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Mini Pin-It Reviews #23 – Four Graphic Novels

Published August 7, 2018 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to another mini pin-it reviews post! I have a massive backlog of reviews and this is my way of trying to get on top of things a bit. This isn’t to say I didn’t like some of these books – my star rating is a more accurate reflection of this, but this is a great, snappy way of getting my thoughts across and decreasing my backlog a bit. This time I’ve got four graphic novels for you – please see my pin-it thoughts below!

1.) Coraline – Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell

What’s it all about?:

When Coraline steps through a door in her family’s new house, she finds another house, strangely similar to her own (only better). At first, things seem marvelous. The food is better than at home, and the toy box is filled with fluttering wind-up angels and dinosaur skulls that crawl and rattle their teeth.

But there’s another mother there and another father, and they want her to stay and be their little girl. They want to change her and never let her go. Coraline will have to fight with all her wit and all the tools she can find if she is to save herself and return to her ordinary life.

This beloved tale has now become a visual feast. Acclaimed artist P. Craig Russell brings Neil Gaiman’s enchanting nationally bestselling children’s book Coraline to new life in this gorgeously illustrated graphic novel adaptation.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

2.) Full Metal Alchemist Vol 1 – Hiromu Arakawa, Akira Watanabe (Translator)

What’s it all about?:

Alchemy: the mystical power to alter the natural world; something between magic, art and science. When two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, dabbled in this power to grant their dearest wish, one of them lost an arm and a leg…and the other became nothing but a soul locked into a body of living steel. Now Edward is an agent of the government, a slave of the military-alchemical complex, using his unique powers to obey orders…even to kill. Except his powers aren’t unique. The world has been ravaged by the abuse of alchemy. And in pursuit of the ultimate alchemical treasure, the Philosopher’s Stone, their enemies are even more ruthless than they are…

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

3.) Manga Classics: Pride And Prejudice – Jane Austen, Stacy King, Po Tse (Illustrator) Morpheus Studios (Illustrator)

What’s it all about?:

Beloved by millions the world over, Pride & Prejudice is delightfully transformed in this bold, new manga adaptation. All of the joy, heartache, and romance of Jane Austen’s original, perfectly illuminated by the sumptuous art of manga-ka Po Tse, and faithfully adapted by Stacy E. King.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

4.) Lighter Than My Shadow – Katie Green

What’s it all about?:

Like most kids, Katie was a picky eater. She’d sit at the table in silent protest, hide uneaten toast in her bedroom, listen to parental threats that she’d have to eat it for breakfast.

But in any life a set of circumstance can collide, and normal behavior might soon shade into something sinister, something deadly.

Lighter Than My Shadow is a hand-drawn story of struggle and recovery, a trip into the black heart of a taboo illness, an exposure of those who are so weak as to prey on the vulnerable, and an inspiration to anybody who believes in the human power to endure towards happiness.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

COMING UP NEXT TIME ON MINI PIN-IT REVIEWS: Four Books from Netgalley.

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August 2018 – Real Book Month

Published August 2, 2018 by bibliobeth


It’s time for one of my favourite months – real book month! This is where I try to bring down that pesky TBR as much as I can. I try to focus on books I’m really excited about and roll my eyes that I haven’t managed to get to them before now. I normally have a list of about ten I want to read, however, because I also participate in Banned Books and Kid-Lit with my sister as well as reading the Richard and Judy book club titles, I’ve felt under too much pressure lately so am just easing that slightly. This month I want to focus on some more of the titles my sister Chrissi Reads and I bought on our trip to the wonderful Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights in Bath. This is what I’ll be reading:

1.) The Name Of The Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle #1) – Patrick Rothfuss

What’s it all about?:

MY NAME IS KVOTHE

I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

You may have heard of me.

So begins a tale unequaled in fantasy literature–the story of a hero told in his own voice. It is a tale of sorrow, a tale of survival, a tale of one man’s search for meaning in his universe, and how that search, and the indomitable will that drove it, gave birth to a legend.

2.) My Name Is Lucy Barton (Amgash #1) – Elizabeth Strout

What’s it all about?:

LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2016 AND THE BAILEYS WOMEN’S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2016 

THE NEW YORK TIMES NUMBER ONE BESTSELLER 

An exquisite story of mothers and daughters from the Pulitzer prize-winning author of Olive Kitteridge

Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn’t spoken for many years, comes to see her. Her unexpected visit forces Lucy to confront the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of her life: her impoverished childhood in Amgash, Illinois, her escape to New York and her desire to become a writer, her faltering marriage, her love for her two daughters.

