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Reviews from the Realm of Magic

Magic StudyFire Study

Magic Study and Fire Study  by Maria V. Snyder

Series: Study #2 & #3

Genre: Fantasy, Magic, Romance, Young-Adult

Published: October 1st 2006 and January 16th 2009 by Mira Books

*mild spoilers for book one, Poison Study.

A Brief Summary of the Magic Stories

Once upon a time, lived a girl named Yelena Zaltana. Well… actually you might just know her as Yelena and she found out that she had magic, so she must flee her home and the one she loved.

She went on a journey of self-discovery battling the villains and other magicians that tried to stop her whilst she developed her magic and grew as a person. She made some new friends, kept some old friends, made some enemies. She also met her family and began to develop her past identity whilst trying to balance the old and the new in her life of magic and non-magic worlds.

During all this, her fabulous man-candy appeared in her life at frequent intervals to seduce her and spice up the story with some swoony romance. Through all of this she found a trusty steed that called her Lavender Lady and made the story oodles of fun.

There were lots of twists and turns, fun and emotional moments that brought a little tear to the eye. The stories kept you turning the pages with the multiple plots and tonnes of action.

Finally, Yelena realizes she is super-awesome all on her own, but she does need the help, support and guidance of others and she becomes less frustrating so you don’t want to bash her head against the wall and we get an interesting happily ever after.

The Review

Magic Study and Fire Study retained lots of the fun and enjoyable elements that made me fall head over heels in love with Poison Study and I think they make a good series together. I’m breaking it down into some elements to summarise the progression of specific elements.

Yelena

Yelena was a character that wormed her way easily into my heart in Poison Study and she still retained the fire and tenacity that she held when we first met her. However I feel that at times she was a little head-strong and that she just threw herself into things which annoyed me, but that was her character and you had to appreciate her stubbornness and loyalty. She was still the smart and defiant Yelena who fought for what she believed in.

Although I did feel that at a couple of moments she wasn’t quite as witty as she had been previously and smart. She seemed like she’d lost a few brain cells when she didn’t get everything that was going off, but in her defence she was being dragged all over the place to make things exciting so she couldn’t do everything.

Valek

Is it quite manageable to fall in love with this man even more? Something about him with his secret allure and charm that slipped and slide through these two stories as more elusive got me all excited about Valek’s character. My only problem was we didn’t see nearly enough of him and I don’t think as an individual character we saw enough of his personality. He seemed to become Yelena’s love interest rather than an individual that we had gotten to know in the previous novel.

Although Snyder did give me a scare when I briefly thought Valek would be replaced as love interest for another. However fear nor, no love triangle develops nor does Valek disappear. He is very much around for the cute, swoony moments that maintains the magic for their relationship throughout both books!

Two steps and I was wrapped in his arms.

“That’s the best welcome I’ve had all day.”

World Building

I think it’s safe to say that Snyder immerses you in the world of magic and magicians along with the clans whether they were Zaltana or Sandseed or one of the many others. She delves into the politics of Ixia and Sitia and the tensions between the two.

We learn to understand the history of magic, not nearly enough for my own thirst for knowledge, but enough that you really start to understand the dynamics of the world.

Fantasy is a genre that really depends upon believing the world and understanding it, and I could picture every grain of strand, every jungle vine that Snyder depicted and this made the journey so much more enjoyable.

The Secondary Characters

Wow. Snyder excelled on all fronts here. This is what totally sells me her novels. Not only do we draw in everyone we met in the first novel, but in these two we meet a whole new cast of characters. She really built up a world of characters and individuals that moulded so many different elements to this story from the magicians to simple street beggar children who become friends of Yelena or the soldiers.

Snyder also managed to build up Yelena’s family and we developed some real relationships of her past that we hadn’t seen before. Things were certainly rocky and full of ups and downs, but I think that reflects a true family dynamic and how nothing is smooth and perfect. Her brother, Leif was certainly an interesting character of multi-dimensions and I had lots of changing emotions which I really liked.

Lief pretended to be shocked. “But our fearless leader. You have it all planned out. Right?”

I shrugged. “I’m going to take a long hot bath. How’s that?”

Overall, everybody in this novel had a story and a time to shine in the plot and I really liked how Snyder managed to interweave them all. If you like secondary characters, Snyder really excels here!

