Reading roundup – October 23 2016

Hello, once again, welcome to my belated reading roundup.  My new role at work has kept me extremely busy, we had guests and I’ve been dealing with a sick, unhappy kitty.  I swear cats can smell one grain of crushed up medication in a spoonful of delicious, tasty food. I’m really sorry for the forced pill popping Lushka, but I did try it the easy way first. Fortunately, she seems to be on the mend.  Anyway, enough of the excuses.  Since my last roundup I’ve read three books and I’m part way through three others.

What I read

The first book I read was The Young Elites by Marie Lu.  This is the first book in a YA fantasy trilogy telling the story of Adelina, who, like some other young people, has been left with special powers after an illness.  Marie Lu has said her inspiration for Adelina was Darth Vader, and being aware of this helped me a lot – Adelina is a rather dark character.  While I enjoyed the book – I loved the Renaissance style setting – a lot, it didn’t leave me with any desire at all to pick up the sequels.  Strangely, I had the same reaction to Lu’s earlier trilogy Legend.  I really enjoyed Legend, but I have never had a strong motivation to read Prodigy and Champion.  While I am interested to hear if Adelina gets an Anakin Skywalker type redemption, I’m not certain that I am invested enough to want to spend my precious time reading two more books to find out.  Perhaps those of you who have read The Rose Society and The Midnight Star could let me know your thoughts in the comments.  I gave The Young Elites three stars out of five.

The second book I started was one I consigned to the Did Not Finish pile, The Jewel by Amy Ewing.  This is a young adult dystopian novel I borrowed from the library after reading the first five chapters via Epic Reads Firsts,   Further reading confirmed for what I suspected; it was an attempt to cover similar themes to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and when I hit the point where the instalove was introduced I decided The Jewel was not for me.  If the themes of female agency and ownership of one’s reproductive system are of interest to you, I’d direct you to The Handmaid’s Tale rather than The Jewel, in particular, Claire Danes’ audiobook version.  

This week I finished Rae Carson’s Like a River Glorious, her sequel to Walk on Earth a Stranger.  This is a YA historical fantasy trilogy set in the time of the California Gold Rush.  I very much enjoyed the first book and loved the second one.  Carson has done extensive research into the time period in which the novels are set, and it shows.  The books are so atmospheric and really gave me the impression I was there.  The fantasy element is very subtle, but it does add to the story.  My one comment would be that this is the second book in a trilogy, yet it felt everything was wrapped up quite well.  Hints dropped suggest the third book may well deal with California’s upcoming statehood and what that implies for Leah and her friends.  That would be interesting and I’d certainly read it.  I gave Like a River Glorious four stars out of five.

What I’m reading

Currently, I’m reading/listening to three books.  The first of these is Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.  This is the sequel to Illuminae which I adored.  I received an Advance Reader Copy of Gemina at BEA, but I chose to wait for the audiobook which was released on October 18th.  The audiobook for Illuminae was a wonderful multi-voice creation which won an Audie award and the Gemina audiobook is equally as excellent so far.  I’m reading my ARC while listening to the audiobook, so I’m only able to read this when I can sit down and focus on it.

For commuting/short breaks I have And I Darken by Kiersten White.  This is an adaptation of the Vlad the Impaler storyline, except casting Vlad as a young teenage girl.  I seem to be reading books with dark characters these days!  So far I’m enjoying it.

Finally, in bed at night I’m listening to the Graphic Audio production of Brent Weeks’ The Broken Eye, the third in his Lightbringer series.  This is in preparation for the release of Blood Mirror next week.  For those of you unfamiliar with Graphic Audio these are radio play like adaptations of novels complete with a full voice cast, original music and sound effects.  Generally these are very good, although I often wish the music would be toned down somewhat.  These Graphic Audio productions do provide an interesting viewpoint on Brent Weeks’ books and I would recommend them.  However, we have the inimitable Simon Vance narrating the audiobooks which is nearly as good!

What I want to read

There are some excellent books coming out in the next month, including The Blood Mirror.  Need I say I’ll be picking up The Blood Mirror in audiobook format to hear Simon Vance’s narration?  Other books I’m highly anticipating are:

A Million Worlds with You by Claudia Gray.  This is the third and final book in the Firebird series which follows protagonist Marguerite as she tries to prevent the evil Triad from causing chaos across the multiple dimensions.  I’ve loved the first two books in the series and I’m looking forward to seeing how Gray ties up the story.  A Million Worlds with You is released on November 1st, and I will be picking it up in audiobook form due to Tavia Gilbert’s excellent narration.

On November 8th we have the release of one of my most anticipated releases of the year, Heartless by Marissa Meyer.  This is a standalone retelling of the origin of the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland.  I adored Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles and I’m excited to read this one.

J.K Rowling is releasing the script for Fantastic Beasts and Where to find Them on November 18th, the same day as the film.  Words can’t describe how much I am anticipating this movie.  The Wizarding World in 1920s New York?  Yes please!  I am especially intrigued by the mentions of Grindelwald in the trailer and the Deathly Hallows/Grindelwald symbol on Percival Graves’ character poster.  This sounds as if it’s a fascinating time in wizarding history and I can’t wait to find out more.

That’s all I have for today.  Have a good week and speak soon.

