What I’m Reading Wednesday – 1st November.

Lately I’ve been a little uninspired with blogging, so I’ve decided to do a What I’m Reading series. This is a brief update on me as a reader, and I’d love if you guys answered it with me.

1: What have you finished reading.

2: What are you currently reading.

3: What will you read next.


1: What have you finished reading?

The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman – review coming soon!

The Good People by Hannah Kent – review also coming soon!

2: What are you currently reading?

Burial Rights by Hannah Kent

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Currently really enjoying it. I’ve never read a book set in Iceland before, and I’m loving finding out about different cultures and worlds.

3: What will you read next?

Anno Dracula – One Thousand Monsters by Kim Newman. (One of my favourite series and I can’t wait to read this on holiday)

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (I’m seeing Hamilton in April next year, so I want to clue myself up as much as I can before then)

 

Happy Hump Day everyone ♥

-Alice

 

Our Dark Duet by V.E Schwab – Book Review.

Title: Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity Book 2)

Author: V.E. Schwab

Rating: 3/5

Fantasy: Urban Fantasy, Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult, Fiction, Adventure, Teen Fiction


Last year, I got the chance to review the wonderful kick off of the Monsters of Verity series, This Savage Song on my blog, and I loved it!

So when Titan Books sent me the sequel and conclusion to this series (without even requesting it, so a huge thank you to Titan Books for keeping me in mind), I was thrilled. Obviously, I had to do a reread of the first book, and I fell back in love with the world that Schwab created, along with the badass characters that she wrote about.

Without giving too much away, Our Dark Duet is set six months after the big climatic end of This Savage Song, and the world of Verity is thrown into chaos. With the monster issue really becoming a problem, and war between human and creature becoming an inevitable reality, we follow as our protagonists battle to save their cities along with themselves. August has become the leader he never really wanted to be, and Kate has become the hunter she always knew she could become. But when a new monster comes into a fold – a monster that seems unstoppable, uncatchable but reaping devasting power, Kate and August are thrown together again in a battle that will determine the real winners. Lives will be lost, blood will be spilled and sacrifices will be made9781785652769.

Our Dark Duet shows real character growth, as both August and Kate have to deal with relationship issues from newcomers, along with having to confront demon’s from their past. Schwab has maintained this easy flow of writing that I commented upon in the first book, and she has once again made the story very readable and addictive from the first page.

With a new monster coming into the fold, this gave the novel a much-needed kick that I was hoping it would have. This Savage Song did leave the story
off with a good cliffhanger, but I didn’t think it would be enough for the entire book to be based around, as I felt it would’ve weakened the storytelling. So to have a brand new nemesis mixing with the older ones became very effective.

However, I do have some criticisms about this novel. I felt the solution to the new monster’s death was a bit rushed and didn’t feel as strong as it could’ve been, along with the speed of the final battle. There were also character’s who seemed relatively important at first, and then really disappear without a trace. Having them come back into the narrative would’ve been a cool little reminder for me.

But this was a good conclusion for the Monsters of Verity series. I’m definitely going to be looking out for more from this author.

Our Dark Duet is out on the 13th June – preorder now.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert – Book Review.

Title: Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Author: Elizabeth Gilbert

Rating: 3/5

Genre: Self-Help, Mind, Body and Spirit, Healthy Living


 

I must confess I’m not one for traditional self-help books. I’ve also considered these sorts of books to be mantra-chanting-full-of-pity accounts, and never picked one up to read. However, when Bloomsbury sent me Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert to review, I was intrigued by the front cover, and subtitle of ‘Creative Living Beyond Fear’.

As an English Masters student and budding writer, I knew how challenging living creatively could be, and as an author who stayed on the New York Bestsellers List for 3 years, I felt she could be somebody to look up too.

So I picked up this book without any knowledge or expectations of whether it would help, me but I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised.

