Author: raeelse (page 1 of 7)

The Elementals – Book Review

This has been on my TBR list for ages. I now have the whole series to work through…not a bad thing! Would definitely recommend this book and have put it in my YA book giveaway that I’m running this month!  

 

 

 

Descent

MC, Nicole doesn’t know she’s a witch! The story is a gentle descent into the magical world. However, it was the typical setting of a high school, where the story begins and plays out – so a star off here for me.  In her new class, her teacher uses magic and Nicole discovers she is a witch. (The reason for her ignorance is explained later when her family history is explored.) A quiet, approachable girl, Kate takes Nicole under her wing, promising to catch her up on the witchcraft stuff.

The unavailable hot guy, Blake is thrown into the mix early on. And the blending of witchcraft and Greek mythology starts. “Did you know that we – meaning everyone in our homeroom – are descended from Greek gods?”

We see Nicole develop her witchcraft, with descriptions of using energy, visualised as colour.

There’s a malevolent undercurrent in the use of energy with stories about how Danielle (Blake’s girlfriend) has used energy to hurt people. Blake too, hints at there being another side to their powers.“…once a witch takes someone else’s energy – from a human or another witch – their body stops producing energy of its own. They become leeches…until they’ve taken it all.”

.“…once a witch takes someone else’s energy – from a human or another witch – their body stops producing energy of its own. They become leeches…until they’ve taken it all.”

Depth

After the intro into this world, the outlines of its dangers, the real story starts when the witches do meditation one night when a comet is due to be visible. Although the rest of there class is there, it is only Nicole’s group (Blake, Danielle, Kate and Chris) that feels different afterwards. Gradually, they come to realise that they can control one of the four elements, earth, air, fire and water. The fifth, being aether. Darius, their teacher and one of the Elders of Witches, gives them a prophecy that he reckons pertains to them, about the five elements. About midway through, they are attacked by a “two-headed scorpion-tailed dog monster”, a Chimera of sorts, and there is a sense of real danger. I enjoyed their first battle in the playground here, with fireballs.

Ascent

When they reach the end of their quest to solve the prophecy, the object they find waiting for them, is being guarded by another mythological creature, a harpy type woman, half bird, half woman. The reasons for them being led here and what is at stake escalates quickly. The exciting battle scene is well-written and paced, with plenty at stake for our MC. And…even better, there is a nice twist at the end, another secret that Nicole is forced to bear alone. This very much made me want to read on, and I’m looking forward to reading volume two.

Heart of Mist – Book Review

This isn’t my usual choice of read as I generally prefer urban-fantasy but I looked at one of the prequel stories that Helen Scheuerer released prior to Heart of Mist and it was so well written and the character voice so strong, that I was really looking forward to reading the full book on its release. And it did not disappoint!

 

 

 

Descent

The beginning is gritty, visceral and emotionally-raw. “Bleak’s gut clenched as she vomited onto the dirt that spun before her.” We meet MC, Bleak, struggling to live with the magic she has, or “her condition” as she terms it, early on. We quickly learn that Bleak’s condition means that she can hear people’s thoughts. And, despite her defensive and surly manner, her drinking and pick-pocketing, we quickly come to empathise with her.

There is brilliant exposition and characterisation woven through the story as skilfully as Bleak ties her fisherman’s knots!

The regions of the world are wonderfully introduced in such ways as the goods throughout the market and in the descriptions of the soldiers early on in the narrative. There is a lot of world-building, with lots of names, history, and religion to get to grips with but all this is interspersed extremely well throughout the narrative.

Depth

I thought the characters were all very well fleshed out. Particularly Fiore and Swinton. Bleak is rescued by Henri, a proud warrior and queen of the Vallians. These people are a warrior clan that live in the forest and have a strong matriarchal society. A fifth of the book in, we’re introduced to Dash, who lives in the main city in Angovia. As the story progresses, it becomes apparent how much the Ashai, (people with magic) still exist in the populace. I got really into the narrative from Bleak’s point of view and struggled a little with the shift to Dash. I think this is a personal preference though as I tend to like stories narrated from one or two viewpoints. Still, I was very invested with Bleak, Swinton (captain of the guard) and Henri (warrior queen) as all of these characters were involved early on with Bleak. I felt the shift to Dash’s narration (although understandable for developing the wider world) detracted a little from the immediacy of the story.

After Bleak’s defensiveness, her surliness, her closing herself off for so long, I would have liked more to pass/happen between her and Bren when he found out the enormous secret she had kept all her life from him. It was true to character for bleak but it was annoying how she did just walk away. There’s a fantastically gory scene three-quarters of the way in when Bleak comes into her magic in a way we haven’t seen. All the anger and pain she’s been keeping at bay seeps out and the events definitely linger with you.