Reading roundup – October 10th 2016

Hello and here I am again with a reading roundup.  Yes, I know it’s been ages since I rounded up my reading.  My new role has been keeping me very, very busy, which is good, I guess.  I’d still rather be reading though!

Despite being so busy, there are seven books I’d like to discuss with you which I’ve read since my last roundup.  I’m not sure if it was just because I was tired, but sadly very few of them really rang my bell.  More of them were good, but no cigar.  

The first book I read was Furthermore by Shatter Me author Tahereh Mafi.  This is Mafi’s first foray into middle grade and tells the story of young Alice who must venture into the world of Furthermore to rescue her father.  I really loved the writing style in Furthermore – Mafi’s descriptions were lyrical and gorgeous.  Unusually, Mafi regularly breaks the fourth wall in this novel to give the author’s viewpoint on Alice’s reactions, which I adored.  It reminded me of Noel Langley’s Land of Green Ginger which was one of my favourite books as a child because of a similar technique.  It’s worth reading this book simply for the chapter titles as well – they were a real treat.  In the end though I gave Furthermore only three and a half stars out of five for one reason alone.  The style of whimsy in this book, reminiscent of Lewis Carroll, is one that I personally really don’t enjoy.  I prefer my fantasy to have more rules.  That is a purely personal opinion and one you may not share.

One of the books that I did very much enjoy was Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One.  I really should have picked up that one sooner.  This was one I picked up the sample from Amazon and was immediately hooked.  Don’t you just love when that happens?  I listened to the audiobook version narrated by Wil Wheaton.  I loved everything about this book.  The plot, the pacing, the characters and the narration were all excellent, and I’m a sucker for a treasure hunt across virtual reality.  Some of the Eighties’ pop culture references passed me by, but it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book.  I gave Ready Player One five stars out of five.

Replica by Lauren Oliver is a book I picked up at BEA earlier this year and it was moved up my TBR by the Epic Reads Firsts which gives a preview of the first five chapters.  The formatting of this book is the most interesting thing about it.  The story is told from two perspectives; Gemma’s and Lyra’s.  The hard copy is flippable with each girl’s story making one half of the novel.  You can either read each perspective straight through before swapping to the other or you can alternate, reading one chapter from each girl’s point of view.  I chose to alternate, and was very impressed by the way the two stories dovetail together.  Oliver has clearly put a lot of work into the timeline and the way the information is put across.  I understand the audiobook has a similar feature where you can choose how to listen.  I’m still considering buying it to check it out.

However, while the format was novel and well done, neither the characters nor the storyline really gripped me.  I understand a sequel is in the works and the ending is certainly open ended, but I’ve not yet decided if I’ll continue the series.  I gave Replica three and a half stars out of five.

Next up was The Swan Riders by Erin Bow, the sequel to The Scorpion Rules.  The Scorpion Rules had a kick ass ending and I was excited to find out what was going to happen next to Greta, Talis and their companions.  The complexity really ramps up in this book and it requires a fair amount of concentration to keep up with who is who, who’s in love with whom, who’s human, who’s AI and who’s a bit of both, and what a particular character’s motivation is at any given point in the story.  For this reason, I think if I’d been less busy at work and more able to concentrate on it, I’d have enjoyed it more.  This is a case where the audiobook might have helped a lot as well as I’m sure the narrator Madeleine Maby would have helped clarify what personality any given character is portraying at the time.  I gave The Swan Riders four stars out of five.

Leigh Bardugo’s Crooked Kingdom was the second book I absolutely devoured this month.  This is the second and final book in the Six of Crows duology.  I’d been looking forward to it, but not quite counting down the hours until it hit my Audible download queue, even after a quick review of Six of Crows.  That changed when I got into it.  I found myself super invested in all Bardugo’s wonderful characters and rooting for them.  Bardugo is a master of show, don’t tell when it comes to her characters.  The reader must often read between the lines for what’s really going on with them and what their feelings and motivations are.  That significantly increased my investment in their stories.  As the conclusion to the duology Crooked Kingdom was a wonderful ending.  I listened to Crooked Kingdom in audiobook format – the narrator list reads like a who’s who of YA narration and every single PoV was fantastically narrated.  I gave Cooked Kingdom five stars out of five.

Those of you who have followed my reviews know that I do enjoy Rick Riordan’s writing so I was very much looking forward to The Hammer of Thor, the second in the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series.  While I enjoyed it, I didn’t love it as much as I’d hoped.  Again, maybe it’s because I was tired from work, and I’m also very familiar with Riordan’s humour now.  While I found the character of Alex very interesting and nicely written, and I admire Riordan for tackling transgender issues, at times I felt I was reading A Very Special Episode of Magnus Chase.  I felt he could have got the point across in a more subtle manner.  I also didn’t feel particularly invested in the story this time around.  I gave The Hammer of Thor three stars out of five.

The final book I listened to in the last few weeks was The Purloined Poodle by Kevin Hearne.  This is a short novella in his Iron Druid series this time told from the perspective of the druid’s Irish wolfhound, Oberon.  Now, Oberon is one of my favourite characters in the series and I was especially excited to have a novella from his perspective.  I chose to listen to this in audiobook because of Luke Daniels’s wonderful narration.  I really enjoy his Oberon voice, however I was distracted by concern that using that voice for such an extended period of time would be painful for him!  I also found that Oberon is best used as seasoning – a little of him is wonderful, but I’m not certain I’d want to hear a whole novel from his perspective again.  I gave The Purloined Poodle four stars out of five.