Big Magic follows Gilbert’s own creative processes, and from that, she imparts her wisdom/tips and tricks in order to get people think and living creatively. She offers insights into the writing process, inspiration, making new ways of work, embarking on dreams or just adding a little bit of mindfulness and passion into our everyday lives, whilst never feeling too lecture-y or self-pitying. img_3534

The book is split into six sections, which lead naturally into each other, and really are enjoyable reads.  Gilbert’s writing style is fluid, natural and remarkably unpretentious for a NYT Best Selling Author, and she seems to take on the world with wonder and majesty. She is aware that her own successes are amazing, yet she comments mainly on the joy of writing. The author also divulges the reader into her own backstory and upbringing, but doesn’t separate that from her message of living in a magical and creative way.

One thing I love about this book is her theory about ideas as sort of visceral beings that chose owners and you have to work with it. This really spoke to me, and I found myself taking real note from this book.

There has been some critics of this book, and it is true, it wouldn’t have been published if it wasn’t for the soaraway success of Eat, Pray, Love, but I personally don’t care about this.

I found this book to be a interesting read that helped me structure and subtly change my views on creativity. Whether or not I change my writing style or how I write, is a separate matter, but all in all I found this book to be a light, whimsical read that will, above all things, make you want to take up a pen, paintbrush or video camera and get creative.

 

Big Magic is available now through Bloomsbury Publishing House

 

 

The Many by Wyl Menmuir – Book Review

Title: The Many

Author: Wyl Menmuir

Rating: 4/5

Fantasy: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Science Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Paranormal, Ghostly


As part of my job, I’m very lucky that I can go and interview authors and people of note. So when I was put onto contacting and reading The Many by Wyl Menmuir, I was not only excited to have some new reading material, but intrigued that this small publication (independently pushed and just over 130 pages long) has been long-listed for the prestigious Man Booker Prize.

So I picked up a copy from my local bookshop, and set about reading. It took me just over an hour to devour it, and I’m pleased to say I was hooked. The Many is worthy of the nomination, as the story is brilliantly woven, expertly told and with different voices and with a satisfying ending that will both leave questions unsolved, yet the reader entirely sated.

9781784630485_grandeSet in an unnamed fishing community on the North Cornish coast, the novel focuses around a new arrival to a very close-knit and closeted community. On paper, Timothy Bucchanan’s move from London to the village makes perfect sense. However, the narrative dives into a world that is completely isolated, mysterious and unfriendly to newcomers. With the ghost of a man that still holds sway over the locals, wasted fish being hauled from a contaminated sea, and unsettling dreams, Timothy soon gets swept up in village life, and with thousands of questions going unanswered, Timothy decides secrets must be unveiled, and the past has to be dug up.

The Many is rare in how it spans and encapulates different literary genres. With biological warfare and contaminated seas signalling science fiction, a world that is cut off and completely isolated being something out of dystopian literature, a murder mystery that has yet to be solved, and a touch of fantasy blending alongside magical realism, this novel feels a lot bigger than it physically is. Menmuir has given the readers enough of the characters to be interested by them, but not bog them down with unneccessary backstories. The figure of Perran, a character who died years before the narrative is set, is like a ghostly figure over the village, and his influence and story is hidden within plain sight. He is never properly physically described, nor do we properly hear him speak (apart from within flashback sequences) yet despite being dead, he is so present within the village conscious.

Timothy arrives at this village with his own issues. He has hopes and dreams of settling down and moving his wife away from the London rat-race, and in touching passages he can imagine himself through different social scenerios. However, this doesn’t happen. And Timothy is left constantly on the outside, yet being the most talked about man in the village.

The village dynamic is also very well written about. As I live on the Cornish coast, I know that there can be some animosity towards newcomers, yet this village certainly runs with it, and brings a Wickerman-esque feel to the narrative.

