Tag: books (page 1 of 3)

James: Witch Hunter

K. S. Masden’s Witch Hunter series has been on my TBR list for a while so I was very much looking forward to delving into this book. And, it didn’t disappoint!

Descent

James: Witch Hunter is a prequel story to the Witch Hunter series, which can be read before or after the main series. Right away I warmed to James, the main character, who we see on his first day at Oxford University. He is a very down-to-earth, likable guy. I really enjoyed watching James, the Yorkshire lad, mingle with the rather more affluent and, often uptight, Southerners. There was plenty of conflict and comedy value here, and it really brought out James’ easy-going and fun-loving nature.

Depth

The real story gets started when James starts spying on his haughty, aristocratic roommate, Hunter. There is great conflict between these two characters. James finds himself swept up into Hunter’s world of witch-hunting and the two guys who seemed to be from two completely different worlds, (lol, they were, i.e. the one with witches and the one without), find themselves forming an unexpected friendship. Alongside this, there is the fancy backdrop of Hunter’s family, with lots of ancient witch-hunting heritage, as well as a secret witch-hunting council to delve into…and, of course, witches! What’s not to like!

Ascent

I really enjoyed James and Hunter’s escapades in witch-hunting. I think the only thing I would have liked to see more of were the witches. Although there were a few fights with them throughout the novel, I found the final showdown a little short. But, I guess that kept me wanting more, and I will definitely be reading the series to get both my witch-hunter…and witchy fix.

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.

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 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.

Smoke: Book Review

I got a lovely hardback copy of Smoke by Dan Vyleta  for my birthday 🙂 Something a little different too: YA Fantasy, but set in an alternate Edwardian England. It details a world where sin shows up as soot on skin. I hear you, the old adage: “there’s no smoke, without fire”, except in this world there is. Or more the sins and evils that burn within us are excreted through the pores as smoke and cover everyone and everything in the world with soot.

I found the concept really interesting with lots of links to Christianity and the concept of evil, as well as the consideration of one’s emotions and desires – how much is expressed or hidden of the individual.

Vyleta opens the novel with a quote from Dickens that inspired the story. Rightly so, the language and style feels very Dickensian with the squalid descriptions of London and the constant sense that the characters are going to be consumed by the smoking city. Thomas and Livia, two of the MCs when they come to London, are described thus:

“A cold drizzle is falling, taunting them with the kind of proximity they resorted to during the night, shoulder to shoulder, thigh to thigh. They ignore it and sit yards apart. Even so he is conscious of her Smoke; feels it reach across the gap and tug at his very bones. It is as though he were built to drink her sin. London is a place where people touch. Before, he had not understood the implications of this simple truth.”

I found the story itself a little slow to get off the ground and even when it did it lacked the  momentum of most YA reads these days. That is no bad thing  in my opinion. In a world where everyone’s looking for the next fix, this book makes you sit back and ruminate. It is more about the slowly built tension and unease between and within the characters that draws you. Mostly, I read on for the  interesting concepts behind the story. Don’t expect a fast-paced read, but certainly, a thought provoking one, that lingers like a cloud of billowing smoke.

Image from: http://londonbeep.com/nicknames-of-london-city

 

Book Review: An Artist of the Floating World

A beautiful book. A lot like ‘Remains of the Day’, but a beautiful story nonetheless.

In this story Ono, a retired artist looks back on his career and life. In a meandering (typical Ishiguro) narrative, he re-examines the patriotic and propagandist values he has endorsed. And we see how Ono is held by his family and in the wider society for this.

Through his memories, we experience a little of Japanese militarism, the Second World War, and see the rebuilding and reforming of Japan afterwards.

In amidst all the uncertainties, there is a particularly beautiful scene where Ono sits with his teacher. The teacher is reminiscing about what his and his friend’s beliefs and values in life have been:

“The best things, he used to say, are put together of a night and vanish with the morning. What people call the floating world, Ono, was a world that Gisaburo knew how to value.”

He goes on to say: “It’s hard to appreciate the beauty of a world when one doubts its very validity.”

I’ve heard Ishiguro described as preachy and moralistic lately, but who can dislike this kind of reflection when it’s so beautiful?