Knitting this powerful narrative together is the brilliant storytelling voice of Lucy herself: keenly observant, deeply human, and truly unforgettable. In My Name Is Lucy Barton, one of America’s finest writers shows how a simple hospital visit illuminates the most tender relationship of all-the one between mother and daughter.

3.) Lighthousekeeping – Jeanette Winterson

What’s it all about?:

The young orphan Silver is taken in by the ancient lighthousekeeper Mr. Pew, who reveals to her a world of myth and mystery through the art of storytelling. A magical, lyrical tale from one of Britain’s best-loved literary novelists. of the Cape Wrath lighthouse. Pew tells Silver ancient tales of longing and rootlessness, of the slippages that occur throughout every life. One life, Babel Dark’s, a nineteenth century clergyman, opens like a map that Silver must follow, and the intertwining of myth and reality, of storytelling and experience, lead her through her own particular darkness. Stevenson and of the Jekyll and Hyde in all of us, Lighthousekeeping is a way into the most secret recesses of our own hearts and minds. Jeanette Winterson is one of the most extraordinary and original writers of her generation, and this shows her at her lyrical best.

4.) Get In Trouble – Kelly Link

What’s it all about?:

The first new collection in almost a decade from a bewitchingly original writer hailed by Michael Chabon as “the most darkly playful voice in American fiction.”

One of today’s most celebrated short story writers, Kelly Link creates brilliantly detailed, layered fictional worlds pulsing with their own energy and life. The situations are at first glance fantastical, but the emotional insights are piercing and the characters vividly real. In “The Summer People,” a young girl in rural Florida serves as uneasy caretaker to the mysterious, never-quite-glimpsed visitors who inhabit the cottage behind her house. In “I Can See Right Through You,” a one-time teen idol movie vampire takes a disturbing trip to the set where his former on- and off-screen love interest is shooting a bizarre new reality show; in “The New Boyfriend,” a suburban slumber party takes an unusual turn when the spoiled birthday girl opens her big present, a new animated doll. Funny, uncanny, always deeply moving, these stories demonstrate a writer of wondrous gifts operating at the height of her powers.

5.) Undermajordomo Minor – Patrick deWitt

What’s it all about?:

Lucy Minor is the resident odd duck in the hamlet of Bury. He is a compulsive liar, a sickly weakling in a town famous for begetting brutish giants. Then Lucy accepts employment assisting the majordomo of the remote, foreboding Castle Von Aux. While tending to his new post as undermajordomo, he soon discovers the place harbours many dark secrets, not least of which is the whereabouts of the castle’s master, Baron Von Aux. Thus begins a tale of polite theft, bitter heartbreak, domestic mystery, and cold-blooded murder.

Undermajordomo Minor is an ink-black comedy of manners, an adventure, and a mystery, and a searing portrayal of rural Alpine bad behaviour, but above all it is a love story. And Lucy must be careful, for love is a violent thing.

 

So if my calculations are correct, after I finish this little list I will have finally read all the books that were recommended to my sister and I at our two reading spas that we’ve had with Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights! I feel a sense of achievement at getting them all completed but a strange sense of relief too as there’s plenty more physical books on my shelves I’ve been excited about but have been putting to one side to try and get all of these books read.

Out of this list, I’m particularly excited about The Name Of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss which I’ve only heard amazing things about but have been a bit intimidated by so far as it’s a beast of a book at 662 pages! My fellow bloggers have also given rave reviews of My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout so I’m looking forward to that and I’m trembling with nerves about Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt as I loved his novel The Sisters Brothers so much I’m worried this one might not meet my very high expectations. We shall soon see.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? I’d love to know in the comments below! Have a great month everyone. 

Love Beth xxx

Thunderhead (Arc Of A Scythe #2) – Neal Shusterman

Published August 1, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Rowan has gone rogue, and has taken it upon himself to put the Scythedom through a trial by fire. Literally. In the year since Winter Conclave, he has gone off-grid, and has been striking out against corrupt scythes—not only in MidMerica, but across the entire continent. He is a dark folk hero now—“Scythe Lucifer”—a vigilante taking down corrupt scythes in flames.

