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Canadian eReader - Page 9 of 74 - E-reader and book reviews

And now for something different… LEGO Dimensions!

Those of you who follow my blog know that I generally review books and audiobooks, so this review is somewhat different.  Today, ladies and gentlemen, I will be discussing LEGO Dimensions, the new video game from the folks at LEGO and Travellers’ Tales.  My playing this game has seriously eaten into my reading time.

For those of you who have never played a LEGO video game before, they are level-based humorous games in which you smash objects to create the solutions to puzzles.  They are a lot of fun.  You unlock in game rewards by collecting mini-kits, red and gold bricks and LEGO studs which you can exchange for new characters with different puzzle solving abilities and other new abilities to solve more puzzles to unlock even more stuff.

Dimensions is rather different in that it’s the company’s first foray into the toys-to-live world meaning that you must fork over hard cash for real-world LEGO sets to unlock the characters and content in the game.  The starter pack includes the game, the toypad. the bricks to build the Dimensions portal and the Batmobile and the mini figures of Gandalf from Lord of the Rings, Batman from DC Comics and Wyldstyle from the LEGO Movie. Gameplay is divided between the fourteen levels of the main storyline each based on one of the fourteen franchises in Dimensions, additional franchise specific levels and fourteen free roam Adventure Worlds each specific to one franchise.  In order to access the franchise specific content you need to purchase additional LEGO sets which come in Level packs (to access a new level and which contain one character, one vehicle and one gadget) team packs (with two characters,  a vehicle and a gadget) and fun packs containing one character and one vehicle.  .  Each of the team/fun packs gives you access to the Adventure World of that franchise.  So for example, by purchasing the Wicked Witch fun pack for $14.99 you gain access to the Oz Adventure World.  Of the 14 Adventure Worlds, the starter pack only gives you access to three, and none of the franchise specific level packs.  This is a serious limitation and something to be seriously considered.

Personally, I supplemented the starter pack with the Wonder Woman, Wicked Witch, Gollum, Gimli and Cyborg fun packs, the Scooby Doo team pack and the Back to the Future level pack.  I have preorders placed for the Doctor Who level pack, the Ghostbusters level pack, the Doc Brown fun pack and the Cyberman fun pack.  These have not yet been released.

First, it has to be said the game is a heck of a lot of fun.  There is so much humour in the game, at levels which will appeal to both younger and not so young players.  Having the real world component makes the experience very interesting – at several points you have to put down your controller and go and physically put together LEGO bricks to continue the story.  The toypad is also heavily integrated into the game and is used as far more than a way of introducing characters into the game.  You are constantly moving characters around the toypad to solve puzzles.  It is very ingeniously done.

One of the joys of the game is the mashups that are created between the 14 franchises.  It leads to some hilarious moments.  For example, it turns out that Wyldstyle and Wonder Woman enjoy bonding over girl talk and coffee and Gandalf is annoyed at the Wicked Witch for giving magic users a bad name and he suggests she tone down the evil!  I have definite plans to take The Doctor joyriding in the Batmobile through the streets of Minas Tirith as soon as the Doctor Who pack is released.

Having said that, the constant blocks because you haven’t purchased a certain character with a certain skill set are tedious and frustrating in the extreme.  One of the first puzzles you come across in the game is a swarm of ghosts which the game, very helpfully, tells you can only be dealt with by Peter Venkman whom you can obtain by forking out $30 for the Ghostbusters level pack, which isn’t even available until January 2016.  You are constantly faced with such roadblocks, and, while they don’t prevent you from completing the main story adventure it becomes very, very tedious after a while.

There is a lot of enjoyment to be had in the game – I’m still getting a lot of fun out of it several weeks later – but if you purchase it, be aware that your experience will be rather limited unless you are prepared to fork out lot more money than that for the already expensive starter pack. 

I gave LEGO Dimensions four stars out of five.

Upcoming releases in October 2015

Like September, October is another big month for book releases.  Here are a few of the ones about which I am most excited.

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard – The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan.  This, along with Robin Hobb’s Fool’s Quest and Marissa Meyer’s Winter are among my most anticipated books of the later half of 2015.  For those of you who don’t know, Sword of Summer is the start of a new series by the author of the Percy Jackson series which, this time, focusses on Norse mythology.  Riordan’s books are always funny, engaging and exciting and I have no reason to suspect this one will be any different.  Knowing what I know of the Norse pantheon, the opportunities for high jinx seem limitless.  

Sword of Summer will be released on October 6th and I have it preordered in both Kindle and Audible versions.