So here you have it, what I’ve been reading/listening to over the last few weeks.  Have you read any of these?  Let me know in the comments.

Reading roundup – September 17th 2016

Hello and my apologies for the lateness of this reading roundup.  I started a new role at work this week so it’s been a very busy week.  I’m switching from shiftwork to a more regular Mon-Fri job, so my blog posts may be somewhat irregular until I get myself into a new routine.  Please bear with me.

I did read some great books over the last little while.  I read and finished Furthermore, Shatter Me author Tahereh Mafi’s foray into middle grade.  While it wasn’t really my cup of tea, the writing was beautiful.  I will be writing a full review of Furthermore shortly, so keep an eye out for it.  I hadn’t intended to pick up Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, but I started reading/listening to the sample and I was hooked.  I’m about four fifths of the way through it, so again expect a review at some point in the future.  

This week I finally started to read another of the ARCs I received from BEA, Replica by Lauren Oliver.  It moved up my TBR because of the EpicReads First 5 newsletter to which I am subscribed.  This is a email where they send you the first five chapters, one a day, by email of upcoming books.  It’s a really great way to preview upcoming releases.  Anyway, back to Replica.  This was one of the books recently previewed and the preview was interesting enough to get me to pick up my ARC.  While I’m not yet 100% sold on the characters or plot, I am intrigued by the format.  The book is in two parts, one part told from Lyra’s perspective, the other from Gemma’s.  it can be read either as two separate sections or as alternating chapters from the two storylines.  I’m choosing to go the alternete chapters route and so far I’m really appreciating how the plotlines are tightly woven together and each enhances the other.  Again, I will write a longer review when I’m finished.

Today I went to see the movie Bridget Jones’s Baby, which I loved.  The script is funny and the performances are excellent, especially Zellwegger and Firth.  They really GET their characters now, and they both bring their Oscar cailbre acting chops when required.  I also enjoyed Emma Thompson’s performance as Bridget’s doctor.  I understand Thompson collaborated on the script – she clearly took the opportunity to give herself some of the best lines! Patrick Dempsey did well as the new guy on the block, but I really regretted that Hugh Grant chose not to reprise his role as Daniel Cleaver.  The script and actors have to work that much harder to make brief fling Jack Quant a believable rival to Firth’s Mark Darcy given Darcy’s long term love of and relationship with Bridget.  Cleaver’s history with Bridget and their sustained sexual chemistry would have made him a more believable alternative.  Ah well.  Still, we can hope for an adaptation of Mad About the Boy with Daniel Craig as the love interest please.

That’s all I have to share this week.  Did you see Bridget Jones’s Baby?  If so, let me know what you thought in the comments!

Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas – Review

Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas – ReviewEmpire of Storms Series: The Throne of Glass #5
Also in this series: Throne of Glass, Heir of Fire
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Elizabeth Evans
Length: 25 hrs and 23 mins
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Empire of Storms is the fifth and penultimate book in Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass in which a former assassin uses her skills and her magic to save her kingdom.  Being the second to last book in the series, it focusses very much on getting our protagonists into the right place for the finale.

What I liked

The pacing.  Despite the fact that Empire of Storms is primarily focussed on getting the team into place for the final confrontation, Maas managed to keep the pacing brisk and the tension high.  There were several points where I feared for our characters’ lives.  There are several confrontations adding to the tension, even if the end result is moving the pieces across the chessboard.

The characters and their group dynamics.  This is clearly one of Maas’s real strengths as a writer.  I loved the relationships between the characters and their journeys.  It was wonderful that each of our characters has a unique skill set, developed over the course of the series, which will be vital in the cause to defeat Erawan.  If even one person fails to play his or her part, the world is doomed.  I personally have not read the novellas, but I enjoyed the “new” characters who made an appearance and who also must do their part.

Manon’s story.  Once again, as in Queen of Shadows I found myself more engaged with Manon’s chapters than with Aelin’s, at least until the ending.  It is noticeable that Manon’s arc mirrors Aelin’s.  Both start the series as cocksure employees of a leader whose moral bankruptcy does not sit well with our heroines.  A crisis ensues causing a break with said leader, a confrontation which leaves our heroines in a pretty dark place.  Both must now accept their heritage in order to claim their birthrights to aid the cause of freedom.  I really look forward to where Manon’s journey takes her, although I can’t help wishing she’d had as much page space to develop her character as Aelin.

The increase in scope.  In Empire of Storms we learn just how long the confrontation between Team Terrasen and Erawan has been brewing and how much has already been sacrificed.  The potential cost of the war is also laid out, and I have even more love for Aelin now.  I can’t wait to see how it plays out in the final book.

Setup for final book.  I really liked loved Maas has set the pieces for the final book.  Each character is faced with a task or a role to play and each must perform to have a hope of defeating Erawan.  It’s clear that the cost will be high.  She has achieved a wonderful balance between bringing existing plotlines to fruition while leaving a great deal of possibilities.