Citra, now a junior scythe under Scythe Curie, sees the corruption and wants to help change it from the inside out, but is thwarted at every turn, and threatened by the “new order” scythes. Realizing she cannot do this alone—or even with the help of Scythe Curie and Faraday, she does the unthinkable, and risks being “deadish” so she can communicate with the Thunderhead—the only being on earth wise enough to solve the dire problems of a perfect world. But will it help solve those problems, or simply watch as perfection goes into decline?

And now for something a bit different…

Hello everyone and welcome to a very special review on my blog. A little while ago, I participated in my first ever buddy read with Stuart who blogs over at Always Trust in Books (and is an awesome blogger so you should all go follow him if you don’t already!). We read the first book in a new YA fantasy series, Scythe and both instantly fell in love with it. There was no doubt in our minds that we wanted to carry on with the series and continue to buddy read them together so about a month ago, we read the second in the series, Thunderhead.

Stuart and I ummed and aaahed for a little bit about how we wanted to review this book – individually or more of a collaboration and he had the brilliant idea of capturing our Twitter chat and then including it as part of our review. So please find here before our thoughts and feelings about Thunderhead at the moment of reading it. If you’re worried about spoilers, never fear! Stuart and I deliberately kept the juicier parts of the narrative very vague so if you haven’t read this yet, no big secrets are given away.

What did WE think?:

Start/1st Break

Beth: Don’t you worry, just whenever you’re ready. I have in my sticky paws a copy of Thunderhead!! When do you want to start and how do you want to divide it up? 🤔

Stuart: We did 100 pages, halfway, 3/4 and the end last time didn’t we? plus little comments here and there 😀 same again?

Beth: Perfect! See you soon! 👍🏻

Beth: Hey Stuart, shall we read until the end of Chapter 9? p100 falls right in the middle of a chapter. 😀

Stuart: Sounds good. I still need to finish my current read so J might be a bit behind you but I will read furiously to catch up.

Beth: Don’t you worry. Take your time, I’ve got plenty to read whilst I wait for you. It’s started off very strong!

Stuart: ‘A scythe in black’

Stuart: 😁

Beth: Yesssssss. Did you see the front cover too? One Scythe in turquoise, one Scythe in black…🤔🤗

Stuart: This cover art is just as superb as the first. I am onyl about 20 pages in due to a busy work schedule but I should be up to speed by tonight!

Beth: 👍🏻

Stuart: Woah! You were right about a strong start. I am glad Lucifer is in it from the beginning, I would have missed him too much if he was a ghost. We are getting some decent insights into The Thunderhead now as well (should have guessed due to the title). That was a bit of an epic moment to stop reading 🤣. Are you as happy with the narrative this time around as you were with Scythe?

Beth: I am, it feels familiar and comfortable to read, like being with an old friend if that doesn’t sound too odd? I am loving how both Lucifer and Anastasia go about their tasks. That scene when Lucifer is confronting Brahms at the beginning – holy hell that was tense! And did you feel as creeped out as I did about the way that Brahms gleans? I used to have a doll that played that lullaby so know it well and the thought of it is plain eerie! 😱

Stuart: I sing Brahms Lullaby to my children! Ruined that forever 😂. I think Thunderhead is actually a lot cooler than Scythe. Looking into more interesting Scythes. What is Scythe Rand going to do with Rowan’s friend? Who is after Citra and Curie? Why is the Thunderhead protecting Lucifer? I need answers! You’re absolutely right about fitting right back in with the story. It is good to be back!

Beth: Haha oh no!! 😳🤣 You’re right, it’s just thrown up so many questions and I’m so intrigued to find out what’s going to happen. We’re getting little snippets from the Thunderhead- are you as surprised as I am about it’s attitude/feelings? I wasn’t expecting THAT! 🤔

Stuart: Very unexpected. It has kind of evolved and moved on from just pure calculations. It has consideration and semi opinions. I loved the image of The Thunderhead nurturing the neglected young man. I am enjoying the insights into its mentality and how it invests time into progressing humanity whole reminding where we came from.

Beth: It’s quite canny as well isn’t it? If it’s limited in its own capabilities it’s quite astute at using other people to get the result it wants! Shall we read on? Where do you want to read to this time?