Also on October 6th Brandon Sanderson is releasing another book.  Dang, that guy is prolific.  Does he actually sleep?  This month it’s the turn of Shadows of Self, the sequel to his Alloy of Law, a steampunkesque novel set in his Mistborn world.  I love the world Sanderson created in the Mistborn trilogy and Alloy of Law, and I’m more than happy to plunk down my hard earned cash for this.

I have preordered Shadows of Self in both Kindle and Audible formats.  Incidentally, as usual, Michael Kramer is narrating the audiobook, which is a plus point for choosing this version.

Next up I have a couple of novellas in series I have been following.  These are The Favourite from Keira Cass’s The Selection series, released on October 12th and Born to Endless Night, the next in the Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy series of novellas which comes out on October 20th.  Both of these should be fun additions to my library.  

October 27th sees the release of The Outlandish Companion Volume II by Diana Gabaldon.  I am slowly making my way through the Outlander series – currently dropping in and out of book four, Drums of Autumn.  It goes without saying that I am in love with the Starz series.  I found the Outlandish Companion Volume I to be a wonderful, insightful addition to my Outlander library and I fully expect Volume II to be the same.  As it deals with books five – eight it may be some while before I actually dip into this.  Spoilers about I am certain.

The Outlandish Companion Volume II should hit my Kindle download queue right on schedule.

If I am being perfectly honest, though, the chances of my actually reading anything – or achieving much of anything in general – over the next couple of weeks are virtually nil.  This is because today sees the release of Lego Dimensions, the new toys-to-life gaming system from Lego and Travellers Tales games.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with toys-to-life, it means that you have to buy a physical toy for it to appear in the video game.  Combine this with Lego and your starter pack comes with a set of Lego bricks and minifigures which you have to physically put together to go through the game.  Previous Lego/Travellers Tales games have been purely virtual.  Now I’m no hard core gamer chick, but I do adore the Lego games.  I still giggle like a naughty schoolgirl at the image of Lego Boromir being shot by a garden rake!  

Lego Dimensions sounds absolutely awesome.  The idea is that the worlds of the Lego multiverse are colliding.  You are led through the adventure by Batman (from the DC Comics Batman Lego games), Gandalf (from the Lord of the Rings Lego game) and Wyldstyle (from the Lego Movie and video game) and you visit each of their homeworlds.  However, Lego Dimensions brings in a whole lot of new franchises to the genre – Back to the Future.  Ghostbusters!  Doctor Who!  The Wizard of Oz!  It should be pointed out that, to unlock more than a taster of these new franchises though, you do have to shell out hard cash over and above the initial cost of the starter pack.  Previous games allowed you to unlock characters and abilities with in-game currency.  But hey, if you’ve secretly yearned to see The Doctor drive the Batmobile through Minas Tirith this is your game.  

I am especially excited for Doctor Who, although that upgrade pack isn’t available until November.  It seems that the Travellers Tales team has added some really awesome things in this – you can play as each and every regeneration of The Doctor, including the War Doctor!  The TARDIS interior changes to reflect the current incarnation you’re playing and if you lose all your Lego lives, your character regenerates as the next Doctor.

As I say though, release day for the main game was today.  I’d preordered mine from Amazon, but, to quote Vernon Dursley, there’s no post on Sundays so I will not receive it until tomorrow.  And because I am scheduled to work very long days at the beginning of the week, I’m not going to be able to start playing it until Thursday.  Dang.  That Amazon box is going to sit and taunt me for the next few days.

Ah well.  I shall return to blog some more at some point.

Let me know if you are excited about any of these releases.

Reading roundup – September 16th 2015

This last couple of weeks I’ve read some great and some not so great books.  Here they are.

Reading roundup – September 16th 2015The Martian by Andy Weir
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: R.C. Bray
Length: 10 hrs and 53 mins
Genres: Sci-Fi
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Now sci-fi isn’t my usual fare, especially where there is more emphasis on the science than the fiction, but The Martian has been getting so much buzz lately that I decided to check it out.  Within a few minutes of listening I was hooked by Watney’s situation; abandoned on Mars, has to use his ingenuity to survive in an inhospitable environment until rescue can come.  Written as it is in a first-person journalistic style this is a perfect book for the audiobook medium, and R.C. Bray did a wonderful job of bringing Mark to life.  Mark is a very witty and engaging protagonist and it is very easy to root for him.  Weir did a fantastic job of explaining the various challenges Mark encounters and his solutions in a way that was easily comprehensible to someone like me who is not science minded.  The story of Mark’s plight and his attempts to secure his rescue was very appealing on a human level.

I gave The Martian five stars out of five.