(The ‘Ukiyo’ – ‘the floating world’ used to describe the urban lifestyle, especially the pleasure-seeking aspects, of Edo-period Japan (1600–1867).

From https://data.ukiyo-e.org/mfa/images/sc206467.jpg)

Embers: Book Review

I read this beautiful book as I was looking for more Hungarian treasures – missing the likes of Szabo and Szerb. Unfortunately, I’ve read the two books of Szabo translated into English  (and not knowing Hungarian, the others are off limits.) Got a Szerb: the Pendragon Legend  waiting for me now too.

Embers by Sandor Marai was a lovely gem. It is a languid read, being more about an elderly General, Henrik reflecting on how he has spent the latter part of his life separated from his best friend, Konrad. It is forty years since some event drove them apart and now he is coming to see him.

It is through a long drawn out conversation, which is definitely more of a monologue (on Henrik’s part) that we come to see what happened to cause their estrangement.

It is a peculiar style for a whole novel, but I would say its strength lies in the time, settings and sentiments that are conjured through the conversation.

In the castle Henrik has lived in his whole life is described as: “The castle was a closed world, like a great granite mausoleum full of the moldering bones of generations of men and women from earlier times, in their shrouds of slowly disintegrating gray silk or black cloth. it enclosed silence itself as if it were a prisoner persecuted for his beliefs, wasting away numbly, unshaven and in rags on a pile of musty rotting straw in a dungeon. It also enclosed memories as if they were the dead, memories that lurked in damp corners the way mushrooms, bats, rats, and beetles lurk in the mildewed cellars of old houses…”

“The castle was a closed world, like a great granite mausoleum full of the moldering bones of generations of men and women from earlier times, in their shrouds of slowly disintegrating gray silk or black cloth. It enclosed silence itself as if it were a prisoner persecuted for his beliefs, wasting away numbly, unshaven and in rags on a pile of musty rotting straw in a dungeon. It also enclosed memories as if they were the dead, memories that lurked in damp corners the way mushrooms, bats, rats, and beetles lurk in the mildewed cellars of old houses.”

Everything Marai describes is painted with poignancy and vividness. I loved the way Konrad spoke about the tropics and how the wet seeps into everything or the way Chopin’s music seems to tear apart the world as Henrik listens to his mother and friend playing the piano.

A stunning read.

Bran Castle in the Carpathian Mountains

(Image from http://www.yoshay.com/when-literature-meets-history/)

Book Review: White is For Witching

 

Oooooo….a birthday book from one of my lovely sisters and what a treat. Been meaning to try out a Helen Oyeyemi after reading some good reviews and I wasn’t disappointed. Devoured this in two sittings.

Set in a large house in Dover, the two main narrators are twins, Eliot and Miranda Silver, who are in their late teens. The prologue opens with a series of fractured narratives – where we learn the girl, Miranda is missing.

The characters are all painted vividly throughout this book and with each passing page, you want to lap up more. I found myself fascinated by each of the characters, where ordinary details usually passed over were lingered over by Oyeyemi. For instance, the father, Luc, who isn’t a major character in the book is still crystal clear in the reader’s mind. His introduction was:

“He wooed his wife with peach tarts he’d learnt from his pastry father. The peaches fused into the dough, with their skins intact, bittered and sweetened by burnt sugar…His fingers are ruined by too close and careless contact with the heat; the parts that touch each other when the hand is held out straight and flat, the skin there is stretched and speckled and shiny. Lily had never seen such hands. To her they seemed the most wonderful in all the world.”

And yes, it’s a story about food in part. The girl, Miranda suffers from the condition of Pica (eating things that aren’t food, such as chalk, soil, etc.)

But the most interesting aspect of the story is the way in which the house impacts on the family. We come to learn that it has done so over the course of generations of Silvers.

A little taster without spoiling hopefully:

“I am here, reading with you. I am reading this over your shoulder. I make your home home. I’m the Braille on your wallpaper that only your fingers can read – I tell you where you are. Don’t turn to look at me. I am only tangible when you don’t look at me.”

The Soucouyant, is said in folklore, to inhabit the flesh of an old woman who strips it off at night.

