Format: ARC

Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb – First Impressions NO SPOILERS

Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb – First Impressions NO SPOILERSAssassin's Fate by Robin Hobb
Series: Fitz and the Fool #3
Also in this series: Fool's Assassin, Fool's Quest
Format: ARC
Pages: 864 pages
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Those of you who follow my blog will know that Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings series is one of my all time favourite fantasy series and that the relationship between Fitz and the Fool is one of my most invested in fictional relationships.  Further, you will know that May 9th marks the release of Assassin’s Fate, the final book in the Fitz and the Fool trilogy, and the apparent conclusion of the 16 book Realm of the Elderlings series.  

Assassin’s Fate is one of my most anticipated and yet dreaded releases of this year, so you can imagine my pure delight when yesterday I received an email advising me that I’d been approved for an early e-galley of said book and that I could download my copy now.  Thank you so much Random House!  I immediately put everything else on hold and have sped read through it already and am here to give you my first impressions, spoiler free.  I intend to do a more spoilery review once I have reread it.

The first question I had going into this book was, would Hobb provide an ending worthy of Fitz and the Fool, and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that yes, she does, and how.  She completely knocks it out of the park.  It is not, perhaps, the ending I would have wished for for Beloved and his Fitz, but it is appropriate, beautifully written and altogether perfect. As promised, Hobb has brought to a conclusion many of the storylines across all four of her series set in the Realm of the Elderlings.

Secondly, if you have any investment at all in these characters (and how could you not, given Hobb’s skill in character development?) be aware that this book will really hit you in the feels.  In terms of emotional impact there are scenes in this book that rank right up there with Frodo’s departure from the Gray Havens, Harry’s final walk through the Forbidden Forest or Game of Thrones’ Hold the Door.

What I love most about Hobbs’ books are the characters and their relationships.  In Assassin’s Fate these shine as brightly as ever.  Hobb has a true knack of writing characters who change and develop as a result of the events of the books and what has happened to them.  The dynamics between them also are ever changing and it’s beautiful to read.

There’s little more I can say without going into spoiler territory, so I’ll leave things there.

Naturally, I gave Assassin’s Fate five stars out of five.

five-stars

Reading roundup. Yes, I am still here…

Hello, and yes I am still here.  It’s been two months since my last post.  It’s been a challenging couple of months both at work and at home, and so my blogging has very much suffered.  Things aren’t going to quieten down in the foreseeable future, so I’ll blog when I can, making no promises.  I sincerely apologise to the publishers who have been kind enough to send me ARCs – I suspect that I will not be able to meet my commitments to review these books, but my responsibilities to my employer who pays our bills and family must come first.  At this point in time, reading needs to remain an escape without pressure to review.

So onto the books I’ve read in the last couple of months.

Reading roundup. Yes, I am still here…Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling, Newt Scamander
Series: Hogwarts School Books
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Eddie Redmayne
Length: 1 hr and 40 mins
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

One of the pure joys of my reading/listening time recently has been the audiobook of J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them narrated by Newt Scamander himself, Eddie Redmayne.  This was a wonderful surprise – I really wasn’t expecting it to be as entertaining as it was.  This is a “revised edition” film tie-in, to include an additional footnote by Scamander commenting on the events of the film and implying more editions will be released as more Fantastic Beasts films are released.  It certainly whetted my appetite for more of Mr Scamander’s adventures.  The audio edition is described as enhanced for audio with original sound design. This audiobook includes “audio footnotes” which have been treated with a sound effect to differentiate them from the main narration.  These includes very subtle sound effects of the various creatures about which Scamander is talking, which really added a lot to the listening experience.  What I hadn’t expected was just how funny it would be.  I regularly found myself laughing out loud.  Who knew that the Loch Ness Monster was actually a publicity hungry kelpie?  I suspect this will be a go-to book to put a smile on my face for a long time to come.

As a bonus, proceeds from the sale of the books go to Rowling’s Lumos charity and also the UK’s Comic Relief.  A wonderful listen and definitely worth the five stars I gave it.