Stuart: Chapter 26 is central..ish p268. Is that good for you?

Beth: Perfect. See you there. 👌🏻

2nd Break

Stuart: Ooooooh Brahms is going to pay!!!!

Stuart: I’m ready when you are! Lots to talk about 😁

Beth: Ok I’m there! WELL, where do I start? Brahms? The Emerald Scythe? How frustrating I’m finding Tyger? I thought it was bad enough when he was obsessed with splatting in the first

book but now? 🙄

Stuart: He does seem to be Rowan’s weakness though. His oldest friend who stuck with him always. I want to talk about Greyson! What a change of tone for the series. When they were in the prison I laughed to myself and wondered if I was still reading the same book 😅. I do like his addition to the narrative though as it keeps it fresh, I think anyway. I wondering what he is going to do now he is alone? Rand is going to be interesting. Rowan should have seen that coming from a mile off. I am enjoying Scythe Constantine’s unpredictability. So much has happened! Shusterman knows how to keep driving a story forward!

Beth: For sure. Yes the whole Greyson “unsavoury” thing is really interesting! This world just keeps on developing- now we have bars where people can be rude and beat each other up and the staff are employed to take that? To keep the unsavoury contingent happy? Crazy! It’s like they can live out their bad side in a controlled environment? The Thunderhead is also really surprising me in that it has a very deep conscience and can mourn just like everyone else. 🤔

Stuart: Yes indeed. I wonder if it will actually cross a line in the future to save someone or something. I am fascinated by the way it operates and experiments with guidelines and trusting people with their secrecy. It has taken all the necessary steps to allow humanity to flourish and itself to stay fair. I can see it may be becoming corrupted in the future? Manipulated. The rain bit made me sad 🤧. I would say my only problem so far is that Rowan is falling into a trap he should have seen coming due to the fact he has been living in hiding, observing and only striking when needed. Foolish mistakes don’t make sense to me, do you agree or am I wrong?

Beth: Totally agree. I mean, he’s been trained by one of the best, Scythe Faraday and he KNEW he was being hunted so you would have thought he wouldn’t have walked himself straight into that situation, it was naive and didn’t make sense with the character he had become. I guess you could maybe say he was allowing his emotion about his father to cloud his judgement?

Stuart: But he wasn’t that emotional about his father… I guess he is more hurt by the betrayal of a scoundrel Scythe. What do you think Purity has planned? Are you enjoying Thunderhead as much as Scythe?

Beth: Ooh I think she’s been taken in by a rogue Scythe! I have my suspicions who but don’t want to voice it in case I spoil things. I am enjoying it very much, it does feel slightly different though, I can’t explain why? What do you think?

Stuart: It is different but not at all in a bad way. I am impressed by Shusterman’s momentum

and how he manages to make even the slightest development feel pivotal to the overall plot. Everything is changing continuously and I really like it that way. The halfway point means it can go any which way, I suggest we crack on to find out more 😀 Meet back at p409?

Beth: 👍🏻🤗

3rd Break

Stuart: P312! What the hell!

Beth: Aaaaaargh!! I wasn’t expecting THAT!! 😱

Beth: p345 name of one of the Scythes. It’s killing me!! 🤣🤣🤣

Beth: Ready whenever you are! 🤗👍🏻

Stuart: That was pretty funny! I have never known in all my time as a reader an author who can drive a narrative forward with such precision and fascination than Neil Shusterman. The mythology, chaos, calm and considered moves and plenty of raw emotion. What about that twist! Everything is up in the air!

Beth: I know I was so surprised 😳 how on earth are we going to talk about it without giving away major spoilers?! Did you see it coming? Also, I had a feeling that the Tonist cult was going to play a larger part in the narrative, I don’t think we are done with them yet!

Stuart: That seen with Greyson was quite sad. I should have seen it coming but I would have never imagined it would go from that to that in such a short window of time. Crazy! I do think he is going to win though as it would be rock bottom for everyone. I thought Scythe was twisty and riddled with turns but Thunderhead has way surpassed that. I don’t know about this excursion by Faraday. It is the only part of this novel I feel doesn’t fit.

