fantasy

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Queen Of Shadows (Throne Of Glass #4) – Sarah J. Maas

Published July 23, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she’s at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past . . .

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die just to see her again. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen’s triumphant return.

Celaena’s epic journey has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions across the globe. This fourth volume will hold readers rapt as Celaena’s story builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.

What did I think?:

Have I mentioned that I’m an unashamedly desperate and adoring Throne Of Glass groupie? Because I am and with every book in the series, Sarah J. Maas’ world keeps getting more complex and the plot practically explodes with even more intricate details. Seriously, I’m beginning to wonder whether the author had this whole thing mapped out in her head from day one or if she is making it up as she goes along because this world she has built is so fascinating and incredibly detailed that I just marvel at her imagination and story-telling ability.

Queen Of Shadows is the fourth book in the Throne Of Glass series and, as a result, is always tricky to review as I’m super wary of giving away spoilers and ruining everything for anyone who has not started this series yet and is considering it. I’m going to keep things as vague as I possibly can but I highly recommend if you’re at all interested in the epic journey that is Throne Of Glass to go and read the first few books and then come back. In this novel, Celaena Sardothien grows exponentially as an individual after having been under the most horrific suffering in the previous instalments of this story. She has embraced her identity as Aelin Galathynius, is ready to wreak revenge on those who have wronged both her and those that she loves, is desperate to save her land and her people and bring down the evil forces in her world that are determined to cause as much havoc, death and destruction as they can.

It’s not going to be an easy ride for Aelin. She comes across both old and new adversaries that are hell-bent on stopping her before she can ruin their mission. With Rowan Whitethorn by her side however and the blossoming of their relationship, she feels that she can face anyone and anything. The addition of new characters and the formation of strong friendships builds her strength and confidence up even further and with their ferocious support, Aelin may finally be able to move mountains, take down her own personal barriers, learn to love again and, of course, save the world from a deadly enemy.

I think I’ve already gushed on enough about how much I love the world building in this series, now I just have to take a few moments to describe to you the wonderful characters that Sarah J. Maas has created. First of all, Aelin herself, the gutsy, independent female lead that I fell in love with the instant she was introduced in the first Throne Of Glass novel. Then we have Manon Blackbeak, who I mentioned in my previous review Heir Of Fire and is just as utterly brilliant and intriguing in this volume – I’m eagerly anticipating great things happening with her character in future novels and can hardly wait. Then we have the new additions, Aelin’s new friend, the enigmatic Lysandra who I adored and Elide whose story at times actually broke my heart. In fact, there are a lot of characters to get to grips with in this series but they are all so beautifully fleshed out that I never found myself overwhelmed by the sheer number of them, I loved them all as individuals – yes, even the villains of the piece. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to the next book in the series, Empire Of Storms although I have to admit, it’s tinged with a side note of sadness. I can sense the series coming towards the end and although I know it has to happen, I’m dreading it!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Banned Books 2017 – JUNE READ – Saga Volume Two (Chapters 7-12) – Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Published June 26, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

From award-winning writer Brian K. Vaughan (Pride of Baghdad, Ex Machina) and critically acclaimed artist Fiona Staples (Mystery Society, Done to Death), Saga is sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the universe. Thanks to her star-crossed parents Marko and Alana, newborn baby Hazel has already survived lethal assassins, rampaging armies, and horrific monsters, but in the cold vastness of outer space, the little girl encounters her strangest adventure yet… grandparents.

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to the sixth 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:

JULY – The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

AUGUST – Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher

SEPTEMBER – Scary Stories – Alvin Schwartz

OCTOBER – ttyl – Lauren Myracle

NOVEMBER – The Color Of Earth – Kim Dong Hwa

DECEMBER – The Agony Of Alice – Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

But back to this month….

Saga Volume Two (Chapters 7-12) by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

First published: 2013

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2014 (source)

Reasons: anti-family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit and unsuited for age group.

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

BETH: As a relatively recent release my answers for this and the next question are going to be pretty much the same. This month, like last month we’re looking at a book where the focus is mainly on illustrations with few words in comparison. UNLIKE last month, this graphic novel is very, very different. Let me get this straight. I don’t agree with banning or challenging books on any level. I love to get angry about why books are challenged/banned especially when the reasons for doing so are just damn stupid but you know when you read something and you can kind of see why some people might have had issues or been offended? This is the wonderful world of Saga. It doesn’t offend me at all (I’m not easily offended!) but I have been slightly taken aback at some of the images, although I must insist that the art is absolutely stunning and something I can look at for a long time (erm…perhaps unless it’s a very naked, quite terrifying giant monster).