Reading roundup. Yes, I am still here…Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Stephen Fry
Length: 71 hours and 2 minutes
Genres: Mystery
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection narrated by Stephen Fry was somewhat of an impulse buy for me.  Audible just happened to announce the publication on Facebook at a time when I happened to have a spare, unspoken-for Audible credit (a rare occurrence.)  I don’t regret it at all.  As it happens I don’t have a Sherlock Holmes collection in my library and Stephen Fry’s introduction and narration adds a lot to the stories.  His passion for the source material really comes across and who could complain about listening to Fry’s melodious voice for 72 hours?  I can’t say I’ve listened to all the stories, but I’ve loved what I’ve listened to so far.

I gave Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection 4 stars.

Reading roundup. Yes, I am still here…Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray
Format: ARC
Pages: 513 pages
Genres: Sci-Fi, Young Adult
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Hachette was kind enough to send me an ARC of Claudia Gray’s upcoming YA sci-fi novel Defy the Stars.  Now, I’ve read quite a few of Ms Gray’s novels and really enjoyed them, which is why it’s a real shame I’m having to consign Defy the Stars to my didn’t finish pile.  See: introductory remarks.  It took me at least three attempts to get beyond the first few chapters of Defy the Stars, and I’m giving up at 50% or so through.  Maybe later I’ll be able to pick it up and enjoy it more.

Several choices made by Gray contributed to my struggles with this book.  She starts off the book with the sucker punch of stating that the main character will be dead in two weeks.  However, she didn’t provide a strong enough reason for me to really care about that.  Our protagonist, Noemi, is not an immediately sympathetic character;  interesting, sure, kick-ass certainly, but not a character you can root for at least in the beginning.  She is first and foremost a soldier.  Too many times Gray asked me to suspend my disbelief more than I was prepared to do.  Not disbelief in a situation but in how a character would act.  

On a positive side, the relationship developed between Noemi and the AI Abel was very well done and I would have enjoyed watching it develop as well as Abel’s growing humanity.  The world created by Gray was also – as usual for her – richly detailed and fascinating.  These were not enough to convince me to continue the story at this time.

As I did not finish it I will not assign any rating.

Reading roundup. Yes, I am still here…Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Neil Gaiman
Length: 6 hrs and 29 mins
Genres: Mythology
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Evelynne's rating: four-half-stars

Norse Mythology, written and narrated by Neil Gaiman, was another book I specifically chose to experience in audiobook format, a choice I would wholeheartedly recommend.  In his introduction to the audiobook Gaiman speaks of the oral tradition through which much of the Norse mythology has come down to us.  This is clearly something that the production team bore in mind when making the audiobook and I really had the impression of listening to Mr Gaiman narrate his tales around a blazing hearth in the dark of winter.  

The tales themselves are fascinating, even though I understand they are somewhat sanitised by Mr Gaiman.  Readers of my blog know that I have been following Rick Riordan’s series Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, also based on this set of mythology.  It’s been a real treat to see how the same tales have been handled by two extremely talented and very different writers.

I gave Norse Mythology four and a half stars out of five

Reading roundup. Yes, I am still here…Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb
Series: Rain Wilds Chronicles
Format: eBook
Pages: 500 pages
Genres: Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: three-half-stars

In my intense anticipation of Assassin’s Fate, the final book in Robin Hobb’s Fitz and the Fool trilogy, I realised that there was a whole section of Hobb’s world about which I’ve not read.  i’m talking about her Rain Wild Chronicles.  I hope to read all four books before Assassin’s Fate is released on May 9th. If you’re interested, check out my initial reread of the Realm of the Elderlings.

As familiar as I am with Hobb’s writing, I knew that the first book in a new series is generally very slow, spending time introducing the characters and their struggles and motivations.  That is also true for Dragon Keeper.  It sets up the story very satisfactorily, at the expense of slow pacing.

I gave Dragon Keeper three and a half stars out of five.  Now onto Dragon Haven!

Upcoming releases

April is a very quiet month for me in terms of book releases about which I’m excited. Other than the aforementioned Defy the Stars, the other book i”m excited about is Red Sister by Mark Lawrence.  This is the first book in a new series set in a different world from The Broken Empire and Red Queen’s War.  It centres around a young female protagonist being trained as a killer in a convent.  This concept sounds awesome, if reminiscent of Robin LeFevers His Fair Assassin series.  In Lawrence’s hands I’m sure it will be wonderful and I can’t wait.  Red Sister will be released on April 4th.

five-stars

Reading roundup – January 29th 2017

Hello and here I am with another reading roundup.  Since my last roundup I have read four books.  Now that I think about it, I’m not sure that I’ve shared my reading goal for 2017 – I’ve challenged myself to read 80 books this year.  So far, so good.  Anyway, onto the books.  