Reading roundup – September 16th 2015Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death by M.C. Beaton
Series: Agatha Raisin #1
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Penelope Keith
Length: 6 hrs and 26 mins
Genres: Mystery
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

I picked up Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death some while ago when it was the Audible deal of the day.  It caught my eye because it was narrated by Penelope Keith, a favourite actress of mine. 

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death is the first in a series of mystery novels about a retired London PR executive who moves to the English Cotswolds and solves crimes.  I must admit it’s not my favourite mystery series.  As a protagonist, Agatha is distinctly unappealing.  She is the kind of woman who thinks nothing of using a disabled parking space because it’s convenient, or in this case, presenting a store bought quiche in a competition as her own baking.  Her interactions with those around her are generally abrasive and self-centred.  I suspect that later on in the series she may become more likeable, but for this book, she wasn’t the pleasantest person to spend time with.  The mystery was fun.  I’m generally useless at predicting whodunnit, so I can’t say how clever it was.

What I did very much enjoy was the narration.  Growing up the UK, Ms Keith was a staple of comedy TV – The Good Life and To the Manor Born.  Check them out if you’ve not seen them.  She has over 45 years’ experience in television, theatre and radio, and it shows in her witty and competent handling of the narration.  

I gave Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death three stars out of five, but the narration merits five stars.

Reading roundup – September 16th 2015William Shakespeare's Tragedy of the Sith's Revenge by Ian Doescher
Series: William Shakespeare's Star Wars #3
Also in this series: The Empire Striketh Back, The Jedi Doth Return
Format: eBook
Pages: 168 pages
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
Buy from AmazonKobo
Evelynne's rating: three-half-stars

The Tragedy of the Sith’s Revenge is the last in Ian Doescher’s retelling of Star Wars in Shakespearean language. These are very clever, but my enjoyment of them reflects my enjoyment of the source material.  I did not enjoy the prequel trilogy nearly as much, and so I’ve not enjoyed the adaptation to the same extent.  The original trilogy is deliberately based on the Monomyth which gives it an epic feel, perfectly suiting it to a Shakespearean adaptation.  The prequel trilogy seems more based on special effects which doesn’t pass so well in a Shakespearean setting.

Also, when R2 started channeling Elsa from Frozen saying he should let it go and that the heat never bothered him anyway, I found that a little too distracting.  Your mileage may vary.

I gave The Tragedy of the Sith’s Revenge three and a half stars out of four.

Reading roundup – September 16th 2015Queen Song by Victoria Aveyard
Series: Red Queen #0.5
Also in this series: Glass Sword
Format: eBook
Pages: 45 pages
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: three-stars

I very much enjoyed Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen, so I was keen to pick up the novella Queen Song set in the same world.  I found it very disappointing.  It had none of the great worldbuilding of the main novel and, to be perfectly honest, I found the book just depressing.  I am still very much looking forward to Glass Sword, book two in the series.

I gave Queen Song three stars out of five.

That’s all for this week folks.  See you next time.  Happy reading!

five-stars

The Copper Gauntlet by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare – Review

The Copper Gauntlet by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare – ReviewThe Copper Gauntlet by Holly Black, Cassandra Clare
Series: Magisterium #2
Also in this series: The Iron Trial
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Paul Boehmer
Length: 8 hours and 21 minutes
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Harry Potter with a twist continues in The Copper Gauntlet, the second book in The Magisterium series from Holly Black and Cassandra Clare.

As I mentioned in my review of book one, The Iron Trial, it is impossible to read The Magisterium and not think of Harry Potter.  In this case, imagine that Harry has learned about his Horcrux situation right at the beginning of his academic studies and that Neville has been acclaimed as the Chosen One, able to defeat Voldemort.  This gives Call a far more nuanced outlook than Harry, especially at an equivalent age (Chamber of Secrets era.)  which makes him, to me, a more interesting character.  Don’t get me wrong; I love Harry.  However, in the early books at least, he sees things very much as black or white, good or evil. Not so Call.  

The connections are too numerous to be accidental.  This time around they are more subtle, but still present.  We have an antagonist whose main objective is to conquer Death itself.  His nickname is “The Enemy of Death.”  Voldemort, anyone?  Fair enough, it is a fairly common trope, but combine it with magic school and you have Harry Potter. Another theme common to both is the idea that we are defined by our choices. Although Clare and Black are using many of the same tropes as Rowling, the way they handle them is very different and this makes The Copper Gauntlet a great read.  

