Reading roundup – December 4th 2016

Hello and here I am again with another reading roundup.

Since my last reading roundup, I’ve read five books and COMPLETED MY GOODREADS CHALLENGE!  Go me!  This year so far I have read/listened to 83 books to beat my goal  of 80.  I was wondering if I’d make the challenge this year given how busy my new role has kept me.

Of the books I’ve read since the last roundup the one I enjoyed most was probably Catalyst: A Rogue One Story by James Luceno, which I listened to in audiobook format.  I almost always listen to Star Wars in audiobook format because the narrators, production and sound effects are invariably excellent.  This really brings something special to the story.  Catalyst: A Rogue One Story is a prequel to Star Wars: Rogue One and tells the story of the construction of the first Death Star.  

I really loved this story despite it being somewhat slow and lacking in action.  The characters were beautifully written and the cat and mouse games between Erso, Krennic and Tarkin were excellent.  Galen Erso is a fascinating character with his passion for knowledge blinding him to political issues.  While I don’t believe it spoils the Rogue One movie, it does certainly give some fascinating background information on it.  I gave Catalyst: A Rogue One Story four and half stars out of five.

A close second in terms of enjoyment was A Million Worlds with You by Claudia Gray.  This is the third and final entry in Gray’s Firebird trilogy, a young adult time travel adventure. A Million Worlds with You was a fitting finale to the series, and solidifies my impression of Gray as an extremely solid and gifted storyteller.  This series is well worth checking out if you’ve an interest in time travel.  I gave A Million Worlds with You four stars out of five.

Another solid series entry I listened to recently was Dead Beat by Jim Butcher, book seven of The Dresden Files.  This is another series I invariably listen to in audiobook format due to the excellence of James Marsters’ narration.  He IS Harry Dresden.  Dead Beat has a fun, fast paced mystery and sets up some interesting developments for future books.  I gave Dead Beat four stars out of five.

After some hesitation I did eventually purchase and read The Morning Star by Marie Lu.  I’d enjoyed The Young Elites, but not necessarily enough to want to continue with the series.  I’d heard good things about the finale, so I did pick it up.  I enjoyed it but didn’t love it.  The theme of mortal enemies having to work together for the greater good and Adelina’s journey were interesting and well done.  I gave The Morning Star three and a half stars out of five.

One book I consigned to my did not finish pile was Carrie Fisher’s The Princess Diarist, written and narrated by Fisher herself.  I bought it somewhat on an impulse because the Audible sample was funny and engaging.  Fisher’s narration was especially on point.  I think my issue with this audiobook was that the focus was not what I anticipated, despite the recent publicity about certain revelations.  I was looking more for behind the scenes insight into the making of Star Wars.  This is the first of Fisher’s autobiographies I have read and perhaps one of the others may have the focus I was hoping for.

Currently, I’m reading and enjoying:  

Scythe by Neal Schusterman.  This is the first in a YA series set in a world in which humanity has conquered death and humans are basically immortal.  In order to prevent overpopulation, a group of people known as scythes are tasked with killing a certain quota of people.  We follow two apprentice scythes, Citra and Rowan as they struggle to learn their trade and navigate the murky waters of scythe politics.  I’m about 70% of the way through it and am really fascinated by the world Shusterman has created.  It’s definitely worth picking up.

I’m also reading/listening to The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen, the final entry in her YA Tearling series.  I had issues with book one, The Queen of the Tearling, and indeed hadn’t planned to continue with the series.  Some positive reviews of book two, The Invasion of the Tearling, convinced me to give it another go.  I still had issues, but it was a significant improvement for me.  I am now about a third of the way through book three, The Fate of the Tearling and heavily invested.

Upcoming releases

In the month of December there are two releases about which I am super excited.

The Pale Dreamer by Samantha Shannon.  This is a prequel to Shannon’s Bone Season series, a series which has grown on me more and more.  By the time On the Merits of Unnaturalness was released I was completely hooked.  I’m very much looking forward to listening to the beginnings of Paige Mahoney’s story before The Song Rising is released in March.