The narration.  I picked up Empire of Storms in audiobook format specifically for Elizabeth Evans’ narration.  She brings exactly the right amount of sass to Aelin, and her Manon voice is pitch perfect, too.  I would recommend this format.

What I didn’t like

Some modern phrasings.  Occasionally, Maas will use some modern phrases in her writing, such as “haul ass.”  While this probably fits in well with our sassy, modern heroine, the style of the novel is still epic fantasy and such expressions really, really bugged me.  Each time they threw me out of the story.  You may not have the same experience.

The number of romantic pairings.  Please don’t misunderstand me.  I LOVED the individual pairings in the series.  They were beautifully developed, with each partner both giving and gaining something from the relationship.  What did frustrate me though was that almost every character seemed to be paired off in some way.  It came across as a little too neat for me.  Of course maybe the gods have put a perfect partner in each of their paths to make up for the hardships and pain they must endure!

Despite these minor quibbles I loved Empire of Storms and gave it five stars out of five.

Speculation on the sixth book

I liked that the story could still go in many different ways in this last book.  Maas could opt for a happy ending or it could be bittersweet.  In any case, I’m calling it now; Lysandra and Dorian won’t make it out alive :o(  The tasks ahead of them are simply too dangerous.  That is only my speculation though and I would be happy to be proven wrong. Let me know what you think in the comments.


Reading roundup – September 9th 2016

Good morning.  This is going to be a fairly brief roundup this week – I don’t have a great deal to talk about!

One book I finished this week was The Bronze Key, the third in Holly Black and Cassandra Clare’s Magisterium series.   The Magisterium series owes a lot to Harry Potter, set as it is in a magic school, following a protagonist linked to the Enemy of Death.  This third outing sees our heroes trying to identify a spy in their midst all while keeping secret Cal’s connection to Constantine Madden.  The Bronze Key is another solid outing in the series and I enjoyed it very much.  While it doesn’t have Rowling’s wit, charm or gorgeous worldbuilding, I do like the depth that Black and Clare have given to their characters.  It’s  series I will certainly follow to the end.

I gave The Bronze Key four stars out of five.

I’m currently reading Sarah J. Maas’ Empire of Storms, the fifth book in the Throne of Glass series and am loving it so far.  It’s funny to see on my GoodReads news feed how many of my GoodReads friends are currently reading this book!  Expect more thoughts when I finish it.

This week saw rumours that the great Dame Angela Lansbury (she of Murder, She Wrote and Mrs Potts in Beauty and the Beast) had joined the cast of Game of Thrones for season 7.  That could have been great – I could imagine some really wonderful scenes between her and Dame Diana Rigg.  However, the rumour was recently debunked.  Ah well.  Jim Broadbent does seem to be confirmed though – maybe someone from the Citadel?

Today was the unveiling of the latest iPhone and Apple Watch.  Other than watching Tim Cook do Carpool Karaoke, I wasn’t particularly excited about any of the news.  I’m perfectly happy with my iPhone 6.  The new wireless AirPods could have been cool until I saw they were priced at $219 CAD.  I’ll stick with my Bluetooth streamer for my hearing aids and my EarPods for when I’m in bed!

That’s all I have for today!   Have a good weekend.


The Olympics Book Tag

Good morning.  This week I’m going to do something different.  Quite honestly, none of the books I’ve read over the last couple of weeks has inspired me enough to write a full book review for a post, so I’m going to do the Olympics book tag.  Thanks to RiverMoose Books for bringing it to my attention.

Ancient Greece:  the book that started it all for you.

As a child I was always reading.  Like many British kids I grew up with Enid Blyton – I loved the Famous Five, the Secret Seven and the St Clare’s boarding school series.  I’m not sure how well known they are in North America.  I can also remember at school on Friday afternoons it was story time and the teacher used to read the Three Investigators stories.  I loved those and read a lot more of them on my own.

The first book that I can remember being totally and utterly sucked into though was the classic Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.  I was around eleven at that time and I just couldn’t put that one down.  This has led to a lifelong love of fantasy literature.

Opening Ceremony: a series that you love that has a lot of excitement and fanfare surrounding it.

For this one I’m going to pick Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles.  This is such an awesome series and there is usually a lot of hype around a new release.  The books easily live up to the excitement though.  It does remind me of a regular discussion I had with my parents.  Every time I mentioned Harry Potter they’d react by saying “bah, it’s all hype.”  No matter how often I tried to convince them that the hype was well justified, it happened every time.  That is until I gave them a Kindle and access to my Kindle library and Dad actually started reading Potter…

Gymnastics: a book full of twists and flips.

My choice for this category is one that perhaps not many of you will have read yet.  I’m going to go with Caraval by Stephanie Garber.  I was lucky enough to get an Advanced Reader Copy at BEA this year and it’s definitely one of my top reads of 2016.  The world Garber has created is breathtaking and the ground is forever shifting from under our protagonist’s feet.  I really can’t wait til January when you all can read this and share your thoughts.

Wrestling: a book that you keep picking up and putting back down.

For me this has to be Red Rising and the rest of the popular trilogy by Pierce Brown.  I know, many people love this, but I have been unable to get into it despite a couple of attempts.  Sorry.