With regard to being defined by our choices, it is interesting to note that this is something Call decides for himself through the maintenance of what he calls his “Evil Overlord list”; he mentally tallies each choice he makes and action he takes to decide if it makes him more or less evil.  Sometimes, this is played for laughs when he thinks things like “well, an evil overlord wouldn’t fetch sandwiches for his friends,” but it still expresses that same theme.  This is something he chooses to do for himself; Harry has to have this explained to him by Dumbledore.  

Another trope in common is that of the leaders of the society being in denial about the reality of the situation.  The Ministry of Magic denies the reality of the threat posed by Voldemort as the Assembly declares that Madden is dead and gone and that the war is over.  Given that there are three more books to come, that seems rather naive, especially as it appears a traitor is working against them.

One theme which hasn’t yet come up explicitly in the Magisterium is that of Love.  As any Harry Potter fan knows, it’s the core of the whole series; Lily’s sacrifice of love for Harry and Voldemort’s inability to love are what make them them.  This appears to be turned on its head in the Magisterium.  Call’s mother’s final act is, apparently, to leave instructions to kill her son, and Constantine Madden was motivated to wage war on Death because of the loss of his beloved younger brother.  I believe this is too important not to be a part of the Magisterium, too, and I look forward to seeing where Black and Clare take this.

Despite the comparisons with Rowling, I did enjoy this book; possibly more so because of the Harry Potter parallels.  True, we lose a lot of the wonder of Rowling’s worldbuilding and humour, but it is balanced by rich, nuanced characters.

I gave The Copper Gauntlet four stars out of five.

four-stars

Heir of Fire/Queen of Shadows by Sarah J Maas – Review

Heir of Fire/Queen of Shadows by Sarah J Maas – ReviewHeir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
Series: The Throne of Glass #3
Also in this series: Throne of Glass, Empire of Storms
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Elizabeth Evans
Length: 20 hrs and 18 mins
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

OK confession time;  I couldn’t wait to start reading Queen of Shadows before writing my Heir of Fire review, so this is going to be a joint review of both books.

For those of you unaware, Heir of Fire and Queen of Shadows are the third and fourth books respectively in Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series. It is  YA fantasy series with a kickass heroine and great worldbuilding.  If you’ve not yet started it, I highly recommend checking it out.

I listened to both books within a fairly short space of time and loved both of them.  Because Queen of Shadows builds upon and develops characters and plot points raised in Heir of Fire, they are excellent to read together.  Many of the cliffhangers in Heir of Fire are also resolved, which is very satisfying.

What I liked

Character development.  We see lots of wonderful character development in our main character, Celaena. When we rejoin Celaena at the beginning of Heir of Fire, she is in a pretty dark place emotionally, reeling from the events of previous book Crown of Midnight.  Throughout Heir she along with new character Rowan works to get her mojo back.  This is a significant chunk of the book.  Such a wonderful character arc.

Her success is expressed in the change of name from Celaena to Aelin in Queen – she has accepted her identity, her past and her powers and is going to use them to kick ass.  Incidentally, I had no issue whatsoever with the name change – Maas has written the character consistently and her “voice” remains the same whether she is “Celaena” or “Aelin.”

Given how much she has progressed in Heir, Aelin’s character development does stall a lot in Queen – the focus is more on kickassedness and achieving the goals she set for herself at the end of Heir.  Personally, I was actually far less engaged in Aelin’s story in Queen because of this.

In Queen, the character development is expressed far more through the character of Manon, and I absolutely LOVED her chapters.  Given the choice between reading about Manon or Aelin in Queen I was far more involved in Manon’s struggles.  I loved how her relationship with her wyvern, Abraxos and with her Thirteen and Elide, caused her to rethink the values and attitudes with which she has been raised.  The Manon we leave at the end of Queen is not the Manon we meet at the beginning of Heir and it was beautiful.  I fully expect to see Manon work to bring down the Matron in the next book.  

Strong female friendships.  There are some pretty cool female characters in the Throne of Glass world; Aelin, Manon, Lysandra, Elide, Asterin to name a few.  Each of these are strong women in their own right, but when they get together thrones will fall, names will be taken and asses will be kicked.  Our characters are stronger and are changed for the better (cue Wicked medley) because they knew each other.  Things would have turned out very differently if it weren’t for the bonds between these women and Maas writes these friendships beautifully.  

Promises delivered.  In Heir, Maas set out some very clear expectations about what was going to happen in Queen and she delivered.  What we expected to happen did happen, which adds up to a very satisfying book.  It didn’t always happen the way we expected, and often there were many unexpected obstacles in our protagonists’ path, but the expected confrontations took place, goals were achieved and people were saved.  

