Archive for September, 2016

Hello and my apologies for the lateness of this reading roundup.  I started a new role at work this week so it’s been a very busy week.  I’m switching from shiftwork to a more regular Mon-Fri job, so my blog posts may be somewhat irregular until I get myself into a new routine.  Please bear with me.

I did read some great books over the last little while.  I read and finished Furthermore, Shatter Me author Tahereh Mafi’s foray into middle grade.  While it wasn’t really my cup of tea, the writing was beautiful.  I will be writing a full review of Furthermore shortly, so keep an eye out for it.  I hadn’t intended to pick up Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, but I started reading/listening to the sample and I was hooked.  I’m about four fifths of the way through it, so again expect a review at some point in the future.  

This week I finally started to read another of the ARCs I received from BEA, Replica by Lauren Oliver.  It moved up my TBR because of the EpicReads First 5 newsletter to which I am subscribed.  This is a email where they send you the first five chapters, one a day, by email of upcoming books.  It’s a really great way to preview upcoming releases.  Anyway, back to Replica.  This was one of the books recently previewed and the preview was interesting enough to get me to pick up my ARC.  While I’m not yet 100% sold on the characters or plot, I am intrigued by the format.  The book is in two parts, one part told from Lyra’s perspective, the other from Gemma’s.  it can be read either as two separate sections or as alternating chapters from the two storylines.  I’m choosing to go the alternete chapters route and so far I’m really appreciating how the plotlines are tightly woven together and each enhances the other.  Again, I will write a longer review when I’m finished.

Today I went to see the movie Bridget Jones’s Baby, which I loved.  The script is funny and the performances are excellent, especially Zellwegger and Firth.  They really GET their characters now, and they both bring their Oscar cailbre acting chops when required.  I also enjoyed Emma Thompson’s performance as Bridget’s doctor.  I understand Thompson collaborated on the script – she clearly took the opportunity to give herself some of the best lines! Patrick Dempsey did well as the new guy on the block, but I really regretted that Hugh Grant chose not to reprise his role as Daniel Cleaver.  The script and actors have to work that much harder to make brief fling Jack Quant a believable rival to Firth’s Mark Darcy given Darcy’s long term love of and relationship with Bridget.  Cleaver’s history with Bridget and their sustained sexual chemistry would have made him a more believable alternative.  Ah well.  Still, we can hope for an adaptation of Mad About the Boy with Daniel Craig as the love interest please.

That’s all I have to share this week.  Did you see Bridget Jones’s Baby?  If so, let me know what you thought in the comments!

Reading roundup – September 17th 2016 was originally published on Canadian eReader

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Empire of Storms is the fifth and penultimate book in Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass in which a former assassin uses her skills and her magic to save her kingdom.  Being the second to last book in the series, it focusses very much on getting our protagonists into the right place for the finale.

What I liked

The pacing.  Despite the fact that Empire of Storms is primarily focussed on getting the team into place for the final confrontation, Maas managed to keep the pacing brisk and the tension high.  There were several points where I feared for our characters’ lives.  There are several confrontations adding to the tension, even if the end result is moving the pieces across the chessboard.

The characters and their group dynamics.  This is clearly one of Maas’s real strengths as a writer.  I loved the relationships between the characters and their journeys.  It was wonderful that each of our characters has a unique skill set, developed over the course of the series, which will be vital in the cause to defeat Erawan.  If even one person fails to play his or her part, the world is doomed.  I personally have not read the novellas, but I enjoyed the “new” characters who made an appearance and who also must do their part.

Manon’s story.  Once again, as in Queen of Shadows I found myself more engaged with Manon’s chapters than with Aelin’s, at least until the ending.  It is noticeable that Manon’s arc mirrors Aelin’s.  Both start the series as cocksure employees of a leader whose moral bankruptcy does not sit well with our heroines.  A crisis ensues causing a break with said leader, a confrontation which leaves our heroines in a pretty dark place.  Both must now accept their heritage in order to claim their birthrights to aid the cause of freedom.  I really look forward to where Manon’s journey takes her, although I can’t help wishing she’d had as much page space to develop her character as Aelin.

The increase in scope.  In Empire of Storms we learn just how long the confrontation between Team Terrasen and Erawan has been brewing and how much has already been sacrificed.  The potential cost of the war is also laid out, and I have even more love for Aelin now.  I can’t wait to see how it plays out in the final book.

Setup for final book.  I really liked loved Maas has set the pieces for the final book.  Each character is faced with a task or a role to play and each must perform to have a hope of defeating Erawan.  It’s clear that the cost will be high.  She has achieved a wonderful balance between bringing existing plotlines to fruition while leaving a great deal of possibilities.