Beth: I feel exactly the same. I’m not sure why they’re going, I think Shusterman is being deliberately vague but he suddenly talks about what all the other scythes in the world are doing and we just haven’t heard anything about that so I’m wondering how it’s all going to fit together? 🤔 I am intrigued though by Scythe Curie’s past gleanings which keep getting alluded to. Have we heard anything about that in the first book or have I missed something? 😅

Stuart: I know what you mean. I must have missed that too. The global view is intriguing but we both know Shusterman always has another great reveal up his sleeve. I have no idea what happens next. With anyone. Especially Greyson, he has been one hell of a journey! Do you have any spoiler free predictions?

Beth: Haha so tricky to find something to say that isn’t a spoiler! 😂🤔 I think that the High Blade will be appointed and it won’t be the best decision 😉 then things will kick off royally across the world and the “incredible journey,” will prove even more important. I am worried for Rowan though especially with the percentage odds The Thunderhead gave him! 😳

Stuart: I like those odds 😀 This post is going to be infuriating because no one has a clue what we are chatting about 😂 only those who have read it will get it. I am looking forward to Endura, let’s continue and meet back at the finish.

Beth: Okay see you then! 😁

Finished

Stuart: What an ending! Neil Shusterman is pure genius! I can’t believe it 😂😭🤯. Good stuff.

Beth: OH. MY. GOD. Just finished. I don’t know what to say! Just when I think I can predict what’s going to happen, he blows it out of the water once more. I thought things might go down in the worst way possible but I still never anticipated that! Haven’t read an ending that good in I don’t know how long?! 🤗😰😭😱😳

Stuart: Totally blew me out of the water (excuse the pun). I don’t know what to say either… Bloody hell 😂. He made me believe right until the last second that there might be salvation and then boom, gone. I can’t imagine what book three is going to look like…

Beth: 😂 I know and Citra and Rowan and Scythe Curie and…the sea life?! It was just brutal and so incredibly tense. I seriously don’t have any nails left, they’re bitten down to the end!!

Stuart: It was a real edge of your seat, hands in the air, talking out loud to nobody pure mayhem finale. I need the next book now!

Beth: I knowwwwwww. When’s it out again?! 😅

Here endeth the Twitter chat.

Final thoughts

As you can probably tell, like with the first in the series Scythe, both Stuart and myself absolutely loved this book. It’s always difficult with the second book in a series, particularly if the first one has been so good to live up to the same expectations and I think I can say without any reservations at all that this one is one hundred percent a worthy successor and sequel. From that stunning cover art to the fast-paced story within, Neal Shusterman doesn’t hold back and constantly manages to surprise his reader on every turn of the page.

Neal Shusterman, author of Thunderhead, the second book in the Arc Of A Scythe series.

You might already know that I try to be clever and to anticipate an author’s *moves* before they’ve made them in the narrative. It must be years of reading crime fiction/thrillers and becoming aware of potential twists and turns of a plot? Well, with this series Shusterman has me completely foxed. I NEVER know what to expect and especially what journey he’s going to send his characters on next despite how cunning I try to be with my predictions! However, I think the beauty of this series and the reason I’ve rated both books as high as I have is that it genuinely seems to have it all. I’ve already mentioned the element of surprise but then there is his world-building which is so extraordinarily imaginative and intricate, I feel like he must have spent years dreaming it up. Then there are the characters, particularly Citra and Rowan who are incredibly relatable but I felt strangely connected emotionally to both in addition to this. I really care about each one as an individual, including urging them on, hoping for them to achieve great things and of course, shouting at them when they do something stupid.

I can’t even talk about the ending to this second book in the series. Seriously. Not just because of spoilers but because I’m honestly flabbergasted at the way the author has chosen to take the story, leaving the reader on a precipice, not knowing what on earth to expect when we eventually open the final book in the series. My heart was pounding, my heart was breaking and I was completely astounded by the way events twisted and lurched, leaving the world we have grown to know so well in a very precarious situation. Now I think we have to wait until 2019 to read the final book in the trilogy and I already know it’s going to be one of the most difficult waits I’ve ever had to do for the next novel in a series.

Thank you once again to Stuart for an amazing buddy read experience. I look forward to reading the final book and finishing this series with you! Check out his site today for his thoughts on Thunderhead.

