Tag Archives: Vikings

Three AUDIBLE Fantasy Mini-Reviews – How to Betray a Dragon’s Hero; The Lost Plot; Uprooted #Brainfluffbookreviews #3Audiblemini-reviews

Standard



Here are a series of mini-reviews of books that all fall under the fantasy genre – but couldn’t be more different if they tried… They are also enjoyable, escapist reads which is a great way to round off the wonderful month of Wyrd and Wonder. Thank you to imyril @ There’s Always Room for One More, Lisa @ Dear Geek Place and Jorie Loves a Story for their hard work in making this event such a huge success.

AUDIOBOOK How To Betray a Dragon’s Hero – Book 11 of the How To Train Your Dragon series
BLURB:High up in the Treacherous mists of the Murderous Mountains, Hiccup and the Company of the Dragonmark are in hiding. The witch’s Vampire Spydragons are guarding the shores of Tomorrow — but Hiccup is determined to become King of the Wilderwest. Can Hiccup dodge the dragons and steal back the King’s Things from Alvin before the Doomsday of Yule? And is there a traitor in Hiccup’s camp who, in the end, will betray them all?

Again, it is something of a shock to realise how much darker this penultimate book is when comparing it to the first two or three in the series. Hiccup and his companions are in a very hard place, and the world they knew has been flamed flat and turned into ruins. Cowell doesn’t pull her punches when depicting the war-torn ravaged remains of the Viking tribes as they struggle to prevail against the might of the Dragon Furious and the Dragon Rebellion.

For all that, there are still shafts of humour, chiefly courtesy of Toothless and the other small dragon that Hiccup has acquired called Hogfly and David Tennent’s fabulous narration ensured both the tension and comedy were brilliantly evoked. As ever, the pacing is perfect and it was difficult to tear myself away as the adventure went on gathering momentum. This book ends on a mighty cliffhanger and whatever you do, don’t pick it up if you haven’t read at least the previous three or four books in the series as it simply won’t make sense. A gripping, enthralling read for Viking fans of all ages.
9/10



AUDIOBOOK The Lost Plot – Book 4 of The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
BLURB: In a 1920s-esque New York, Prohibition is in force; fedoras, flapper dresses, and tommy guns are in fashion: and intrigue is afoot. Intrepid Librarians Irene and Kai find themselves caught in the middle of a dragon political contest. It seems a young Librarian has become tangled in this conflict, and if they can’t extricate him, there could be serious repercussions for the mysterious Library. And, as the balance of power across mighty factions hangs in the balance, this could even trigger war.

Irene and Kai are locked in a race against time (and dragons) to procure a rare book. They’ll face gangsters, blackmail, and the Library’s own Internal Affairs department. And if it doesn’t end well, it could have dire consequences on Irene’s job. And, incidentally, on her life…

I was really entertained by this slice of Prohibition New York, when Irene and Kai find themselves trying to track down a rogue Librarian and a lost book in a world where dragons are playing powergames. The premise is clever, the characters enjoyable – I really love the fact that Irene is a cool, self-contained character who always performs at her best when in a really tight spot. And she spends a great deal of time in those really tight spots…

This was huge fun with gangster molls, hardboiled cops and lethally ambitious dragons trying to foil our plucky duo in their vital mission. The one slightly annoying factor for me was the very dry, low-key narration by Susan Duerdan which didn’t line up all that well with set-piece action scenes. I got AWFULLY fed up with that dropping cadence… However, it wasn’t a dealbreaker as Cogman’s vivid scene-setting, clever plotting and deft characterisation managed to rise above the rather monotonous delivery.
8/10



AUDIOBOOK Uprooted by Naomi Novik

BLURB:“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood. But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

I’ve gone back to read my original review – and realised that I gobbled this one up in two greedy gulps and now, listening to it again some four years later, I’m rather horrified at just how much I’d forgotten. It generally stands up very well to hearing the story unfold and I fell in love with Agnieszka all over again. But I was a bit startled when a very graphic sex scene suddenly appeared right in the middle of all the magical mayhem and seemed very out of place. I’ve discovered it’s a bit more of a hassle to fast-forward through bits you don’t want to hear, than it is when reading them…

