Monthly Archives: September 2019

Review of KINDLE Ebook The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury #Brainfluffbookreview #TheForbiddenWishbookreview

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This one has been languishing in the depths of my TBR pile for far too long. So when I hit a bit of a reading slump after wading through two annoying books, I selected it hoping that the buzz when it first hit the shelves would fire up my enthusiasm too…

When Aladdin discovers Zahra’s jinni lamp, Zahra is thrust back into a world she hasn’t seen in hundreds of years—a world where magic is forbidden and Zahra’s very existence is illegal. She must disguise herself to stay alive, using ancient shape-shifting magic, until her new master has selected his three wishes.

That is as much of the rather chatty blurb I’m willing to share. What caught and hooked me with this one was the strong characterisation of Zahra, the jinn trapped in the lamp. Her voice pings off the page right from the opening section when Aladdin blunders into the underground chamber where she has been trapped for hundreds of years. Having this famous story told from the viewpoint of the magical character who is able to transform his life with only three wishes is a really nice touch.

While you won’t be shocked to know that Zahra and Aladdin develop strong feelings for each other, I was pleased to see that the romance aspect of the story didn’t overwhelm the other interesting elements. Zahra is in this mess because of her love for another owner of the lamp, which ended in catastrophe. So she is reluctant to visit a similar fate upon Aladdin and everyone else in the city. Meanwhile, Aladdin is trying to negotiate his way through the brutal rule that saw his parents killed by passing himself off as someone else… The story whisks along at a lively pace, providing plenty of adventure, plot twists – many of which I didn’t see coming – and problems for Zahra and Aladdin. How was this going to be resolved?

There was an enjoyable supporting cast, with my favourite character being the beautiful and resourceful princess, Caspida and her wonderful watchmaidens. Concerned about the daily injustices visited upon the downtrodden populace, she is trying to keep her ailing father from further falling into the clutches of his evil brother. I really liked the fact that Caspida and Zahra are instantly drawn to each other – it is a refreshing change to have a YA book where all the female relationships are largely positive.

The romance was well handled and quite sweet – but for me the standout relationship was Zahra’s desperate yearning for a lost companion she loved years before, to the extent that she still talked to her. And while I was convinced of her growing feelings for Aladdin, I was pleased to see that they didn’t eclipse her sorrow or somehow make the past all okay. In short, Khoury has written a powerful, sensitive characterisation of a being who has lived a very long time and is something both more and less than human – and made me believe it. Highly recommended for fantasy fans who enjoy a well-told retelling.
8/10

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Sunday Post – 29th September, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

It’s been the type of nose-to-the-grindstone, locked-onto-the-computer-screen sort of week, helped along by the company of a trusted friend. I attended the aerobics and Pilates sessions this week, resulting in my hobbling around like an old lady who hasn’t exercised enough over the summer… The pain was leavened by my lovely writing buddy, Mhairi coming to stay. And the wonderful news was that she was able to extend her visit so that she only went home today. We work so well together and she and I are very good at helping each other out with various writing problems, even though we write such different genres. I miss her so! I’m campaigning to have Lincolnshire towed southwards and tucked in behind Brighton… We have decided to Skype each other more often – and she is returning next month as we are going to Bristolcon together. Yippee!

As for that work I’ve been doing – I’d got to a point in Mantivore Warrior when I needed to firm up the narrative time in Mantivore Prey, so decided to produce my timeline edition at this stage, given that I’m now well along my edits for the book. I have also made a start on another paid editing project, as well as continuing my teaching duties. It seems odd to think that this time last year, I was up to my neck in Northbrook admin as I embarked on a new academic year with my Creative Writing students – where did I find the time?

Last week I read:
Lady of the Ravens by Joan Hickson
My baptismal name may be Giovanna but here in my mother’s adopted country I have become plain Joan; I am not pink-cheeked and golden-haired like the beauties they admire. I have olive skin and dark features – black brows over ebony eyes and hair the colour of a raven’s wing…

When Joan Vaux is sent to live in the shadow of the Tower of London, she must learn to navigate the treacherous waters of this new England under the Tudors. Like the ravens, Joan must use her eyes and her senses, if Henry and his new dynasty are to prosper and thrive.
I loved this one. The worldbuilding is detailed and entirely convincing and Joan was an engaging, intelligent protagonist who I gave my heart to in the opening pages. Review to follow.