For our non-fiction buddy read: Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History by Bill Schutt, please see our post HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

Short Stories Challenge 2018 – The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter from the collection The Story: Love, Loss & The Lives Of Women.

Published July 29, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s The Bloody Chamber all about?:

This story follows our female narrator as she marries a wealthy French Marquis and discovers the secrets lurking in his castle.

What did I think?:

Full disclosure, I have already reviewed The Bloody Chamber And Other Stories by Angela Carter some time ago on my blog however when I realised the title story of that collection was the next story in Love, Loss & The Lives Of Women I jumped at the chance to review it individually and in more detail. I have a lingering memory of the events in this little tale and in fact, it remains so far my very favourite Angela Carter short story so as you can imagine, I can already highly recommend it. Angela Carter never fails to blow me away with her proficiency of the English language and her stark, poetic choice of words and phrases. Re-reading this story gave me the perfect opportunity to enjoy her talent even more as I already knew how it was all going to play out in the end. I could simply sit back and just enjoy a true master at work.

Angela Carter, author of The Bloody Chamber
From the Fay Godwin Archive at the British Library

The Bloody Chamber, like the rest of the stories in the collection of the same name is based on an old fairy-tale but I’m afraid I couldn’t possibly tell you which one. It would give away simply far too many details! I can tell you it involves a seventeen year old girl who marries a rich man and is spirited away to his castle to begin married life. She has her doubts about her new husband, particularly when she finds out he has been married three times before but he is prepared to give her everything she could ever dream of, including a grand piano on which she can indulge her one obsession, playing music. It’s not long however, as she explores the castle when her husband is away on business that she discovers his greatest secret and everything from here on will never be the same again.

I have to admit, this story does start off a little slow. It’s one of Angela Carter’s longer works of short fiction I’ve experienced so far and it takes a while to set the scene with our heroine mainly describing her relationship with her mother, nurse and the beginnings of the relationship with her husband to be. We get a sense of a very naive, innocent young girl at first who then quickly realises the ways of the world when she comes across some pornographic images in her husband’s library on first entering the castle. It’s not until this point that the story really starts to kick into gear and the reader begins to understand the kind of situation that our protagonist may have entered into.

As always, Angela Carter’s writing is nothing short of exquisite and each word appears to have been lusciously chosen to illustrate impending doom and the hopelessness of our main character’s mood. From the choker of rubies round the young wife’s neck to the way she describes her husband i.e. comparing him to a lily and wearing a mask that she wishes she could remove so she could see the real man underneath, everything is told in such glorious detail it’s an absolute pleasure to experience and makes for an shocking, unforgettable story. I do understand that some people might not gel with Carter’s style, particularly if you’re not a fan of magical realism but if you haven’t read any of the author’s work before this is one of the most perfect places to start. It’s a shining example of her writing, it’s not too “out there” or quirky and it’s immensely readable.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Underhouse by Gerard Woodward from the collection The New Uncanny: Tales Of Unease edited by Sarah Eyre and Ra Page.

The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1) – Stephen King

Published July 27, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

In The Gunslinger (originally published in 1982), King introduces his most enigmatic hero, Roland Deschain of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting, solitary figure at first, on a mysterious quest through a desolate world that eerily mirrors our own. Pursuing the man in black, an evil being who can bring the dead back to life, Roland is a good man who seems to leave nothing but death in his wake.

This new edition of The Gunslinger has been revised and expanded throughout by King, with new story material, in addition to a new introduction and foreword.

What did I think?:

Those of you who are long-time followers of my blog may not be surprised to see this book right here being reviewed but you might also think: “Hey Beth, as one of Stephen King’s biggest fans, how come you’re JUST getting round to reviewing this series?” It’s true, I am a massive King junkie but this isn’t my first experience with the world of The Dark Tower. In fact this series is a re-read for me, the first time I read it was in my pre-blogging days and at the moment, I’m going through my favourites shelves and reading one favourite book alongside a main “new” read and a work of non fiction. So this was a perfect opportunity to re-visit Roland Deschain and his chums one more time and remember all the things I loved most about this series and of course, review it as I go along!

Stephen King, author of The Gunslinger, the first novel in his epic Dark Tower series.