CHRISSI: I actually laughed out loud at Beth’s comment about the naked, giant monster as I nearly took a picture of it to send to her as I was reading it. I agree that it’s easy to see why Saga is challenged. There’s some quite graphic pictures and some very strong language. I don’t think you’d expect that when you pick it up, if you go into it not knowing the controversy surrounding it. I’d totally agree that it has some beautiful images though. The illustrations are stunning… it’s just not for the easily offended (or children!)

How about now?

BETH: Most of the reasons for challenging Saga are completely correct, I hate to admit. Yes, it has explicit sexual content, nudity and offensive language. However, I don’t really agree with the anti-family message. Our two main characters have a small baby, Hazel and are very much together even though they are all “on the run.” Plus in this volume, the grandparents come into play which does show quite a strong family unit, especially when I consider the role of the grandfather in this volume. Also, unsuited for age group. Hmm. Well, it just depends where you make this graphic novel available to be perfectly honest! If it’s in the primary school library that’s a different kettle of fish entirely and completely inappropriate I agree. But if it’s in the local library adult section for teenagers to find for themselves I don’t think that’s too terrible.

CHRISSI: I understand why it’s challenged. I do. I don’t like admitting that, but I do understand why it is offensive to many. I think there should be the opportunity for it to be found in the right places. Like Beth said, a local library would be fine but in a education setting…not so much!

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: We looked at the first volume of Saga in our Banned Books for 2016 – please find our post HERE. It had been a while since I read the first six chapters so I did re-read them before embarking on Volume Two and I remembered just why I enjoyed it the last time. As I mentioned before, the art is simply gorgeous and really intricate but the story is also intriguing and makes me want to keep on reading. I’ll certainly be continuing the series and am looking forward to Volume Three!

CHRISSI: Unlike Beth, I didn’t reread the first volume. I went into it cold and luckily remembered a lot from the previous volume. I really enjoyed this volume, possibly more than the first. The artwork is beautiful and I’m intrigued by the story. I can totally see why so many readers are lapping up this series of graphic novels.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!
CHRISSI: Of course!

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Join us again on the last Monday of July when we will be talking about The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – The Shadow Over Innsmouth by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Published June 20, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth all about?:

The Shadow Over Innsmouth is one of those classic H.P. Lovecraft stories where there are strange goings on in a small town being investigated by a unnamed narrator who becomes horrified with what he discovers.

What did I think?:

It’s no lie that the H.P. Lovecraft stories I’ve read so far for my Short Stories Challenge have been decidedly hit or miss. It’s got to the point now where I approach the next story extremely tentatively as I’m never sure exactly what I’m going to get! In some ways, the author is completely predictable. Take the synopsis for instance, so many of his short stories (or the ones I’ve read so far) seem to be based in small towns that have other-worldly happenings/inhabitants. In this way, The Shadow Over Innsmouth is exactly what I expected from H.P. Lovecraft. However, I did enjoy the small twist in the tale at the end which was slightly less predictable and therefore much more appreciated.

The town of the moment is called Innsmouth and, as usual, we have an unnamed narrator fascinated with the history of the town, the reasons why so many people avoid it if they possibly can, the hostility of the native townspeople and, most importantly, the odd events that have been occurring for many years now that have resulted in the local populace having a very strange “look.” Our narrator decides to visit the town, curious to be face to face with the surroundings and the peculiar people that live there. He even meets up with one of the local drunks and after loosening his tongue with some whiskey, begins to find out many things that may make him wish he had never asked in the first place. Rumours of alien, sea creatures that demand human sacrifices, strange jewellery that both disgusts and intrigues him in equal measures and the consequences of man’s greed when they make deals with malign, evil creatures.