Other than that, I loved the narrative drive, the story structure and the ending – though why anyone thought this was a suitable YA read frankly astounds me.
9/10

Five 5-Star Books in Five Words – Twice Over #five5-starbooksin5wordsx2 #BrainfluffWyrdandWonderChallenge2020

Standard

The aim of this one is to select five of your all-time favourite books and sum each one up in five words as part of this year’s Wyrd and Wonder challenges. I read this fun challenge on one of my fellow blogger’s site (sorry – I made a note of who it was, then lost it…) and decided that I really, really wanted to have a bash at it. Then Himself also wanted a go and so I’ve added his choices, too.

My Selection

 

Among Others by Jo Walton
Battle-scarred schoolgirl seeking solace.
See review…

 

How to Train Your Dragon – Book 1 of the How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell
Naughty dragon trains small Viking.
See review…

 

Spiderlight by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Heroic quest – or is it?
See review…

 

Small Gods – Book 13 of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
Pratchett does religion. Profound silliness.

 

The Fifth Season – Book 1 of The Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin
Mother’s mission – rescue her daughter.
See review…



Himself’s Selection

 

Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkein
The first, greatest epic fantasy

 

The Curse of Chalion – Book 1 of the World of the Five Gods series by Lois McMaster Bujold
Tattered hero dies three times.

 

Night Watch – Book 29 of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
Vimes’ timeloop saves his family.

 

Furies of Calderon – Book 1 of the Codex Alera by Jim Butcher
Powerless hero surviving powerful world.

 

Dead Heat – Book 4 of the Alpha and Omega series by Patricia Briggs
Ancient werewolf visits old friend.

Review of AUDIOBOOK How To Fight A Dragon’s Fury – Book 12 of How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell #Brainfluffbookreview #HowToFightaDragon’s Fury

Standard

So here it is… the very last book in the series, which I started with Frankie way back in 2014. I started reading the books to him, then he wanted to continue listening to them on audio and it wasn’t until the beginning of last year that I was able to access his Audible account and join in the joys of audiobooks, so I could continue listening to this series.

BLURB: The Doomsday of Yule has arrived, and the future of dragonkind lies in the hands of one boy with nothing to show but everything to fight for. Hiccup’s quest is clear…but can he end the rebellion? Can he prove himself to be king? Can he save the dragons? The stakes have never been higher, as the very fate of the Viking world hangs in the balance!

Whatever else happens, if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of this delightful, quirky series – don’t start here. It is the culmination of a twelve-book series packed with all sorts of adventures as a small boy, the heir to the Chief of the Hooligan Tribe, struggles to survive and overcome insanely difficult odds. And this current crisis he’s facing is the most insurmountable of the lot. He is fighting for the survival of humanity and/or the dragons as they are set to fight each other to extinction, although given the firepower the dragons are capable of, the outcome is a foregone conclusion… That’s the situation at the beginning of the book – Cowell is better than anyone else I know at providing overwhelming odds and then fantastic ways for her embattled protagonist to beat them. But this time around, I couldn’t see any way that Hiccup and Toothless would survive the end of this adventure unscathed – and I was wary, because people who matter can die in this series.

While I had enjoyed reading the books, the advantage of listening is that David Tennant also sings the songs – and especially in this book, the songs matter. They provide a strong emotional backdrop to the ongoing action, which was every bit as gripping and exciting – more so as I realised this was the last time I’d hear of Hiccup battling the impossible.

Cowell has written an epic. The overarching themes she covers provide morals and mottos that youngsters listening can use as life lessons. I’m aware that some reviewers became a bit exasperated by the way she emphasises these throughout, but I didn’t have a problem with them. Now in my 60s, it’s handy to remind myself that second best is often good enough and loyalty to those you love is important.

