Genre: Contemporary Fantasy

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

Most Anticipated Books of 2017

Now that 2016 is almost done, it’s time to talk about my most anticipated books of 2017.  Here in date order are the books I’m most looking forward to in 2017

Series continuations

Most Anticipated Books of 2017Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken
Series: Passenger #2
Also in this series: Passenger
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Saskia Maarleveld
Length: 16 hours and 16 minutes
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
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The first book I’m really anticipating next year is Wayfarer, the second and final book in Alexandra Bracken’s time travelling duology Passenger.  Bracken has created some wonderful characters and a solid and fascinating time travel story in this series.  As you’d expect with Bracken, the author of The Darkest Minds, the worldbuilding is incredible and the time travel system is beautifully developed and intriguing.  I love when magic/timetravel systems have clear limitations, which impact the story and characters.  I’m very much looking forward to the conclusion.

Wayfarer is released on January 3rd 2017.

Most Anticipated Books of 2017The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon
Series: The Bone Season #3
Also in this series: The Bone Season, The Mime Order
Format: eBook
Pages: 380 pages
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
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The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon is the third book in the Bone Season series.  Now this is a series that has really grown on me.  It is a mixture of genres.  There’s a bit of fantasy, a bit of dystopian, a bit of politicking.  I will say though that this series may not be the easiest to pick up.  The worldbuilding (and associated jargon) is incredibly detailed and Shannon doesn’t ease the reader in gently.  Our protagonist, Paige Mahoney, is familiar with the world of the clairvoyants right from he beginning so the reader is expected to hit the ground running.  Once you get over that hurdle though the series is amazing.  It is very easy to get immersed in the world once you get to know it and our protagonist is very engaging.  I found the novella On the Merits of Unnaturalness extremely useful for getting into the world, and I would suggest you may want to pick this up first.  I’m very excited to read what’s next for Paige, Warden and their allies.

The Song Rising is released on March 7th 2017.

Most Anticipated Books of 2017Assassin's Fate by Robin Hobb
Series: Fitz and the Fool #3
Also in this series: Fool's Assassin, Fool's Quest, Assassin's Fate
Format: eBook
Pages: 976 pages
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb is probably the book from 2017 I’m most anxious to get my hands on, but at the same time I’m dreading the most.  This is the final book in the Fitz and the Fool trilogy and, likely, the conclusion to Fitz and the Fool’s story.  Their relationship is one of my top fictional relationships, so I’m expecting to need a box of tissues while reading this book.  Their bond is so beautiful and exquisitely written by Hobb.  I’m certain Hobb will give us a perfect ending to the story, but it may well be bittersweet.  I see from Amazon that the book is over 900 pages; that’s up with GRRM or Brandon Sanderson territory.  Excellent!

Assassin’s Fate will be released on May 9th 2017.

Most Anticipated Books of 2017Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare
Series: The Dark Artifices #2
Also in this series: Lady Midnight
Format: eBook
Pages: 704 pages
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
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Lord of Shadows is the second in Cassandra Clare’s The Dark Artifices series, set in her Shadowhunters world.  I loved Lady Midnight and am really excited for book two.  The world is awesome and the new characters are wonderfully engaging. This was a pretty easy autobuy for me.  Bring it on.

Lord of Shadows is released on May 23rd 2017.

The Core by Peter V. Brett
Series: The Demon Cycle
Format: eBook
Pages: 448 pages
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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The Core is the fifth and final book in Peter V. Brett’s Demon Cycle.  Things are now in place for the final confrontation and Arlen and Jardir are ready to take the fight to the Corelings.  Rojer and Leesha will also have a role to play.  I’m really looking forward to seeing how this one ends.

The Core is released on August 15th 2017.

New Series

Most Anticipated Books of 2017Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth
Series: Carve the Mark #1
Format: eBook
Pages: 480 pages
Genres: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Young Adult
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Divergent author Veronica Roth has a new series coming out next year starting with Carve the Mark.  This is young adult sci-fi/fantasy novel set in a world in which a Force-like current pervades the universe and grants special powers or currentgifts to inhabitants.  We follow two teens, Cyra and Akos, whose worlds collide and who must decide whether to aid or thwart the other.  Although it’s one of my most anticipated reads, I do have some qualms about it.  It has a dual PoV, which Roth didn’t handle so well in Allegiant.  The world could either be amazing or it could be a mess.  I’m still intrigued enough to add this to my most anticipated reads of 2017, so time will tell on which side it falls.

Carve the Mark is released on January 17th 2017.

