Review Wednesday(ish) | Book Review – The Golden Tup

I was given this novella in exchange for an honest review. Sorry it’s late! 

The Golden Tup is a novella, originally published in a collection called The Red Grouse Tales – named for the pub in which the stories were told by the author’s friends. The idea of a collection of stories originally verbally told, while an ancient tradition, has become quintessentially British to me. This may be to do with the sheer amount of Victorian fiction I’ve read with this theme, but I am partial to these kinds of stories.

With this in mind, the story is more a story-in-a-story. It opens with the storyteller and her friends. One of the friends enquires about the main characters of the actual story, leading to this being told. The Golden Tup reminds me of The Turn of the Screw in many ways, the obvious similarities in format being one of them.

The darkness and ambiguity in the story also reminds me of James’ work. The Golden Tup is incredibly dark in many ways. The main story focuses on a young couple who move into a long-abandoned farm house. They live a relatively happy, peaceful existence; until things ominously take a turn for the worst. Their tale mirrors that of the previous tenants in many ways, shedding light on why the property had been unoccupied for so long. Garland uses supernatural and religious themes that work well with such a rural, traditional setting. I like the use of Milton’s Paradise Lost, although I did find that this was forced at times.

There were several parts where the writing fell slightly short for me, but that is almost forgiven by the format of the tale. This is a ‘campfire’ sort of story, made to be told in a raw and natural way. It isn’t intended as perfectly polished literary narrative, and that works in this instance. It is the kind of story I can imagine people telling based on shocking headlines or local dramas – if there’s one thing I know about villages it’s that both imaginations and gossip run wild.

This adds a sort-of quaintness to an otherwise depressing and quite shocking tale. It is grounded in the more realistic setting of the pub in which it is told. The rural, quaint overtones are again comparable to many Victorian works of this kind, such as Frankenstein. There’s an element of fun that works to engage the reader further in the tale.

Overall I really enjoyed this story. It was short enough to read on a train journey but engaging enough that I would want more, and may get hold of the full collection. It is a nice little horror story to sink your teeth into, with some interesting motifs and themes.

See you soon,

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Review Wednesday | Book Review – Paris For One and Other Stories

I was given a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Paris for One and Other Stories is, as you might expect from the title, a book of short stories. The book features the titular Paris for One, more of a novella than short story, followed by 10 shorter stories of varying lengths.

Paris for One, the main story, follows an anxious Nell as she travels to Paris for the first time. What was supposed to be a romantic weekend with her uninterested boyfriend soon turns into a journey of self-discovery and of Nell finding her courage. The story also follows Fabien, a Parisian writer who was left heartbroken by his now ex-girlfriend a few months before the story begins. He is working on a book but lacks the motivation and confidence to finish it.

Okay, so you can probably see where this is going. I can’t say the story isn’t predictable, but it’s well written, charming and sophisticated.

All of the stories follow similar themes of romance and self-discovery. Relationships are the central theme for this collection. There are marriages, new loves, break ups and old friends. Couples who can’t make it work and couples who work through thick and thin. The protagonists are all strong, realistic women. Some of the stories are set in Paris, but this isn’t a running theme.

As a historical fiction junkie, it comes as no surprise that my favourite story in the collection is Honeymoon in Paris. I adore when stories combine the past with the present, but it is so easy to get wrong that I approach these kinds of stories tentatively. Moyes got this trope completely spot on, however, with her tales of Liv and Sophie. It was only on googling the book for this review that I learned that this is a sort of mini-prequel to a novel based on the two women, The Girl You Left Behind – it’s safe to say that I will be giving that a read!

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I was in London when I started it and I feel like it would be a perfect commuting read. The stories are gripping but wrap up nicely, and can be read in short periods of time. While I have found myself wanting more from some of the stories, they work wonderfully as stand-alones and are all paced really well.  They might not be deep, brooding or particularly “literary”, but these are lovely little stories to brighten your day with and help restore some of your faith in humanity. I hadn’t read any of JoJo Moyes’ work until now, but I can see what all the fuss is about.

See you soon,

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Review Wednesday | Book Review – Birds Art Life Death

 

I was given a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

It would be small and manageable, just a tiny bird, embarrassingly little. Not a crisis. And that’s why I regret it. Because the attitude that somehow, without our acting, the little things will take care of themselves does not ring true anymore.