 

Akin by Emma Donoghue
Noah Selvaggio is a retired chemistry professor and widower living on the Upper West Side, but born in the South of France. He is days away from his first visit back to Nice since he was a child, bringing with him a handful of puzzling photos he’s discovered from his mother’s wartime years. But he receives a call from social services: Noah is the closest available relative of an eleven-year-old great-nephew he’s never met, who urgently needs someone to look after him. Out of a feeling of obligation, Noah agrees to take Michael along on his trip.

Much has changed in this famously charming seaside mecca, still haunted by memories of the Nazi occupation. The unlikely duo, suffering from jet lag and culture shock, bicker about everything from steak frites to screen time. But Noah gradually comes to appreciate the boy’s truculent wit, and Michael’s ease with tech and sharp eye help Noah unearth troubling details about their family’s past. Both come to grasp the risks people in all eras have run for their loved ones, and find they are more akin than they knew.
Another stormingly good read – I’ve had an amazing reading week. I absolutely loved the spiky, unsentimental relationship between the elderly professor and the damaged boy. This one will stay with me. Review to follow.

 

Deeplight by Frances Hardinge
For centuries the gods of the Undersea ruled the islands of the Myriad through awe and terror: they were very real, and very dangerous. Sacrifices were hurled into the waters to appease them, and every boat was painted with pleading eyes to entreat their mercy. They were served, feared and adored. Then, thirty years ago, the gods rose up in madness and tore each other apart. Now, none remain. The islands have recovered and the people have patched their battered ships and moved on. On one of these islands live Hark and his best friend Jelt. To them, the gods are nothing but a collection of valuable scraps to be scavenged from the ocean and sold. But now something is pulsing beneath the waves, calling to someone brave enough to retrieve it.
And the joy goes on… This was another marvellous book with a story that swept me up and held me in its watery embrace until the very end. Review to follow.

My posts last week:

Review of Changeling – Book 1 of the Sorcery and Society series by Molly Harper

Friday Faceoff featuring The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon

Review of AUDIOBOOK The Whispering Skull – Book 2 of the Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud

Teaser Tuesday featuring Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

Review of Queenslayer – Book 5 of the Spellslinger series by Sebastien de Castell

Sunday Post – 22nd September 2019

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last few weeks, in no particular order:

The Poorhouse (1) https://jeanreinhardt.wordpress.com/2019/09/25/thursday-doors-the-poorhouse-1/ Jean’s posts are deceptive – these apparently gentle photo-posts featuring doors around Ireland can pack a punch. Like this week’s…

10 of the Best Poems About Despair https://interestingliterature.com/2019/09/28/10-of-the-best-poems-about-despair/ I have always found poetry and prose about despair enormously comforting for two reasons. Firstly, they often sum up the enormity of my bleak feelings far better than I can; secondly, that terrible sense of isolation arising from those dark emotions is alleviated when I can read of someone else’s pain…

Space News – update https://earthianhivemind.net/2019/09/28/space-news-update/ It was a joy to see the resumption of the roundup by Steph…

Greta Thunberg to World Leaders… ‘How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood…!!’ https://hrexach.wordpress.com/2019/09/23/greta-thunberg-to-world-leaders-how-dare-you-you-have-stolen-my-dreams-and-my-childhood/ I generally don’t mention the current political situation. Mostly because it tends to have me heading towards those poems about despair I mentioned earlier – but this one caught my attention. I wrote a sci fi thriller, currently lining the loft, about catastrophic climate change back in 1995. So I’m aware of exactly what young Greta is talking about, sadly.