Most Anticipated Books of 2017Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Series: Caraval #1
Format: ARC
Narrator: Rebecca Soler
Length: n/a
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

I admit I cheated here somewhat; I’ve actually already read Caraval by Stephanie Garber and LOVED it (I was lucky enough to pick up a copy at BEA).  It was one of my top reads of 2017 – the characters, the world and the twisty turny plot was breathtaking.  Don’t miss this one.  I’ve added it to my most anticipated reads of 2017 as I’m looking forward to experiencing it again.  I will pick it up in audiobook format as it’s being narrated by Lunar Chronicles narrator Rebecca Soler.  

Caraval is released on January 31st 2017.

Most Anticipated Books of 2017Red Sister by Mark Lawrence
Format: eBook
Pages: 480 pages
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Red Sister by Mark Lawrence is a new series by Broken Empire writer Mark Lawrence.  It’s set in a different world to his previous series and centres on young nun assassin Nona Grey.  It immediately made me think of the His Fair Assassin trilogy by Robin Lafevers.  Lawrence is especially skilled at writing interesting, morally gray characters, so I’m very much looking forward to this.

Red Sister is released on April 4th 2017

Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray
Format: eBook
Pages: 512 pages
Genres: Young Adult, Sci-Fi
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Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray is a new YA sci-fi series. I don’t know much about it other than the premise that young teen must work together with cantankerous AI to save her planet.  Gray is now an autobuy author for me and I trust that in her hands this will be a fantastic read.

Defy the Stars is released on April 4th 2017

Honorary mentions.  

There are a couple of books which don’t yet have release dates but which may, possibly, if the Fates are kind, be published in 2017.  

The first of these is, of course, George R. R. Martin’s The Winds of Winter, book six in the Song of Ice and Fire.  The HBO TV series has bypassed the currently published books at this point, so certain things will be spoiled.  However, I still need to read Martin’s take on things.  Should WoW be be published in 2017 it will go straight to the top of my most anticipated reads.

Finally we have The Thorn of Emberlain, the next in Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastards series.  This was originally scheduled for October (I think) of 2016 but was postponed indefinitely.  I’m hoping it will be published in 2017, so let’s hope.

That’s all for this year – which of these upcoming releases are you most looking forward to?

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

Reading roundup – September 2nd 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upcoming releases in September

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

three-stars

Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine

Paper and Fire by Rachel CainePaper and Fire by Rachel Caine
Series: The Great Library #2
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Julian Elffer
Pages: 11 hrs and 5 mins
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-half-stars

Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine is the second in The Great Library series and is the sequel to Ink and Bone, which was one of my favourite reads from last year.  I realised I never did a full review of it.  Bad Evelynne.  Paper and Fire was also one of my most anticipated reads for 2016 and it did not disappoint.  For those of you not familiar with this series, it is a contemporary alternate reality/fantasy in which the Great Library of Alexandria survived and now has a monopoly on the distribution of books in electronic medium and controls all hard copy books, too.  Naturally, this gives it the ability to control the flow of knowledge and as such it has gained almost immeasurable power.  Our protagonist, Jess Brightwell, comes from a family of book smugglers and has infiltrated the Library with the intent of continuing the family trade.  The people he meets there open his eyes to the extent of the Library’s corruption and change his perspective.

The sequel, Paper and Fire, opens shortly after the events of Ink and Bone and deals with the aftermath of the Library’s successful “divide and conquer” campaign against Jess and his friends.  The book can be summed up by “let’s get the gang all back together.” Jess must reunite his friends and make alliances with people who do not necessarily share his values.

What I liked

The characters.  For me the characters are the real highlight of this series.  Not only Jess, but his friends and allies too are all wonderfully developed.  Each of them has his or her story, motivations, hangups and fears.  They all act in unique ways based on their values and experiences, and it’s great to see how they develop throughout the series,

Scholar Wolfe and his relationship with Santi remain one of my favourite parings. Incidentally at EnterTheLibrary.com the author has published a few short stories, one of which is Wolfe and Santi’s first meeting – a wonderful meet-cute. We also get to meet some new characters, including Wolfe’s mother and get to see a snippet of life in the Iron Tower which was fascinating.

The world.  The world is simply amazing.  It’s fascinating to see the changes that the lack of freedom of information has caused in the world.  The automatons protecting the Library are also very very cool.

The pacing.  Caine kept the story moving along at a great pace – there was never a point at which I lost interest.  I kept wanting to listen to the next chapter.  

That kick ass ending.  The book does end on kind of a cliffhanger and it has made me very excited for book three.  I really look forward to it.

