James Oswald

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

Published December 16, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

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

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

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

What did I think?:

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

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

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

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

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The Hangman’s Song (Inspector McLean #3) – James Oswald

Published December 3, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Book three in the Detective Inspector McLean series.

A young man is found hanging by a rope in his Edinburgh home. A simple, sad suicide, yet Detective Inspector Tony McLean is puzzled by the curious suicide note. A second hanged man and another strange note hint at a sinister pattern.

Investigating a brutal prostitution and human trafficking ring, McLean struggles to find time to link the two suicides. But the discovery of a third convinces him of malicious intent.

Digging deeper, McLean finds answers much closer to home than he expects. Something terrifying stalks the city streets, and bringing it to justice may destroy all he holds dear.

What did I think?:

I approached the third book in the Inspector McLean series with slight trepidation, I have to admit. I had finished The Book Of Souls and enjoyed it, that much was clear but I had a tiny issue with the supernatural element that was a bit of an additional surprise at the end of the second novel and to be honest, I wasn’t sure if it was going to work. If you’ve never read any books in this series before, I guess you could read this as a stand alone but I think you’d be missing out on the characters back stories and other important events that have occurred bringing them to the situation that they find themselves in during The Hangman’s Song. Therefore, I would highly recommend starting the series with the first novel, Natural Causes and going from there if you enjoy it.

Our male detective protagonist for the series, Inspector Tony McLean is back and has been seconded to the Sexual Crimes Unit after the events of the last novel. He becomes embroiled in a harrowing case involving prostitution and human trafficking but whilst he is attempting to work on this, another case comes to his attention. There is a hanging in Edinburgh, the victim is male and is, at first, assumed to be a suicide. However, when another young man is found dead in the same circumstances and then a third, Tony begins to smell a rat. Especially as he finds (amongst other evidence) that the same length of rope was used in all three deaths. Along with this, Tony is coping with some very intense circumstances in his personal life. Someone very close to him has been released from hospital but has regressed to a child-like state psychologically with little memories of past events so he is compelled to look after them and help them on the road to recovery. Will Tony manage to juggle three very complicated events in his own life and manage to find the connections? Or will he be at risk of losing everything that is important in the world to him?

I’ve tried to be deliberately vague in this review for fear of spoilers of course but I think that sums up everything you need to know about this novel. Generally speaking, I did enjoy it and I was compelled to read until the end, curious to find out exactly what was going on and how/if it would all be resolved. Luckily, I felt much more on board with the supernatural elements of the narrative. I think because it came as such a shock at the end of The Book Of Souls, I was much more prepared for it this time round and embraced it as an important part of the story. As to why it bothered me before, I’m not sure. Perhaps I thought I was reading a regular piece of crime fiction then the author threw in a magical curve ball right at the end and caught me off guard? Who’s to say? Anyway, it felt much more believable in The Hangman’s Song and I look forward to seeing how it develops in future books in the series. The one thing I’m definitely invested in the series for is the character of Detective McLean. I love his snarky humour, loyalty to his friends, traumatic events in his past and how he manages to deal with the difficult situations in his present. Hopefully I’ll be reading the fourth book in the series, Dead Men’s Bones sometime in the New Year so I’m excited to see where the story will go next.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

August 2017 – Real Book Month

Published August 1, 2017 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 of the titles my sister Chrissi Reads and I bought recently on our trip to the wonderful Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights in Bath. This is what I’ll be reading:

The Rithmatist (The Rithmatist #1) – Brandon Sanderson

What’s it all about?:

The Rithmatist, Brandon Sanderson’s New York Times bestselling epic teen adventure is now available in paperback.

More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles.

As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students learn the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing—kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery—one that will change Rithmatics—and their world—forever.

New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book of 2013.

The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers #1) – Becky Chambers

What’s it all about?:

When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn’t expecting much. The Wayfarer, a patched-up ship that’s seen better days, offers her everything she could possibly want: a small, quiet spot to call home for a while, adventure in far-off corners of the galaxy, and distance from her troubled past.

The crew is a mishmash of species and personalities, from Sissix, the friendly reptilian pilot, to Kizzy and Jenks, the constantly sparring engineers who keep the ship running. Life on board is chaotic, but more or less peaceful – exactly what Rosemary wants.

Until the crew are offered the job of a lifetime, tunneling through space to a distant planet. They’ll earn enough money to live comfortably for years… if they survive the trip.