Reading roundup – January 29th 2017Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
Series: Strange the Dreamer #1
Format: ARC
Pages: 544 pages
Genres: Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

The first book I’d like to mention is Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor.  Hachette was kind enough to send me a Netgalley for this March 28th release – thank you so much!  I anticipate publishing a full review of this book nearer the date, so I won’t say too much here.  In summary though, I’ll say that Taylor’s worldbuilding and lyrical prose are both gorgeous.  As an aside, isn’t that an absolutely stunning cover?  Wonderful.  Additionally, I’ll say that it’s been a while since I connected so quickly and so strongly with a protagonist.  The more I read about him the more I felt we were really on the same wavelength.  I loved his story and am excited to read the continuation.

I gave Strange the Dreamer four stars out of five.

Reading roundup – January 29th 2017Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen
Format: eBook
Pages: 294 pages
Genres: Self Help
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Self help is not a genre of books I read very often, but I made an exception for David Allen’s Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.  One of my goals for 2017 was to become better organised and more productive.  I first learned about the GTD methodology through Carl Pullein’s YouTube channel that I follow.  I’ve been working on this for around six weeks now, so it’s too early to tell, but I’m happy with what I’ve learned.  Again, I plan a full review on this book, so I won’t say too much.  In essence, GTD is based on the assumption that the brain is pretty poor at holding information, and that a much better solution is to input the information into a trusted and maintained task and reference management system.  I’m planning a full review on GTD, so won’t say too much more here.

I gave Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity five stars out of five.

Reading roundup – January 29th 2017The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
Series: The Wrath and the Dawn #1
Format: eBook
Pages: 435 pages
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-half-stars

One book I did very much enjoy recently was Renee Andieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn.  This is a young adult fantasy inspired by The Arabian Nights and tells the story of Shazi, a young woman seeking revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend.  Even knowing that the Caliph routinely murders his wives on the morning after their wedding, she agrees to marry him.  As in the original, she uses the Caliph’s love of stories to extend her life.

The setting was beautifully evocative of the Arabian Nights world and I loved that there seems to be hidden layers to the story that have not yet been revealed.  I liked Shazi and Khalid as characters, although their romance did seem a little Instalovey.  That’s probably unavoidable given the scenario.  The pacing was excellent and kept me turning the pages.  I have not yet picked up book two, but I certainly plan to in the near future. 

I gave The Wrath and the Dawn four and a half stars out of five.

Reading roundup – January 29th 2017Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth
Series: Carve the Mark #1
Format: eBook
Pages: 480 pages
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: three-stars

The last book I want to talk about today is Veronica Roth’s Carve the Mark.  This is a new duology from the creator of the Divergent trilogy and centres around a world in which the Force like current is all-pervasive and grants special powers, or currentgifts, to the inhabitants.  These gifts can be both a blessing and a curse.  Our protagonists are Akos and Cyra, on opposite sides of a civil conflict, and their paths collide. 

On the positive side, the worldbuilding is excellent.  Each of the cultures we meet is clearly defined with its own beliefs, values and systems, and the current and currentgifts add a fascinating aspect to it.  The world has a wonderful realness to it.  It was also interesting to deal with a protagonist who has to deal with chronic pain – Roth has said that that was one of her inspirations for the story.

On the not-so-good side, once again Roth has gone for dual points of view, a technique which didn’t work so well in Allegiant, and has its issues here.  It’s still unclear to me why Cyra’s chapters are in first person and Akos’s in third.  My biggest issue with the novel is that neither of our protagonists seem to have very clear goals.  It’s much harder to root for someone to achieve something when it’s not clear what they want to achieve and why. For me, the pacing was also not fast enough to keep my interest.  

For these reasons, it’s unlikely that I will pick up the sequel.

I gave Carve the Mark three stars out of five.

Upcoming releases in February

There are four books being published in the month of February about which I am excited.  Here they are. 