I gave Paper and Fire four and a half stars out of five.

four-half-stars

The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan – Review

The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan – ReviewThe Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan
Series: The Trials of Apollo #1
Format: eBook
Pages: 384 pages
Genres: Children's, Contemporary Fantasy, Humorous
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

The Trials of Apollo Book One The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan is the start of a new Greek mythology series from middle grade staple Rick Riordan.  This new series centres around the god Apollo, who has been stripped of his godly powers by his father, Zeus.  Naturally, adventures and shenanigans ensue.

For me this read a little younger than the Heroes of Olympus series, more in line with Percy Jackson.  Apollo’s human persona is aged 16, but he spends a lot of time hanging around with 13 year old Meg which naturally makes the feel of the book somewhat younger.  Also, there is no emphasis at all on romantic relationships.

What I liked

Riordan’s writing style.  After many series including Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Heroes of Olympus, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Riordan’s light, witty style should be familiar to most readers.  If you enjoyed the earlier books, you will certainly enjoy this one.  They are very funny.  I breezed through The Hidden Oracle in an afternoon.  While it is not necessary to have read the earlier series, I would strongly recommend doing so before picking up this latest one.  There are many references to characters and events from previous entries that, while not necessary to enjoy the story, are enhanced by knowledge of both of the other Olympian series.

The protagonist. I was amused by Apollo – his attitude and the circumstances he kept finding himself in.  In theme it’s very similar to Marvel’s Thor movie in which a god becomes mortal but takes some time to adjust to his new situation.  I enjoyed Apollo’s character development and how he changes throughout the course of the adventure.  I do have some concerns if that level of character development can be sustained through the other four planned books in the series, but time will tell.

Catchups on our other favourite demigods.  In this book we touch base with our heroes from the previous series.  It was good to hear how Percy, Annabeth, Jason, Piper, Leo and the others are all getting on with their post Gaea lives.

What I didn’t like

Perhaps because this was aimed at a younger audience, at times it was a little formulaic, especially if you know the previous book.  Still, it’s more than made up for by Riordan’s wit and humour.

In summary, if you’ve enjoyed the previous books, you will certainly enjoy The Trials of Apollo.  I gave it four stars out of five.

four-stars

Reading catchup part 2 – November 19 2015

And here we go for the second part of my reading catchup in which I discuss Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson, Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff and Carry On by Rainbow Rowell.

Reading catchup part 2 – November 19 2015Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson
Series: Mistborn #5
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Michael Kramer
Length: 12 hrs and 42 mins
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: three-stars

Shadows of Self is the second in Sanderson’s Wax and Wayne series (or the fifth Mistborn, however you like to look at it) and is set in the same world as the Mistborn trilogy only several hundred years later at a point in which the society is on the cusp of becoming industrialised.   It has a deliberate steampunk feel to it.  Sanderson is known as a master of worldbuilding, plot, pacing and magic systems and that is certainly borne out in Shadows of Self.  The plot is imaginative, the pacing excellent and the magic system/worldbuilding outstanding as always.  However, the more (recent) books of his I read, the more I realise I’m not very fond of his writing style.  For me, personally, the informal style does not match the setting.  It could be this is a deliberate choice by the writer – I know from his work on The Wheel of Time and The Stormlight Archive that he can use a more formal style when necessary – in which case I have to disagree with his choice for these recent books.

Alternatively, it could be that he’s under pressure to crank out too many books – he’s a massively prolific writer – and perhaps each book is not receiving the full care and attention to detail it needs.

Because of this, I gave Shadows of Self three stars out of five.

Reading catchup part 2 – November 19 2015Illuminae by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Series: The Illuminae Files #1
Format: eBook
Pages: 608 pages
Genres: Sci-Fi, Young Adult
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Evelynne's rating: four-half-stars

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff is a young adult adventure story imaginatively told through a collection of documents.  We follow Kady and Ezra as they are forced to flee their planet after it is invaded.

Now, I’m going to say something I don’t often say;  PLEASE don’t buy this book in ebook format.  Pick up the hard copy instead.  Because formatting is an intrinsic part of the story, the ebook is often scanned images rather than text.  This means that you lose all the advantages of using an ereader – font size adjustment, searching for example.  More worryingly, when I tried to read it on my iPad, a significant number of these images were missing, meaning I lost a whole chunk of the story.  I only noticed this because I was following along with the audiobook at the same time.  The images were present in the Kindle, but I found the text very small and sometimes difficult to read.  So do your eyes a favour and skip the ebook in favour of the hardback.

