Genre: Young Adult

Reading roundup. Yes, I am still here…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I gave Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection 4 stars.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upcoming releases

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

five-stars

Reading roundup – January 29th 2017

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

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

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

I gave Strange the Dreamer four stars out of five.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I gave Carve the Mark three stars out of five.

Upcoming releases in February

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

four-stars

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?

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 Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater – Review

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater – ReviewThe Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Will Patton
Genres: Young Adult, Supernatural
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater is a young adult supernatural novel entering around Blue Sargent, Gansy and their search for Welsh king Glendower.  It is a quartet made up of The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves, Blue Lily Lily Blue and The Raven King.  it is told from multiple points of view.

I will say that it took me some time to get into this series – at least two attempts of starting the book, and putting it down again.  This is despite a kickass opening in which the whole conflict of the series is laid out; it is foretold that Blue will kill her one true love when she kisses him, and Gansy is fated to die within the year. That is the hook to lure you into this series – you can’t help but want to know if these foretellings come true.  My initial struggle with this book is partly because, at first glance, the main protagonists are rather unappealing.  Gansy comes across as rich, arrogant and entitled.  Ronan is snarky and belligerent.  Adam is stubborn and independent to a fault and Noah is insipid.  It’s only when you get further into the books that the deeper layers of these characters are revealed and your understanding of them deepens.  After that I was very happy to continue marathoning the series.

There is a whole arc running through the series with resolutions of plot points in the first book only coming through in the final instalment.  Each book has its own theme which feeds into the major series story arc.  It is very well tied together if not overly complex. The Raven Boys is all about the setup; introducing the main driving plot of the series, the characters and the world.  The Dream Thieves is Ronan’s story and how his ability will aid his friends in their quest.  Blue Lily, Lily Blue focusses on Blue and also on deepening the relationships amongst the group and The Raven King ties everything up.  

What I liked

The characters.  The well written, nuanced and flawed characters and their relationships are the highlight of this series.  Stiefvater has developed a wonderful set of characters and the relationships that develop among them are beautiful to read.  They truly are stronger because they know each other.  The relationships are all unique; Blue acts differently with Noah than she does with Adam, and Gansy has a different relationship to Ronan than to Noah.  Additionally, the characters we meet in The Raven Boys are not the same ones we say farewell to in The Raven King – they have been changed by their experiences and each other.  That is one thing that always attracts me to a book series. It is mainly for the characters and character development that I continued reading this series.  I loved that each member of the group has his or her own strengths and weaknesses and each has a part to play in the story.

The world.  I loved the world Stiefvater created.  The kind of supernaturalness – ley lines, tarot, spiritualists/mediums – is one that always gets under my skin.  It’s superbly well done.

What I didn’t like

Not immediately likeable protagonists.  Though I was fascinated by the characters and engaged in their stories, I didn’t love them the way that I have loved some other protagonists.  Their stories were wonderful to read, but I’m not exactly sure I’d like to meet up with any of them for coffee.  After four books, I certainly felt as if I understood Gansy, Ronan and Adam a great deal better, even if I didn’t necessarily always like them.  This weakened the ending somewhat for me.

The Raven Cycle is an excellent series and well worth reading for the well written, nuanced characters and worldbuilding.  As a whole I gave the series four stars out of five.

four-stars

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray – Review

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray – Review1000 Pieces of You by Claudia Gray
Series: Firebird #1
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Tavia Gilbert
Length: 9 hrs and 18 mins
Genres: Young Adult, Sci-Fi, Mystery
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Evelynne's rating: four-half-stars

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray is a YA sci-fi mystery in which teenager Marguerite Caine must use technology developed by her parents, the Firebird, to chase her father’s murderer across multiple dimensions.  She finds out that things aren’t as they first seemed.

I picked this book up partly because of this concept and partly because I’ve enjoyed books (Star Wars) by Claudia Gray.  Thanks to Amazon’s Whispersync for Voice I picked up both the Kindle book and the audiobook, narrated by Tavia Gilbert.  Most of the time I listened to the audiobook which was amazing.

What I liked

The concept.  I found this a really intriguing premise for a novel, moving into alternate dimensions to solve a murder mystery.  Gray comes from a sci-fi background and clearly has a firm handle on it.  It was a lot of fun when Marguerite jumped into a new dimension trying to work out what situation she was in! I’m not certain that I’d agree with the Orphan Black comparison; the main – only? – similarity is that characters frequently find themselves having to impersonate other people and to think on their feet to work out what’s going on. 

The audio narration.  Tavia Gilbert did an awesome job of narrating this book.  Her accent work was impeccable.  There’s a funny scene early on where Marguerite has fun with her current doppelganger’s accent.  That came across really well in audio format.  My one frustration with this is that often the accent “spoiled” in some way the leaps into new dimensions.  From the voices it was often clear where Marguerite had landed long before it was revealed in the text.  

The worldbuilding.  The fun thing with this concept is that Gray gets to build several worlds; the multiple alternate dimensions into which Marguerite leaps.  It would be too spoilery to name them all, but each of them is beautifully developed with supporting characters, rules and challenges for our protagonist.  The fact that Gray’s travel system has limitations was particularly well done – as in fantasy, often it’s the limitations in the magic system/technology which can generate the most interesting conflicts for the characters.  I loved that the dimensions had varying degrees of technological advancement which made things interesting.

The pacing.  Gray keeps the plot moving along fast, with new information and revelations keeping our protagonists – and readers – engaged.