Kyo Maclear’s Birds Art Life Death follows her through a year of her life and discovery of birds and their impact. At the beginning of the book her father is unwell and she is beginning to fall out of love with her art. She falls into a rut of being unable to write and create the way she’d like – until she meets a bird-loving musician. The Musician, as he is referred to throughout the novel, introduces her not only to birds but to the idea that the small and seemingly insignificant can mean everything.

For someone who was in such a creative rut, Maclear writes beautifully. She is honest, funny and writes with quiet grace. Her work is well thought out and intelligent, but also raw and natural. Her struggle to create is relatable and her observations pure and uncensored. Her encounter with a Peregrine falcon, for example, shows the greying and harsh Toronto environment against the majesty of the bird.

This is by no means a research book. Maclear’s ornithological interest doesn’t become boring, and she doesn’t write about fact or science – in fact she does write about finding the balance between looking at birds too scientifically or too sentimentally. In a period of being unable to go out birding with the musician she reads books on birds, and finds that many are too factual for her needs. She writes more often purely on her experiences with birds, not the science behind them – although occasionally this does play a part in moving the story on.

The point of the book is to show that the insignificant, small things can be some of the most important. Birds are a constant, as are art, life and death. No matter what is happening in the world, people will take comfort in the small things – and that’s okay.

Birds Art Life Death is a wonderful little book. It is understated and modest, just like it’s subject matter, but with a lot of life lessons and wisdom in its pages. I’m a little disappointed that I only have the eBook copy – I feel like there are some books I want to physically hold, and this is one (that is a good thing!).

See you soon,

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Review Wednesday | Book Review – Devil’s Playground

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Devil’s Playground is an action-packed novel centred around Mia Sawan, American-Lebanese spy for mysterious company The Firm. A Christian banker is crucified in Beirut, then the 10-year old daughter of a powerful mayor in Azerbaijan is kidnapped. Both crime scenes have tags linked to a known criminal, but Mia isn’t so sure it is an open-shut case – or of what the link between the two actually is.

The idea for this novel is incredibly strong. This has been well thought out, researched and it is clear that the author knows his stuff. The start of the novel, for example, is shocking and incredibly powerful. Mia’s character is a strong willed, intelligent, sex positive woman of colour and I wish we could see more of these, especially coming from white male writers like Kidson.

I love the concept, and was looking forward to reading the book. Unfortunately for me the writing didn’t quite match the strength of the ideas. The text tells an awful lot, and is very open – considering this is a book about covert investigation, this isn’t the best match. It is difficult to find a good balance between getting your intentions across and over-explaining, and in Devil’s Playground this hasn’t been perfected.  I also found that while some things were over-explained, such as what Mia wore, others weren’t discussed enough. I would have liked to have seen more of “The Firm”, and some more scenic description – it may not be as exciting as the action packed scenes we saw so much of, but I believe it would’ve added more depth and realism to the book. It is set somewhere that for many Western readers is a mystery, so it would’ve been nice to have had a better picture painted of the settings. It may be that I don’t read action often, but I find that scene after scene of action gets tiring rather than having the desired effect. When every page is written to shock or excite I find that I desensitise and lose interest. Of course there are rest breaks, but the text is very fast paced.

Overall, the novel had a controversial but gripping plotline, however I felt that this was let down by poor editing and a mismatched writing style. This is very easy to do and I admire the clear amount of knowledge and thought put into the concept, but the writing distracted from the story too much for me to fully enjoy it.

See you soon,

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Review Wednesday | Purple Hibiscus

Mama had greeted him in the traditional way that women were supposed to, bending low and offering him her back so that he would pat it with his fan made of the soft, straw-coloured tail of an animal. Back home that night, Papa told Mama that it was sinful. You did not bow to another human being. It was an ungodly tradition, bowing to an Igwe. So, a few days later, when we went to see the bishop at Awka, I did not kneel to kiss his ring. I wanted to make Papa proud. But Papa yanked my ear in the car and said I did not have the spirit of discernment. The bishop was a man of God; the Igwe was merely a traditional ruler.