Intriguing minor characters.  We met some new and interesting minor characters.  I was particularly touched by Asterin’s story and I’m really interested to see where Elide’s path takes her.  I have very strong suspicions about young Evangeline and her “citrine” eyes.  It appears yellow eyes have some power over the Valg, so I’m curious to see what part she plays.

What I didn’t like

Promises delivered.  Yes, I know I had this in my what I liked list.  In some ways though, I felt too many loose ends were tied up.  Our characters, other than Dorian, are in pretty good shape.  I was almost left with the feeling that, if the series were to end here, I’d be quite content.  Certainly there are a few open plots for the next book, but nothing that had me thinking I have to have book five NOW.  I’m not certain that that’s altogether a good thing given there are two more books to go.

The Aelin/Manon confrontation.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved that Aelin and Manon finally met, and I loved the developments that came out of their confrontation, but I just didn’t buy how it ended.  Aelin’s thought processes just didn’t ring true. Sorry.

Despite these slight misgivings, I loved both Heir and Queen.  I gave them both 4.5 stars out of five.

five-stars

Upcoming releases in September

Oh my poor wallet.  September seems to be one of the busiest months for new book releases and there are seven upcoming books about which I am super excited.  Without further ado, here’s the list.

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

Having just finished Heir of Fire, I am impatient for Queen of Shadows, the next volume in the Throne of Glass series. Heir of Fire was for me the strongest so far in the series and left some very interesting storylines to be followed in the next book.  I look forward to the confrontation between Celaena and Arobynn and to see how Dorian is affected by the events of Heir of Fire.

Queen of Shadows is released on September 1st and I have preordered it on both Kindle and Audible formats.

The Copper Gauntlet by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Also released on September 1st is Holly Black’s and Cassandra Clare’s The Copper Gauntlet.  This is the second in the Magisterium series, which, like Harry Potter, is set in a school for magic.  Despite the comparison with Harry Potter, it’s the contrasts with that series that make the Magisterium so interesting.  I did enjoy the Iron Trial, the first book in the series, so I’m interested to see what book two has in store for Calum and his friends.

I have preordered this in Kindle format.

William Shakespeare’s Tragedy of the Sith’s Revenge by Ian Doescher

This is the third and final book in Ian Doescher’s retelling of George Lucas’ epic Star Wars prequels in Shakespearean format.  While I have not enjoyed the prequel trilogy as much as the original one – like the films – they are very cleverly written.  I do wish there would be audiobooks produced for the prequel trilogy as the ones for the original Star Wars were wonderful.  As Doescher himself said, Shakespeare is meant to be listened to, not read.

The Sith take their Revenge starting on September 8th and I have preordered it in Kindle format.

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

The Scorpion Rules is a young adult dystopian novel in which a superpower maintains peace on Earth by holding prisoner the children of world leaders.  If their country starts a war, the children die.  We follow the story of one such prisoner of peace, Greta and how her life and world view is altered by a new arrival.  I actually don’t know a great deal about this one, however, the premise seems intriguing and reviews are positive.

I’ve preordered this in Kindle format – I may add the Audible one before the book is released on September 22nd.

The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet by Kate Rorick and Rachel Kiley

Following on from the success of the web series adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, the writers are continuing the story in novel form in The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet.  This will continue the story of Lydia, the youngest sister after the events of the LBD.  Lydia was one of my favourite characters and her character development was so beautifully written and portrayed by actress Mary Kate Wiles.  I see that Mary Kate will be narrating the audiobook.

Although I have a Kindle preorder, I will likely cancel that and preorder the Audible version if it becomes available before release date of September 28th.

The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher

Jim Butcher. Author of The Dresden Files.  Steampunk.  Aerial shenanigans.  Talking cats.  I’m convinced.

My preorder is placed to download to my Kindle on September 29th.  

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo is the author of the Grisha trilogy.  While I did have a few issues with that series, one of its key strengths was the worldbuilding.  Bardugo created a wonderful Russianeque fantasy world with a fascinating magic system.  Six of Crows is a new series set in the same world, involving some kind of heist.  It sounds very promising.  The first couple of chapters are up on Amazon for free if you want to check it out. 

My preorder should hit my Kindle on September 29th.

So there you have it.  Those are the books about which I’m most excited in the coming month.  Which of these will you be picking up?

Reading roundup – August 28th 2015

In the three weeks since I blogged, I have read several great – and some not so great – books.  Check out my full (spoilery) review of Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb.  Other books I’ve read are as follows.