What I didn’t like

The characters.  I found Marguerite somewhat bland.  The way her loyalty seemed to be so easily won and lost did not sit easily with me, and the revelations of the villains was a little too obvious.  The fact that Gray reverted to the trope of “the special”, our protagonist having unique traits which make her the only person capable of foiling the evil plot is rather disappointing.

Despite these flaws, I really loved 1000 Pieces of You and gave it four and a half stars out of five.  I will certainly be picking up the sequel soon.

four-half-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

Reading roundup – March 30th 2016

yellowbrickwar

Hello and welcome to another reading roundup.  Again, it’s been a month where I’ve really struggled to focus on reading and blogging.  I really should be more ruthless about putting books into my Did Not Finish pile.  I spent too much of the month plodding through books which really weren’t doing anything for me.

Reading roundup – March 30th 2016Yellow Brick War by Danielle Paige
Series: Dorothy Must Die #3
Also in this series: Dorothy Must Die
Format: eBook
Pages: 288 pages
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: three-stars

With regards to Yellow Brick War by Danielle Paige, I’ll be perfectly honest and say that my opinion and rating is heavily influenced by my – mistaken – impression that this was the final book in the Dorothy Must Die series.  This is a series involving an updating and reimagining of the world of L Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz. I had been expecting, and looking forward to, resolution to the plot points introduced in Dorothy Must Die and The Wicked Will Rise.  So coming towards the end of the book when I realised there were no resolutions coming, I felt annoyed and frustrated.  My own fault, I freely admit it.  Had I known there was one more book to come, I could have better appreciated the continued excellent worldbuilding and character development in Yellow Brick War.  I will certainly read the conclusion when it comes out.  I look forward to reading the conclusion of Amy’s story.

I gave Yellow Brick War three stars out of five.

Reading roundup – March 30th 2016A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
Series: Charlotte Holmes #1
Format: eBook
Pages: 336 pages
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery
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Evelynne's rating: two-stars

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro is one I should probably have consigned to the Did Not Finish pile much sooner than I did.  The concept sounded fascinating.  In Cavallaro’s world Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson were real and their modern day teen descendants Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson meet up at an exclusive boarding school to solve mysteries.  It’s clear that a significant effort was made to reflect the personalities of Holmes and Watson in a modern day setting and to some extent it succeeded.  What completely turned me off this book is that the author introduced sexual tension between Holmes and Watson.  With that partnership it is a meeting of minds, not bodies and I personally lost all interest in the story after that.  That is a personal opinion and your mileage may vary.

A Study in Charlotte rated barely two stars out of five on my scale.

Reading roundup – March 30th 2016The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Series: The Raven Cycle #1
Format: eBook
Pages: 468 pages
Genres: Young Adult, Supernatural
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

This was my second attempt to read Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys.  The first time I started, I just couldn’t get into it at all.  This second attempt was much more successful.  It’s clear that this is setting up a series.  The book opens with a real bang – Blue is fated to meet and/or kill her one true love within the next year.  I definitely want to read how that plays out.  There were multiple points introduced that I expect will pay off in later books – I would say Stiefvater is an architect rather than a gardener.  I found the characters interesting even if not all of them are immediately likeable – or intended to be so.  The type of supernatural events in this book are ones that to me, personally, are very creepy.  I will have to take a break and read a cutesy contemporary to clear my mind before I start The Dream Thieves!

I gave The Raven Boys four stars out of five.

Reading roundup – March 30th 2016Fire Touched by Patricia Briggs
Series: Mercy Thompson #9
Format: eBook
Pages: 350 pages
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: three-half-stars

Fire Touched is the ninth book in Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series.  I must admit I wasn’t overly excited about reading it.  I like Mercy and the rest of her allies; I just feel after nine books her story has pretty much come to an end.  I’ve felt that way for the last couple of books.  It’s like a long established, high quality TV procedural.  You pretty much know what you are going to get going into it, but you still enjoy it.  I keep saying I’m not going to read any more, yet I still do and still enjoy them.

I gave Fire Touched three and a half stars out of five.

In other news, I’m beginning to get excited about Book Expo of America, BEA, in Chicago in May.  This will be my first time there, so if any of you old hats could give me some tips that would be very much appreciated.

Upcoming releases in April

There are two books coming out in April about which I’m rather excited.  

The first of these is Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire.  This is a young adult fantasy and I was drawn to it by the concept; what happens to young people like Alice or Dorothy when they return home from Wonderland or Oz?  How do they adapt?  Every Heart a Doorway is released on April 5th and I’ve preordered it in Kindle format.

The second is Eligible, the next in the Austen Project series of modern retellings of Jane Austen classics.  Eligible is the adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and is written by Curtis Sittenfeld.  There is a sneak peek of the audiobook available on SoundCloud, which sounds fantastic.  I have preordered the book in audiobook format based on this snippet.  That’s not to say I don’t have my concerns.  The Austen project adaptations have ranged from the bland and uninspired (Emma, Sense and Sensibility) to the very, very good (Northanger Abbey).  Pride and Prejudice is probably the best known – and most adapted – of Austen’s works and Eligible has a lot of work ahead of it to compare to the superb Lizzie Bennet Diaries YouTube series. I am intrigued that Sittenfeld has moved the story to Cincinnati and aged up our protagonists to nearly 40, giving a more modern pressure point for Lizzie and Jane to look for a husband.  It could well work, and from the snippet I am cautiously optimistic.  Eligible is released on April 26th.

Have a good week and will review more books soon. 

three-stars
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