The narration.  I picked up Empire of Storms in audiobook format specifically for Elizabeth Evans’ narration.  She brings exactly the right amount of sass to Aelin, and her Manon voice is pitch perfect, too.  I would recommend this format.

What I didn’t like

Some modern phrasings.  Occasionally, Maas will use some modern phrases in her writing, such as “haul ass.”  While this probably fits in well with our sassy, modern heroine, the style of the novel is still epic fantasy and such expressions really, really bugged me.  Each time they threw me out of the story.  You may not have the same experience.

The number of romantic pairings.  Please don’t misunderstand me.  I LOVED the individual pairings in the series.  They were beautifully developed, with each partner both giving and gaining something from the relationship.  What did frustrate me though was that almost every character seemed to be paired off in some way.  It came across as a little too neat for me.  Of course maybe the gods have put a perfect partner in each of their paths to make up for the hardships and pain they must endure!

Despite these minor quibbles I loved Empire of Storms and gave it five stars out of five.

Speculation on the sixth book

I liked that the story could still go in many different ways in this last book.  Maas could opt for a happy ending or it could be bittersweet.  In any case, I’m calling it now; Lysandra and Dorian won’t make it out alive :o(  The tasks ahead of them are simply too dangerous.  That is only my speculation though and I would be happy to be proven wrong. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas – Review was originally published on Canadian eReader

Good morning.  This is going to be a fairly brief roundup this week – I don’t have a great deal to talk about!

One book I finished this week was The Bronze Key, the third in Holly Black and Cassandra Clare’s Magisterium series.   The Magisterium series owes a lot to Harry Potter, set as it is in a magic school, following a protagonist linked to the Enemy of Death.  This third outing sees our heroes trying to identify a spy in their midst all while keeping secret Cal’s connection to Constantine Madden.  The Bronze Key is another solid outing in the series and I enjoyed it very much.  While it doesn’t have Rowling’s wit, charm or gorgeous worldbuilding, I do like the depth that Black and Clare have given to their characters.  It’s  series I will certainly follow to the end.

I gave The Bronze Key four stars out of five.

I’m currently reading Sarah J. Maas’ Empire of Storms, the fifth book in the Throne of Glass series and am loving it so far.  It’s funny to see on my GoodReads news feed how many of my GoodReads friends are currently reading this book!  Expect more thoughts when I finish it.

This week saw rumours that the great Dame Angela Lansbury (she of Murder, She Wrote and Mrs Potts in Beauty and the Beast) had joined the cast of Game of Thrones for season 7.  That could have been great – I could imagine some really wonderful scenes between her and Dame Diana Rigg.  However, the rumour was recently debunked.  Ah well.  Jim Broadbent does seem to be confirmed though – maybe someone from the Citadel?

Today was the unveiling of the latest iPhone and Apple Watch.  Other than watching Tim Cook do Carpool Karaoke, I wasn’t particularly excited about any of the news.  I’m perfectly happy with my iPhone 6.  The new wireless AirPods could have been cool until I saw they were priced at $219 CAD.  I’ll stick with my Bluetooth streamer for my hearing aids and my EarPods for when I’m in bed!

That’s all I have for today!   Have a good weekend.

 

Reading roundup – September 9th 2016 was originally published on Canadian eReader

I posted this a year ago. Still relevant. I think at this point I’d also add the revelation of Hodor’s backstory

Scottish Bookworm in Quebec

There are some critics who claim that fantasy literature is in some way a soft option; that in choosing to write in a more fantastical world, telling emotional character truths can take second place to worldbuilding. This post is my attempt to debunk that myth.  There have been several scenes in fantasy literature which had me bawling like a baby.  These aren’t necessarily death scenes, but simply beautiful writing illustrating the deep impact the situation has had on the character.

Olver’s story in A Memory of Light, the last book of the Wheel of Time.  This particular section was just so powerfully emotive.   For those of you unfamiliar, Olver is a young orphan ? around eight years old ? in the Wheel of Time universe who was adopted by Mat Cauthon and his warband.  Being brought up in a war camp, he exhibits a lot of his “uncle”’s enthusiasm…

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The Olympics Book Tag

Posted: September 6, 2016 in Miscellaneous
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Good morning.  This week I’m going to do something different.  Quite honestly, none of the books I’ve read over the last couple of weeks has inspired me enough to write a full book review for a post, so I’m going to do the Olympics book tag.  Thanks to RiverMoose Books for bringing it to my attention.

Ancient Greece:  the book that started it all for you.