And… that ending. Oh my word. I was sitting in the kitchen and weeping as I heard the final epilogue. Perhaps, because I am now coming to a stage of my life when I, too, am starting to consider what I’ve done and whether it’s been good enough, the words particularly resounded with me. And now I’m sad that it’s over, but so very elated and joyful that I’ve had the chance to read and hear it. Very highly recommended. An outstanding series.
10/10

Friday Faceoff – Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffpiratecovers

Standard

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 currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is PIRATES. I’ve selected How to Be a Pirate – Book 2 of How To Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell, which is one of my favourite children’s series ever…

Yes, for the second week in a row I’m featuring a children’s book. This year I seem to be reading rather a lot of them – just as I’d given up on making children’s fiction part of my reading challenge as I’d failed to read a reasonable number for the past three years in a row…

 

This edition was produced by Brown, Little and Company in May 2005. It is suitably quirky with a Viking-cum-pirate character clearly somewhat intellectually challenged as the main image on the cover. I like the background of planked wood, the quirky font and – unusually for me – I love the textbox looking like a treasure chest’s key plate and the dagger for the author name. However, that main image is rather unwhelming, I feel.

 

Published in February 2010 by Brown, Little and Company, I think this cover is more visually appealing, while keeping a lot of the successful aspects of the previous cover. I love the more eye-catching teal background colour and the fact that the textboxes are still enjoyably part of the overall design. However that image in the middle actually features a boat, a worried-looking Hiccup and a threatening dragon emerging from the waves… We get a sense that this is a proper adventure as well as being very funny.

 

This edition, published by Hodder Children’s Books in June 2017 was all set to be my favourite. I love the scaled background, the way the Viking longship bursts from the middle of the cover on a surfing wave – so clever and eye-chatching. And then I paused to take in the actual wording of the quirky font. And changed my mind… I’ve been listening to the series recently and frankly, it’s doing my head in. There are twelve books – and not one of the modern covers sees fit to inform the reader where in the series they come. In fact, the actual title of the book is dwarfed by the series name emblazoned across the top – very annoying! It’s a dealbreaker for me – so this isn’t my favourite, after all.

 

This Spanish edition, produced by SM in August 2006, demonstrates what a huge impact changing the backdrop can have. This cover features the same main design of the first cover – but what a difference. I don’t much care for it – that interlinking pattern doesn’t shout Viking to me and tends to give the whole cover a rather cluttered feel, which isn’t a good look for a children’s cover.

 

This German edition, published in June 2014, has decided to feature the dragon – I love that fantastic image of those two dragon eyes, snout and fangs peering out at a small Viking boy, presumably Hiccup. BUT that large title across the top of the cover is the series title – and once again there is no indication that this is Book 2. Without these issues, this would be my favourite alongside the Hodder edition – but this is such a major omission, I am going to have to plump for that second cover, which gives all the necessary details for a reader. Which is your favourite? Do you mind if a cover doesn’t provide all these details, so long as it looks good? I’d love to get your opinion on this issue!

Review of PAPERBACK How To Steal a Dragon’s Sword – Book 9 of the How To Train A Dragon series by Cressida Cowell #Brainfluffbookreview #HowToStealaDragon’sSword

Standard

I’ve had a bit of a gap since I treated myself to the next in the series – partly because my young grandson is busy reading books all about footballers instead of dragons these days. But those of you who have visited before, know of my love for these fabulous books – see my review of How To Twist a Dragon’s Tale here.

Viking Berk heir, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III and his dragon, Toothless are target of dragon rebellion — filled with the meanest Razor-wings, Tonguetwisters, and Vampire Ghouldeaths. Only a King can save them, a champion with all of the King’s Lost Things. Hiccup will have to outwit a witch, fight his arch-enemy, and beat back an army of bloodthirsty dragons with just one sword.

There is still a madcap quality about some of the adventures besetting Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, but also a certain melancholy, given that the tales of derring-do are being told by a much older and sadder Hiccup rather than the skinny, desperate boy struggling to stay alive against mountainous odds. That doesn’t stop the characters from pinging off the page and this story – like all the others – take off in all sorts of unexpected directions. Though there is a dreadful inevitability about the terrible war between humans and dragons that seems to be on the brink of breaking out.