My Adventures – Pictorial Visit to Connecticut, Boston and Cape Cod #CapeCod #BostonRedSox http://www.fundinmental.com/my-adventures-pictorial-visit-to-connecticut-boston-and-cape-cod-capecod-bostonredsox/#.XZCRi2Z7nb1 And on a much lighter note, Sherry of Fundinmental posted these glorious photos of a holiday by the sea – and those sunsets are stunning…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a wonderful week…

Review of KINDLE Ebook Changeling – Book 1 of the Sorcery and Society series by Molly Harper #Brainfluffbookreview #ChangelingBookReview

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This was one added by Himself, who is also a sucker for great school stories including magic – but would I also like it? This was quite important as I’d selected this read for a very long train journey…

If 14-year-old Cassandra Reed makes it through her first day at Miss Castwell’s Institute for the Magical Instruction of Young Ladies without anyone discovering her secret, maybe, just maybe, she’ll let herself believe that she really does belong at Miss Castwell’s. Except Cassandra Reed’s real name is Sarah Smith and up until now, she lived her whole life in the Warren, serving a magical family, the Winters, as all non-magical “Snipes” are bound by magical Guardian law to do. That is, until one day, Sarah accidentally levitates Mrs. Winter’s favorite vase in the parlor…

I very much enjoyed Cassandra/Sarah’s journey. She is a gutsy, cheerful character with lots of can-do energy – this story lacks the darkness of the Harry Potter series as Sarah has loving parents. While she initially finds it difficult to come to terms with ignoring her family and fitting into the world of the Guardians, she nonetheless accepts the situation and works hard alongside Mrs Winter to behave as her long-lost niece. The way their relationship gradually grows from a fear-based, resentful mess into mutual respect, trust and even affection is well depicted.

It doesn’t hurt that there are regular dollops of humour that leaven the darker aspects of the story, such as the bullying. I also really liked the fact that Cassandra was initially overwhelmed and silenced by the poisonous bully by considerations of social conventions and needing to fit in – it made her far more realistic than those intrepid souls who stoutly refuse to go with the flow. Harper is good at showing unfurling friendships without lapsing into sentimentality and I particularly liked how Cassandra gradually finds her feet at the upscale school after initially feeling adrift and isolated.

I didn’t see the twist coming, though I immediately realised how the antagonist was operating the moment the reveal came – and I was also pleased that I understood and to some extent, could sympathise with this character, who had also suffered injustice in their lives.
All in all, this was a well plotted, enjoyable magical children’s school adventure that pulled me into the world. Himself and I are keen to find out what happens in the next book, Fledgling. Highly recommended for fans of magical school adventures.
9/10

Friday Faceoff – When darkness falls, beauty is lit from within… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffFREEBIEcover

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is now being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we have been given the chance to feature whatever we like. I’ve gone for a wonderful science fiction read about an autistic young man set in the future called The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon…

 

This edition was produced by Del Rey in June 2005 and is a real contender. I love the image of the haunted-looking young man – the blurring effect of the light and the quirky positioning of the title. My main grizzle is the chatter in the bottom left of the cover which I think compromises the design, though at least it has been positioned with some thought.

 

Published in May 2004 by Ballantine Books, this Tenth Anniversary edition is another effective cover. The interlocking pieces making up the whole image, which is still off-centre creates an eye-catching, arresting effect. However, the title font is underpowered and boring, while that ugly textbox is completely out of place, especially given the strong colour draws the eye away from the otherwise muted design palette.

 

This offering, published by Ballentine Books in March 2004, is the least successful effort. The child’s windmill is evidently supposed to look as if it’s spinning at speed, but ends up looking like a poorly executed blur. This effect is emphasised in thumbnail, where the binary sequencing manages to make the whole cover look out of focus. I don’t like the limp title and author fonts, or the chatter cluttering up the design, either. A book this awesome deserves a far better cover.

 

This next cover was released in December 2010 by Hachette. I love the drama of the splinters of light flying off across the cover, while the dark purple corona against the black background looks beautiful. This cover certainly stands out from the others with the sheer visual drama. For once, both the title and author fonts are substantial enough to stand out from the design to be easily read, which surely ought to be their purpose, anyhow. This is my favourite.