Track & Field: a book made up of a lot of parts.

It took me a little time to come up with an entry for this category.  In the end though I’m going to go with A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson.  For those of you unaware of the history, Robert Jordan sadly passed away before completing his Wheel of Time series and Sanderson was tapped to complete it.  As they say, “the story grew in the telling,” and at the time Sanderson picked up the baton, the series had a huge, unwieldy cast, massive scope, a shedful of prophesies to be fulfilled and a metric tonne of plotlines to be resolved.  It took him three books, but in the end Sanderson crafted an ending out of these parts worthy of its Creator. 

Weightlifting: a book you have trouble picking up due to its size.

OK, I have nothing for this one.  I’m a hardy reader – big books don’t scare me!

Archery: a book that missed the mark for you.

For this one I’m going to go with Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld, the Austen Project’s retelling of Pride and Prejudice.  From the initial preview I’d been cautiously optimistic.  Sadly though, the book itself didn’t measure up to my hopes.  While it had many positive aspects, I felt that Sittenfeld had not remained true to Austen’s much loved characters.  This led to my giving this book the lowest GoodReads rating of a book this year.

Badminton: a lesser-known but equally amazing read.

Here I’m going to pick The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson.  This novel focuses on the lives of the inhabitants of a small English village in the leadup to the First World War.  The social history is fascinating, the characters are interesting and very well written and the plotline is very touching. An excellent read.

Rowing: a book with an awesome team of characters.

In this category I’m going to nominate The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare.  This series has one of the most powerful love triangles I’ve ever read in YA, and the whole intricate relationship between Will, Tess and Jem is just so beautifully written.  And dang it, that ending to Clockwork Princess.  <sniff>

An honourable mention to The Lunar Chronicles for the awesome female characters and their teamwork.

Diving: a book that you easily jumped right into.

Court of Fives by Kate Elliott is the book that fits this category for me.  When I picked it up, I was in the middle of a really bad reading slump and the worldbuilding and the characters still drew me in immediately.  The sequel, The Poisoned Blade, is high up on my TBR.

Closing Ceremony: a book/series with a bittersweet ending

For me, you can’t get much more bittersweet than the ending of The Lord of the Rings.  The whole idea of Frodo’s having gone on that journey to save the Shire, but being so damaged by it that he cannot enjoy the peace he won with so much struggle is heartbreaking.  The whole scene at the Grey Havens where the Fellowship breaks for the final time gets me right in the feels each time.

This seems a good point to express my concern about the ending of A Song of Ice and Fire.  George R.R. Martin has gone on record to state that the ending he has planned is “bittersweet.”  Knowing Martin, that means I’ll need to buy at least 10 boxes of tissues before reading A Dream of Spring.

Let me know in the comments if you agree with my choices!

Reading roundup – September 2nd 2016

Good morning!  I’ve a lot to cover in this post vacation/hospitalisation reading roundup, so let’s get on with it, shall we?

Reading roundup – September 2nd 2016Cold Fire by Kate Elliott
Series: The Spiritwalker Trilogy #2
Format: eBook
Narrator: Luke Daniels, Tavia Gilbert, William DeMeritt
Pages: 672 pages
Genres: Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: three-stars

The first book I read was Kate Elliott’s Cold Fire, the second in her Spiritwalker trilogy, a young adult fantasy series.  I admit I really struggled with this book.  It is the middle book in the trilogy and I really felt that.  I liked the characters and the world and the dilemmas our protagonist had to navigate were interesting.  The whole answer a question with a question scenario was wonderfully done.  However, with no resolutions I still really had to force myself to complete this book, and I think it will be a while before I attempt book three.  I gave Cold Fire three stars out of five.

Reading roundup – September 2nd 2016Hotel Valhalla Guide to the Norse Worlds by Rick Riordan
Format: eBook
Pages: 176 pages
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Hotel Valhalla Guide to the Norse Worlds by Rick Riordan pretty much does what it says on the tin.  It is a slim companion volume to Riordan’s Magnus Chase series based on Norse mythology and provides a succinct and witty guide to the Norse pantheon.  If you’re familiar with Riordan’s style, this is more of the same.  Personally I’m not as familiar with Norse mythology as say Greco-Roman so this was a very useful, very quick read.  Hotel Valhalla would be a great addition to your Riordon collection.  I gave it four stars out of five.

Reading roundup – September 2nd 2016Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray
Series: Firebird #2
Also in this series: 1000 Pieces of You
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Tavia Gilbert
Length: 10 hours and 51 minutes
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray is probably the favourite of my holiday reads. It’s the second in Gray’s Firebird young adult fantasy series involving alternate dimensions.  Book two involves our protagonist, Marguerite, on a hunt across the dimensions to rescue fragments of her boyfriend’s soul, all while avoiding the traps of the evil Triad corporation. I’ve read quite a few books by Ms Gray now, and this one really confirms for me Gray as a very strong, solid storyteller.  The concept, worldbuilding, characters and pacing were all first class.  I listened to Ten Thousand Skies Above You in audiobook format, which was perfectly narrated by Tavia Gilbert.  I am very much looking forward to the conclusion of this series in November, especially given the cliffhanger.  I gave Ten Thousand Skies Above You five stars out of five. 

