Genre: 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

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.

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Reading roundup – January 13th 2017

Hello, and happy new year to you all.  Wishing you a wonderful, prosperous and book filled 2017.  

You know, sometimes you can go for months without coming across a real gem of a book.  Other times, every book you read is a five-star wonder.  That’s been the case for me so far in 2017.  Here are some great reads I’ve picked up lately.

Reading roundup – January 13th 2017The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
Also in this series: Passenger
Format: eBook
Narrator: Saskia Maarleveld
Pages: 384 pages
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

I know I’m a bit late to the table with Nicola Yoon’s masterpiece.  The Sun is Also a Star tells the story of Natasha, an undocumented Jamaican-American immigrant on the point of deportation and Daniel, a young Korean-American struggling with the conflict between his dreams and his family’s expectations.  The novel takes place over 12 hours, during the day on which Natasha’s family is due to be deported.  The characters are well grounded, beautifully described and their romance is believable.  I was really rooting for those two, despite their different outlooks.

I loved how the lives of those with whom they come into contact are also briefly described, showing how everyone’s lives are interconnected and that no man is an island.  I’m pretty confident that, come December 2017, The Sun is Also a Star will be featured on my top reads of 2017.  That’s how much I loved it.

I gave The Sun is Also a Star five stars out of five.

Reading roundup – January 13th 2017Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Pages: 402 pages
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Ruta Supetys’ Salt to the Sea is a young adult historical fiction novel which tells the story of four young people towards the end of the Second World War as they attempt to flee East Prussia from the advancing Russian army and to board the Wilhelm Gustloff.  As in real life, the Wilhelm Gustloff is torpedoed by Russian submarines and sinks with the loss of thousands of souls.

Our four main PoV characters are Joana, a young Lithuanian nurse fleeing from East Prussia, Florian, a young apprentice with a secret, Emilia, a fifteen year old Polish girl pregnant as the result of a rape, and Alfred a German sailor with an inflated opinion of himself and a deep seated belief in Nazi propaganda.  Their stories are deeply moving and I found myself very emotionally engaged with them.  

The writing style is beautiful and poetic, with wonderful images, themes and emotion.  

I gave Salt to the Sea five stars.  A must-read if you enjoy historical fiction.

Reading roundup – January 13th 2017Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken
Series: Passenger #2
Also in this series: Passenger
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Saskia Maarleveld
Length: 16 hrs and 16 mins
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Wayfarer is the second and final book in Alexandra Bracken’s time travel Passenger duology.  it continues the story of Etta and Nicholas and their attempt to keep the powerful astrolabe out of the hands of the various groups who would seek to abuse it. 

I loved the characters and their relationships – that’s one thing that Bracken does especially well.  Learning more about Rose and the addition of Li Min were real highlights here.  The pacing was excellent and moved along at a real clip – Bracken has expertly defined what’s at stake for our characters, and it is a believable motivator for them.  The ending was satisfying and felt well-earned.

What I wasn’t so fond of was the development of the mystical aspect of the story.  The time travel was setup in such a clear and logical way with all its rules and limitations that it felt almost pseudo scientific.  The mystical and magical side that was developed felt somewhat out of place in the narrative.

All in all though I really enjoyed Wayfarer and gave it four stars out of five.

The next book I’d like to talk about in my home run of awesome reads is Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer.  Hachette Canada was kind enough to give me a netgalley and I’m about a third of the way through it.  I don’t want to say too much as I’ll be doing a full review shortly, but our protagonist was one I felt extremely connected to right from the beginning.  I’m certain it will be an awesome book.

Upcoming books in January

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.

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.

That’s all for today.  Let me know what you’re reading in the comments!


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 – 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

Court of Fives by Kate Elliott – Review

Court of Fives by Kate Elliott – ReviewCourt of Fives by Kate Elliott
Series: Court of Fives #1
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Georgia Dolenz
Length: 11 hrs and 40 mins
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Court of Fives by Kate Elliott is a YA fantasy book and one that I found myself being sucked into even in the middle of a reading slump. I found the protagonists engaging and loved the world. I found it had a bit more substance than some YA fantasy novels.

What I liked

Cultural tensions. This is very much a tale of being caught between two cultures.  Our protagonist, Jessamy, is the child of a Saroese father and Efean mother and struggles to fit in with either culture.  Her father’s people, who are the conquerers of the Efeans, do not fully accept Jes as one of their own due to her mixed heritage yet her genteel upbringing closes her off from acceptance in her mother’s society.  Jes herself also struggles to find her place in her world.  The only time she can truly be herself is when she is training for the game the Court of Fives.  Although we do not live in a magical society, this theme may still strike a chord with many readers.