In an ideal world, you would experience this book in both hard copy and audiobook format.  The audiobook is narrated by a full voice cast and is absolutely wonderful.  I highly recommend it.  However, by listening to the audiobook alone you miss out on the formatting of the book which also adds an extra dimension.

Although the unusual format is one of the key attractions of this book, the story itself more than holds its own – I was enthralled by Kady and Ezra’s dilemma, and the ending is fantastic. It really made me anxious to read the next book.   

The only other comment I would make is that some of the attempts to create tension fail because of the structure.  We know from the “briefing notes” that the collection of documents that make up the book were put together after the fact.  This makes things like the countdown til various events rather pointless.

I gave Illuminae four stars out of five.  

Reading catchup part 2 – November 19 2015Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Euan Morton
Length: 13 hrs and 42 mins
Genres: Cutesy romance, Contemporary Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

From time to time a book will come along in which plot, character, pacing, worldbuilding and writing come together to create something wonderful.  For me that book was Carry On by Rainbow Rowell.  Carry On is a follow up to Rowell’s Fangirl – Carry On is the final book in the series about which our fangirl protagonist is obsessed.  I should point out that it’s not necessary to have read Fangirl before reading Carry On.

I will admit that initially I wasn’t too interested in reading Carry On.  Fangirl was one of the few Rainbow Rowell books I did not finish. However some glowing reviews encouraged me to reconsider and I’m very glad I did.

Carry On follows the final school year of Simon Snow, a Harry Potteresque Chosen One, destined to save the magical world from the Insidious Humdrum.  As well as the impending confrontation with the Humdrum, Simon must also deal with his growing feelings for his vampire roommate Baz.  The book is a perfect blend of humour, romance adventure and wonderful character moments and I highly recommend it.

I gave Carry On a resounding five stars out of five.

More mini reviews later!

three-stars

Reading catchup part 1 – November 18th 2015

First of all, my apologies for not having posted much in the last few weeks – I’ve been too busy reading to write about reading.  As I have mentioned in previous posts, in the months of October and November there were a shedload of new releases about which I was very excited.  I’ve only just now caught up with all of the new books in my life.  Some of the reviews will be quite brief as it’s been quite a while and several books ago that I read them It will take a couple of posts to go through them all so let’s get started.

Reading catchup part 1 – November 18th 2015The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow
Series: Prisoners of Peace #1
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Madeleine Maby
Length: 10 hrs and 21 mins
Genres: Sci-Fi, Young Adult
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

The Scorpion Rules is the first in Erin Bow’s Children of Peace YA series.  In Bow’s world, peace is maintained by an AI named Talis who forces each country’s leaders to provide a child or grandchild as a Child of Peace – if the country enters a war, the hostage is killed.  The book centres around a young princess named Greta, whose orderly world as a hostage is shaken by the arrival of a new Child of Peace, Elian.  Elian is new to the hostage system and struggles to adapt.  Things escalate when Greta’s and Elian’s countries declare war.

I really loved the concept and worldbuilding in this book.  I found the idea of the Children of Peace to be intriguing and well written.  Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the same way about the human characters, especially Greta whom I found to be very bland and irritating.  It is kind of a problem when the artificial intelligence is more interesting than the humans.  Think Siri with the world’s nuclear codes.  It’s fair to say though that the events of the book have changed Greta and she promises to be more interesting in future books.

I gave The Scorpion Rules four stars out of five.

Reading catchup part 1 – November 18th 2015The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan
Series: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Christopher Guetig
Length: 15 hrs and 20 mins
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy, Young Adult
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I really love Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series and I was very excited for this  new one with Norse mythology.  His writing is always filled with such humour, and Sword of Summer was no exception.  I did realise, though, how unfamiliar I am with Norse mythology compared to Greek/Roman although Riordan did a great job of filling in the blanks.

Sword of Summer is pretty much what you would expect from a Rick Riordan book and I gave it four stars out of five.

Reading catchup part 1 – November 18th 2015The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher
Series: The Cinder Spires #1
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Euan Morton
Length: 21 hrs and 46 mins
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
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My attention had been drawn to this book because of two things; Jim Butcher and talking cats.  I enjoy Butcher’s Dresden Files series, and I am a real cat person so picking up this book was a no brainer.

The Aeronaut’s Windless is Butcher’s first foray into a kind of steampunk genre and as such it feels very different from the stories of Chicago consulting wizard Harry Dresden.  Butcher has created a vast new world with politics, magic and aerial battles.  I liked the characters as well, especially Rawl the cat and Folly.  It made me wish for a whole book from the cats’ perspectives.

I gave the Aeronaut’s Windlass four stars out of five.

More mini reviews soon!

four-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

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
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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
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