I don’t normally talk about what brought me to read a book on here, mostly because a lot of them were simply there or looked good/pretty. With Purple Hibiscus, however, I think there needs to be an exception. Many of you may have seen Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on Newsnight back in November, discussing the US election with Robert Emmett Tyrell, founder and editor-in-chief of conservative magazine ‘The American Spectator’. Tyrell was unable to see racism or even real fault with Trump’s campaign rhetoric. When Adichie responded he accused her of being emotional – and therefore apparently incapable of intelligent or logical thought. Adichie explained, quite calmly for a woman effectively being told to sit down and shut up, that as a white male he is in a privileged position and cannot define racism. Even if he could, all evidence points to Trump promoting hateful and dangerous attitudes towards people at disadvantage; people of colour, immigrants, disabled people and women. The way Adichie held herself with grace and elegance, despite being visibly upset and angered by these remarks was admirable. She dealt with this situation beautifully, especially considering that she was unaware she was to be on the show with another guest until she arrived. She is a strong, smart woman and her writing in Purple Hibiscus reflects this.

Purple Hibiscus was Adichie’s debut novel, first published in 2003. The novel is told through the eyes of fifteen year old Kambili’s, a Nigerian Igbo girl. She, along with her brother Jaja and mother, lives in the shadow of her overbearing and strictly Catholic father. She has an almost outside view of him – she is enamoured by the charitable, God-loving exterior that her wider community sees, but struggles to consolidate this with the abusive, cruel-hearted man only seen within the walls of their compound. Her world is flipped upside down as she begins to see through his shiny exterior.

What strikes me about this novel is its incredibly strong voices. Kambili, while submissive and oppressed by her father speaks eloquently – a reflection of both the character’s strict education and the writer’s own tone. She rarely actually says more than a few words, but her internal narrative is intelligent and mature. Of course this is in part Adichie’s personal writing style shining through, but fits Kambili well. Her Aunt Ifeoma is fiercely passionate and confident, laughing loudly and standing fearless in the face of both her brother and the prospect of losing her job. Her grandfather, Papa-Nnukwu is peaceful and respectful of his son’s faith, but strong in his own traditional indigenous beliefs while JaJa’s fiery temper increases as he becomes more disillusioned by his father’s behaviour.

Her Papa is by far the loudest voice, unsurprisingly. Of course this doesn’t, however, make him the strongest character. He is overpowering, speaking over those he considers lesser and ensuring he gets his own way – no matter the cost. We are shown shocking acts of violence and cruel outbursts, particularly against his wife. She is deeply afraid that as such a popular figure in the community he will be seduced by a younger woman and leave her, but believes that giving him another child would prove her worth. He is more concerned by his image, though I’m not sure whether he is concerned with his image in the eyes of God or the eyes of the clergy. He often appears to use religion and charity as leverage to work his way up the social ladder, rather than a way to please God, and yet insists on saying long, sermon–like grace prayers. Perhaps he just likes the sound of his own voice.

Throughout the novel I was prone to comparing it to The Poisonwood Bible, and in many ways they are very similar. Religion and colonialism are strong themes, and it was interesting to see such a similar story told by a native African voice. I intend to compare them in detail in a future post, but I will say this – the sensible, intelligent Kambili is a much stronger 15 year-old than American Dream obsessed Rachel Price.

I’ve rewritten this several times and still feel like I could revise it all day and not do the book justice, but I truly loved Purple Hibiscus – it is a harrowing, well thought out and engaging novel with a lot of heart. Read it and you’ll see exactly what I mean.

See you soon,

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Me Monday | A New Post Series!

What better way to kick off the new year than to announce a new post series?! I’m so excited to see how the blog develops this year, and to put more time and energy into creating better quality content. I really want to focus on my writing and find more motivation to blog; this new series will definitely help with that. I’ve not spent much time on blogging as of late, but this has to change.

‘A Bookshelf For…’ will be a series of collections. The series will aim to showcase some of my favourite texts in different lights. It will allow me to discuss different themes within books that I love, including those I’ve reviewed in a more general way. I’ve often found, both in reading and reviewing, that certain themes or aspects of certain books stick out for me more- things I could talk about all day, but have never really found a chance to. Aside from books I’ve written assignments on, I’ve never really written a focused analysis or review.