The Games.  I really enjoyed how the game of Court of Fives permeated the story to a great extent.  We see the games themselves a couple of times in the books, but it’s made clear that the skills Jes uses to become a successful Fives player are the same skills she and Kalliarkos will need to get out of certain situations and also to navigate Saroese politics.  I really loved that politics was hinted to be just a different version of the Court of Fives.

The magic and Jes’s journey.  The magic is very subtle in this book and is tied to the Efean culture.   At this point in her story Jes still struggles to accept her Efean heritage, so she has difficulty understanding the magic.  I expect that Jes’s journey in future books will be to embrace her cultural background, at which point the magic will become more and more prominent.  That I am excited to see. 

Little Women.  I read in the author’s notes that the characters of Jes and her sisters were based on those of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.  I didn’t notice that at first, but once you do see it, it is very clear.  It was fun seeing those personality types in a completely different setting.  I am curious about what it means for the sisters’ character arcs in upcoming books and whether they will mirror those of Alcott’s.

Moral dilemmas.  Certain of the characters, including Jes, face moral dilemmas at certain points in the book.  I felt these were very well written and engaged my sympathy for the characters.  I am very interested to see how the decisions made will impact future character development and relationships.  I’d like to think Jes will have more understanding for her father in future.

What I didn’t like

The romance.  I wouldn’t say I disliked the Kalliarkos/Jes romance; it’s more a case of I’m waiting to see how it plays out in future books.  I was concerned that it felt a little too much Instalovey, which I don’t like.  If the parallels with Little Women hold true, the future for the couple doesn’t look too rosy.

In the end I really enjoyed Court of Fives and gave it four and a half stars out of five.  I have an Advanced Reader Copy of the sequel, The Poisoned Blade, and I’m very excited to read it.  

four-stars

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch – Review

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch – ReviewSnow Like Ashes Series: Snow Like Ashes #1
Format: eBook
Pages: 448 pages
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: three-half-stars

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch is the first in a young adult fantasy series centering around Meira, a young refugee left orphaned when her country was overrun and conquered by a neighbouring power.  It focusses on her struggle to locate the missing magical Conduit of Winter and to free her imprisoned countrymen.

What I liked

The world.  I really enjoyed the world that Raasch has built for her story.  There are eight kingdoms; four Season realms, each dominated by a single season (our protagonist is from Winter) and four Rhythm, whose climate cycles through each season.   Each kingdom was wonderfully described and I loved their seasonal themes.  The tensions between the kingdoms were interesting and well described and I appreciated the political machinations that were going on behind the scenes.

The magic system.  The magic system of the Conduits was fascinating, and I look forward to reading more about the chasm of magic and the Decay in future books.  I always appreciate it when limitations are written into the magic system – often, they are as interesting as the magic itself.  In this case I enjoyed the fact that certain artifacts are limited by gender and can only be used in certain ways.  I loved reading how the various wielders of the Conduits worked within those limitations to either serve their own ends or help their people.

What I didn’t like

All the tropes.  Too often I felt that Raasch was ticking boxes to see how many YA and fantasy tropes she could fit into this book and more, that they are not subverted. Young orphan discovers she has a secret past and destiny filled future. Check.  Missing magical artifact hidden right at the heart of the antagonist’s power.  Check.  Young king struggling to meet the needs and expectations of his people.  Check.  Honestly, there are simply too many to name, and many I can’t name for spoiler reasons.  Now, I’m aware that there are very few new stories in the world. but I would have liked to see some kind of twist on these old tropes.  

The foreshadowing.  This came across as being rather heavily emphasised, which, along with the use of the tropes, made the story for me at least very, very predictable.  

The love triangle.  This seems an obligatory part of every YA book these days and Snow Like Ashes is no exception.  It wasn’t badly done, it just didn’t grab my attention at all.

Despite the predictability, the worldbuilding carried me through Snow Like Ashes and I gave it three and a half stars out of five.  I probably wouldn’t be interested enough to pay for the sequel, Ice Like Fire, but as it was available from my local library I will check it out.

three-half-stars

The Wheel of Osheim by Mark Lawrence – review

The Wheel of Osheim by Mark Lawrence – reviewThe Wheel of Osheim by Mark Lawrence
Series: The Red Queen's War #3
Also in this series: Prince of Fools
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Tim Gerard Reynolds
Length: 18 hrs and 58 mins
Genres: Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

The Wheel of Osheim by Mark Lawrence is the third and final book in his Red Queen’s War trilogy.  It continues the story of Jalan Kendeth as he continues to follow the path upon which fate has set him.