Reading roundup – August 28th 2015Voice of Gods by Eleanor Herman
Series: Blood of Gods and Royals #0.5
Format: eBook
Narrator: Gemma Whelan, John Meagher
Pages: 122 pages
Genres: Cutesy romance, Epic Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunes
Evelynne's rating: three-half-stars

One of the YA books generating the most buzz this autumn is Eleanor Herman’s Legacy of Kings.  Herman is a respected historical author and Legacy of Kings is her first foray into YA historical fantasy.  The blurb makes it sound along the lines of Alexander the Great meets Game of Thrones.  I’m assuming minus the graphic sex and violence as it’s YA.  Early reviews have been positive.  I have not yet read/listened to Legacy of Kings (it’s on my TBR list) but I have read the prequel Voice of the Gods, which is currently free on major ebook sites.  It tells the story of the prophecy, which, I assume, is at the basis of the series.  it was… fine.  The worldbuilding was great, as you’d expect from a historian.  The characters were engaging, but in the space of a novella, it was more difficult to become overly attached to them.  I liked the story, but it’d didn’t grab me as fiercely as other books.  It did, however, show me enough to convince me that Legacy of Kings has potential.  Why not check out Voice of the Gods for yourself to see if you might be interested?

I gave Voice of the Gods three and a half stars out of five.

Reading roundup – August 28th 2015Magician's End by Raymond E. Feist
Series: Chaoswar #3
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: John Meagher
Length: 17 hrs and 4 mins
Genres: Epic Fantasy
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: two-stars

This month I finally finished Magician’s End, the last in Raymond E. Feist’s Midkemia Cycle.  To be perfectly honest, if it hadn’t had Feist’s name on it and been the culmination of a series I’ve been reading for decades, it would have ended up in my did not finish pile.  There were two storylines, one, the political/practical which involved characters about whom I struggled to care, and which seemed disconnected from the magical storyline, which had much loved characters but which got bogged down in the philosophical.  

In my opinion the trilogy could have benefited from some heavy editing and been condensed into two much stronger novels. Despite a few wonderful scenes, Magician’s End was a very disappointing entry from a normally masterful storyteller.  

Magician’s End only earned two out of five stars from me.

Reading roundup – August 28th 2015Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Gemma Whelan
Length: 6 hrs and 36 mins
Genres: Cutesy romance, Young Adult
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Finding Audrey has been in my Audible to listen pile for some while now.  I was inspired to listen to it by the review over at PolandBananasBOOKS on YouTube and, like Christine, I loved this book.   Being British born and bred, Kinsella is for me the go-to beach read; light, amusing and witty – think Confessions of a Shopaholic or Remember Me.  Finding Audrey is Kinsella’s first foray into young adult territory and tells the story of the titular Audrey and her recovery from mental illness and her growing romance with her brother’s friend, Linus.  

The subject matter of the protagonist’s dealing with her anxiety issues adds real depth to this novel, more than I generally would expect from Kinsella.  Audrey’s whole healing process is beautifully and sensitively handled.  This doesn’t mean, however, that the book is lacking Kinsella’s usual wit and charm – on the contrary, there were some really hilarious and sweet moments.  The humour is typically British and I very much enjoyed it.

I loved Audrey’s relationships with her family and her growing romance with Linus.  I appreciated that her friends and family were really there for her, even if they didn’t always like the impact her illness had on her – and their – lives.

Gemma Whelan (Yara from Game of Thrones!) took on narration duties and did an amazing job.  She really brought out the humour as well as the challenges of a full blown anxiety attack.  This is a book I would recommend experiencing in audiobook format.

Finding Audrey rated a five stars out of five on my scale.

Added to my library recently

As I mentioned earlier I had been interested in Legacy of Kings, Eleanor Herman’s Alexander the Great/Game of Thrones mashup.  I picked this up in both Kindle and Audible formats, and will likely be my reading/listening matter for my next nightshifts.

Recently I finished Heir of Fire – full review coming soon! – and to ease the wait for Queen of Shadows I picked up the Assassin’s Blade, the compendium of the five Throne of Glass prequel novellas.  It’s going to be interesting to go back to see pre Endovier Celaena.  I picked this up in both Audible and Kindle formats.

There are so many good new releases coming out in September that I will start a new blog post for those.

See you then!

three-half-stars

Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb – Spoilers, Review and Speculation

Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb – Spoilers, Review and SpeculationFool's Quest by Robin Hobb
Series: Fitz and the Fool
Also in this series: Fool's Assassin, Assassin's Fate
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Elliot Hill
Length: 33 hrs and 11 mins
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

One of the books I was most anticipating this year was Robin Hobb’s Fool’s Quest, which was released on August 11th and it certainly didn’t disappoint.  I found it impossible to review this book without mentioning some minor spoilers, so I will hide the spoiler part of the review.