 

This Polish hardback edition, released in May 2005 by ISA, is also a contender. I love the purple image of the young man with the silvered eyes, while the play of light in the background is beautiful and eye-catching. This one was so very nearly my favourite – which is yours?

 

Review of AUDIOBOOK The Whispering Skull – Book 2 of the Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud #Brainfluffaudiobookreview #TheWhisperingSkullaudiobookreview

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I loved Stroud’s Bartimaeus series – so tucked into the audiobook version of the first book, strongly encouraged by The Cap, who loved The Screaming Staircase – see my review here – to find it a joy. So it was only a matter of time before I treated myself to this, the second book in the series…

BLURB: In the six months since Anthony, Lucy, and George survived a night in the most haunted house in England, Lockwood & Co. hasn’t made much progress. Quill Kipps and his team of Fittes agents keep swooping in on Lockwood’s investigations. Finally, in a fit of anger, Anthony challenges his rival to a contest: the next time the two agencies compete on a job, the losing side will have to admit defeat in the Times newspaper. Things look up when a new client, Mr. Saunders, hires Lockwood & Co. to be present at the excavation of Edmund Bickerstaff, a Victorian doctor who reportedly tried to communicate with the dead. Saunders needs the coffin sealed with silver to prevent any supernatural trouble. All goes well-until George’s curiosity attracts a horrible phantom…

That is as much of the blurb as I’m willing to share – but I would say that if you have encountered this book without having yet had the pleasure of reading The Screaming Staircase, then don’t go any further. This is a complex, layered world and Stroud has designed these books to build on the narrative arc, therefore you’ll miss far too much that is important if you crash midway into this series. And yes… I regularly crash midway into series, so when I say ‘don’t’ I mean it.

This alternate contemporary world, where if someone dies violently or in unhappy circumstances, their ghosts can linger and at their most lethal, kill those unfortunate to encounter them. Adults and most children cannot see or sense these dangerous spirits, but a handful of children gifted, or cursed, with the ability to see, sense or hear these ghosts are employed by agencies to help neutralise them. Anthony Lockwood, George Cubbins and Lucy Carlyle are three such teenagers, who prefer to work on their own instead of being directed by adults who can no longer take part in the really dangerous part of the work.
Artefacts which are strongly associated with a death can be possessed by one of these dangerous spirits. The authorities charged with trying to find a solution to The Problem, as this sudden widespread haunting is called, are keen to possess all such artefacts – but there is also a thriving black market in such objects. Lockwood & Co are aware of the fact, but when the job they are working on ends in sudden chaos and danger, they are charged to track down a particular artefact. Though it rapidly becomes apparent that this is a very dangerous undertaking.

However, the threat of death is never far away in this job, anyway… Stroud’s vivid, darkly threatening world once more pulled me in and Katie Lyon’s narration, while not quite as brilliant as Miranda Raison, is still gripping and effectively portrays Lucy’s first person viewpoint. I would add that as well as being genuinely creepy in places, Lucy’s sharp-edged observations are also very funny. All in all, this series is turning into one of the highlights of the year to date and I’m thrilled to discover that I have the other three audiobooks just waiting to be read. Lucky, lucky me!
9/10

Teaser Tuesday – 24th September, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

Deeplight by Frances Hardinge
20% ‘That would be worth a fortune!’ Hark’s excitement flared, then fizzled. These were riches he couldn’t share. ‘That’s… amazing, Jelt. But you don’t need my help. You can sell it without me.’
‘No, I can’t!’ said Jelt. ‘If I tell too many people I’ve got it, the governor will find out, and then he’ll confiscate it, won’t he?’

BLURB: For centuries the gods of the Undersea ruled the islands of the Myriad through awe and terror: they were very real, and very dangerous. Sacrifices were hurled into the waters to appease them, and every boat was painted with pleading eyes to entreat their mercy. They were served, feared and adored. Then, thirty years ago, the gods rose up in madness and tore each other apart.

Now, none remain. The islands have recovered and the people have patched their battered ships and moved on.