I don’t fancy producing university-style essays every week, nor do I imagine you’d like reading them, which is where this series comes into play – I’ll be discussing certain aspects of books, for example the use of location, in short review-style paragraphs. Books with several different themes that I find interesting may be mentioned in several ‘shelves’. It’s almost like Desert Island Discs, only I can discuss as many as I want in as many ways as I want…so it’s really nothing like Desert Island Discs.

Following on the example of location, ‘A Bookshelf For The  Traveller’ would focus on books with vivid scenery and writing of place, or plots focusing on journey, whereas others may focus on character or pacing. There are so many different ways to look at books, and obviously there are books for every occasion – this series will aim to show you my favourites.

I’m hoping to get the first in this series out soon, so be sure to keep an eye out! In the meantime, tell me your 2017 goals!

See you soon,

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Last Post: Review Wednesday | Book Review – A Monster Calls

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[x]


Review Wednesday | Book Review – A Monster Calls

Your mind will believe comforting lies while also knowing the painful truths that make those lies necessary. And your mind will punish you for believing both.


A Monster Calls is a novel by Patrick Ness, based on the late Siobhan Dowd’s last book idea. I first heard of this book on a radio show in which they completely butchered the name ‘Siobhan’ (it’s pronounced Shove-orn or Shove-on!). Other than that they described the book beautifully and I must admit that they did do it justice. I’d read Dowd’s A Swift, Pure Cry before, but never any of Patrick Ness’ work.  I was worried that Ness would try and imitate Dowd’s voice, however this was quickly put to bed once I actually began reading the novel. The tone of the novel is sharply defined; this is not an imitation, but a unique novel with a clear voice. Indeed, on researching (okay, googling) the novel in order to find an appropriate quote (I really need to start marking quotes in the books I review!) I stumbled upon this quote from Ness himself;

“She [Siobhan] would have set it free, let it grow and change, and so I wasn’t trying to guess what she might have written, I was merely following the same process she would have followed, which is a different thing.”

When I read this book, I was not aware that it was aimed at children (I also found this out upon googling it) – although this makes perfect sense. The novel teaches important life lessons, both for children and more mature audiences, in a way that doesn’t sugar coat or patronise. Conor, our protagonist, is dealing with his mother’s illness. As her condition gets worse, he accidentally calls upon ‘The Monster’ – a humanoid yew tree – for help. ‘The Monster’ and indeed the messages he brings, add an element of magic to the story, as well as providing a moral guide for Conor.

‘The Monster’ is modelled after the Green Man, and indeed names this as one of his many identities. Green Man is a distinctly folkloric and magical motif, with unknown and ancient origins. This is fitting for ‘The Monster’ as the guide. He appears to Conor a total of five times I believe – the original apparition has obvious Dickensian roots, proposing that ‘The Monster’ will tell three stories; however Conor must then tell him a fourth. It is in this last apparition that the lessons Conor has learnt from ‘The Monster’ allow him to tell his own story, and fully accept his situation and emotions. The storytelling involved is highly moral, again reflecting the ancient tropes ‘The Monster’ embodies, but this doesn’t read as some kind of strict rulebook. ‘The Monster’s parables teach Conor -and of course by extension the readers -about the duality of humans, life and the mind; as the quote I’ve used to start this post shows. ‘The Monster’ shows Conor that everything isn’t what it seems, nothing is black and white and that that’s okay. He teaches Conor that his thoughts and feelings are valid and natural, allowing him to tell the final story.

I felt that the book was immensely moving and provides a wonderful yet real take on what it means to handle such heavy circumstances, particularly at such a young age. When I was 13, the age Conor was in the book, my granny underwent a triple bypass heart surgery that went wrong. She was severely ill for an awful long time and a lot of the feelings Ness encapsulates in the book are ones that I had a personal experience with at that age, and have often felt since. I wish I’d had this book then, and it is certainly one I would recommend anyone, but especially older children, read; particularly if they are handling the illness or passing of a loved one. Intensely powerful yet heartwarming, Dowd’s last idea has been executed brilliantly.

See you soon,

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I also didn’t know there was a film coming out! [x]


Review Wednesday | Book Review – The Night Circus

You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.

