Lovecraft experts would like to explain, I’d be very grateful for some explanations!

As with many of Lovecraft’s stories, we focus on a male protagonist – Robert Blake, a writer and painter with an interest in the occult. He becomes intrigued and then rather consumed by an ancient church that he can see from his rooms in Providence, Rhode Island. Determined to investigate the old building, despite warnings from the superstitious locals he ends up releasing a primeval being and discovering the sinister history of the church, connected to a cult known as the Church Of Starry Wisdom. The being is kept constrained within the building by the lights of the town and can only work its mischief when there is complete darkness. So, of course the town undergoes a power cut during a thunderstorm, releasing the demon with severe consequences for our male lead.

Okay, so positive things about this story. The thought of an ancient (and evil) being that can only carry out its dastardly deeds under the cover of darkness is very creepy I grant you. It plays on on your old childhood fears of the dark, what might be under your bed or that panicky moment when the lights go out if you’re not expecting it. Apart from this, I have to admit I struggled with The Haunter Of The Dark. The story seemed so formulaic, there was nothing special or different about Robert as a character and, to be honest, I probably wouldn’t have finished it if I didn’t have to write this review. We know it doesn’t end well when the beginning of the story opens with our main character’s death (which was probably the most exciting few sentences of the entire narrative). Hugely disappointing, I’m very much hoping that the next H.P. Lovecraft story I read will be a pleasant surprise!

Would I recommend it?:

Probably not.

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: Hogmanay Homicide by Edward Marston from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7

 

Mini Pin-It Reviews #4 – Four Books That Fall Into My “Random” Category

Published November 5, 2016 by bibliobeth

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Welcome to another mini pin-it reviews post on my blog, where I try and catch up on my immense backlog of reviews by posting a quick review on a post it note. Today’s post is going to focus on a few books that I’ve placed in a random category, as I couldn’t really pigeon-hole them all into one genre. Hope you enjoy!

1.) – In The Kingdom Of Men by Kim Barnes

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What’s it all about?:

1967. Gin Mitchell knows a better life awaits her when she marries hometown hero Mason McPhee. Raised in a two-room shack by her Oklahoma grandfather, a strict Methodist minister, Gin never believed that someone like Mason, a handsome college boy, the pride of Shawnee, would look her way. And nothing can prepare her for the world she and Mason step into when he takes a job with the Arabian American Oil company in Saudi Arabia. In the gated compound of Abqaiq, Gin and Mason are given a home with marble floors, a houseboy to cook their meals, and a gardener to tend the sandy patch out back. Even among the veiled women and strict laws of shariah, Gin’s life has become the stuff of fairy tales. She buys her first swimsuit, she pierces her ears, and Mason gives her a glittering diamond ring. But when a young Bedouin woman is found dead, washed up on the shores of the Persian Gulf, Gin’s world closes in around her, and the one person she trusts is nowhere to be found.
Set against the gorgeously etched landscape of a country on the cusp of enormous change, In the Kingdom of Men abounds with sandstorms and locust swarms, shrimp peddlers, pearl divers, and Bedouin caravans—a luminous portrait of life in the desert. Award-winning author Kim Barnes weaves a mesmerizing, richly imagined tale of Americans out of their depth in Saudi Arabia, a marriage in peril, and one woman’s quest for the truth, no matter what it might cost her.

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Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

2.) – Among Others by Jo Walton

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What’s it all about?:

Startling, unusual, and yet irresistably readable, Among Others is at once the compelling story of a young woman struggling to escape a troubled childhood, a brilliant diary of first encounters with the great novels of modern fantasy and SF, and a spellbinding tale of escape from ancient enchantment.

Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, Morwenna Phelps found refuge in two worlds. As a child growing up in Wales, she played among the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins. But her mind found freedom and promise in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. Then her mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, and Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled–and her twin sister dead.

Fleeing to her father whom she barely knew, Mori was sent to boarding school in England–a place all but devoid of true magic. There, outcast and alone, she tempted fate by doing magic herself, in an attempt to find a circle of like-minded friends. But her magic also drew the attention of her mother, bringing about a reckoning that could no longer be put off…

Combining elements of autobiography with flights of imagination in the manner of novels like Jonathan Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude, this is potentially a breakout book for an author whose genius has already been hailed by peers like Kelly Link, Sarah Weinman, and Ursula K. Le Guin.