It was still fun to read about the crafty witch Excellinor and her wicked plans to overthrow the Vikings and have her son crowned as King of the Wilderwest – and Hiccup’s attempts to prevent her from doing so. As well as satisfyingly wicked antagonists, Hiccup is also hampered by a lantern-jawed hero in the shape of Flashburn, the greatest swordsman of his time. And while Fishlegs, his asthmatic friend, is mostly loyal, he isn’t all that much use in a fight, while his other staunch companion, Camicazi, is an adrenaline junkie incapable of keeping a secret.

Cowell’s plotting is brilliant at keeping the pace up, so that restless small boys who would rather be kicking a football around instead of sitting still and listening to a story, nonetheless pay attention, because said story is THAT good. So if you have any small boys or girls in your life who are in need of a gripping series, then this is the one for you. If they’ve wandered off to play football, then this is still the one for you – because once you’ve started reading this one, you won’t want to put it down until you’ve discovered what happens to the likes of Toothless, Hiccup, Fishlegs and Excellinor.
10/10

Sunday Post – 12th February 2017

Standard

 

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

Another busy week with the Northbrook courses going well and my sessions with Tim now less pressured with the extra session. The catch is this week Himself’s shift pattern meant I had to pick him up from work at stupid o’clock in the wee small hours. A lot of the time that isn’t too much of an issue but this week, for some reason, I wasn’t getting back to sleep all that quickly so I’ve been rather sleep-deprived – even for me. As a confirmed insomniac, I’m used to functioning on not much sleep, but I only managed three hours on Thursday night/Friday morning.

On Thursday, Mhairi and I got together for a writing day – we work really well together and manage to get a great deal done. It’s also helpful to have someone you know and trust to bounce ideas around, along with lots of tea and laughter. It was the West Sussex Writers’ monthly get-together on Thursday night. This month was the manuscript surgery followed by an excellent Open Mic session where a variety of amusing and thought-provoking prose and poetry highlighted just what a talented membership we have. The Friday morning planning session regarding Tim’s progress went really well – intense, but we realised we are on track and now just need to focus our efforts on moving forward.

This week-end we have the pleasure of the grandchildren staying over. As ever, they are a joy – which is more than can be said about the bleeping weather. Oscar is suffering with a heavy cold and bad cough, so taking him out and about in the bitter cold – yesterday it was snowing quite heavily though thankfully it didn’t settle – won’t be doing him any favours. We nicked out to get a few vital supplies, but are mostly hunkering down for cosy indoors activities.

This week I have read:
The Bear and the Serpent – Book 2 of the Echo of the Falls series by Adrian Tchaikovsky

thebearandtheserpentManiye, child of Wolf and Tiger, has a new soul and a new shape. But as Champion of the Crown of the World, does she represent an opportunity for the North – or a threat? Travelling as a bodyguard to the Southern prince, with her warband of outcasts, she hopes to finally discover her true place in the world, though she is quickly pitchforked in the middle of a crisis that puts her at the eye of a political storm.

I loved the first book in this shape-shifting epic fantasy set in a largely bronze age society, The Tiger and the Wolf . My firm advice is to tuck into this one before you reach for this offering as you are simply missing too much wonderful worldbuilding and rich character development if you plunge into this series with this one – which proves to be another real treat.

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

heartlessCatherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.

This prequel to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is a respectful and skilful addition to this famous classic that provides a fascinating take on what has happened to some of the major characters in the story. Highly recommended.

 

How To Cheat a Dragon’s Curse – Book 4 of the How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell

Reluctant hero Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III must rescue his best friend, Fishlegs, from the deadly howtocheatadragonscursedisease Vorpentitis. The only cure is rare and almost impossible to find…a potato. But where will Hiccup find such a thing? He’ll have to dodge the terrible Sharkworms, battle Doomfangs, and outwit crazy Hooligans if he’s going to be a Hero. Again.