Reading roundup – September 2nd 2016Hunted by Kevin Hearne
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Luke Daniels
Length: 9 hours and 52 minutes
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
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Currently, I’m listening to Hunted, the sixth book in Kevin Hearn’s Iron Druid series, following druid Atticus O’Sullivan and his hound Oberon as they navigate the modern age and the mixed pantheons of our world.  These books are a heck of a lot of fun, and I always choose to listen to them in audiobook format thanks to Luke Daniels’ excellent narration.  You know a book is good when the author describes a meal – or in this case Oberon’s unfiltered enthusiasm for ribs – and you just have to go out and order some.  I’ve not yet finished the book, so not yet rated it but I am anticipating a high rating.

Reading roundup – September 2nd 2016Underground Airlines by Ben Winters
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: William DeMeritt
Length: 9 hours and 28 minutes
Genres: Alternate History
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The final book I read on vacation – I’ve not quite finished it yet – is Ben Winters’ Underground Airlines, an alternative history novel in which slavery still exists In some states in the modern US.  It follows a black bounty hunter searching for an escaped slave.  So far I’m really enjoying this.  I grew up a white woman in small town Scotland, so racial tensions are not something that were really familiar to me.  I’m listening to the book in audiobook format, narrated by William DeMeritt and the audio format works really well for the story.  I look forward to continuing it.  

Upcoming releases in September

As usual, September is a pretty hectic month in terms of book releases.  Here are the ones about which I’m most excited.

Empire of Storms by Sarah J Maas.  This is the fifth novel in the Throne of Glass series and it my most anticipated release of September.  Throne of Glass is a young adult fantasy series and it is so, so good.  It’s interesting; I’ve really not seen a great deal of publicity/spoilers/reviews for this so far.  I guess at this point the series stands up on its own.  I’m certainly looking forward to getting my hands on it.  Empire of Storms is released on September 6th.

Next up, we have The Swan Riders by Erin Bow.  This is the sequel to The Scorpion Rules, which I very much enjoyed.  The ending to book one was a real game changer, so I am excited to see how things develop in book two.  The Swan Riders is available for purchase from September 20th.

Scott Lynch’s continuation in his Gentlemen Bastards series, the Thorn of Emberlain, was scheduled for release on September 21st, but I read that it has been postponed to a 2017 release date.  I’ll admit I’m not too surprised. There had been no marketing or any other news in the last few weeks and the date has been postponed several times already.  I am disappointed – these are very very good stories – but I’m OK to wait if that’s what Mr Lynch needs to prepare the release properly.  I look forward to reading it next year.

On September 27th we have the release of Like a River Glorious, the second book in Rae Carson’s Gold Seer trilogy.  This is a young adult historical novel (with a dash of fantasy) set in the gold rush era.  The first book was excellent and I am very excited to read book two.  

Also on September 27th we can pick up Leigh Bardugo’s The Crooked Kingdom, her sequel to Six of Crows.  I really love the world Bardugo has created and the characters who inhabit it, so I’m highly anticipating this release.  I got a small sampler at BEA this year, but I’m waiting until I can read the whole thing.

That’s about all I have for this week.  Let me know in the comments which of these releases you’re most excited for.


The Great Illness Recovery Movie Rewatch of 2016

As I mentioned in a recent blog post, I spent a couple of days in hospital being treated for a skin infection.  I’m back at home now, and although I have not been doing a great deal of reading, what I have been doing is watching a whole lot of movies.  

Chariots of Fire.  I’m not certain if I had seen this before, but I had a real hankering to watch the Oscar winning movie about two very different British Olympian hopefuls in the 1924 Paris Olympics.  This film was sheer perfection, from the casting to the script to the cinematography to the music.  I loved every moment of it, from the opening scene with the runners running along the beach to Vangelis’ stirring musical theme to the heart lifting final race.  I definitely have visions like Mr Bean at the 2012 London Olympics of running down that beach with the athletes.  Go watch this movie.  Now.  

A Walk in the Woods.  The second movie I watched was A Walk in the Woods, an adaptation of Bill Bryson’s travelogue about hiking the Appalachian trail, starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte.  This got pretty mixed reviews in the cinema, so I was happy to wait to watch it at home.  I’ve read quite a bit of Bryson’s travelogues and usually find them very witty and insightful.  I thought Redford did a great job of bringing across Bryson’s humour, and it was fun to see Emma Thompson as his English wife.  The scenery was wonderful to look at even on the small screen.  However, I did have a problem with Nolte’s character.  I’m not certain if it was how it was written, directed or acted, or a combination of all three, but the character turned me off completely far more than the original character in the book, which I have naturally, read.  This is despite a few sweet moments between his and Redford’s characters.  I wouldn’t rush to pay $14 dollars to see this one, but certainly worth checking out free on Netflix if you’ve nothing else to do of an evening.

Wild. This is the adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s travelogue about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and stars Reece Witherspoon, who was nominated for an Academy Award for the role.  You may see somewhat of a theme here.  I guess I was missing my running and walking more than I realised during my vacation and hospital stay!  Anyway, Wild is another excellent movie.  I loved the character development the scenery and the performances, and it deserved all the accolades it earned.  This is another one to check out.