But Rosemary isn’t the only person on board with secrets to hide, and the crew will soon discover that space may be vast, but spaceships are very small indeed.

The Immortals – S.E. Lister

What’s it all about?:

Rosa Hyde is the daughter of a time-traveller, stuck in the year 1945. Forced to live through it again, and again, and again. The same bulletins, the same bombs, the same raucous victory celebrations. All Rosa has ever wanted is to be free from that year — and from the family who keep her there. 
At last she breaks out and falls through time, slipping from one century to another, unable to choose where she goes. And she is not alone. Wandering with her is Tommy Rust, time-gypsy and daredevil, certain in the depths of his being that he will live forever.
Their journeys take them from the ancient shores of forming continents to the bright lights of future cities. They find that there are others like them. They tell themselves that they need no home; that they are anything but lost.
But then comes Harding, the soldier who has fought for a thousand years, and everything changes. Could Harding hold the key to staying in one place, one time? Or will the centuries continue to slip through Rosa’s fingers, as the tides take her further and further away from everything she has grown to love?
The Immortals is at once a captivating adventure story and a profound, beautiful meditation on the need to belong. It is a startlingly original and satisfying work of fiction.

Deathless (Leningrad Diptych #1) – Catherynne M. Valente

What’s it all about?:

A handsome young man arrives in St Petersburg at the house of Marya Morevna. He is Koschei, the Tsar of Life, and he is Marya’s fate. For years she follows him in love and in war, and bears the scars. But eventually Marya returns to her birthplace – only to discover a starveling city, haunted by death. Deathless is a fierce story of life and death, love and power, old memories, deep myth and dark magic, set against the history of Russia in the twentieth century. It is, quite simply, unforgettable.

Dreamwalker (Ballad Of Sir Benfro #1) – James Oswald

What’s it all about?:

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

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

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

The booksellers in Mr B’s Emporium are so fantastic that they sold every single book to us, I honestly am looking forward to each and every one of them. I’m probably most excited for The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers as it has been absolutely everywhere and I’ve been meaning to get to it for the longest time but I’m also quite excited to read some Brandon Sanderson after seeing some book tubers raving about him. Also, Deathless is based on a Russian fairy tale…yep, sold sold sold! Have you read any of these? I’d love to know what you think!

 

Mini Pin-It Reviews #10 – Four Thriller Novels

Published July 5, 2017 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 thriller novels for you – please see my pin it thoughts below!

1.) Panic Attack – Jason Starr

What’s it all about?:

An intruder, a desperate struggle, a family under siege: This is Jason Starr’s most provocative and suspenseful novel to date.

Dr. Adam Bloom has the perfect life. He’s financially secure and lives in a luxurious house with his wife, Dana, and their twenty-two-year-old daughter, Marissa, a recent college graduate. Late one night, his daughter wakes him up and says, “Somebody’s downstairs.” Adam uses his gun to kill one of the unarmed intruders, but the other escapes. From that moment on, everyone’s life in the Bloom household will never be the same.

Adam doesn’t feel safe, not with the other intruder out there somewhere, knowing where he lives. Dana suggests moving, but Adam has lived in the house all his life and he doesn’t want to run away. As the family recovers from the break-in and the Blooms’ already rocky relationship rapidly falls apart, Marissa meets a young, talented artist named Xan. Adam feels that something’s not quite right with Xan, but his daughter ignores his warnings and falls deeply in love with him. When suspicious things start happening to the Blooms all over again, Adam realizes that his first instinct about Xan was probably dead on.

With Panic Attack, Jason Starr is at his best, crafting a harrowing page-turner that will blow readers away.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

2.) The Book Of Souls (Inspector McLean #2) – James Oswald

What’s it all about?:

Each year for ten years, a young woman’s body was found in Edinburgh at Christmastime: naked, throat slit, body washed clean. The final victim, Kirsty Summers, was Detective Constable Tony McLean’s fiancée. But the Christmas Killer made a mistake, and McLean put an end to the brutal killing spree.

It’s now twelve years later. A fellow prisoner has just murdered the incarcerated Christmas Killer. But with the arrival of the festive season comes a body. A young woman: naked, washed, her throat cut.

Is this a copycat killer? Was the wrong man behind bars all this time? Or is there a more frightening explanation?