First up, we have King’s Cage, the third instalment in Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen series.  This is a young adult fantasy series which is somewhat trope filled. I’ll admit this is  not my most anticipated read of the month, but I’ve followed the series through Red Queen and Glass Sword, so I may as well continue on.  King’s Cage is released on February 7th.

Also on February 7th we have Sophie Kinsella’s My Not So Perfect Life, a contemporary novel about a young woman whose perfect Instagram feed hides the chaos in her life.  I adore Kinsella’s work – her Finding Audrey was so beautifully and sensitively written – and so I didn’t hesitate to preorder this one.  I’m very much looking forward to it!  This is one I’ll pick up in audiobook format – Kinsella’s writing is perfect for that medium, and it’s being narrated by Fiona Hardingham, who narrated the awesome The Summer Before the War.

Yet another book to be released on February 7th is Neil Gaiman’s Norse Gods.  I don’t know too much about this except that it’s narrated by Gaiman himself and tells the story of Norse mythology, woven into a novelistic arc.  I’ve been enjoying Rick Riordan’s Magnus Chase series, so I’m looking forward to this very much.

Finally, on February 21st we have the release of A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab, This is the third book in the Shades of Magic series which tells of four parallel Londons and of Kell, who has the ability to travel between them.  I love the world Schwab has created and the characters who inhabit it.  I’m excited to read the conclusion to the story.  This is another one I’ll pick up in audiobook format given that it’s narrated by Kate Reading and Michael Kramer.

It looks like I’ll be doing a lot of listening in February!

What books are you looking forward to in February?  Let me know in the comments.

four-stars

Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin

Blood for Blood by Ryan GraudinBlood for Blood by Ryan Graudin
Series: Wolf by Wolf #2
Also in this series: Iron to Iron
Format: ARC
Pages: 496 pages
Genres: Alternate History
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Hachette was kind enough to send me an Advance Reader Copy of Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin, the sequel to Wolf by Wolf.  Thank you so much, guys!  I was super excited to receive it as it was one of my most anticipated reads of 2016 and it did not disappoint in the least.  Blood for Blood is the second book in an alternate history young adult series set in a world in which the Hitler and the Nazis won World War II.  Our protagonist is a young Jewish death camp survivor with the ability to shape shift.  The series consists of the two main novels, Wolf by Wolf and Blood for Blood as well as the prequel novella Iron to Iron.

The story starts immediately after the cliffhanger ending of Wolf by Wolf and expands the points of view to three.  It continues the quest Yael was assigned in Wolf by Wolf and deals with the fallout of the events and discoveries of the book.  

What I liked

The world.  Once again I was completely drawn into the alternate history that Graudin has created.  The world felt so real and fleshed out I could easily imagine our characters trying to navigate it.  Once again, I found myself hearing the story in the voice of Christa Lewis, the narrator of Wolf by Wolf.  I certainly intend to purchase the audiobook as soon as it is available in November.  What was also nicely done was the way in which the world was impacted by the actions of our protagonists.  The world has changed by what they achieved.  I really hope we get to see more of it through short stories.

Character journeys.  I really loved the journeys that all of our main characters go on.  Each of our main three characters has a different journey and they were all beautifully developed.  Instead of the single flashbacks to Yael’s life as in Wolf by Wolf, we are shown specific moments in the past experienced in unique ways by each of our three point of view characters.  This serves to show where each of them is coming from, as well as to contrast their attitudes.  While I did prefer the Yael flashbacks from Wolf by Wolf, tied thematically as they were with the wolf tattoos, the flashbacks in Blood for Blood did serve their purpose to give some understanding of the characters’ motivations.  I very much disliked a certain character, but his actions were both logical and understandable.

Themes.  I studied German at university and one of the books we studied was Erzählte Zeit, a collection of short stories written by Germans immediately after World War II as they attempted to come to terms with the horror of the Holocaust.  These explored some fascinating themes of guilt and loss and I really enjoyed seeing similar themes explored in Blood for Blood.  

Identity.  Identity was another strong theme explored in the novel.  The characters are constantly asking themselves what it means to be a death camp survivor, or Jewish, or a Third Reich poster boy, or a loyal citizen of the Reich or son or brother.  They are constantly re-evaluating this as they progress through the narrative – beautifully done.  I’m assuming this is where the title comes from.