Of course (perhaps predictably) the bus that is supposed to take our narrator out of the town that evening breaks down and he is forced to stay in the local hotel. You can probably guess at what happens. He hears, sees and witnesses a number of crazy and frightening things that leads to him running quite literally for his life in desperation to escape the town and its alien inhabitants. It’s true we always know he’s going to escape successfully otherwise how would he be telling us the story? Yet, there was something right at the end that did surprise me and that I wasn’t expecting which made me look back on the story with perhaps different eyes than I would have done. Obviously, the narrative is flowing with Lovecraft’s flowery, explosive and over-descriptive vocabulary which is always quite fun to mull over but for me, the creepiness of the creatures never really worked. They are described as frog-fish beings (and at one stage while chasing our narrator they HOP) which I’m sorry to say just had me in hysterics rather than having the effect I’m sure was intended. Oops! However, I do rate this story higher than others in the collection for the idea behind it and the unexpected ending.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

NEXT SHORT STORY: Fruits by Steve Mosby from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7

 

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – The Drowned Village by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales

Published June 10, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s The Drowned Village all about?:

This is the story of a young boy called Gaston whom after tragic circumstances in his own life becomes embroiled in a strange ceremony to celebrate the ghostly inhabitants of a village under the sea.

What did I think?:

I love anything with a bit of a ghostly feel, a thrill, something that chills me and makes my heart beat a little faster and when it happens to be a bit fairy-tale inspired also, you can pretty much guarantee I’m going to be a happy little bookworm. I’m not quite sure if The Drowned Village delivered on all of these counts. There were parts of it that were absolutely beautiful and certainly made me (almost) shiver but it didn’t seem to hit the spot in exactly the right way I was hoping.

As Kate Mosse tells the reader in the Author’s Note which she writes after each story (which I love by the way!) this story is based on an old Breton folk tale which of course, with my love of the mythical and other-worldly I was very intrigued by. It is a very fascinating concept, one of tides entirely reclaiming a village and its final stubborn inhabitants who refused to move. However, on certain nights you can still hear the villagers moaning under the water and a dim light under the waves can still be seen if you look very closely.

However, before all of this, we meet our main character, a lad called Gaston who is receiving a very coveted scholarship at school to go and study at a boarding school many miles away. We get the sense Gaston has already suffered too much in his young life from his worn clothes, demeanour and difficult relationship with his parents, who also seem to be a clear target for other children to make fun of. When tragedy strikes, Gaston who has no other relatives is sent to live temporarily with a school friend who tells him all about the drowned village and how annually, a festival is held by the believers of the village where the ghostly sea people return to the land for a brief period of time. At first, I wondered how Gaston and this other thread of the story were going to be connected but it does end up merging together near the end when he becomes involved unintentionally in the ceremony.

So there were quite a lot of things in this story that I enjoyed. I really liked the character of Gaston, his vulnerability but also incredible internal strength under adversity and as mentioned earlier, I did appreciate the folk tale aspect of the ghostly village people. There are some quite potentially frightening moments during the annual ceremony at the festival but I can’t help but feeling like they could have been executed slightly better – perhaps with a cliffhanger of an ending that kind of almost happened but didn’t in the end. I think if it had ended in the way I was expecting I would have been left with a better overall feeling of this story and don’t get me wrong, I definitely enjoyed it, just maybe not as much as I was hoping to. That’s not to say that others won’t feel the complete opposite though!

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

NEXT SHORT STORY: Alice Through The Plastic Sheet by Robert Shearman from the collection A Book Of Horrors

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2017 – MAY READ – The Sea Of Monsters (Percy Jackson And The Olympians #2) – Rick Riordan

Published June 2, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The heroic son of Poseidon makes an action-packed comeback in the second must-read installment of Rick Riordan’s amazing young readers series. Starring Percy Jackson, a “half blood” whose mother is human and whose father is the God of the Sea, Riordan’s series combines cliffhanger adventure and Greek mythology lessons that results in true page-turners that get better with each installment. In this episode, The Sea of Monsters, Percy sets out to retrieve the Golden Fleece before his summer camp is destroyed, surpassing the first book’s drama and setting the stage for more thrills to come.

What did I think?:

Chrissi and I read the first Percy Jackson book, The Lightning Thief last year on our Kid Lit challenge and we enjoyed it so much that we were determined to continue the series this year. The brilliance of Rick Riordan’s story-telling abilities combines everything I love in a good children’s book perfectly and he is a master at moulding action-packed sequences with essential character development without slowing down the pace or changing the atmosphere of the narrative.