On one of these islands live Hark and his best friend Jelt. To them, the gods are nothing but a collection of valuable scraps to be scavenged from the ocean and sold.

But now something is pulsing beneath the waves, calling to someone brave enough to retrieve it.

I haven’t read anything by this author before, but her name keeps cropping up – so when I saw this offering on Netgalley, I immediately requested it. So glad I did! I love the world, the ongoing tension and poor little Hark…

Review of KINDLE Ebook Queenslayer – Book 5 of the Spellslinger series by Sebastien de Castell #Brainfluffbookreview #Queenslayerbookreview

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I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this series to date – see my review of Spellslinger here, so was delighted to discover that the fifth book was already out – and even more delighted when Himself made me a present of it…

BLURB: Kellen and Reichis have just finished fighting a duel in the desert when Kellen inadvertently smears blood on the Daroman flag – an act of treason for which the Marshals have no choice but to arrest him. Just before he’s put before the Queen to be executed, Kellen is given a strange piece of advice from one of his fellow prisoners: kill the Queen and he’ll be given clemency by those who take power. But when Kellen comes face-to-face with the eleven year-old monarch, he realises she’s vastly smarter than he expected – and in a great deal more danger.

I settled back into this one with joyous expectation as Kellen was every bit as sneakily desperate and Reichis as snarkily bloodthirsty as before. Kellen is now confronted with court politics and to be honest – he’s way outside his comfort zone. As he tries to keep himself, his squirrel cat and a number of other random folks alive, he finds himself up against all sorts of foes. Including his sister… By now, there is a hefty backstory that has built up and my firm advice is not to jump into this series midway, but go back to the beginning and savour all the magical madness and mayhem from the first book, Spellslinger.

Kellen now has a major mission – he is trying to find a cure for the magical affliction that is dogging his steps and will leave him dying horribly. So he views all the court politics with a certain amount of detachment, until he’s forced to get involved or watch an innocent be killed… I followed the twisting plot with great enjoyment, until about two-thirds of the way through the book there was a certain incident involving a mage, poor old Kellen and a serving girl. I found it very shocking – as did he, so I expected it to be a major gamechanger. It wasn’t – not really, given that while he was shaken and talked about it changing everything, that was as far as it got.

The trouble was, this was just such a major issue that all the ongoing problems Kellen was facing shrank in the face of it and when yet the next round of survival shenanigans kicked off, I found I was a lot less involved.
To be honest, I’m not sure whether it’s me, or if the pacing and narrative arc is really compromised, but while I didn’t dislike what came next, I found I was a lot more emotionally detached from the rest of the story. It was wound up with de Castell’s usual flourish and I definitely want to the read the final instalment, but I think this book is the weakest of the series so far.

It says a lot for the overall quality of the Spellslinger series that this book still earns a reasonable score. The series is recommended for fans of adventure fantasy featuring an accident-prone protagonist and regular dollops of humour.
7/10

Sunday Post – 22nd September, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

This has been a week of two halves. I started it in Bexhill, where I’ve spent nine glorious days with my sister-in-law at our writing retreat in a turreted flat overlooking the sea. It’s been wonderful. The weather was fabulous – bright sunshine and warm temperatures so we had the joy of wonderful sunsets every day turning the whole sky gold and pink. Typical that because I was travelling by train with two heavy cases I left my cameras behind this time around… Last Sunday, as a special belated birthday treat, Celia took me to see Eddie Izzard’s Wunderbar Tour at the iconic art deco building that dominates the lovely sea front. It was a wonderful evening as I roared with laughter at his madcap, surrealist humour – he is an amazing, clever person and I’m so heartened that he is planning to go into politics.

We also went to a meditation session on Monday night, and walked every day along the seafront. And in amongst that, we had the joy of sitting down to write in this lovely turret. I managed to complete another editing pass for Mantivore Prey, write the character arcs for all the main protagonists in Mantivore Warrior, which meant I was ready to make a start on the novel. I got the first two chapters written and am halfway through the third one, feeling very happy with the way its going.