What I didn’t like

The only minor quibble I had was that I didn’t quite buy the logic of what they were trying to do.  I would have liked a bit more background into why they expected achieving their goal to have the effect it did.  Sorry, I can’t say too much more without being too spoilery.

Blood for Blood is a fantastic end to a great duology.  My only regret is that the series is now finished.  Can we have some more short stories please?!?   I gave Blood for Blood five stars out of five.

five-stars

Reading roundup – May 26th 2016

Hello and welcome to my reading roundup for this week.  I have read/listened to a couple of books about which I’d like to tell you.

Reading roundup – May 26th 2016Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Series: Caraval #1
Format: ARC
Narrator: Priya Ayyar
Pages: 416 pages
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

The first of these is Caraval by Stephanie Garber.  Now, you won’t find this in the stores yet; it was one of the Advance Reader Copies I picked up at BEA and it won’t come out until January 2017.  I won’t say too much about it – I’ll post a full review nearer the time – but let me say you have a treat in store.  Garber has created a wonderful, whimsical world in Caraval with lots of mysteries, red herrings and weird characters.  I have the feeling that this first book is only starting to scratch the surface of what we will find out about this world.  This is a definite five out of five for me.

Reading roundup – May 26th 2016The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Priya Ayyar
Length: 9 hrs and 22 mins
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: two-half-stars

I wasn’t nearly so happy with the second book I listened to, which was The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi.  This is a retelling of the Persephone/Hades story and unfortunately, it failed to grab my attention.  I kept falling asleep while listening to the audiobook.  I forced myself to finish it, but it was a struggle.  There is nothing specifically wrong with it that I can point to.  The world is well drawn, the characters are interesting enough and the narration was excellent.  It just didn’t grab me.  Sorry.  I gave it two and a half stars out of five.

In other matters, I can’t not mention the superb episode of Game of Thrones, The Door, which was broadcast this week.  It really hit me in the feels.  I have been leafing through both A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons lately, reading one chapter from each.  That works surprising well, but rereading Martin’s words has really emphasised the show’s weaknesses, especially in terms of character development.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the show. Realistically, though, when the source material has to be compressed into a few hours of television, a lot must be lost. Sunday’s developments, which are confirmed to have come from Martin, were scripted and acted pitch perfectly and Ramin Djawadi’s score really hit it home.  It’s going to be heartbreaking to read in the yet to be published books.

Added to my library this week

Yes, I know I just brought back 30 books from BEA.  I still added two more books to my collection.  I have a problem.

The first of these is A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray. This is a YA sci-fi fantasy series which is billed as Orphan Black meets Cloud Atlas.  Our protagonist, Marguerite. is in possession of an artefact which allows her to leap into her alternate personas in multiple dimensions.  She must use this to track her parents’ murderer.  This definitely sounds intriguing and I am i the mood for something more sci-fi than fantasy right now.  I’ve also read a couple of Gray’s Star Wars novels, which are solid works, so I’m up for this.

Also added to my library is The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye.  This is a YA fantasy set in a Russia-esque world.  The audio sample sounded great, so I picked it up.

Upcoming releases in June

There are two books being released in June about which I”m super excited.

Mark Lawrence releases the finale in his Red Queen’s War series, The Wheel of Osheim.  Now, if The Emperor of Thorns is anything to go by, Lawrence knows how to end a series.  I’m excited to see how he does it.  The Wheel of Osheim comes out on June 7th.  I picked it up on Kindle.

Danielle Paige is releasing another novella in her Dorothy Must Die series called The Order of the Wicked.  While it’s not necessary to have read the novellas to enjoy Paige’s imaginative retelling of the Wizard of Oz, I’ve found they do add a lot of colour and depth to the world.  I’ll certainly be picking up The Order of the Wicked on June 28th when it’s released in ebook only format.

That’s all for today.  Catch up with you soon!

five-stars

The Shadow’s Curse by Amy McCulloch – Review

The Shadow’s Curse by Amy McCulloch – ReviewThe Shadow's Curse by Amy McCulloch
Series: The Knots Sequence #2
Also in this series: Oathbreaker's Shadow
Format: ARC
Pages: 480 pages
Genres: Epic Fantasy, Young Adult
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

The Shadow’s Curse by Amy McCulloch is the second and final book in her Knots Sequence duology and follows on from Oathbreaker’s Shadow.  I received a free copy from Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review.  I have previously reviewed the first in the series – check out my review here.  