The Red Queen’s War trilogy is set in the same world as, and dovetails with, Lawrence’s earlier Broken Empire trilogy.  In some ways that is both a blessing and a curse.  It’s a blessing because the world in which the trilogies are set is awesome.  It’s set in our world in the future, millennia after a nuclear war (the Day of A Thousand Suns) decimated the world and let magic in for the survivors.  Some remnants of our world survive, but the current inhabitants have no cultural knowledge or background of them.  So plastic shop dummies (I knew those things could survive nuclear attacks) confuse the heck out of them!  This leads to one of the funniest moments in Wheel of Osheim involving an “iron pineapple.”  You’ll just have to read it to find out what I’m talking about.

It is a blessing because the protagonists of both series, Jorg and Jalan, are on separate quests to discover more about the Builders (aka us) and to prevent the destruction of the world.  The knowledge they obtain on their separate journeys adds up to more than the sum of its parts and creates an ever more vivid picture of the Builders and the Day of A Thousand Suns.  I suspect I’ll have to reread Broken Empire with the new knowledge I have from Red Queen’s War.

It is also a joy to have cameos from characters from Broken Empire.  Particularly this final instalment adds so much more to their stories.

On the negative side, it is made clear that Wheel of Osheim takes place just prior to Emperor of Thorns – Jalan meets Jorg on his way to the Congression which takes place in Emperor.  Knowing how Emperor ends is a clear indication of how Wheel doesn’t wrap up.  This robs Wheel somewhat of its narrative tension as it’s pretty clear what action Jalan chooses in the end, despite the dramatic chapter break.

I will say thought, it’s not necessary to read Broken Empire to enjoy Red Queen’s War.  Indeed, Red Queen’s War is more young adult than Broken Empire which is definitely much, much darker in tone.  That is something to bear in mind if you are thinking of checking out Jorg’s story.

So onto Wheel of Osheim.

What I liked

The world.  As I mentioned above, I adore the world Lawrence has created.  I was completely fascinated by the truth behind the Wheel.  The concept that it can make whatever your imagination creates a reality and the trick of Snorri’s stories worked very very well.

The narration.  Tim Gerard Reynolds did the honours for Wheel of Time.  Jalan as a character can be rather snarky and at times indignant and this came across beautifully in the narration.  Many times I smiled or even laughed at Reynolds’ interpretation of Jalan’s indignation.  Very well done. 

What I didn’t like

The pacing.  At times I felt it was a little slow.  

I really enjoyed Wheel of Osheim and gave it four stars out of five.

four-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

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon – Review

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon – ReviewDrums of Autumn Format: eBook
Pages: 896 pages
Genres: Historical Fiction, Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon is the fourth in the time travelling historical fiction series following our protagonists Claire and Jamie Fraser as they attempt to start a new life in the American Colonies.

Weighing in at nearly 900 pages, or 44 hrs and 54 mins of audiobook, this is a real behemoth of a book.  It’s also the book on my shelf that’s taken me the longest to read.  GoodReads tells me that I finished the previous book in the series, Voyager, back in April 2015, and I started Drums of Autumn around that time.  This means that Drums of Autumn has taken me almost a year to finish.

I read it in chunks.  I would read a large section – usually when the Outlander TV series piqued my interest again – and then struggle to continue and put it aside for other books.  It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it; I simply struggled to maintain my interest to read 800+ pages over a short period.  

What I liked

The characters.  I love the characters in the book, particularly Claire and Jamie and their unconventional romance.  Gabaldon has said that she wanted to show a mature relationship – one in which the partners have been together for many years – and she certainly achieves that with Claire and Jamie.  Brianna and Roger also take centre stage in this book and that was wonderful to read.

The Jamie/Brianna relationship.  For me, this was one of the highlights of the book.  I adored the interactions between Jamie and his daughter.  They are both stubborn Frasers, with differing views of morality due to their different upbringings in different centuries and both have red headed tempers.  it was clear that things were never going to go smoothly for them.  I loved that Claire was stuck in the middle and was uncertain if she should physically separate them or let them fight it out.  What was particularly beautifully written was the way in which Jamie’s and Brianna’s past experiences created a real bond and connection between them.

What I didn’t like

Repetition.  I must admit, earlier parts of the book are rather foggy in my memory having been read almost a year ago, but I seem to remember there was a distinct pattern of Jamie and/or Claire getting into some kind of situation in which they are in mortal danger and then they are rescued.  Rinse and repeat.  Given that this is the fourth in a (likely) ten book series, there was absolutely no dramatic tension at all.  There was no way either of our two main protagonists was not going to survive.  I imagine this was intended to provide colour to show how dangerous their environment was, and perhaps to develop their relationship, but I must admit I found it a little tedious after a while.

All in all I really enjoyed Drums of Autumn and gave it four stars out of five.

four-stars
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