So if you don’t know who Percy Jackson is yet, let me enlighten you and then strongly suggest you hunt down the first book in the series! Percy is a teenage boy who has recently found out he is a half-blood – a very special creature indeed. His mother is mortal but his father just happens to be a god. Not just any god either – Poseidon, famed ruler of the oceans. In the first novel, Percy was accepted at Camp Half-Blood, a training camp for young teenagers to make friends and hone their powers. There is however, much danger and rivalry between certain fractions of the immortals (and half-bloods) and this has led to Percy finding out a lot about what both he and other, perhaps less trustworthy individuals are capable of.

In The Sea Of Monsters, a special, one of a kind tree at Camp Half-Blood has been poisoned and the camp is in dire straits,its safety severely compromised and the threat of other-worldly monsters attacking the camp looming larger than ever. The only hope for its recovery is if someone travels through the perilous Sea Of Monsters to retrieve Jason’s Golden Fleece which will revive the tree and give the camp some much needed protection once again. Of course, our young hero gets involved as he also has a dear friend captive on the same island being terrorised by a Cyclops that he is determined to rescue. It is guaranteed that both the journey and the quest will be terribly dangerous however and Percy must draw on all of his strength and the loyalty of his friends and fellow travellers if he is to succeed.

Once again, Rick Riordan’s imagination and sheer talent for creating such a fantastical world just blew me away. I’m an avid reader of anything to do with Greek mythology after studying it for a brief period at school and some parts of the narrative were so nostalgic for me as it brought back happy memories of learning the myths for the first time. The author has written some wonderful characters, notably Percy of course but I also loved his best friend, Annabeth and a new friend/half brother called Tyson who is part Cyclops but incredibly sweet and vulnerable. There’s an undercurrent of humour running throughout the story which I always appreciate and it’s just an amazing fictional world to inhabit for the short time that you’re reading it. Really looking forward to the next book in the series now – will we be able to wait until next year?!

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

NEXT TIME ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT 2017: The Prime Minister’s Brain by Gillian Cross.

 

The Kiss Of Deception (The Remnant Chronicles #1) – Mary E. Pearson

Published May 20, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A princess must find her place in a reborn world.

She flees on her wedding day.

She steals ancient documents from the Chancellor’s secret collection.

She is pursued by bounty hunters sent by her own father.

She is Princess Lia, seventeen, First Daughter of the House of Morrighan.

The Kingdom of Morrighan is steeped in tradition and the stories of a bygone world, but some traditions Lia can’t abide. Like having to marry someone she’s never met to secure a political alliance.

Fed up and ready for a new life, Lia flees to a distant village on the morning of her wedding. She settles in among the common folk, intrigued when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deceptions swirl and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—secrets that may unravel her world—even as she feels herself falling in love.

What did I think?:

When my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads told me I had to start this series I have to admit that although I trust her opinion of what I’m going to enjoy implicitly, I was slightly unsure. I’m not a big fan of romance heavy books, they tend to be a bit sickly sweet for my liking and I was worried the cheese factor might be a bit too much for me to take. Well, Chrissi was right once again. I actually LOVED this book, so much in fact that I gave it a physical hug when I had finished. Embarrassing to admit? Maybe but never mind, eh?! It’s the perfect mixture of fantasy with magical elements, intrigue, twists and turns with a wonderful independent female lead and even a love triangle that was beautifully understated and amazingly, didn’t get on my wick.

Our main character, Princess Lia is from the land of Morrighan and is due to be married off to a prince from a neighbouring land that she has never met before, purely for political alliance purposes. She, understandably, is less than thrilled with this prospect and decides to run away with her best friend and maid, Pauline. They ensconce themselves under the radar in a fishing village miles from home, working locally and trying to remain as inconspicuous as possible. However, Lia does not manage to stay incognito very long. There are now two men that come into her life that are both after her for different reasons. One is the thwarted prince that she was meant to marry, the other is an assassin sworn to take her life (again for political reasons). Their names are Rafe and Kaden and they are both deadly in different circumstances but the brilliant thing about this novel is that we don’t know which is the assassin and which is the prince inviting bucket loads of intensity, tension and drama in an action packed plot that I simply adored.