As a child I was always reading.  Like many British kids I grew up with Enid Blyton – I loved the Famous Five, the Secret Seven and the St Clare’s boarding school series.  I’m not sure how well known they are in North America.  I can also remember at school on Friday afternoons it was story time and the teacher used to read the Three Investigators stories.  I loved those and read a lot more of them on my own.

The first book that I can remember being totally and utterly sucked into though was the classic Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.  I was around eleven at that time and I just couldn’t put that one down.  This has led to a lifelong love of fantasy literature.

Opening Ceremony: a series that you love that has a lot of excitement and fanfare surrounding it.

For this one I’m going to pick Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles.  This is such an awesome series and there is usually a lot of hype around a new release.  The books easily live up to the excitement though.  It does remind me of a regular discussion I had with my parents.  Every time I mentioned Harry Potter they’d react by saying “bah, it’s all hype.”  No matter how often I tried to convince them that the hype was well justified, it happened every time.  That is until I gave them a Kindle and access to my Kindle library and Dad actually started reading Potter…

Gymnastics: a book full of twists and flips.

My choice for this category is one that perhaps not many of you will have read yet.  I’m going to go with Caraval by Stephanie Garber.  I was lucky enough to get an Advanced Reader Copy at BEA this year and it’s definitely one of my top reads of 2016.  The world Garber has created is breathtaking and the ground is forever shifting from under our protagonist’s feet.  I really can’t wait til January when you all can read this and share your thoughts.

Wrestling: a book that you keep picking up and putting back down.

For me this has to be Red Rising and the rest of the popular trilogy by Pierce Brown.  I know, many people love this, but I have been unable to get into it despite a couple of attempts.  Sorry.

Track & Field: a book made up of a lot of parts.

It took me a little time to come up with an entry for this category.  In the end though I’m going to go with A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson.  For those of you unaware of the history, Robert Jordan sadly passed away before completing his Wheel of Time series and Sanderson was tapped to complete it.  As they say, “the story grew in the telling,” and at the time Sanderson picked up the baton, the series had a huge, unwieldy cast, massive scope, a shedful of prophesies to be fulfilled and a metric tonne of plotlines to be resolved.  It took him three books, but in the end Sanderson crafted an ending out of these parts worthy of its Creator. 

Weightlifting: a book you have trouble picking up due to its size.

OK, I have nothing for this one.  I’m a hardy reader – big books don’t scare me!

Archery: a book that missed the mark for you.

For this one I’m going to go with Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld, the Austen Project’s retelling of Pride and Prejudice.  From the initial preview I’d been cautiously optimistic.  Sadly though, the book itself didn’t measure up to my hopes.  While it had many positive aspects, I felt that Sittenfeld had not remained true to Austen’s much loved characters.  This led to my giving this book the lowest GoodReads rating of a book this year.

Badminton: a lesser-known but equally amazing read.

Here I’m going to pick The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson.  This novel focuses on the lives of the inhabitants of a small English village in the leadup to the First World War.  The social history is fascinating, the characters are interesting and very well written and the plotline is very touching. An excellent read.

Rowing: a book with an awesome team of characters.

In this category I’m going to nominate The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare.  This series has one of the most powerful love triangles I’ve ever read in YA, and the whole intricate relationship between Will, Tess and Jem is just so beautifully written.  And dang it, that ending to Clockwork Princess.  <sniff>

An honourable mention to The Lunar Chronicles for the awesome female characters and their teamwork.

Diving: a book that you easily jumped right into.

Court of Fives by Kate Elliott is the book that fits this category for me.  When I picked it up, I was in the middle of a really bad reading slump and the worldbuilding and the characters still drew me in immediately.  The sequel, The Poisoned Blade, is high up on my TBR.

Closing Ceremony: a book/series with a bittersweet ending

For me, you can’t get much more bittersweet than the ending of The Lord of the Rings.  The whole idea of Frodo’s having gone on that journey to save the Shire, but being so damaged by it that he cannot enjoy the peace he won with so much struggle is heartbreaking.  The whole scene at the Grey Havens where the Fellowship breaks for the final time gets me right in the feels each time.

This seems a good point to express my concern about the ending of A Song of Ice and Fire.  George R.R. Martin has gone on record to state that the ending he has planned is “bittersweet.”  Knowing Martin, that means I’ll need to buy at least 10 boxes of tissues before reading A Dream of Spring.

Let me know in the comments if you agree with my choices!

The Olympics Book Tag was originally published on Canadian eReader

Good morning!  I’ve a lot to cover in this post vacation/hospitalisation reading roundup, so let’s get on with it, shall we?