The Night Circus is, as you might have guessed, about a circus that opens at night. Le Cirque du Rêves (the circus of dreams) travels around the world, appearing in unknown places at unknown times. The main story, however, starts long before the circus’ inception. Prospero the Enchanter, a magician, and a man known only as A. H-, pit their students against each other regularly in competitions that can last over 30 years. As the story opens they are beginning a new contest with much higher stakes for Prospero than ever before – his contestant is his only daughter, Celia. The story starts years before the competition, with the circus proving to be a worthy arena for such a contest.

The book is written beautifully, with the incredible attention to detail needed to bring such an extraordinary setting to life. I did however find the timeline confusing at times – the story jumps around a lot. As well as Celia and her opponent Marco, the main story also follows twins Poppet and Widget, who are born on the circus’ opening night, and their friend Bailey. Because of this the narrative also jumps perspectives, and does follow other characters for shorter periods, but it manages to flow wonderfully and still make sense even if you’re not sure when you are in the timeline of the circus or the competition.

From the description of the novel, it sounds almost like a children’s book, but this is not the case – it is a novel that, much like the circus itself, I believe would be mesmerising to anyone who picked it up. The world is sophisticated and multifaceted, and Morgenstern clearly put a huge amount of thought and work into creating such a world; this definitely paid off.

**~SPOILERS START HERE~**

For me personally, the only thing I really disliked about the book were the inevitable romantic subplots. I mean, how oblivious did Celia and Marco have to be? Of course the competition was a fight to the death, of course they’d be star-cross’d lovers and of course they would have to go through the Hunger Games style “we both eat the berries so no one wins” trope. I think I’m just tired of star-crossed lovers and romantic subplots that just don’t feel entirely necessary. I didn’t mind the ending, but the romantic aspect did feel slightly rushed and tacked on. I felt the same with the implication of romance between Bailey and Poppet, in fairness. Maybe it’s just me. Also, can we talk about Tara please?! A woman dies suspiciously and this is just forgotten about after a while?? I want to know more about why this happened, as while at the time it felt like a nice twist, now that I’ve finished the book and it hasn’t been resolved it feels like it was only intended to be something to shake the plot up, not a story in itself – which it was set up to be.

**~ SPOILERS END HERE~**

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The end wasn’t as satisfying as I’d hoped, but it did tie most things up. I was completely sucked into the world of the circus and its occupants. The book has been hyped up a lot, but I can see why. This is a wonderful example of magical realism/fantasy, and you can certainly consider me a newly converted “rêveur”.

See you soon,

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(PS Get me getting two posts out on time in a row!!)

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DA DA DADADADA AFRO CIRCUS. [x]


Me Monday | Rapid Fire Book Tag!

First things first. I’m baaack..

katya

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve properly posted (reviews excluded) – things are crazy and I work full time with a long commute (I’ve never sounded so grown up, it’s very scary!) so I don’t have much time or energy, but this is changing! I have to wait around for an hour or so after work every day for my dad, so I’m taking to bringing my iPad with me to get some writing done. Hoping this gets my arse into gear and gets some more posts out!

Today’s post is one I’ve been meaning to do for a while. I was tagged in the Rapid Fire book tag by the wonderful Sophie at Blame Chocolate! I should say that this seems like an awfully long tag for one that’s supposed to be rapid fire, but some of the questions are really piqued my interest and it’s a little more in depth than the last reading tag I did (see here)! So, without further ado, let’s get stuck in! (My new job isn’t as a cheesy tv presenter, I promise!)
eBook or Physical Copy?

 

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Either – both have their merits for me. I find it easier to shop physical books, and since I’ve taken to only buying books from charity shops it’s also often cheaper. Saying that, ebooks allow me to read almost anywhere – reading Alora’s Tear on my kindle allowed me to read it in the car to/from work even though it was still dark out (my dad drives, I don’t read at the wheel!). I recently went through a period where I struggled sleeping and it was useful to be able to pick up my book without turning the light on. The Kindle has revolutionised reading under the covers – kids these days will never understand the struggle of reading with nothing but a crappy 90s McDonalds toy for light!

Paper or hardback?