Oscar and I completed this slice of Hiccup’s madcap adventures that takes him into the territory of one of the Hooligan tribe’s deadliest enemies in an effort to save Fishlegs’ life. Once more we giggled and gasped through this adventure together. Being a granny gets to be so much fun with books like this to share…

 

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 5th February 2017

My 2016 Reading Year – the Statistics

Teaser Tuesday featuring The Bear and the Serpent – Book 2 of the Echoes of the Fall series by Adrian Tchaikovsky

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – The Turn – Prequel to The Hollows series by Kim Harrison

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – The Bear and the Serpent – Book 2 to the Echoes of the Fall

Friday Faceoff – Diamonds Are Forever… featuring Diamond Mask by Julian May

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Review of Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:
12 Thoughts Every Book Lover Has Had At Least Once https://athousandlives01.wordpress.com/2017/02/11/12-thoughts-every-book-lover-has-had-at-least-once/ This amusing post had me grinning and nodding in recognition – especially numbers 1 and 11…

8 Useful Computer Shortcuts and Hacks https://anaslair.wordpress.com/2017/02/11/8-useful-computer-shortcuts-and-hacks/ These commands Ana has compiled can save a lot of time and frustration – I’ve certainly bookmarked them.

Booklovin’: What It Is and Why You Should Be Using It https://bookishnessandtea.wordpress.com/2017/02/11/all-abloglovin/ Ava’s excellent article helps those of us who enjoy reading blogs but have problems keeping track of our favourites.

The Best Poems for Valentine’s Day https://interestingliterature.com/2017/02/10/the-best-poems-for-valentines-day/ In preparation for a certain date coming up next week, those fine folks at Interesting Literature have a stock of romantic poetry to wow that special person in your life…

Proverbs from Africa https://siuquxebooks.wordpress.com/2017/02/09/www-siuquxebooks-wordpress-comproverbs-africa-josbons/ Josbons has compiled these favourite African proverbs, which make fascinating reading.

Many thanks for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

Review of How To Be a Pirate – Book 2 of the How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell

Standard

Oscar and I completed this book together this last weekend when the grandchildren were staying and once more, I was struck at just how funny and anarchic the storyline is…

howtobeapirateHiccup Horrendous Haddock III was a Viking Hero–dashing, brave, and ever so clever. But even Viking heroes have to begin somewhere. In this rip-roaring adventure he recounts his early days–when he still had a lot to learn about swordfights, shipwrecks, and homicidal dragons….

And that’s the blurb. Of course, it doesn’t begin to give you an idea of the story, where Alvin, the poor-but-honest-farmer pops up and beguiles the Hairy Hooligan tribe with tales of Grimbeard the Ghastly’s treasure and how to find it. Hiccup has a sinking feeling this is a very bad idea, but his chieftain father, Stoick the Vast, is determined to track it down. After all, he is Grimbeard’s heir.

What I particularly love about this books – and loathe about the film – is that Hiccup and Fishlegs are undersized, average-to-homely in the looks department and are regularly beaten up by Snotlout and Dogsbreath. While the other boys occasionally are happy to follow Hiccup’s lead after he’s managed to pull them out of yet another disaster by virtue of yet another cunning plan, they’ll jeer and join in the laughter quickly enough once the memory of that particular victory fades – which generally takes a couple of days. In other words, Hiccup isn’t the good-looking and capable character portrayed in the film with the cool, rare dragon. Toothless is only remarkable in being the smallest dragon in the village with the manners of a spoilt two-year-old. Hiccup’s constant sense of not measuring up to his strong chieftain father has us rooting for him. Under all the humour there is a real sense of poignancy over his feelings of inadequacy.

Events quickly stack up, as Hiccup, Toothless and Fishlegs, his best friend, trail along in their wake. Sure enough it all goes from dodgy to disaster fairly quickly as the Hairy Hooligans sail off in Stoick’s ship, the Lucky Thirteen. There are adventures, fights, treasure, shipwrecks, more fights and more treasure sufficient to thrill the heart of a child of any age. I was enthralled.

However, it’s all very well piling on the action and winding up the narrative tension until it is pinging off the page – but then comes the moment when there is the payoff. And where children are concerned, there can be no half measures. The final denouement has to pack a sufficient punch to wind up such a twisting plot so that when we close the book for the final time, we all still feel the tingle of excitement yet are thoroughly satisfied with the ending of this particular adventure. Cowell pulls this off magnificently. It didn’t take much to persuade Oscar to immediately start reading the third book in this enchanting series, How To Speak Dragonese. I want more of this world.
9/10