The Third Man.  This is Carol Reed’s murder mystery set in post-war Vienna and stars Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten.  Having spent time in Vienna myself I really enjoyed seeing a movie set there, even if it was a very much dishevelled version of the city I love.  Having said that, the film itself did leave me cold.  The more I learned of Harry Lime’s character, the less I was invested in finding out what happened to him, despite Holly’s obvious affection for his friend.  By half way through the movie I was ready for Holly to take Major Calloway’s advice and to get the heck out of Dodge, so it was a struggle for me to finish the movie.  However, I can’t fault the acting, script or direction.  It wasn’t my cup of tea, but I know many people have loved this movie, so your milage may vary.

Spectre.  Daniel Craig’s fourth outing as James Bond, 007.  This is definitely not the strongest Craig Bond movie, especially coming after the wonderful Skyfall as it does.  Craig turns in a good performance as do the other actors, the stunts and special effects are breathtaking but for me the pacing was a real problem here.  Lengthwise it comes in as an average Bond movie, but it felt much, much longer.  It’s difficult for me to pinpoint exactly where the issue was – perhaps there were too many plotlines going on, or perhaps the peaceful interludes between action sequences dragged on too long, but for me it was definitely not the greatest Bond film.  I do hope Craig comes back to do one more, but sadly that’s looking less and less likely.  Maybe I can just pretend he went out with a bang in Skyfall?

Rain Man.  This is another classic movie starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise about a road trip taken by an LA businessman and his autistic brother.  Again this is a classic for a reason.  The script, performances and character development are all wonderfully portrayed.  Much is made of Hoffman’s performance as the autistic Raymond, and rightly so, but to my mind Cruise delivers an equally strong and nuanced performance.  Now, I’m not the greatest of Tom Cruise fans, but I can very much appreciate how he slowly developed his character from a greedy businessman focussed on money to wanting to do the best for his brother.  The scene towards the end where Charlie finally accepts that he cannot provide the care that Raymond clearly needs and yet still wants to have a relationship with him is beautifully acted.  Another must-see movie.

So those are the movies I watched during my recovery.  Do you agree with my thoughts?  Let me know in the comments!

Travels with lymphedema

Good morning.  First of all, apologies to my regular book review readers.  This blog post is somewhat off topic, but I felt I wanted to write about it.  Feel free to skip it or pass on to someone who may find it interesting.  I will recommence regular book reviews shortly, I promise!

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it on this blog or not, but I have a condition called lymphedema which means that my lymphatic system isn’t great about moving the lymph fluid around my body.  This means that without management, it collects in my lower extremities leading to swollen, uncomfortable feet and legs.  Normally this is well managed by my compression stockings.  The other issue with lymphedema is the risk of cellulitis infection.  The lymph fluid is extremely protein rich, so it is basically an all you can eat buffet for bacteria.  If one gets in, it invites all its friends and the infection can go very bad very quickly.  That is what happened to me after my vacation.  I got an infection that sent me to the hospital for a couple of days for IV antibiotics.  Fortunately, I reacted quickly this time and was able to get treatment before it got too bad. 

The lessons I took from that is that vacation is not an excuse to neglect basic skincare, which is a cornerstone of lymphedema management.  My infection was probably due to a whole combination of things; rushed skincare, long periods spent travelling without getting up to move around, poor maintenance of my compression garments.  In other words, I need to be more aware of the basic requirements of living with lymphedema and speak out to ensure they are being met.  Lesson learned.

It got me thinking though.  What words of advice would I have for someone newly diagnosed with lymphedema, perhaps someone younger and more active?

First of all, I would explain that I am not an expert, simply a fellow traveller perhaps a few miles further along the road.  The tips and techniques I have picked up have worked for me, but they may not be be appropriate for every situation.  When in doubt consult with your lymphedema support team.

Secondly, lymphedema is a scary diagnosis to hear.  It cannot be denied; managing lymphedema takes hard work, commitment and lifestyle changes, none of which are easy.  However, with the right professional support and attitude it is very possible to keep on top of the condition.  If I can do it, anyone can.

Build your support team.  My doctor was able to refer me to the extremely knowledgable and passionate Dr Anna Towers and the amazing lymphdema therapist Lina Desmenins.  These are both wonderful women whom I am privileged to have in my corner.  I understand that it is not always easy to be put in touch with the appropriate resources.  Here in Quebec the Lymphedema Association of Quebec acts as an invaluable resource point for patients and practitioners dealing with lymphedema.  I imagine there is a similar organisation in each province/state.  That would probably be an excellent place to start.

Put together your tool set.  Lina likes to refer to the various techniques for lymphedema management as tools in a toolset.  I find that a very positive way of looking at it.  As tools, they put you in control; they can be used as appropriate to manage your lymphedema.  Together, you and your lymphdema professional will put together a tool set which is apppropriate for your particular situation.  You will almost certainly be introduced to compression bandaging, compression garments and basic skincare, which are the cornerstones of lymphedema management.  Others include manual lymphatic drainage, weight control and exercise.  I am certain there are others, of which I’m not aware as they were perhaps not the most appropriate tools for my situation.  Now, I won’t pretend that the tools are always easy or fun to use, but they are effective and they do their job.  I don’t think anybody really enjoys compression bandaging.  Your lymphedema specialist will also provide guidance as to which tool is most appropriate for the situation.  I know on several occasions, I’ve followed up with Lina asking exactly that question and always received invaluable support and advice.