Returning on Thursday was a bit of a wrench – we both felt that we were really hitting our stride and could have done with another week – but the massive upside is that I got to see Himself again. Yesterday we had breakfast together at a café in Littlehampton with my sister, before scoping out another flat for her and hopefully, she will be joining us for roast dinner tonight.

Last week I read:

Circe by Madeline Miller
In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves. Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

This is one that’s been on my TBR list since forever, and I was delighted that it was worth the wait. A wonderful, engrossing read with an ending that brought a lump to my throat.

 

The Giver of Stars by JoJo Moyes
Alice Wright marries handsome American Bennett Van Cleve hoping to escape her stifling life in England. But small-town Kentucky quickly proves equally claustrophobic, especially living alongside her overbearing father-in-law. So when a call goes out for a team of women to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s new traveling library, Alice signs on enthusiastically. The leader, and soon Alice’s greatest ally, is Margery, a smart-talking, self-sufficient woman who’s never asked a man’s permission for anything. They will be joined by three other singular women who become known as the Horseback Librarians of Kentucky.

What happens to them–and to the men they love–becomes a classic drama of loyalty, justice, humanity and passion. Though they face all kinds of dangers, they’re committed to their job–bringing books to people who have never had any, sharing the gift of learning that will change their lives.

This one caught my eye on Netgalley – I read the start of the blurb and was sold… It was a delightful read, full of incident and drama in a wonderful setting – and based on a real scheme to bring books into the lives of poverty-stricken households living way off the beaten track.

My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Forgotten Palace: An Adventure in Presadia by Luke Aylen

Friday Faceoff featuring The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearn

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Turning Darkness into Light – a Memoirs of the Lady Trent novel by Maria Brennan

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last few weeks, in no particular order:

#writersproblems: finding help writing that d*** #bookblurb with #inspiration from #tvthemes https://jeanleesworld.com/2019/09/19/writerproblems-finding-help-writing-that-d-bookblurb-with-inspiration-from-tvthemes/ And no… it wasn’t just because I was namechecked in this one 😊. It is also because I feel PASSIONATELY about this issue as anyone whose ploughed through a handful of my reviews will know…

Attack every moment of every day with that attitude of a pet https://chechewinnie.com/attack-every-moment-of-every-day-with-that-attitude-of-a-pet/ One of those pieces of advice that’s far harder to achieve, but nonetheless is worth attempting… Besides, he’s just soooo cute!

The Story of Romana https://jenniefitzkee.com/2019/09/18/the-story-of-romana/ This one brought a lump to my throat as I watched the video of these lovely children… I hope it all works out for them! Thank goodness they’ve had Jennie in their lives.

Quotations on Fantasy Literature https://charlesfrenchonwordsreadingandwriting.wordpress.com/2019/09/19/quotations-on-fantasy-literature/ I felt Tolkien’s quote has a sense of trying to justify the genre, which simply isn’t the case these days.

Teleportation https://rosieoliver.wordpress.com/2019/09/20/teleportation/ This fascinating article on the subject is a must-read for any hard sci-fi reader or writer…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you have a wonderful week…

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Forgotten Palace: An adventure in Presadia by Luke Aylen #Brainfluffbookreview #TheForgottenPalacebookreview

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I can’t lie – once again it was the cover with that amazing dragon’s eye peering through the castle window that sucked me into requesting this one. Much to my surprise, this year I seem to have read a number of children’s books – would I enjoy this one?

BLURB: Deep in the heart of Presadia’s Great Forest lie many secrets, including the ancient ruins of a once-magnificent palace. A chance encounter with a bedraggled stranger and the discovery of broken shards of a magical mirror lead Antimony, an unusually tall dwarf, on a journey of discovery.

The blurb continues for another couple of paragraphs, busily letting drop a number of plotpoints I think would be better for the reader if they encountered them in the book, rather than waiting for them to happen. I like fourteen-year-old Luke, who is unusually tall for a dwarf with a flair for problem-solving and design and impatiently waiting for his beard to start growing. It was a refreshing change to find he comes from a close-knit community and has a loving mother who provides staunch support throughout, rather than the classic child protagonist without any positive adult in his life.