To summarise though I loved this book.  Fitz and the Fool are one of my favourite literary partnerships and I loved reading the continuation of the story.  This is the second in the Fitz and the Fool trilogy, following on from Fool’s Assassin.  The first book was a slow burner, if still very enjoyable, focussing more on character development than action.  This followup is more action oriented and is a wonderful read.

I gave Fool’s Quest five stars out of five and would thoroughly recommend it to any Hobbs fan.  For those new to Hobbs, start with Assassin’s Apprentice (but be aware it’s a slow starter but well worth it)

The rest of the review may contain spoilers and my speculation for book three, so click through only if you have read the book and/or want to be spoiled.

(more…)

five-stars

Reading roundup – August 8th 2015

Hello, yes I know it’s been a while since I blogged – work and life keep getting in the way!

This last couple of weeks has involved routine doctor’s visits for both me and my cat, Isis.  Now, most cats don’t enjoy going to the vet, but Isis takes it to the extreme psycho-cat-going-to-shred-your-hands-and-tear-your-face-off mode complete with screaming, hissing, yowling and hyperventilating (that last, all three of us, the cat the vet and me).  My normally quiet, reserved kitty became so upset the vet had to fit her with a Hannibal Lecter Silence of the Lambs mask, which she STILL managed to remove to sink her teeth into the vet. 

IMG 0009

Poor kitty.  She’s now on meds which fortunately are a little easier to give!

Anyway, onto reading-related matters.

This week I’ve been rather obsessed with the upcoming release of Robin Hobb’s Fool’s Quest, the second in her Fitz and the Fool trilogy.  I enjoyed book one, and more importantly, I’m heavily emotionally invested in the characters of Fitz and the Fool and their unconventional relationship.  Some of the early non-spoiler reviews I’ve read have said that it’s a fantastic return to form by Hobbs, and to my mind she was never off form.  I really can’t wait for release day.  I’m on nightshift on August 11th so I’ll anxiously await the audiobook to hit my Audible download queue at around 3am and start immediately.  From where we left book one, I’m anticipating Fitz going all Liam Neeson in Taken on the Servants of the Archive:

During my nightshift I made excellent progress on some of the series I need to complete, thanks to audiobooks.

Reading roundup – August 8th 2015Magician's End by Raymond E. Feist
Series: Chaoswar #3
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: John Meagher
Length: 17 hrs and 4 mins
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: three-half-stars

Since my last post I’ve read/listened to books one and two and am half way through the third book in Raymond E. Feist’s Chaoswar saga.  I must admit I’ve been somewhat less than excited about this series.  Although we have Pug and Magnus, I don’t feel as connected to the newer characters as I have in previous Feist series.  I’m also not wild about the whole religious angels/devils Fall from Heaven storyline that seems to be creeping in.

Despite my love for some of the unexpectedly returning characters, I am not too impressed that Feist chose to bring them back.  Their previous plotlines, to my mind, gave good closure to their character arcs and wonderful character development for others.  To bring them back now seems to negate all of that.  Admittedly though, in Feist’s hands, it’s handled in a much better way than a lesser storyteller might have been able to achieve.

I’ve still not completed the entire series, so I will reserve full judgement for when I do.

Reading roundup – August 8th 2015Trapped by Kevin Hearne
Series: The Iron Druid #5
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Luke Daniels
Length: 9 hrs and 2 mins
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

The next book I listened to on my nightshift was Trapped, book five in Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles.  As I’ve said before on this blog, I adore this series.  The characters, (Oberon!) worldbuilding and plot are all wonderful.  This is a series best enjoyed in audiobook format thanks to Luke Daniels’ wonderful audio narration.  I can’t say enough good things about this series, so I’ll strongly urge you to go check it out for yourselves. I gave Trapped five stars out of five.

Reading roundup – August 8th 2015Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Amy Poehler
Length: 7 hrs and 31 mins
Genres: Autobiographies/Biographies, Humorous
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: four-stars

I was looking for something a bit different to listen to during a recent nightshift, something funny, so I decided to listen to Yes Please written and narrated by Amy Poehler (with guests.)  In terms of audiobook production Yes Please is pitch perfect.  The producers have chosen to go for a less “polished” version leaving in snorts and giggles so that it really does feel as if you’re hanging out with Amy and friends.  I believe the text has been adapted slightly to fit the audiobook version.  I also did get a chuckle out of her guest stars.  Hearing Sir Patrick Stewart deliver some of Poehler’s down-to-earth and earthy words in his cultured British accent did give me a few giggles.

That being said, I didn’t necessarily always appreciate some of the language and the jokes, but I can honour Poehler’s commitment to get her laughs from making fun of circumstances or herself not other people’s misfortune.  