The novel has some interesting dream sequences, and moments of surrealism/magical realism, which reminds me of the writing styles of Alan Garner and Gabriel García Márquez. These sequences do have to be taken a face value, and towards the end of the novel, the world of the village and probably even Timothy’s own mental state does get a bit fractured, which just adds to the dynamic of the novel.

All in all, a great piece of literature. I’d thoroughly recommend it if you want to try a good read that will stick with you, yet isn’t too physically big.

The Many is out now!

Click here to buy the book.

Authors Website

Authors Twitter

A Girl Called Alice by Christina Henry (Essay) – The Nightmareland Blog Book Tour

(Below is an essay written for the Nightmareland Book Blog Tour by Christina Henry for the promotion of her Alice and The Red Queen books. Big thank you to Christina for allowing me to be involved in this unique idea, and all those at Titan Books. Enjoy!)

A GIRL CALLED ALICE by CHRISTINA HENRY

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass is a tale beloved by millions, so embedded in our cultural memory that nearly everyone can conjure up an image of Alice – from the original story, a film remake, a game or one of many re-imaginings done by assorted authors through the years.

Alice has taken on the quality of myth, a character no longer bound to her creator or origin story but a modern-day legend open to interpretation like those other contemporary fairy tale figures from Neverland and Oz.

Many people have never read the original Alice but feel as though they have, because so many qualities about the Alice story have entered our shared lexicon – falling into a rabbit hole, for instance, is a phrase that’s taken on a meaning and life of its own quite apart from the original story.

And images from the story – the disappearing Cheshire Cat who leaves his smile behind, the Mad Hatter and the tea party – have become a kind of shorthand, s
hared experiences that make us feel like we’ve all been part of Wonderland for a very long time.

I asked my son why everyone loves Alice, and he immediately answered, “Because there’s adventure. And magic.” I think these are exactly the two qualities that attract children and adults to this story time and again.

There is something enchanting about a world that you can fall into, where there is adventure but somehow never any real danger (despite all of the Red Queen’s blustering about taking off Alice’s head I never worried, as a child, that such a thing would actually happen), and where magical things occur with matter-of-fact regularity.

Then there is Alice herself. She’s very pragmatic throughout the story, in a way that makes everything else real. The famous quote about believing six impossible things before breakfast was actually said by the White Queen in response to Alice’s remark that “one can’t believe impossible things.”

This is fairly astonishing given that Alice has already seen and done more impossible things than most people, but it’s her clear eyes that make her such an attractive character. Alice is very firmly rooted, and that fact roots the story as well. When a fantastic world has this kind of steady grounding it’s easy to believe in talking caterpillars and disappearing cats.

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Tour dates and relevant blogs to visit!

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo – Book Review.

Title: Shadow and Bone

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Rating: 3/5

Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult, Adventure, Teenage Fiction


“This was his soul-made flesh, the truth of him laid bare in the blazing sun, shorn of mystery and shadow. This was the truth behind the handsome face and the miraculous powers, the truth that was the dead and empty space between the stars, a wasteland peopled by frightened monsters.”

As an avid reader, I picked up Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone, and thought it just to be another teenage fantasy novel that has drawn me in with the beautiful front cover and promising blurb, yet could not deliver on the promises it made. However, little did I know, that it would also appeal to my historian side. Because, not only is this a well-written, addictive and well-thought out novel, but it is based on my favourite period on history, which is late Tsarist Russia. So, instantly I had to devour it. And I am so pleased that I did.

Set primarily in the once-great nation of Ravka, the reader gets drawn into the turmoil and horror that is plaguing the country. Despite its size, mountainous regions, legends, and historical cities, the country has been ravaged and divided in two by a virtually impenetrable wall of darkness, known as ‘The Fold’. And hiding within this division, there are flesh-eating creatures feast on whomever is desperate enough to attempt to cross. The Fold has brought untold damage to the world outside of it, as it completely isolates either side of the country, and keeps the Ravkans from different and crucial regions. However, there are still forces who want to discover the secret of the Fold, control it and make crossings easier. And this is primarily made up of the Grisha, who are Masters of the Small Sciences – a form of magic –  and an elite of soldiers who have talents to control the elements, and guard the country and monarchy. And within this world, the novels follows the stories of two orphans, Alina and Mal, and how even the most unextraordinary people can turn out to be extraordinary, save a country defeat and conquer evil.