McLean must revisit the most disturbing case of his life and discover what he missed before the killer strikes again . .

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

3.) The Good Girl – Mary Kubica

What’s it all about?:

‘A tremendous read’ – The Sun

Now optioned for a major movie by the company behind Winter’s Bone, Babel, Being John Malkovich and the TV series True Detective.

A compulsive debut that reveals how, even in the perfect family, nothing is as it seems…

I’ve been following her for the past few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she has her dry cleaning done, where she works. I don’t know the colour of her eyes or what they look like when they’re scared. But I will.

Mia Dennett can’t resist a one-night stand with the enigmatic stranger she meets in a bar.

But going home with him might turn out to be the worst mistake of Mia’s life…

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

4.) The Shut Eye – Belinda Bauer

What’s it all about?:

Five footprints are the only sign that Daniel Buck was ever here.

And now they are all his mother has left.

Every day, Anna Buck guards the little prints in the cement. Polishing them to a shine. Keeping them safe. Spiralling towards insanity.

When a psychic offers hope, Anna grasps it. Who wouldn’t? Maybe he can tell her what happened to her son…

But is this man what he claims to be? Is he a visionary? A shut eye? Or a cruel fake, preying on the vulnerable?

Or is he something far, far worse?

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

COMING UP SOON ON MINI PIN-IT REVIEWS: Four Author Requests.

October 2015 – Book Bridgr/NetGalley/Kindle/ARC Month

Published October 1, 2015 by bibliobeth

kindle

I can’t believe how fast this year is going! It’s time for a regular feature now on my blog and it involves me doing some much needed catch up with review copies I’ve been sent and books on my kindle that I’ve been meaning to get to for months. So for most of October I shall be reading:

The Snow Kimono – Mark Henshaw

(courtesy of Book Bridgr)

Vatican Waltz – Roland Merullo

(courtesy of NetGalley)

Bats Sing, Mice Giggle: The Surprising Science of Animals’ Inner Lives – Karen Shanor, Jagmeet Kanwal

(bought for Kindle)

The Death Of Danny Daggers – Haydn Wilks

(courtesy of author)

Glow – Ned Beauman

(courtesy of Book Bridgr)

Beloved Strangers: A Memoir – Maria Chaudhuri

(courtesy of NetGalley)

The Book Of Souls – James Oswald

(bought for Kindle)

To Sea – Michael LoCurto

(courtesy of author)

The Ladies Of The House – Molly McGrann

(courtesy of Book Bridgr)

The Little Black Dress – Linda Palund

(courtesy of author)

Talking About Natural Causes by James Oswald with Chrissi

Published June 27, 2013 by bibliobeth

13614116

What’s it all about?:

When Edinburgh police find the killer of a prominent city elder less than twenty-four hours after the crime, they are justifiably pleased. So the murderer has killed himself; that just saves the time and cost of a trial. But a second murder days later bears haunting similarities to the first, even though once more the murderer swiftly confesses and kills himself.

Detective Inspector Anthony McLean is investigating the discovery of a dead girl, walled up in the basement of an old Edinburgh mansion. She has been brutally murdered, her internal organs removed and placed around her in six preserving jars. The evidence suggests this all happened over sixty years ago, an attempt to re-enact an ancient ceremony that by trapping a demon in the dead girl’s body would supposedly confer immortality on the six men who took one of her organs each.

McLean’s grandmother – the woman who raised him after his parents were killed when he was a young boy – dies after months in a coma following a stroke. On top of this he has to investigate a series of unusual, violent suicides and a cat-burglar who targets the homes of the recently dead. But as another prominent Edinburgh businessman is killed, he begins to suspect that there may be a connection between the murders, the suicides and the ritual killing of the girl found in the basement. The same names keep cropping up. He just can’t find a rational explanation as to how that connection works.

As he digs deeper, and as the coincidences stack up, McLean is forced to consider an irrational explanation. Could there really be something evil stalking the city he has sworn to protect? And if so, how on earth can he hope to stop it? This title also appears on the Richard and Judy Summer Book Club 2013. Please see my previous post HERE.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: Did you find the characters believable?
BETH:  Very much so. Our main character, Inspector McLean is not really one of those detectives that get a bit tiresome after a few crime novels that usually have an alcohol dependency problem! Instead, he seems quite human and “real,” and although he has had a troubled past, the reader grows to care about him and root for him capturing the baddie. I loved the way the author referred to one of the police officers as Grumpy Bob, and from then on only refers to them in those two words. I would have liked to see a bit more detail on the other characters, but this is a series, so maybe their time will come!