Now I’m not sure what you’ve heard about The Gunslinger previously but I’m just going to give you my opinion and my experience with it – I would truly love to hear your own and get a discussion going about it. This is a book that seems to divide people and put people off and I have to admit, I was one of those people. I read The Gunslinger originally many moons ago, didn’t enjoy it at all, turned my nose up and vowed never to continue with the series. Until a good friend begged me to try again, swearing that it got a hell of a lot better with the second book, The Drawing Of The Three. Man oh man, am I glad I listened? So what I’m trying to say, (very inarticulately!) is that if you’re like me, read this book and thought: “Nope!” PLEASE just try the second book. If you don’t like the second book, fair enough, this fantasy series might not be for you but if I hadn’t continued, I would have missed out on so much. The world-building is second to none, the characters up there with the best King has ever created and the ending of the seventh book? Well, the less said about that right now the better!

Idris Elba in the recent Dark Tower movie adaptation. Which has been panned by the critics but again, don’t let it put you off! (Am I selling this series at all do you think?!)

The Gunslinger is a very short little book weighing in at 231 pages in paperback format so it’s really not going to take you too long to read. It’s the story of Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger and in this book, he’s chasing the mysterious Man In Black across the desert for some unknown purpose. We know Roland has suffered severe hardships in his life and we know he’s on a quest to reach The Dark Tower but we don’t really know WHY. Is it necessary to read this story or can you just skip on to the second in the series? To be honest, I think it is an important read – it sets up the main players in the story, focuses on an important event that becomes very important for two of the main characters in the series and ends on the same beach where The Drawing Of The Three begins.

How did I find reading it a second time? I have to be fair and say I enjoyed it more. I think when you read it the first time you don’t have a clue what’s going on, what this strange world is and things are just incredibly confusing. Have no fear, this series is one major jigsaw puzzle and the pieces do start to slot into place, one by one, eventually. Patience is a big ask for this series, it can get frustrating and you wonder at the vague references and tenuous connections BUT if you’re a fan of the slow reveal and anticipation, by the end it all becomes worth it, I promise. On my second reading, I was so familiar with the world, I could just settle in and enjoy the writing and events for what they were without getting annoyed by not understanding anything. Is it the best novel in the series? Not by a long shot and even Stephen King says himself, if he could go back and re-write it, he would. Personally, I’m so glad I persevered with the series, the rewards for doing so are fantastic and will hopefully make you glad you did too.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

COMING UP SOON: The Drawing Of The Three (The Dark Tower #2)

 

Short Stories Challenge 2018 – Some Drolls Are Like That And Some Are Like This by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles.

Published July 8, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s Some Drolls Are Like That And Some Are Like This all about?:

This story follows a wandering story teller as he takes a couple of tourists on a tour around his local area, telling old stories along the way.

What did I think?:

As the final story in this collection, I have to admit I was expecting something quite majestic. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite end on the note I was anticipating – rather than Notes From The House Spirits which I thoroughly enjoyed, I found myself rather underwhelmed by the story chosen to be the finale of the entire collection. Of course, there is no denying the magical, whimsical nature of Lucy Wood’s writing and as always, I appreciated the nod to Cornish folklore and her ability to spout words like poetry but compared to other stories I’ve read by her, this was rather a damp squib in comparison.

Lucy Wood, author of the short story collection Diving Belles.

Due to the quirky nature of Lucy’s writing, I’m struggling to describe what exactly this story is about in more than a few sentences but I’ll try my best. It follows a droll (Cornish word for a travelling story teller), who comes across two tourists willing to pay him for a tour and to tell stories along the way – old legends, ghostly happenings and the like. As he’s often homeless and uncertain of where his next meal is coming from, he gladly agrees but during the tour he begins to realise something is seriously wrong. Although he is suggested to have one hundred years experience of the town, its people and its tall tales, he can’t seem to remember any of the stories he once knew so well in any great detail. Images keep coming to his mind of things that might have happened, some of them horrific (or are they just stories?) and he appears to be getting quite befuddled about how much of his knowledge is fact and how much is fiction.

Beautiful Cornwall, the inspiration and setting for the stories in this collection.

So, I finished the story about ten minutes ago and knew I’d have to write my review immediately as I would lose track of what it was actually about. Not much more goes on than what I told you and to be perfectly honest, the ending was so abrupt, I’m finding it difficult to recall what actually happened. Lucy Wood has a bit of a pattern with ending her stories quite suddenly, often without resolution or answers and most of the time, I find this works really well but there’s other times where you just wonder what the whole point was in the first place.