Ascent

I was very eager to see what happened to Bleak by the end of the book. There is plenty left open-ended and I will definitely be purchasing a copy of the next book in The Oremere Chronicles.

A Thousand Paper Birds

This was a Netgalley read – thanks to Netgalley, publisher and especially to the author. I put off reviewing this one for a little bit as I think it’s one that I needed to ruminate on. A truly beautiful and creative read, dealing with themes of love and loss in a tender and poignant way.

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Descent

I actually found the descent into this book the hardest part. It had lovely language and detail but there was a little bit of jarring with voice…the “I” used only twice, pedantic I know, took me out of the narrative. The rest is in the third person. Admittedly, once was when one of the characters was reading from his notebook so, fine, but the other wasn’t. It is, no doubt, for impact, but it felt jarring. However,  aside from that, the description was stunning throughout – opening with Jonah’s grief as he is mourning the passing of his wife. We fall into his loss and are displaced as surely as he is.

Depth

The depth comes from the all-consuming sense that the characters have of being lost. Early on there is a sense that there is always a distance between individuals, that we can never know what they are truly thinking or feeling, even when you love them. Four characters converge throughout the narrative – Jonah (musician and teacher), Harry (gardener at Kew), Chloe (an artist) and Milly (a young girl) – all connected by the fifth character, Audrey and her death. The themes are summed up beautifully in the artwork created throughout the novel. I adored the creativity running through the novel – linking music, art, writing and all against the backdrop and art of nature in the setting of Kew Gardens.

Ascent

This one does stay with you – I know I will be revisiting it to muse over some the beautiful passages.

Firebolt: Book Review

I thought this was a fun, lighthearted read. I enjoyed the fast-paced entry into the story. However, I thought putting the MC, Elena straight into school in the world of Paegeia was a little bit dull and predictable. Not to mention that it meant that there was a lot of info-dumping whilst not much else was going on plot wise. It’s fine when a character is learning about the world, and I understand you need this, but it made the middle really lag.

 

 

 

 

Descent

As I said, entry into the world was fast-paced and good fun, with plenty of drama in the first chapter. The MC’s voice is infused with typical teen melodrama: “…the engine and the hard rain on the roof, a percussion that became a soundtrack to my misery. Utter loneliness consumed my heart while I stared at the white picket fences…” Her angst about constantly having to move around is instantly overshadowed when we find out the reason she and her dad are on the run. DRAGONS!

Depth

This is where the story fell down….or didn’t rather! Elena has to learn about the world of Paegeia and most of the middle is info-dumping through the vehicle of lessons in the school – anatomy, history and weapons classes, as well as through her two friends, Becky and Sammy. She learns about Dragonians and the dragons and the partnerships/relationships these form. This is interesting but I couldn’t help but think it could have been executed in a more concise and exciting way so that the information about all the dragons and the history of the world wasn’t so overwhelming.

Ascent

I did read this very quickly because, despite the annoyances above, I really enjoyed the story and once Elena and her friends got out of school, I was very curious to see events unfold. I just kinda wish that had happened sooner! Am tempted to read on in the series when I want another fun-filled read.

 

 

 

The Well: Book Review

My first Netgalley request! I loved this one. The blurb pitches it as possibly a murder-mystery or paranormal thriller, and it is just that. All the way through you’re left guessing whether the events that pass are caused by people or by ghostly activity.

 

 

Descent

The whole story centres around the Gustafano House, a notoriously haunted house. At the beginning, a group of teenagers meet to hold a seance here. (This was right up my street as the house I grew up in was rather large, old and had an eerie air about it. Needless to say, seance were involved over the years and instigated my love of the unusual.)

Here’s something to whet your appetite: “The Gustafon house sat in the center of a small clearing, like some kind of silent queen on her throne. The powder blue paint was cracked and peeling, but she still seemed regal. Either Mother Nature seemed subservient to the house. No birds chirped. No squirrels chattered. The trees didn’t rustle their leaves in the breeze…”

Depth

The story alternates from narrating what happened at the house in the past with the group of teenagers and the ouija board to the present day, twelve years on when they are still trying to make sense of what happened that night. There is a lot of onus from the paranormal investigator, Pierce about finding scientific proof of ghostly activity, which is balanced by his twin brother’s strong belief that it exists. The play between the two and the other characters in the book mean that you are always left guessing whether to believe or not.

The characters are well crafted, with lots of buried emotions that are teased out as the narrative unfolds. Pierce and Haven’s feelings for one another were explored wonderfully, again retaining the mystery for so long as it was unclear for a while what had passed between them on the night of the seance and then later, how they had left off when they parted ways as teenagers.

Ascent

I was hooked the whole way and devoured this in one sitting, really not wanting it to end and yet keen to find out how it did.