Again, either. I read paperbacks more but there’s nothing like a fancy hardback edition of your favourites. One of my prized books is a gorgeous Art Deco style hardback copy of Grimms Fairy Tales (the originals, none of this censored bullshit) one of my best uni friends gave to me. Saying that, you can’t very well fit a 600 page hardback into a clutch – paperbacks are much more conducive to bringing a book everywhere you go!

Online or in store book shopping?

As I’ve mentioned above, I only seem to buy books from charity shops now – they’re much cheaper, and there’s a huge variety even at a glance – no having to decide which section to start with! So in that respect I’d have to say in store, but as a student I definitely felt the benefits of shopping online – if you want/have to buy 25 odd books at a time you may need a wheelbarrow if you go to a physical shop!

Trilogies or series?

It depends on the story. I think 3 is a nice round number, but some stories need longer or don’t need that long. I don’t really think about it if I’m honest, but I can see why some people might not want more than 3 books – it’s a lot of energy to put into just one story, and getting into a series with over 3 is daunting (I’m looking at you, ASOIAF).

Heroes or Villains?

Is it a cop out to say I like books that blur the lines? I like a sympathetic villain and an unsympathetic hero sometimes. Again it does depend on the story, but I do love an underdog so I think I do prefer villains a lot, maybe because I have a tendency to want to know the other side – it’s a writer thing!

A Book You Want Everyone To Read?

JUST ONE? There are so many, but of the ones I’ve recently read I’d have to say Reasons to Stay Alive. It’s so perfect and has really left a mark on me.

Recommend an underrated author.

Again, so many! The first one that came into my head was Shannon Hale. She writes beautiful YA fantasy novels, such as The Goose Girl, Enna Burning and Book of a Thousand Days. She writes powerful women who have stayed in my heart, but I feel like she is written off (get it) and her works could be presumed to be substanceless princess novels – when this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Last book you finished?

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (concept by Siobhan Dowd). I intend to review this next week, but to summarise – I loved it. It was emotional and clever, funny in parts and heartbreaking in others.

Weirdest thing you’ve used as a bookmark?

Literally everything. Sweet wrappers, train tickets, hair clips, rubber bands. You name it, I’ve probably tried to use it as a bookmark. Hint: cats don’t appreciate their paws being used as bookmarks.

Used books: yes or no?

Nah mate. Just kidding. I love used books – all of the books I’ve bought since graduating are used, obviously excluding ebooks. Most books in charity shops (yes I will keep going on about this) are near perfect quality anyway – and if they’re not then they’ve been well loved; nothing wrong with that!

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Top 3 favourite genres

Literary realism, magical realism, fantasy.

Borrow or buy?

Now before I answer this I should say that I love libraries and the idea of libraries…but I prefer to own books. I’m happy to lend them out and I do borrow them but when a book really touches me I like to own it. I can’t really explain why though! I think I’m just possessive. And a hoarder.

Character or plot? 

Well I mean, you need both for a good story. I like character based stories more than big plots I think, but I’ve loved both.

Long or short books?

Again, either, and again it depends on the story! Some long books drag and some short books aren’t long enough. Lately I’ve preferred short books, as I can get through them quicker and this is better for reviewing purposes, but as I’m currently ahead of my review reading I might go for a longer one soon.

Name the first 3 books you think of.

Harry Potter, Going Postal, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Books that make you laugh or books that make you cry?

Both. If you can do both in your writing, you’ll win me over.

Our world or fictional worlds?

Again, I like both! 2 of my favourite genres are realism though, so I suppose it’ll have to be our world. Definitely fictionalised though, please keep me as far away from the real world as possible!

Audiobooks: Yes or No?

Not for me, but I definitely see the merits of them. I did like the radio dramatised version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but that doesn’t really count. I just get bored hearing someone else read it, and I find that they don’t go fast enough!

Do you ever judge a book by its cover?

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Not judge per se, but I definitely tend to pick up books with interesting/pretty covers.

Book to movie or book to TV?

Another one that depends on a lot! Sometimes films do adaptation really well, sometimes TV does. I do think the TV format generally works best, as there’s more time to play with, but then film franchises can often have a bigger budget, which can be more beneficial.

A movie or TV show you preferred to its book?