I did struggle a bit at the start of the book, even though I’m very used to being tipped sideways into adventures owing to my habit of crashing midway into series. Unhelpfully, neither Amazon, Goodreads, or the cover give any indication of the previous book The Mirror and the Mountain where we follow the fortunes of two children who have fallen through a portal into this medieval-type society. My advice would be to get hold of the first book before embarking on this one, as while I did sort out what was going on before it spoilt the story for me, I’m an experienced reader. It wouldn’t be fair to expect a youngster to pick their way through the various references to previous events and characters that they never meet.

Once I gathered exactly what was going on, I was able to relax into the story. Aylen writes an old-school epic fantasy, where Good and Evil are personified by the characters within the story and adventures are there to test their mettle.

I did like the way all the different races came together to rebuild the palace, despite the evident tensions between them. I would have liked a bit more discussion on how the task would provide all those toiling to rebuild it with protection and shelter, rather than focusing on how much the King wanted it rebuilt so he could fix the land. While this is clearly epic fantasy, there were times when the emphasis on the grand ambitions of peace and renewal gave this book a slightly old-fashioned feel and I’m intrigued to find out how today’s modern youngsters react to it.

That said, I enjoyed the characters and the story and would recommend it for independent readers from ten/eleven years old and upward – the battle scenes might be a bit too gory for younger readers. The ebook arc copy of The Forgotten Palace: An adventure in Presadia was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
8/10

Friday Faceoff – Gorgeous hair is the best revenge… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffhaircovers

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is now run by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is HAIR. I’ve changed things around this week – I’ve selected the series of covers produced for The Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearn, which I’ve always thought were so very well done. I love the fact it’s the same model throughout and that his hair is fabulous…

 

Hounded, the first in the series, was produced by Del Rey in May 2011 – and set the tone and style for the rest of the series. I love the fact he’s in a t-shirt, featuring THE sword and not even looking at us. And the way the light plays through that adorable blond hair is just so effective… This is Atticus as I’ve imagined him throughout the books.

 

Published in June 2011 by Del Rey, that hair is now being blown across his face as he faces off against a foe we can’t see. Interesting to note that this series started off being released so quickly…

 

This, the third in the series was released in July 2011 by Del Rey. I’ll be honest, this is probably my least favourite of all the covers. I don’t like the fact that the lower half of the cover is so very dark, effectively chopping poor old Atticus off at the waist. Still think the hair is awesome, though😊.

 

The fourth book was released in April 2012 by Del Rey – and now we see Atticus use his magic. I love the drama of this one and the lurid lighting – I think it’s one of the most eye-catching and attractive of them all.

 

This fifth book, released in November 2012, is a real contender as my favourite for the series – and to be honest, was the cover that popped into my mind when I saw that HAIR was this week’s theme. Two wonderful heads of hair for the price of one…

 

This one, published in June 2013, has Atticus once more brandishing his sword as he battles lethal gods and goddesses that he’s annoyed, with those storm-tossed blond locks looking so fabulously disarranged.

 

And – this cover is my favourite. Released in June 2014, I love the determined expression on his face… the way the light plays around his sword… the runes in the air… and of course, that hair.

 

This, the eighth book in the series clearly took a bit longer to write as it wasn’t released until January 2016 – and hats off to them that they still managed to feature the same model they’ve used throughout. I just wish the title font wasn’t quite so large, so we could see more of those stakes.

 

The final book in the series manages to produce a cover that defines the series – poor old Atticus still swinging that sword of his, looking seriously worried. Revisiting these covers has brought back a raft of really happy reading memories.

 

While I loved them, the only niggle I have is while there is a fair amount of angst, there are a lot of laugh-aloud moments in all the books, courtesy of Atticus’s greyhound, who has a telepathic link to the druid and a penchant for attractive female poodles and sausages. And there isn’t a hint of that humour in any of the covers. Ah well, they feature a gorgeous blond bloke – I suppose you can’t have everything… Which is your favourite cover?