This story isn’t bad, by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve certainly read a lot worse and I must stress that the writing is truly beautiful. I loved the way that the droll is compared to a tree, even his skin beginning to resemble the furrows of wood and later on, he finds moss in his fingernails which also harks back to the symbolism of a tree. Is he really as old as he is? Who knows? There’s a lot of magical realism thematically throughout this collection and it’s quite conceivable that he could be a different entity that has known a man who fought in the Napoleonic Wars as he suggests. I think the problem with this story for me was that I just didn’t feel anything for it. It didn’t move me, I didn’t connect with the characters and sadly, I just didn’t really “get” what the author was trying to say.

Overall, if you enjoy magical realism and stories steeped in folklore this is a great collection as a whole, it’s just a shame I gravitated towards other tales other than this one.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter from the collection The Story: Love, Loss & The Lives Of Women.

The Curse Of Time (Bloodstone #1) – M.J. Mallon

Published July 6, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Fifteen-year-old Amelina Scott lives in Cambridge with her dysfunctional family, a mysterious black cat, and an unusual girl who’s imprisoned within the mirrors located in her house. When an unexpected message arrives inviting her to visit the Crystal Cottage, she sets off on a forbidden pathway where she encounters Ryder, a charismatic, but perplexing stranger.

With the help of a magical paint set, and some crystal wizard stones she discovers the truth about a shocking curse that has destroyed her family’s happiness.

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to the author for getting in touch via email and offering to send me a copy of her debut novel, the first in the Bloodstone series, The Curse Of Time in exchange for an honest review. The author is a fellow blogger and publishes a wide variety of posts including book reviews, author interviews, haiku poetry and snippets of her own writing life. Visit her website HERE. I’ve been in the mood for a good young adult fantasy for a while now and as soon as I read the synopsis, with the promise of a magical curse and a female lead character with a difficult past, I was instantly intrigued to get started. Generally, I found this to be a highly imaginative work of fiction with bucket loads of promise for both character and plot development. I have to admit it took me a little while to get into the flow and rhythm of the story, but once I was there, it was impossible to put the book down without becoming quite embroiled in a fascinating mystery.

M.J. Mallon, author of The Curse Of Time.

I don’t want to delve much deeper into the plot of this novel, the synopsis above does that more than adequately and the beauty of this story is definitely discovering all its secrets for yourself. I do want to touch on a few things that I really enjoyed and mention why I haven’t given it a higher rating. To begin with, I’d like to mention the characters which were perfectly drawn and enjoyable to read about. I particularly enjoyed our heroine, Amelina and Ryder (although the less said about this latter character the better, I believe saying anything would be giving away major spoilers!). Indeed, it was Ryder and Esme, the girl trapped in the mirror who were the most interesting aspects of this story for me. They both had an air of mystery, desperation, sadness and curiosity and were probably the most compelling reason for me wanting to read on. I also want to take a moment to mention the gorgeous illustrations in my copy of The Curse Of Time which really added something special to my reading experience and that I was delighted to share on my Instagram account, I was so entranced by them:

Esme And The Mirror by Carolina Russo – visit her website HERE.

As I alluded to earlier, the breadth of the author’s imagination is undeniable and I loved her foray into the powerful properties of crystals, the importance of friends and family and (one of my favourites) magical talking household objects! Who doesn’t love that? I also admired that she isn’t afraid to go to some dark places in her fiction, including dysfunctional relationships, self-harm, emotionally unhealthy relationships etc and this only served to make her narrative more gritty and authentic. My only slight issue with this book is that because so much seemed to be going on at once, occasionally the story felt a bit “busy” and everything just felt a little bit rushed where at times, I did struggle to catch up. Unfortunately, I did feel that sometimes the dialogue between the characters suffered at these points and became a little stilted which was a shame.

On the other hand, it did wonderfully illustrate the veritable explosion of great ideas M.J. Mallon has and certainly no one could ever accuse this novel of being dull or lacking in originality. If you’re a fan of fantasy/magical-based narratives that walk on the slightly darker side of life I would definitely suggest The Curse Of Time as an intriguing read from a hugely promising author.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

The Curse Of Time was the thirty-fifth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!