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Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

3.) – Chinese Whispers by Ben Chu

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What’s it all about?:

We think we know China. The world’s most venerable and self-confident civilisation, home to the largest unified race of people on the planet, China manufactures the objects that fill our lives. We see a country peopled by docile and determined factory workers, domineering ‘Tiger Mothers’ obsessed with education and achievement, and a society that has put the accumulation of wealth above political freedom. Above all, we see a superpower on the rise, destined to overtake the West and to dominate the 21st century. But how accurate is this picture? What if, as Ben Chu argues, we are all engaged in a grand game of Chinese Whispers, in which the facts have become more and more distorted in the telling? We have been getting China and the Chinese wrong for centuries. From the Enlightenment philosophes, enraptured by what they imagined to be a kingdom of reason, to the Victorians who derided the ‘flowery empire’, outsiders have long projected their own dreams and nightmares onto this vast country. With China’s economic resurgence today, many have fallen once more under the spell of this glittering new global hegemon, while others foretell terrible danger in China’s return to the centre of the world stage. CHINESE WHISPERS tugs aside this age-old curtain of distortion in a powerful counterblast to modern assumptions about China. By examining the central myths, or ‘whispers’, that have come to dominate our view of China, Ben Chu forces us to question everything we thought we knew about world’s most populous nation. The result is a surprising, penetrating insight into modern China.

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Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

4.) – Tampa by Alissa Nutting

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What’s it all about?:

Celeste Price is an eighth-grade English teacher in suburban Tampa. She’s undeniably attractive. She drives a red Corvette with tinted windows. Her husband, Ford, is rich, square-jawed, and devoted to her.

But Celeste’s devotion lies elsewhere. She has a singular sexual obsession—fourteen-year-old boys. Celeste pursues her craving with sociopathic meticulousness and forethought; her sole purpose in becoming a teacher is to fulfill her passion and provide her access to her compulsion. As the novel opens, fall semester at Jefferson Jr. High is beginning.

In mere weeks, Celeste has chosen and lured the lusciously naive Jack Patrick into her web. Jack is enthralled and in awe of his teacher, and, most important, willing to accept Celeste’s terms for a secret relationship—car rides after school; rendezvous at Jack’s house while his single father works late; body-slamming encounters in Celeste’s empty classroom between periods.

Ever mindful of the danger—the perpetual risk of exposure, Jack’s father’s own attraction to her, and the ticking clock as Jack leaves innocent boyhood behind—the hyperbolically insatiable Celeste bypasses each hurdle with swift thinking and shameless determination, even when the solutions involve greater misdeeds than the affair itself. In slaking her sexual thirst, Celeste Price is remorseless and deviously free of hesitation, a monstress driven by pure motivation. She deceives everyone, and cares nothing for anyone or anything but her own pleasure.

With crackling, rampantly unadulterated prose, Tampa is a grand, uncompromising, seriocomic examination of want and a scorching literary debut.

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Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

COMING UP SOON ON MY MINI PIN-IT REVIEWS – Four YA novels.

The Giver (The Giver Quartet #1) – Lois Lowry

Published November 1, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

This haunting story centres on Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colourless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he’s given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community.

What did I think?:

A huge thank you to my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads for recommending this excellent young adult novel to me. The Giver is the original dystopian novel, before all the hype about The Hunger Games kicked off and spawned a new rush of books in the genre, this is the story to turn to if you crave an alternative community that revolves around making life for its individuals as de-humanising as possible. Of course, the society in question that our main character Jonas is raised in, does not know any different and in some ways, their life could be thought of as fairly peaceful and problem free. There is no colour, no memories of the past, no decisions to be made but also no pain, no suffering and no complications. Your spouse is chosen for you, your children are allocated to you and a range of medications are available to suppress any strong, difficult feelings be they negative or the first stirrings of passion.

Each member of the community has their own role to play when they turn twelve years old. Jonas like many children is nervous about which role he will be allocated and it turns out he is right to be. For Jonas is allocated the most terrifying role in their population of which there is only one. He is to be The Receiver, and the old man who currently holds the post is to be The Giver and transmit to Jonas all the memories from the past, both painful and pleasurable. For the first time, Jonas understands what it’s like to see a rainbow, sled down a hill, feel the pure happiness that comes from being in love but unfortunately he also learns what torture, war and devastation also feel like. With this newfound knowledge, Jonas must decide what’s best for the community and of course, himself as his mind is opened up to a different way of living – for better or worse?

I loved this book! As the first book in a quartet it sets the scene perfectly of a world that couldn’t be more unfamiliar than the world we live in today. Or is it? This book really makes you think and appreciate everything we take for granted but also gets you thinking about some aspects of our lives that could be thought of as quite controlled still. We are indeed able to see colour, feel strong emotions, love passionately and most of all, have individual choice and personal freedom but this isn’t the case for everyone around the world.

The Giver is also a coming of age story as whilst Jonas is trained up to become The Receiver he is also startled into adulthood. This is a moment we’ll probably all recognise from our own lives when we suddenly realise that the world doesn’t revolve around us, life is notoriously hard and at many points in our future we will have to make tough decisions. The characters are all wonderful, especially Jonas who seemed wise beyond his years but so personable and the plot rattles along at a thrilling rate culminating in a gob-smacking finale that you may not see coming. I cannot wait to read the second book in the series and enter this strange new world once more.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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