So as I mentioned in the first paragraph of this review, I am in no way a romance fan. I never have been but after reading The Kiss Of Deception I am now starting to wonder have I just been reading the wrong sort of books? The romance in this novel was so tender and lovely to read that I even experienced a little flutter at certain moments of the narrative, something I thought could never have happened to a cynical old heart like myself! More surprising, I actually enjoyed the love triangle part of this story, normally something I despise in YA fiction. In the first novel of The Remnant Chronicles it just feels somewhat different – I’m not sure if I can explain it. I think it might be down to the character of Lia and how she deals with the intentions of both Rafe and Kaden. She has sass, a fiesty “no nonsense” nature and her strong personality in general coupled with her insistence that she can be independent and work a normal job, sort of an anti-princess so as to speak really made me respect her and made her more believable and the romance aspect less sickly sweet. I had such a positive reaction to this book, it was so pleasantly surprising and on finishing it I immediately asked Chrissi if she had finished the second book yet so I could read it, that’s how desperate I was to continue the series as soon as possible, a VERY good sign I think!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Gallowberries by Angela Slatter from the collection Sourdough And Other Stories

Published May 16, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s Gallowberries all about?:

Gallowberries is about a young woman who has recently lost her mother. Both women are witches and this story focuses on how the daughter manages to take care of herself as she learns more about her own powers.

What did I think?:

I can already tell that this short story collection has the potential to be the most fantastic one I’ve ever read and I’m only two stories in. The first story, The Shadow Tree had me falling completely under the author’s spell and Gallowberries was much the same. It encompasses everything I love in a story – a bit of fantasy, a lot of fairy tale, beautiful lyrical writing and the edge of darkness to make something that is so wonderful to read that you are sorry when you reach the final page as you just want it to go on forever. A huge thank you again to the lovely Fiction Fan for recommending this author and this particular collection, I’m one hundred percent bowled over by it.

Gallowberries is almost like a novella in itself. Not length wise, as it’s regular short story length but the amount of time and events it covers is epic in scale and you almost feel you are seeing a large portion of someone’s life, written in Angela Slatter’s inimitable style that gives me such a warm fuzzy feeling inside. The story involves a young woman called Patience whom when we meet her is admiring the apples growing on a tree that are managing to flourish with a little help from her magical powers. It is while she is looking at the fruit that she happens to notice a handsome man who speaks to her causing her to fall. This is Gideon Cotton who she ends up getting to know romantically (although sadly for her he is never planning to introduce her to his family or indeed marry her….he has a more “suitable” wife-to-be all lined up!).

However, little does Gideon know but Patience is already very familiar with him and his family. He is desperately seeking a witch that murdered some of his family, poisoned others through the wells, cursed cows to be barren and ensured that fields propagated dead crops. Patience is well aware of this as she is the witch he is seeking. In her mind, she had good reasons for revenge. Her mother was due to be hanged for witchcraft by his family and at the last minute she escaped by using the magical properties of gallowberries. This does mean that Patience is unable to see her anymore as she has passed over to another world where Patience cannot follow. With the help of her new friend, Dowsabel who takes Patience in when she is destitute and has nowhere else to go, Patience begins to use her magic for good and see hope and happiness in her life again. Nevertheless, this is an Angela Slatter fairy tale….a happy ending is not guaranteed and with the threat of Gideon finding out who she really is always a concern, Patience may have to call on her dark powers again to ensure her survival.

Loved, loved, loved this story. As I mentioned before, it is a truly epic narrative with so much content, action, heartbreak and sorrow jammed into a relatively short space of time but the brilliant thing is, it never feels rushed or “too much.” The fairy tale-esque nature of Angela Slatter’s writing is always a bonus but she always chooses such strong and interesting female characters like Patience herself and her friend Dowsabel whom I found fascinating to read about and indeed, ended up fully championing despite the questionable things that Patience had done in the name of revenge. Also, the darkness. Oh, it’s incredibly dark! Some of the things that occur might make you cringe, may make you squirm but it’s such amazing storytelling that you simply cannot look away before you find out how it all ends. So far, the two stories in this collection I’ve read have been incredibly strong and if this is an indicator of how the collection is going to continue, I’ve got many more treats in store. Is Angela Slatter a new favourite author? You’re goddamn right she is!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: Thorn In My Side by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)