(Image from: veryoddthings.tumblr.com/post/65240426394/they-hide-in-the-dark-soucouyant-the)

Book Review: The Scarlet Thread

Thought I’d give this D.S.Murphy book a try as I wanted to read a little more in the Myth and Legend category of Amazon. (Technically my series that I’m releasing in March will be in this so I should be reading more from here). Although, it can be categorised as Urban Fantasy too so….

Anyways, I enjoyed bits of this. I’ll say some good things first. The heroine is painted well: Kaidance, a disillusioned teen girl, living in a kind of juvenile detention centre.

Quickly, we come to understand that she’s not a bad person, just that she’s got freaky powers that led her parents to put her in here unjustly. (Going to add here – I think there was a little too much backstory drawn out in the first two chapters to do with this, which halted the momentum of the story.)

I particularly liked the first meeting/interaction between Kaidance and Puriel.

“Before I could stop him he licked his thumb and brushed it against my cheek to wipe away the blood…That’s when I saw the stars. I thought I might have blacked out. My vision was filled with millions of them, whole galaxies, everything converging together into one blinding light, and then nothingness. Just empty, black void.”

I’ve been looking a lot at first meetings between the love interests in YA Fantasy books and I thought this was nicely handled. It also alluded to the vast, mind-boggling world Kaidance will soon find herself in.

Okay, other than that I found the next bit – when they get to a kind of house/training camp way too Percy Jackson-esque and the characters (stroppy, antagonistic girl), (hot, nymphomaniac guy)  a bit of a cop out. I’m definitely up for using the Greek Gods and their well-known characters as a foundation to build a character, but not to find anything unique and different in them is disappointing.

Lastly, I’d say it was a great pity that it was only part one of the story. The way it ends mid-battle scene is…unfulfilling.

Checking out D.S.Murphy’s stuff  – I’ve seen that he has a lot of useful info about self-publishing, promoting your book and other useful stuff. So definitely worth having a look at if you’re considering self-publishing.

Courtesy of: https://southridgeblog.com/2014/04/16/the-scarlet-thread-part-3-john-316/

Book Review: Disgrace

Disgrace by J.M.Coetzee has sat, untouched by my bed for at least the last two months. Shameful….disgraceful you might say (or I would). Such an interesting and insightful book that when I finally picked it up I devoured it in just two sittings.

It tells the story of David Lurie, a Communications professor at the university of Cape Town. Shortly after the novel opens, David has an affair with one of his female students (something that we understand is not an uncommon occurrence for him). However, this time, the student files a complaint and David must face charges of harassment. At the hearing before his colleagues he is willing to admit he is guilty, but is unwilling to off any contrition. In turn he is forced to resign.

David ends up on his daughter’s farm in rural South Africa and it is here he comes to reflect on his past, with particular regard to his relationship and his treatment of women. Discussions with his daughter, Lucy lead David to re-evaluate his views on women. But it is only after he is attacked on the farm and his daughter is raped that David really begins to empathise with women. And in Lucy we are presented with a character at the opposite end of the scale from David. Lucy is willing to humble herself in an extreme manner as she believes that in this post-apartheid South Africa a life of humiliation is what she should settle for.

I read a few reviews on this novel that put forward that it was poorly executed, in that it was too moralistic, that the attack on Lucy is too much of a coincidence and is shoe-horned in to bring David to the revelation that his behaviour is the similar to the rapists. Or that it is too much that David goes back and has dinner with the father of the student he had an affair with, having a heart to heart with the man who should despise him. In one  someone said that David wasn’t even a believable character, more of a plot device.

Yes, this is a moralistic novel, but there’s nothing wrong with that. And was carried straight through the narrative. David’s voice is self-absorbed and cynical. He isn’t likeable, but he isn’t supposed to be.

The very opening line is strong in voice:

“For a man of his age, fifty-two, divorced, he has, to his mind, solved the problem of sex rather well.”

He says of his students. “He has long ceased to be surprised at the ignorance of his students. Post-Christian, posthistorical, postliterate, they might as well have been hatched from eggs yesterday.”

There is so much in this book to love – the character coming to terms with his identity as individual and father, as well as his sexuality within these parameters. Questions about power and subjugation, about pride and humility, and how all these things affect a person’s humanity.

 

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