The novel takes up where we left off in the earlier book with Raim seeking to learn the history of his mysterious broken vow as well as to rescue his friend Wadi.  It has been a while since I read Oathbreaker’s Shadow and for a couple of pages I was a little confused.  However, McCulloch quickly and skillfully recapped the main points so that I was soon up to speed.

What I liked

Tight narrative structure.  The Shadow’s Curse switches between two points of view, Raim’s and Wadi’s, following two converging main storylines.  Wadi’s storyline also serves to present the main antagonist’s, Kareh’s, story.  This works well to create tension for the inevitable confrontation when these paths come together.  Both Raim and Wadi are working towards specific goals.  In Raim’s case, this aim is explicitly stated early on – to rid himself of his oathbreaker stigma – whereas Wadi’s purpose is not revealed until later.  This structure keeps the novel’s pace moving along briskly and creates good narrative tension,

Payoff from book one. Oathbreaker’s Shadow had left me a little frustrated that there had been so little payoff for the setup.  This is remedied in The Shadow’s Curse in which the central premise of Raim’s broken vow is explored in much more satisfying depth.  For this reason I would suggest that you read both as one long story.

The worldbuilding.  I really enjoyed the world that McCulloch created with the taboo around oathbreaking and the haunts.  In The Shadow’s Curse this is explored in greater depth as Raim and Draikh learn to work together.  We also explore new parts of this world which was interesting too.  The contrast between the nomadic North and the more settled South was intriguing.  

What I didn’t like

Bland characters.  I continued to be far more invested in the world in which the characters find themselves rather than in the characters themselves. For me though, the interesting world more than balanced this out.

I thought The Shadow’s Curse was a solid end to the Knots Sequence duology and I gave it four stars out of five.

 buy from Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, eBooks.com

four-stars

Lockstep by Karl Schroeder – Review

Lockstep by Karl Schroeder – ReviewLockstep by Karl Schroeder
Format: ARC
Pages: 352 pages
Genres: Sci-Fi
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Lockstep by Karl Schroeder is a space opera sci-fi novel which tells the story of Toby McGonigal who wakes up after a drift into cold sleep to be confronted with a new and confusing world.  He must learn about the lockstep and his place within this new society.  I was given a free copy by Tor/McMillan to review. I should point out straight off the bat that sci-fi/space opera is not a genre with which I am very familiar.  In some ways that is a good thing; I am not so clued in to the standard tropes of the genre, as I am with contemporary fantasy, which means I can approach the story with perhaps fresher eyes.  On the other hand, I freely admit some of Schroeder’s subtleties may have been lost on me.
 
What I liked

The lockstep concept.  Because I am not so familiar with the genre, it took me a little time to get my head around the lockstep concept, but once I did get the general picture I could really appreciate what Schroeder did.  I’m not going to try to explain it – go read the book.  What I did like about it was the narrative tension it introduced for the characters.  Being a part of the lockstep or not is a decision that you cannot go back on.  I also felt that the concepts behind lockstep were very interesting; resource management and technological advancement.  
 
The denners.  Orpheus, Toby’s pet/plot device, is just so darned cute, especially when Toby gets the glasses and app allowing Orpheus to communicate with him in emoticons.  I really want one of those apps for my cat.  Mind you, I’m pretty sure Isis’s emoticon would be a pretty constant “feed me.”
 
The ending.  Perhaps it was a little cheesy and too easy, but I loved it.  I finished the book with a smile on my face.  In all fairness, though, I do believe the way Peter’s and Evayne’s characters were developed that it was earned.
 
What I didn’t like

The love interest angle.  I really didn’t buy the Toby/Corva relationship.  It felt rather forced to me, given that both of them were dealing with a whole lot of other urgent issues during the book.
 