Finally of course on December 16th we have the audiobook of Star Wars Rogue One.  That is an auto buy for me.

That’s all I have for today.  Back soon with my yearly roundup.

My weekend with the Fantastic Beasts (spoilers)

As some of you who have been following my blog may know, the last couple of weeks I’ve been obsessed with the new film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  This is the latest from Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling and follows the adventures of Newt Scamander, a British magizoologist (student of magical creatures) who encounters some issues when visiting 1920s New York.  As well as following Newt’s attempts to recapture his fantastic beasts, the movie also explores the challenges facing the American wizarding community of that era.

As well as seeing the film on release day, I also purchased the screenplay (available on Amazon) and the LEGO Dimensions story pack for Fantastic Beasts.  As well a six levels of gameplay taking you through the entire movie, the pack gives you LEGO bricks to build the MACUSA building.

For those who have not yet seen the movie, I’ll continue after the cut as I will be discussing spoilers.  Warning;  complete nerdout follows.

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Reading roundup – November 12th 2016

Hello and welcome to another reading roundup.  Since my last roundup I have read two pretty good books which I’d like to share with you.

Reading roundup – November 12th 2016The Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliott
Series: Court of Fives #2
Also in this series: Court of Fives
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Georgia Dolenz
Length: 13 hours and 2 minutes
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

I received an Advance Reader Copy of The Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliott at BEA.  It’s been on my TBR for a while, but it’s only recently I read it.  The Poisoned Blade is the second book in a planned trilogy (I believe) and continues the story of Jessamy, a young woman caught between two cultures whose passion in life is playing the game of Fives.  In this second book, Jes is drawn into court politics and has to deal with the fallout of her decisions in book one.  I listened to The Poisoned Blade in audiobook format and very much enjoyed Georgia Dolenz’s narration.

What I liked

The characters.  I really liked our protagonist, Jessamy.  Her conflicts between her love for the Fives, her need to protect her family, the limitations placed on her by her heritage and her affection for Kal were expertly written.  

The pacing.  The Poisoned Blade didn’t suffer from middle book syndrome at all.  There were enough conficts and resolutions to keep me well satisfied.  I will certainly be picking up the final book in the trilogy.  Personally, I’ve found Elliott’s series lose steam as they go on and for that reason I’ve not finished many of them.  This one I do intend to finish.

The worldbuilding.  Continuing on from Court of Fives, Elliott has created a wonderful world for our characters to live in.  

What I didn’t like

There was little I didn’t enjoy about The Poisoned Blade.  It is my favourite of Elliott’s series.  

I gave it four stars out of five.

My review of Heartless Reading roundup – November 12th 2016Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Format: eBook
Pages: 464 pages
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Probably my most anticipated release of the year, Heartless is Lunar Chronicles author Marissa Meyer’s origin story of Lewis Carroll’s Queen of Hearts.  I really wanted to listen to this in audiobook format, however technical issues meant that it wasn’t available to Canadians on Audible.com for several days after release.  This was rather disappointing as i loved Rebecca Soler’s narration of the Lunar Chronicles.  I ended up reading it on my Kindle.

What I liked

The writing style.  I really loved Meyer’s, fresh, immediate writing style from the Lunar Chronicles and Heartless is no different.  This time it’s spiced with Lewis Caroll whimsy and the blend is magical. As a note, it probably does help if you’re familiar with both Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.

What I didn’t like

Somewhat predictable.  Of course, as an origin story, it’s tricky to be completely unpredictable.  There’s no escaping the fact that Catherine becomes the cold hearted Queen of Hearts.  However, certain other plot points were more easily guessed than I would have liked them to be.

Character development.  I felt this was better done in Fairest.  There was a more logical progression in Levana’s transformation to the wicked Queen than Cath’s becoming the Queen of Hearts.  Cath is much more of a positive character at the beginning, so her transformation was always going to be more difficult to plot.  At times I felt each step in Cath’s journey was a little unexpected, unearned or not wholly justified by the steps before.