The first book I read was Kate Elliott’s Cold Fire, the second in her Spiritwalker trilogy, a young adult fantasy series.  I admit I really struggled with this book.  It is the middle book in the trilogy and I really felt that.  I liked the characters and the world and the dilemmas our protagonist had to navigate were interesting.  The whole answer a question with a question scenario was wonderfully done.  However, with no resolutions I still really had to force myself to complete this book, and I think it will be a while before I attempt book three.  I gave Cold Fire three stars out of five.

Hotel Valhalla Guide to the Norse Worlds by Rick Riordan pretty much does what it says on the tin.  It is a slim companion volume to Riordan’s Magnus Chase series based on Norse mythology and provides a succinct and witty guide to the Norse pantheon.  If you’re familiar with Riordan’s style, this is more of the same.  Personally I’m not as familiar with Norse mythology as say Greco-Roman so this was a very useful, very quick read.  Hotel Valhalla would be a great addition to your Riordon collection.  I gave it four stars out of five.

Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray is probably the favourite of my holiday reads. It’s the second in Gray’s Firebird young adult fantasy series involving alternate dimensions.  Book two involves our protagonist, Marguerite, on a hunt across the dimensions to rescue fragments of her boyfriend’s soul, all while avoiding the traps of the evil Triad corporation. I’ve read quite a few books by Ms Gray now, and this one really confirms for me Gray as a very strong, solid storyteller.  The concept, worldbuilding, characters and pacing were all first class.  I listened to Ten Thousand Skies Above You in audiobook format, which was perfectly narrated by Tavia Gilbert.  I am very much looking forward to the conclusion of this series in November, especially given the cliffhanger.  I gave Ten Thousand Skies Above You five stars out of five. 

Currently, I’m listening to Hunted, the sixth book in Kevin Hearn’s Iron Druid series, following druid Atticus O’Sullivan and his hound Oberon as they navigate the modern age and the mixed pantheons of our world.  These books are a heck of a lot of fun, and I always choose to listen to them in audiobook format thanks to Luke Daniels’ excellent narration.  You know a book is good when the author describes a meal – or in this case Oberon’s unfiltered enthusiasm for ribs – and you just have to go out and order some.  I’ve not yet finished the book, so not yet rated it but I am anticipating a high rating.

The final book I read on vacation – I’ve not quite finished it yet – is Ben Winters’ Underground Airlines, an alternative history novel in which slavery still exists In some states in the modern US.  It follows a black bounty hunter searching for an escaped slave.  So far I’m really enjoying this.  I grew up a white woman in small town Scotland, so racial tensions are not something that were really familiar to me.  I’m listening to the book in audiobook format, narrated by William DeMeritt and the audio format works really well for the story.  I look forward to continuing it.  

Upcoming releases in September

As usual, September is a pretty hectic month in terms of book releases.  Here are the ones about which I’m most excited.

Empire of Storms by Sarah J Maas.  This is the fifth novel in the Throne of Glass series and it my most anticipated release of September.  Throne of Glass is a young adult fantasy series and it is so, so good.  It’s interesting; I’ve really not seen a great deal of publicity/spoilers/reviews for this so far.  I guess at this point the series stands up on its own.  I’m certainly looking forward to getting my hands on it.  Empire of Storms is released on September 6th.

Next up, we have The Swan Riders by Erin Bow.  This is the sequel to The Scorpion Rules, which I very much enjoyed.  The ending to book one was a real game changer, so I am excited to see how things develop in book two.  The Swan Riders is available for purchase from September 20th.

Scott Lynch’s continuation in his Gentlemen Bastards series, the Thorn of Emberlain, was scheduled for release on September 21st, but I read that it has been postponed to a 2017 release date.  I’ll admit I’m not too surprised. There had been no marketing or any other news in the last few weeks and the date has been postponed several times already.  I am disappointed – these are very very good stories – but I’m OK to wait if that’s what Mr Lynch needs to prepare the release properly.  I look forward to reading it next year.

On September 27th we have the release of Like a River Glorious, the second book in Rae Carson’s Gold Seer trilogy.  This is a young adult historical novel (with a dash of fantasy) set in the gold rush era.  The first book was excellent and I am very excited to read book two.  

Also on September 27th we can pick up Leigh Bardugo’s The Crooked Kingdom, her sequel to Six of Crows.  I really love the world Bardugo has created and the characters who inhabit it, so I’m highly anticipating this release.  I got a small sampler at BEA this year, but I’m waiting until I can read the whole thing.

That’s about all I have for this week.  Let me know in the comments which of these releases you’re most excited for.

Reading roundup – September 2nd 2016 was originally published on Canadian eReader