In Shadow and Bone, the reader is introduced to Alina and Mal as orphan friends who grew up together, and have both enlisted into the army. And, unsurprisingly, one of their first missions is to cross The Fold. But when this mission goes horribly wrong, Alina is revealed to not just be the ordinary girl she thinks she is, but a Grisha of extraordinary power and legendary talent. She is a Sun Summoner, and may just be the key to destroy the darkness of the Fold, and rescue Ravka from ruin. So, Alina is moved from the hard graft of the army and into the royal court to be trained as a Grisha, and she is under the control of the mysterious Darkling – a Grisha of equal power and ambition. During her training, Alina learns all about amplifiers – magical emblems that boost the Grisha powers – and she falls more under the thrall of the Darkling, and away from her old life as the orphan.But not all is as it appears in the court, and Alina has to decision to make that could either save the country she lives in, or save the people she loves.

Now, I have read the whole trilogy, and I loved them all, but it is very difficult to write a review on all of them without giving away too many spoilers. But Shadow and Bone was definitely one of my favourites. I believe that this could really be a stand-alone book, as it does end with a satisfying enough conclusion to make you think that it didn’t necessarily need to continue, but I’m very glad it did. The plot of Shadow and Bone was intriguing and had enough twists and turns to make it a good YA novel, and the world-building of Ravka was more than enough to keep me interested. As a Tsarist Russia historian, I have enough knowledge to know where some of the places were based on, and what characters were clearly based on which historical figures, which was a massive point-score in my book. But even if you didn’t know anything, it would diminish the story at all.

The world of the Grisha was a good take on the ‘guild of magicians’ that is sometimes used as overkill in YA novels nowadays. As a fighting force, they did seem fairly competent, and I did like how they were their own entity in a way. They didn’t necessarily follow the monarchy despite being under their control, and in the story it was shown that in different countries, Grisha weren’t respected as they are in Ravka, and even killed for being a commodity, rather than a person, which I found to be highly interesting. Also, with the use of the Fold, and the creatures that lurked within, Bardugo did have a good use of tension, and made you as the reader really get a sense of the terror that was felt, and how desperate the whole situation was.

But one thing I didn’t like was Alina. Which isn’t good considering she is the protagonist. Alina, to me, seemed to be too much of a drip, too indecisive, weak, a bit too whiny, and just not able to wield the power that she is born with. Now, I know that she is an orphan, and completely thrown into the deep end as she discovers her powers, but she just wasn’t the female role-model that should have been used. Let’s just say that she was not up to the same levels of Katniss and Hermione. Also what irked me was the love triangle. Love triangles can sometimes really work in YA, but it has to be done as a sideplot to the main story, and not take over the whole story, and make the conclusion depend on it. But, on a sidenote, within the love triangle, Bardugo did write passion quite well, especially with the Darkling. But apart from with the Darkling, the characters just felt a bit flat. The Darkling was an interesting figure as he had quite a lot of sides, and you weren’t really sure which one was his real side, and whether everything else was false. But, unfortunately with Mal and Alina, I just didn’t get on with them. In a writing sense, this was fairly well-written, and definitely showed promise for Bardugo to develop as a writer. There were some sloppy parts, but for a debut novel I thought it was gripping and moreish.

For a YA novel, it was well-done in world-building, in the plot line, and in the whole good-versus-evil thing. I’d recommend it and as an owner of the rest of the trilogy, I can say that when newer characters get introduced, everything gets a bit more interesting.

The rest of the trilogy is out to buy now!

Links:

To buy this book – Waterstones/Amazon

Author’s Website – Click Here