Other than that, I would recommend Lockstep and gave it four stars out of five.
 
 buy from Amazon, Kobo, Audible, eBooks.com, Indiebound
 

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four-stars

The Pilgrims by Will Elliott – Review

The Pilgrims by Will Elliott – ReviewThe Pilgrims by Will Elliott
Format: ARC
Pages: 449 pages
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: three-stars

I received a copy of The Pilgrims by Will Elliott from Tor McMillan free to review – thank you, guys!  It tells the story of journalist Eric Albright and Stuart Casey, a homeless drunk, who stumble across a hidden door which leads them to the fantastical world of Levaal.  Naturally, there is an evil overlord they have to defeat.  As can be inferred from the ages of the protagonists, this is more adult contemporary fantasy than young adult.  The language and attitudes of the two main characters is more mature than that of your average Twilight or Mortal Instruments.  Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing.

First off, I need to be totally honest and say I was unable to finish this book.  I started it at least a couple of times, and even bought it on Kindle as I find hardback books bulky and awkward to read now after several years of Kindling.  Yet, I was unable to get beyond the first third of the story.  Now, I don’t believe this is a reflection on the story or the author; just that I, personally, was unable to relate to the characters enough to become involved in their adventure.  it may even be that I was simply not in the mood for the tale that was being woven.  There was a lot I enjoyed about the book, but not quite enough to keep me reading, unfortunately.  It could be I’ll return to it later.

What i liked

The worldbuilding.  Elliott has crafted a vivid and fascinating world in Levaal.  From what I read I felt there were some interesting seeds sown for future developments. I believe this is the first book in a planned trilogy.

Language as skill.  I was intrigued by the fact that Eric’s and Case’s key strength (in this first third at least) was that, as Otherworlders, they have the ability to understand each language spoken in Levaal as if it were their native language.  This applies even to magically encrypted speech.  The local resistance is quick to see what an advantage that could give them and I enjoyed what I read of their adventures in spying.

Genre-savvy protagonist.  It always makes me smile when the protagonist is aware of fantasy tropes and expects his/her adventure to follow similar lines.  I loved that Eric was all “oh yeah, I know how this works: someone from my world falls into a fantastical realm, so that person must be the prophesied Saviour.  Point me in the direction of the evil overlord.”  I didn’t read far enough to learn whether or not Elliott will turn this on its head, but it could be fun to find out.  

What I didn’t like

The main characters.  For me, personally, I could not engage with either Eric or Case.   I found nothing about them that struck a chord with me.  However, that’s not to say they’re not interesting characters.  They just didn’t pull me into their story.

Despite the fact that I was unable to finish the book, I feel that was very much a personal thing.  I certainly wouldn’t discourage anyone else from reading it; just because it wasn’t for me doesn’t mean you mightn’t think it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.  

I gave The Pilgrims three stars out of five.

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three-stars

Swamped by Andrea Hertach – Review

Swamped by Andrea Hertach – ReviewSwamped by Andrea Hertach
Format: ARC
Genres: Children's
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Evelynne's rating: three-stars

I was recently given a review copy by the publisher of Swamped by Andrea Hertach.  It tells the story of young Marley Aaron who, along with local wildlife, campaigns to save a swamp along with its delicate ecosystem from destruction by urban developers.  Like The Monster Mob, which I reviewed recently, Swamped is very much aimed at a younger readership, probably around the 8-11 year range.

What I liked

Concept.  Swamped is clearly intended to increase environmental awareness in young people and it does that very well.  It explains about the delicate ecosystem in the swamp and the damage that humans could do.  I’m not certain though that the developer and mayor would be as sympathetic to Marley’s concerns in real life as they are in the book!

Entertaining style.  I enjoyed that interaction amongst the local creature inhabitants of the swamp and also their working together with Marley and her pet dogs.

What I didn’t like

As with The Monster Mob, it is clearly aimed at a younger audience and more mature readers may find it rather simplistic and too easily tied off.

All in all I think Swamped sets out what it intends to – increase environmental awareness – and I gave it three stars out of five.

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three-stars

Reading Roundup – 28th March 2014

This week I suffered every bookworm’s worst nightmare; I have a TBR list of over 100 books (some of which I have been offered free to review) and I could not interest myself in any of them.  This is because the book I really, REALLY wanted to read – AKA Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige – has not been released yet.  I’m sure you avid readers can empathise with my dilemma.  I flicked through several different books and just couldn’t get into any of them.  In the end I managed to break out of my reading slump by picking up a book that is completely out of my normal genre – I’m currently reading The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak, a historical fiction set in Russia in the time of Catherine the Great.  So far I’m really enjoying it.  A full review will come soon.