Okay this is going to sound silly, but Angus Thongs and Perfect Snogging. I loved the books, but there’s just something about the film.

Series or standalones?

I don’t know! Again, it depends. At the moment I prefer standalones, again for reviewing purposes they’re better and as I don’t have as much time to read it’s nice to not feel like I’m stuck in the same story for an age.

I can’t think who to tag right now and I’m absolutely exhausted so if you haven’t done it and would like to, then TAG! You’re it.

See you soon,

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Review Wednesday | Book Review – Alora’s Tear Volume 1: Fragments (Blog Tour)

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

There is no magic in Vladvir…

Tucked away in a quiet valley, the community of Tolarenz offers a refuge and safe haven for its people, keeping persecution at bay. One young citizen—Askon son of Teral—is destined to lead them, but first he must leave them behind: one final mission, in service of the king.

In the north, leering nightmare creatures known as the Norill gather. Their armor is bone and skin; their weapons are black and crude and cold. They strike in the night, allies to the darkness. It is to them Askon marches, his men a bulwark against the threat.

For there is no magic in Vladvir.

What Askon finds when he arrives seems impossible: smoke and fire, death and defeat, and all around a suffocating sense of dread. The Norill seek something they call ‘the Stone of Mountain,’ but in the half-remembered stories from Askon’s childhood, it was always ‘Alora’s Tear’: a gem with powers great and terrible. A gem that cannot exist.

Unless there is magic in Vladvir…

 

‘Fragments’ is the first book in the Alora’s Tear trilogy. I must admit that I was wary of this book at first – fantasy is a vast and densely populated genre, with a lot of tropes and clichés that just get boring. High fantasy in particular is one that I often struggle to get into – there’s only so many times you can read the same story over and over, just with different names; and none compare to The Hobbit. I was relieved, then, that ‘Fragments’ proved me wrong – I was drawn into the story very quickly; although this may be in part because it is established early on that Askon, our hero, is left handed!

The story flows very well, and although it is clear that it was always intended to be part of a series, it doesn’t feel like a sort of “build up book” – it is a book in its own right, not mostly filler as many first parts appear to be. I don’t want to spoil, as I feel that it may put some people off, but the book does twist at the end; you know the book is building up to something that you may have to wait until the next book for, but what that thing is changes entirely towards the end of the story. I found this very effective and as a writer I can appreciate the tactic; Barham drew me in and left me wanting so much more.

The characterisation is largely very good, and any minor aspects of ‘telling’ rather than ‘showing’ were easy to overlook – as an English graduate and now a reviewer I find that I’m in the very annoying habit of nitpicking and this can get in the way of the story, but this wasn’t an issue here. The characters spoke realistically and Barham’s writing really did them justice. He brought them to life and his attention to detail is great. There were a lot of opportunities for cliché and I half expected medieval, confusing language but the novel manages to avoid this, which I personally am very glad of!

I think my main complaint is actually not with the text itself but the blurb (in italics above). It sets out a premise that doesn’t seem entirely accurate to the text – the magic (or lack thereof) in Vladvir isn’t really mentioned at all. The magical aspects are met by Askon sceptically, but I didn’t feel that it was really laid out in the text that there was no magic in this world; in fact as someone in a non-magical world elves and Norill seem like magical beings to me! I would assume there is magic in the world if not for the blurb, and I don’t feel like making the “magical state” of the world clear would really make a difference to my reading of the text – the events that occur are clearly unnatural for the world by the characters’ reactions to them, whether magic is present in the world or not. This was a great book and if you ask me this blurb doesn’t do it justice.

Overall, I really enjoyed this. It was a great way to get back into a genre I rarely seem to read any more (and to while away my new long commute to work!). I don’t tend to do star ratings on here, but that is the way of this blog tour so for the purposes of that I’ll rate it 4/5 stars. I definitely intend to read the sequels, The Elf and the Arrow and The Voice Like Water, so perhaps it’ll be bumped up to 5/5 once it’s in context – watch this space!

Buy the Alora’s Tear Trilogy:

Amazon (Paperback or Kindle)

UK

USA

Kobo

Kobo Store

iBooks

UK

USA

See you soon,

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Not this kind of elf.