BETH: This novel is set in present-day Edinburgh, how effective was the use of setting to tell the story?
CHRISSI: I think Edinburgh is a beautiful place to set a story. I might be a bit biased there, because I have a lot of love for Edinburgh. I think Edinburgh is such a great place because it has such a lot of history.  So for me, it was an effective setting.

CHRISSI:  Did the plot pull you in, or did you feel forced to continue reading it?
BETH: The opening chapter is a bit of a blinder, and I challenge anyone to not want to continue reading after they start! The plot itself had many twists and turns, and there was certainly plenty to keep me interested, with a higher than average body count. I did feel when there was a slight drag to the novel, another body turned up to speed things up a little.

BETH: On the question of gore, how much is too much? Did this author get it right?
CHRISSI: I think this is a hard question because for every reader it’s going to differ. I think people with a very weak stomach may be put off. But on the other hand, you might wonder what on earth is going to happen next which was what happened with me. I did find the deaths to be quite graphic, but the deaths didn’t repeatedly happen so for me, the gore was balanced enough! For another reader though, the first chapter alone might be too much for them. It depends on the strength of your stomach or the vividness of your imagination.

CHRISSI: Did your opinion of the book change as you read it?
BETH: I don’t think so, it was easy to read, and kept me on the edge of my seat at times, but at other moments I felt like things might be getting overly complicated – it all worked out in the end though.

BETH: How did you find the more supernatural elements of the story? 
CHRISSI: For some reason, the supernatural elements of the story didn’t quite sit right with me. They seemed a little out of place. Luckily though, they’re not imperative to the story (yet, who knows if they will become imperative as the series progresses!) so you can take them or leave them when reading.

CHRISSI: The author adds his original opening chapter at the end of the book. Which one did you think was better? Do you think the opening chapter has enough to hook you into the story?
BETH: Hmm, I liked both equally I think, except that one was slightly more gruesome than the other. As mentioned above, I think the opening chapter has all the elements a good crime novel should have for an introduction to the events to come, and it definitely intrigued and interested me enough to want to read on.

BETH: How well did you feel the author did in writing his female characters?
CHRISSI: I think James Oswald’s strength lies in writing male characters. I didn’t think that the female characters were as well developed, but that might be something that changes as the series progresses.

CHRISSI: How did Natural Causes compare to other books in the genre?
BETH:  James Oswald is definitely an author to watch out for in the future. Stuart MacBride thinks he’s good, so that’s good enough for me! To compare it to other books in the genre, I think it stands well. Great characterisation, good plot, a bit of mystery, a nicely wrapped up ending, and PLENTY of gore-filled Hannibal Lecter-like moments.

BETH: Would you read the next book in this series?
CHRISSI: I don’t think I would unless you told me it was really good. I have nothing against the book, but I don’t feel compelled to read the next in the series.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: Probably!

CHRISSI: Yes, to crime and gore fans.

BETH’s Star Rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

CHRISSI’s Star Rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

WWW Wednesday #8

Published June 26, 2013 by bibliobeth

WWW Wednesdays is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Click on the image to get to her blog!

It’s WWW Wednesday time again! Thanks to MizB at Should Be Reading for hosting.

To join in you need to answer 3 questions..

•What are you currently reading?

•What did you recently finish reading?

•What do you think you’ll read next?

Click on the book covers to take you to a link to find out more!

What are you currently reading?

13614116

The first in the Inspector McLean series, this crime novel based in Edinburgh is on the Richard and Judy Summer Book Club 2013 list – see my previous post HERE. I’m about 25% through, and liking what I read so far.

What did you recently finish reading?:

3008

I read this book as part of my “Kid-Lit” challenge I am participating in with my sister. Absolutely beautiful story – if you haven’t read it, it gets a big thumbs up from me. Review to be posted very soon!

What do you think you’ll read next?:

41219

This is another one of those novels I have been meaning to read for ages. It won the Man Booker Prize in 1990, and I’m really looking forward to it. Hoping it doesn’t disappoint as I wasn’t a huge fan of her novel The Children’s Book.

What are you reading this Wednesday? Please feel free to leave your link and I’ll visit you and have a nosey at your books. Happy Reading Everyone!