I gave Yes Please four stars out of five.

That’s all for today folks.  Expect a review of Fool’s Quest as soon as I have finished it!

Have a  good week.

three-half-stars

Series I really need to complete

The next few weeks are relatively quiet in terms of upcoming book releases about which I’m excited.  I’m thinking therefore that this could be a good opportunity to catch up on my TBR pile, specifically in terms of catching up with series with which I have fallen behind.  Generally, I like variety in my reading so it’s unusual for me to marathon a whole series, even if I enjoy it immensely.  So, without further ado, here are some of the series I really should catch up on.  (NB, these are series which are not necessarily complete, but for which I’ve not read up to the latest published book.)  It goes without saying that I’m up to date on Game of Thrones and am eagerly awaiting Winds of Winter.

The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne.

This series is about an ancient Druid, Atticus O’Sullivan and his Irish Wolfhound, Oberon, who live in modern times.  Each of the novels – currently seven, with an eighth due out next year – is relatively self contained, and tells of a new adventure, but builds up the world of the Druid and its inhabitants.  I have listened to books one to three, and this is one series I definitely choose to experience in audio format.  The audiobooks are narrated by Luke Daniels who does an awesome job of bringing the characters to life.  Recently I was looking for a quick listen to get me through the last few hours of a long shift at work, and picked up Two Tales of the Iron Druid Chronicles.  Listening to this reminded me of just how much fun this series is, and that I need to get onto the rest of it ASAP.  

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

Another series I enjoy in audiobook format is Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files.  These centre on Chicago’s first “consulting magician” Harry Dresden and his adventures.  The books are narrated by James Marsters and is one of the best narrator-character matches I’ve come across so far. Marsters IS Dresden to me.  I have listened to five out of the fifteen books, so I have a lot yet to go.  Each book builds upon the previous ones.  A few months ago, Amazon had a great sale on this series so I picked up the next few books.  Yep, this is another one I must get onto.

The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer

Yet another series I want to experience audioly.  Nathaniel Parker is wonderful with all the different characters and their voices/accents.  So far I’ve read five of the eight books in the series.  My problem is, these books are just so laugh out loud funny that I want to keep saving them as a pick-me-up for days when the world seems a blue and scary place.  That doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy them any other time though!  Another lot for the TBR list.

Shatter Me Series by Tahereh Mafi

This YA dystopian series is one that, I admit, took me several attempts to get into.  It is written in a slightly unusual style which I found both intriguing and off-putting.  Once I got into it and began to bond with the characters, I couldn’t put it down.  At this point, I’ve only read book one.  I’m hearing that Mafi does some really great things with character development and the love triangle in the two subsequent books and novellas and I really should get reading the continuation of Juliette’s adventures.

Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon

To date I’ve read three and a half books in the series and my interest was rejuvenated by Starz’ fantastic television series.  As an aside; no Emmy nominations for Caitriona, Sam or Tobias?  Seriously?!?  Did they not watch the Wentworth Prison and To Ransom a Man’s Soul episodes?  Anyway, I digress.  I started the series several years ago, and loved it, but hit a brick wall right in the middle of book three, Voyager.  My issue was that I felt that Claire and Jamie’s adventures had come to a natural stopping point and really struggled to get past that.  I’ve got past that now, and am enjoying their adventures; I have just got distracted by other books.  But dammit, I want to know about Jamie’s ghost from book one!  

A.N.G.E. by Anne Robillard

This is a series in French by Quebecoise Anne Robillard.  It’s kind of X-Files meets the apocalypse.  There are ten books in the series of which I’ve read seven.  Robillard’s strength as a writer is her wonderful characters – you can’t help but root for them; they feel so real and human (even if they’re not, in fact, human.}  The reason I’ve not continued with the series thus far is that where I’ve stopped, the series arc is at its lowest point for our characters.  Everything they touch just seems to turn to merde, and the world is falling apart, literally, around them.  Think the end of Empire Strikes Back.  I found it a little too depressing to continue.  I really should finish it. 

Chaoswar Saga by Raymond E. Feist

Shadow of a Dark Queen was the very first book I ever bought on my Kindle, and I credit Feist with rekindling my love of reading.  He really is a master storyteller.  The Chaoswar Saga is the final three books in his Midkemia series and I’ve not yet read them, shame on me.  I suppose what’s holding me back is a reluctance to say goodbye to Pug and all the other characters I’ve grown to love.  That’s not really an excuse though.

Are any of these series on your TBR list?  Which of these should I tackle first?  Let me know in the comments!

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