Hekla’s Children: Book Review

A little bit different to my usual choice – a kind of Horror Sci-fi. Caught sight of this one when looking through Indie Presses and what was coming out. So glad I read this one – thoroughly immersive, well-written and blood-curdling. 

 

Descent

The story tells the tale of a teacher, Nathan Brookes who takes a group of teenagers on an orienteering field trip. However he is neglectful, and the children go missing. Only one is found and has suffered memory loss and fails to enlighten everyone of what happened to the others.We see how Nathan stagnates in his life due to the guilt he feels from that day onwards. When a body is unearthed in the same woods where the children went missing, it is at first believed to be one of their bodies. However, the body turns out to be the body of a Bronze Age mummy, preserved by the peat of the area, as with such other bog bodies discovered as Tollund Man.

Depth

We see how Nathan stagnates in his life due to the guilt he feels from that day onwards. When a body is unearthed in the same woods where the children went missing, it is at first believed to be one of the children’s bodies. However, this is where things diverge into fantastical realms and the real story begins. This is a fascinating book with elements of folklore and superstitions from the Dark Ages of Britain. I loved the anthropological nature of the story in the present with the character, Tara who delves into researching the Bronze Age mummy and how the logical line of inquiry by the police is swept away by her discoveries. Little by little, the past intrudes into the present in astounding and horrifying ways.

Ascent

I really didn’t see the twist coming in this and devoured the last section of it. The ending will haunt you long after you finish!

Proust: Swann’s Way

A thought-provoking, powerful and immersive read. 

Descent

There is a fluidity in descending into this book. As Proust describes falling asleep, you fall gently into his narrative, his words cushioning you. On the other hand, we’re moving through great junctures of time and space. One moment Proust is a man reading a book, his thoughts still cycling on the words of the page, the next he’s a child, dreaming of his childish terrors about his uncle pulling his curls. We dip in and out of these passages of time with him. As he states:

“When a man is asleep, he has a circle round him the chain of the hours, the sequence of the years, the order of the heavenly bodies. Instinctively he consults them when he awakes, and in an instant reads off his own position on the earth’s surface and the time that has elapsed during his slumbers; but this procession is apt to grow confused, and to break ranks.”

And we continue to travel time and distance through the cyclical nature of the narrator’s thoughts. I loved journeying on, his senses bridging one thought to the next, no matter the distance or time between each.

Saying this, there are times when you stumble over the long sentences and archaic language but if you’re ready for it, prepared to give yourself over to it, it’s brilliant.

Depth

There are so many parts to love in this book. I’m going to pick a few of my favourite quotes.

During his Combray days Legrandin says to Proust:

“Always try to keep a patch of sky above your life…You have a soul in you of rare quality, an artist’s nature; never let it starve for lack of what it needs.”

I loved the way Proust reflects on his boyhood and the way he tries to identify when and where a certain thought or feeling stemmed from. Here are some snippets:

“…our attempts to translate our innermost feelings do no more than believe us of them by drawing them out in a blurred form which does not help us identify them…”

“Meseglise way and the Guermantes way remain for me linked with many of the little incidents of…life…The flowers which played then among the grass, the water that rippled past in the sunshine…all these my exaltation of mind has borne along with it and kept alive through the succession of the years…Sometimes the fragment of landscape thus transported into the present will detach itself in such isolation from all associations that it floats uncertainly in my mind…”

“For often in one we find a day that has strayed from another, that makes us live in the other, evokes at once and makes us long for its particular pleasure, and interrupts the dreams that we were in the process of weaving by inserting out of its turn, too early or too late, this leaf torn from another chapter in the interpolated calendar of Happiness.”

Ascent

I did become very much immersed in Proust’s world – his boyhood, later his narrations of Swann’s life, his relationship with Odette and the society they moved in. There was precision and so much insight to perceive in all the characters interactions and so much to reflect on about human nature. Just take a scene – an afternoon’s music reception that Swann attends. We go from Swanns’s observation of the servants:

“Then he passed it to one of his satellites, a timid novice…” then to observing the attendees.”

Madame Cambremer among them listens to the music and we are told:

“She had learned in her girlhood to fondle and cherish these long sinuous phrases…But nowadays the old-fashioned beauty of this music seemed to have become a trifle stale…Mme de Cymbremer cast a furtive glance behind her.”

Throughout there is a vast array of cast and the interactions are examined minutely. All of it was fascinating, but when I did finish, I definitely needed to surface for some air!

The Gift Maker: Book Review

I started this one as well as Hekla’s Children in a conscious effort to read more books published by independent presses. I chose Urbane Press this month as The Gift Maker caught my eye. And I’m so glad it did! It proved to be a disturbing, and yet, beautiful story. It reminded me very much of Bulgakov’s, The Master and the Margarita, with its surreal nature, as well as  its Eastern European-esque setting (the characters venture to a town called Grenze, which translates to “Border”).