There will be setbacks.  See; above.  I can also remember being in tears in Lina’s office at the thought of having to continue bandaging for a few more weeks in a hot Montreal summer.   With Lina’s support I got through it and continued to reduce the fluid in my legs considerably.  Lymphedema management isn’t a slow straight line of improvement.  It’s more like a series of peaks and troughs, hopefully always heading in a positive direction.  It’s best to be prepared for that.

Find something to motivate you.  For me, exercise was an important tool in my toolset, especially walking, something I didn’t generally enjoy.  I invested in a pedometer (a FitBit to be precise) and I found that was a great motivator for me.  At first I really struggled with it.  Even hitting 5000 steps a day was a challenge at the beginning.  The recommended 10,000 steps a day seemed very difficult to achieve.  Nowadays, most days when I’m not working I can easily do 10,000 steps and it’s not a problem at all.  Seeing the number of steps I could manage increase slowly was a real motivator for me.

These days I jog as well as run.  I have been working through the Couch to 5K plan which takes you from being a couch potato (me, to a T) to being able to tackle a 5K run.  It builds you up over 9 weeks with walking/jogging intervals starting at jogging for 30 seconds until you’re jogging for 30 minutes straight.  I found this a fantastic program, although that jump from 8 minutes jogging to 20 minutes jogging in week 5 is a real hurdle!  Do I enjoy jogging?  No.  Is it a struggle?  Yes. Am I fast?  Heck no – a tortoise could overtake me.  But I can take real pleasure with Chariots of Fire playing in my ears pretending that I’m running along that beach with all those Olympian hopefuls from the movie.  I can also take great satisfaction in seeing that this week I ran for 25 minutes whereas last week I struggled with 20 and several weeks ago five minutes was a challenge.

One of the things I regret most about my lymphedema is not being able to wear cute shoes.  So when I was finally able to move from compression bandaging to compression garments I hunted around until I found a cute pair that would work with my feet:

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I was so happy to find them!

Take pride in your achievements. Living with lymphedema is not easy, so when you achieve something, own it.  I am very proud of the circumference reduction I’ve achieved in my legs.  It’s taken a lot of work, but I am very happy with the result.  Earlier this year, I also completed my very first 5K fun run.  OK, it was more of a 5K power walk, but I did it and I have the participant’s medal to prove it.  It is so important to value these moments to get you through the tougher times of lymphedema management.

I think that’s about all I have to share on this subject. I hope you’ve found it useful.  If you have any comments or questions, let me know in the comments.  Thanks for listening!

Reading roundup – August 12th 2016

Good morning and welcome to another reading roundup.

This week I finished Naomi Novik’s League of Dragons, the last in the Temeraire series.  As I mentioned in my last reading roundup, I skipped the intermediate seven books of the series and relied on’s reread.  That wasn’t such a great idea in hindsight.  While there was a lot to love about the book – especially the narration (Simon Vance, people!) – I expect some of the emotional punches passed me by.  I did very much enjoy the whole theme of draconic rights and Temeraire’s commitment to improving his kind’s lot in life.  What did irk me though was the sudden switch in goals.  It seemed that every time our protagonists came near to achieving their goals, the posts were moved and they were sent off on another errand.  It did all come together in the end, but it did bother me at the time.

I gave League of Dragons three and a half stars out of five.

My library hold of Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown came through earlier and I’m enjoying it very much indeed – much more than I had anticipated.  I would place it in the genre of fantasy of manners in that it has a fantastical element but takes place in an Austen-style Regency setting.  This is a subgenre I definitely want to read more of.  Austen it is not, but the style is reminiscent of that era and I’m loving the characters.  The fact that our protagonists are a man of colour and a woman adds a fascinating aspect to the novel. I’m about half way through, so expect a full review at some point.

Onto some housekeeping;  my husband and I are setting off on vacation so I will be taking a short break from blogging.  Expect more reviews and roundups when I return!

Like many bookworms, I’m sure, planning my vacation reading list takes as much work as packing clothes!  At least with a Kindle, I’m not limited by bulk of how many books and audiobooks I can take.

For this summer trip, I’m planning on some light fare, nothing to heavy.  We are travelling by train, so a perfect time to catch up on reading.  I’m planning on following up with the Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne.  As of now, I’ve read five of the currently published eight books.  The reason I’ve not finished the series yet is because they are absolutely wonderful – the audiobook is awesome – and I’ve been saving them for an appropriate time.  The characters and the humour are just perfect.  Now seems like a good time to catch up.  This is a series I’d definitely recommend in audiobook format.  Do yourselves a favour and check it out.

While we’re away Rick Riordan’s Hotel Valhalla – Guide to the Norse Worlds should hit my Kindle download queue.  That should also be a nice, light holiday read.  

If I’m in the mood for something a bit more meaty, I will continue with Kate Elliott’s Cold Fire.  I have been enjoying it, but it kept getting pushed to the back of my list by library books that had to be read before being returned.

So I’ll catch up with you when I get back.  Till then happy reading!


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