Reading Roundup – 28th March 2014Attack the Geek by Michael R. Underwood
Series: Geekomancy #1.5
Format: ARC
Pages: 142 pages
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy, Supernatural
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One book I did manage to read this week was Attack the Geek by Michael R Underwood, which I received free to review from Netgalley.  This is a novella in the Geekomancy series which had been on my radar for some time.  I was intrigued by the magic system which, like Jim C. Hines’ Magic ex Libris books, is based on popular culture.  However, whereas Hines’ magic is book based, Geekomancy is more gamer/comic book based.  I’m glad I read it.  It made me realise that the series is not quite for me.  I have been known to play the odd game of Dungeons and Dragons and I enjoy a Marvel movie as much as the next girl, but the overload of geek references was just too much for me.  Personally I was also put off by the amount of needless profanity.  The characters were possibly interesting, but in a novella length book character development is very limited.  With less geek references and less swearing I might have been interested in reading more about them but as it stands, this series is  not for me.

I gave Attack the Geek two stars out of five.  Having said that, if D&D gaming is your thing you might love this series.  Other than that I would steer you in the direction of Magic ex Libris.

Added to my library this week

As I may have mentioned before, I am a big fan of the Quebecoise author Anne Robillard and her Chevaliers d’Emeraude and A.N.G.E. series.  These have slowly been converted into ebooks and book five in A.N.G.E. – Codex Angelicus – was released this week!  Excellent!  I’ve been waiting months to find out the next chapter in the saga of the Agence Nationale pour la Gestion de l’Etrange.  (National Agency for the Management of the Strange.)  I picked this one up in Kobo format as I have the rest of them there.   

To get through my reading slump I also picked up The Winter Palace by Eva Strachniak, also in Kobo format.  In case you’re wondering, no I’m not abandoning my Kindle.  I happened to have my Kobo with me as that’s what I use to read my Netgalley books.

From Amazon I did pick up The Wife of John the Baptist, a historical fiction novel set in Biblical times.  I was asked to review this by the author, so expect a review soon.

This morning I received a lovely package from Tor-Forge which contained two gorgeous hardbacks:

IMG 1032

The Pilgrims is described as “ordinary alternate-world fantasy; with this first volume in The Pendulum Trilogy, Will Elliott’s brilliantly subversive imagination twists the conventions of the alternate-world fantasy genre, providing an unforgettable visionary experience.”  I look forward to reading this.

Lockstep: “When seventeen-year-old Toby McGonigal finds himself lost in space, separated from his family, he expects his next drift into cold sleep to be his last. After all, the planet he’s orbiting is frozen and sunless, and the cities are dead. But when Toby wakes again, he’s surprised to discover a thriving planet, a strange and prosperous galaxy, and something stranger still—that he’s been asleep for 14,000 years.”  Space opera is not my usual genre, but this sounds intriguing.

Thank you Tor!

Upcoming releases this month

On 1st April 2014 we have my most anticipated book of the month – Dorothy Must Die.  This is the book that sent me into a reading slump because it wasn’t released yet and I didn’t want to read anything else because I wanted to read it so much.  Check out my review of There’s No Place Like Oz to see why I’m so excited about this book.  In short, it’s what happens in Oz when Dorothy goes bad.  I’ve preordered this in both Kindle and Audible formats.

The following week, on the 8th of April, Dreams of Gods and Monsters is released.   This is the third in Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series.  It’s difficult to summarise this series, so I’ll direct you to my review.  I loved the first book, and haven’t been able to get into the second.  However, I still have Dreams of Gods and Monsters on Kindle preorder.  It’s not yet available to preorder on Audible, which would be my preferred format – Khristine Hvam’s narration is excellent.

The next book in the Austen Project, Val McDermid’s reimagining of Northanger Abbey is available in Kindle format on the 15th of April.  Interestingly the Audible pre-order is available this week.  I’m actually not familiar with Austen’s original work, so perhaps my expectations aren’t as high (and ready for disappointment as I was with the Sense and Sensibility updating)  I see this version is set in Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders which is my old home, so I’m interested to see how it pans out.

What are you looking forward to reading in April?

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