Descent

At the very beginning, one of the MCs, Thomas receives the mysterious box. I enjoyed gradually getting to know Thomas and his fellow philosophy students – their jokes and banter easing us into the story. It isn’t until we meet Liselotte, the other MC that the story starts to get surreal and magical, but it’s worth the wait. I loved following her on her quest to understand her gift and watching as the world around her becomes more warped and disturbing.

Depth

There is so much to contemplate in this book – there is a depth of soul in this book that is such a rarity. I think some of the quotes I marked will sum up the particular beauty of its pages and its writer:

“The gift will find the receiver, whether he wishes it or not, for it is part of him and cannot be denied.”

“We look for the pure, if hidden, desire. The love of the love for its own sake, not for gross gain. A rare thing in this and other worlds.”

I don’t want to give too much away, but there are layers upon layers of meaning and influence in this book. One moment you think of The Master and Margarita, especially with the theatre scenes and then there’s hints of Dr Faustus and questions about one’s ambitions in life and their impact on the soul.

Ascent

This book has stayed with me the last week – and I will definitely be buying a paperback copy so that I can revisit it again when the images and ideas fade.

The Thirteenth Tale: Book Review

A gem of a book. Loved it…a story that echoes other stories, reminding you of the books you love and making you want to visit them once again.

Descent

This was a wonderful bookish book. The MC, Margaret has been raised in a bookshop and spends her day working and reading there, having become something of an “amateur” biographer as she terms it. Books have been her school, her university, her life. Like I say it was just ooooh so bookish.

“…you leave the previous book with ideas and themes  - characters even - caught in the fibres of your clothes, and when you open the new book they are still with you.”

Depth

The storyline follows the biographer’s trip to interview Vida Winters, a prolific, famous and secretive author. The author has never given a truthful account of her life…until now. Margaret journeys to her house in Yorkshire, and you cannot help think (as the MC does) of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. Through Miss Winter’s story we discover her tale (and there is a house) Angelfield House involved in the tale. But we are taken down the twists and turns of history, of literature, history echoing story or story echoing history, hungering to discover Miss Winter’s true tale, which, in turn, shares painful similarities with Margaret’s own.

Ascent

I devoured this in two sittings, and I didn’t want to come out of it. It felt like a homage  to other wonderful books as well. Just after reading it, I delved into Wuthering Heights again and I’m going to see Jane Eyre shortly at the theatre. So all in all, this is a book that you can luxuriate in and after leaving gets you in the mood to jump into lots of other stories that have inspired it. Also bought a copy of Rebecca recently on holiday, which has a lot to do with the ideas from this book still percolating in my head!

(The library in Dunster Castle, Somerset.)

The Lie Tree: YA Book Review

This is a great one to start with for my new rating system. Overall, I really enjoyed this one. The mystery and intrigue was built up well and I really enjoyed venturing with the MC, Faith to uncover her father’s secrets. And a great one to start my new watery themed rating system as at the beginning we find ourselves literally at sea. “The boat moved with a nauseous, relentless rhythm, like someone chewing on a rotten tooth. The islands just visible through the mist also looked like teeth…”

The Descent

I enjoyed the atmospheric descriptions on entering this book – suitably setting the tone for the luscious language throughout and the imagery of bones foreshadowed that which was to be a central topic in the story. We are introduced to Faith, the MC and her father, mother and brother. In terms of action however, not much occurs and we get a lot of backstory (intriguing – why have the family had to leave their home behind, what are these rumours that are circulating about the Reverend, Faith’s father?)  Nonetheless, the beginning third of the book is a slow burn. In other words – entry takes a while. If you’ve got the time – and the breath to spend on it – fine. But if you’re in a hurry, maybe choose a different time to read this one.

Depth

The depth in this book comes from the conflict within Faith’s father and the other learned men of his generation; torn between what scripture has taught them of the world and what scientific enquiry proves. This debate is built upon throughout the book and darkens as the story explores the lengths people are willing to go to in order to prove their beliefs.

Some of my favourite quotes: “The sea licked the flesh off shipwrecks, leaving the bare wooden bones in the lightless deep. Its mermaids were green-skinned and squid-eyed with long hooked fingers and breath that smelt of old fish.”

“It was a house of the dead now. All the curtains were drawn. Dark cloth was draped over every mirror, like a dull lid drooped over every eye.”

The Ascent

There’s no doubt it’s a slow burner. More than that, I’d say that the best part in the novel for me was when Faith discovers her father’s true secret. The fact that the events of the second half of the book don’t live up to this discovery in the middle meant the second half lagged for me. I’m not saying that I wasn’t intrigued by the rest of the story, but it didn’t live up to the idea at the heart of the novel. I still enjoyed it and would recommend it.

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