In summary, I did enjoy Heartless, but I prefer the Lunar Chronicles.  I gave Heartless four stars out of five.

In other news:

I am currently obsessed with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  Yes, I know, it’s not released until next week, but everything I’ve seen and heard about it indicates it’s going to be absolutely magical.  Rowling’s Wizarding World in 1920s New York?  Sign me up!  I’m especially loving all the hints about Grindelwald and his rise to power in Europe.  There must be some wonderful stories to tell there. I can’t be the only bookworm who has planned a day off work around a book release, surely?  Not only is the movie released on November 18th, but we also get a book of the script and a LEGO Dimensions Story Pack!  I can’t wait!

Also this week I have been watching Netflix The Crown, the story of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne and the first few years of her reign.  I’m enjoying it very much; Clare Foy has taken the role of the Queen, with former Doctor Who Matt Smith as Prince Philip,  Both are giving excellent portrayals and I recommend this series.

That’s all for now folks.  Back soon!

four-stars

The Blood Mirror by Brent Weeks – Review

The Blood Mirror by Brent Weeks – ReviewThe Blood Mirror by Brent Weeks
Series: The Lightbringer #4
Also in this series: The Broken Eye
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Simon Vance
Length: 20 hrs and 30 mins
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

The Blood Mirror by Brent Weeks is the fourth in a planned series of five epic fantasy books.  The series has a wonderfully imaginative magic system in which magic users can turn light into a physical substance. luxin.  Each spectrum of light (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet) produces luxin with different properties and uses.  If you’ve not yet started this series, I heartily recommend it.  Go start with The Black Prism.  I strongly suggest experiencing this series in audiobook format due to the excellence of the narrator, Simon Vance.

Initially, the series was planned to be a trilogy; then four books and recently Weeks announced he would need five books to tie up his series.  The Blood Mirror is the penultimate entry and sets up things for the finale.

What I liked

The romance.  While it is not a focal point of the series or book, there is a love story in The Blood Mirror and it is beautiful.  It focusses on that very first serious/sexual relationship in which a character must learn to love another real life person, warts and all, and not just a fantasy crush.  Our protagonist’s learning to accept his partner, emotions, needs, strengths and all was so perfectly written it was a joy to read. This was one of the real highlights of the book for me. Of course it helped that the partner concerned is a pretty awesome, kick ass new character in her own right.  I am 100% on board this new ship.

Gavin’s storyline.  One of Weeks’ strengths as a writer is an ability to pull the rug out from under his reader’s feet, and Gavin’s story arc in this book is no exception.  This particular storyline is intended to leave the reader wondering what is truth, what is madness and what is manipulation and it succeeds perfectly.  This was also the storyline where I found myself thinking “ah, crap he’s really going to to go there, isn’t he?”  While it’s not confirmed in this book, it definitely looks like he will go there in the final book.  Darn.

Strong female characters.  The Blood Mirror gives us some amazing, strong female characters.   I loved reading about Tisis, Karris and Teia and look forward to reading (or listening) how their characters progress in the final book.

 What I didn’t like

Some characters merely treading water.  In certain ways some key characters in The Blood Mirror suffer from Daenerys Targaryen syndrome in that their storylines aren’t ready to progress yet until other characters have progressed.  This means that they do very little in this book other than pop up to remind us of their existence from time to time.

Kip’s character arc.  One of my pet peeves in YA literature is when the protagonist becomes an expert at something just because he or she is the protagonist, it suits the story and without doing the necessary groundwork.  For me Kip’s development wasn’t setup satisfactorily enough.  

Despite these minor flaws, I gave The Blood Mirror five stars out of five.  I am highly anticipating the conclusion of the story, although I confess to some anxiety that it’s going to be a traumatic read, having seen what Weeks has set up.

five-stars

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.

five-stars

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!

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