Ari and Janco

Ari and Janco are still present as my two favourite characters from Poison Study with their camaraderie. I’m sooo glad to see that Snyder brought this two back to be present in both books because I don’t think it would be quite the same without them. They brought humour to the books that could lighten up the more intense and action filled moments to just draw you back down to earth.

“Janco,” Ari warned. “We’re not supposed to be fraternising with the Sitians.”

“But she’s not Sitian. Right, Yelena? You haven’t gone south on us, have you?” Janco’s voice held mock horror.

Moon Man

He brought lots of cryptic wisdom, fun, adventure and emotional moments. Moon Man reminded me a lot of Finnick from The Hunger Games who weaselled his way into my heart entirely too easy as well. He had an aura about him that was hard not to like and from the moment of his first introductions, despite lots of ambiguous characters to whether they were truly good or not, the vibe from him was full of fun and mystery.

Not only that but he helped Yelena and strengthened her character growth and I liked how Snyder used him to do that as well as interlinking the clans and the plot lines that really helped the two novels to flourish.

I studied his colored skin. “Why indigo?”

A slow grin spread over his lips. “A cooling color to help soothe the fire between you and your brother.”

Then, a sheepish look. “It is my favourite.”

Kiki

Kiki is Yelena’s horse. This sounds entirely bizarre, but I think animals if used well are increasingly fantastic characters that authors can make use of. Buckbeak, Nero, Burru to name a few. She has intelligence and insight that the characters don’t and I liked her ability to rebuke Yelena when others couldn’t.

I also loved her nicknames for everybody which represented their identity of personality really by the smell and I think in most cases they fitted really well.

Yes. I’m sorry to take you out on such a horrible day, I said.

Not bad with Lavender Lady. Lavender Lady was the name the horses had given me. They named the people around them just like we would name a pet.

Villains

I’m never really sure how you can assess a villain. In terms of evilness, cruelty, ingenuity. They tend to be slippery characters that are hard to define and Magic Study and Fire Study are filled galore with them. Snyder gets a real mix of rather irrelevant villains that you can skip without much consequence and real two-faced characters and mysterious enemies that creates lots of plot twists and excitements in her novel.

I think the balance of villains done bad and villains done good makes the two novels work really well. I felt the villain in Magic Study was a lot stronger, the plot unravelled more in Fire Study to undermine it and make it a little more predictable in an element that I just knew it had to be that from the start. However, I don’t think it’s entirely obvious, but Snyder drops some fairly big hints throughout the novel looking back that makes it hard for you to ignore.

Overall, she creates some wicked villains and lots of bombshells with characters chopping and changing sides to show that human nature really isn’t set straight.

Favourite Moment

Undoubtedly Snyder packs the novels full of adventure and action which makes it so easy to like them when you can constantly turn a page and find something new happening. I find that I prefer novels with lots of action that transport me to an entire new world rather than something slow and thought-provoking. However one of my favourite moments from the two books was more humorous moments that captures Snyder’s sense of humour that appealed to much to me.

I spotted my mother’s green cloak near the top. I called to Perl, telling her I was fine. “You can come down now,” I said.

“Yelena! Thank fate! come up here where it’s safe,” she said.

Overall

Honestly, I thought these two held great strengths that made them enjoyable, but they didn’t shine as much as the original book, Poison Study. I felt that Magic Study held the edge over Fire Study too and that this series weakened a little by the end. I just felt Fire Study was a little more predictable and rushed than the other two. Still, that does not take away that I would happily label this as one of my favourite fantasy series and recommend it to everybody out there because there is something a little special about Yelena Zaltana and this series. I  cannot wait to get my hands on more Snyder books as she’s undoubtedly one of my favourite authors now!

Magic Study: ~ 4 / 5 Books ~

Fire Study: ~ 3.5 / 5 Books ~

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Filed under 2006 Publication, 2009 Publication, 3.5 Books, 4 Books, Fantasy, Magic, Maria V. Snyder, Mira Books, Paperback, Romance, Young Adult

Helen of Troy

Helen of Troy

Helen of Troy by Margaret George

Genre: Historical-fiction, Romance, Adult, DNF

Published: 2007 by Pan Publishing

The Plot

Daughter of a god, wife of a king, prize of antiquitys bloodiest war, Helen of Troy has inspired artists for millennia. Now Margaret George, the highly acclaimed bestselling historical novelist, has turned her intelligent, perceptive eye to the myth that is Helen of Troy.

Margaret George breathes new life into the great Homeric tale by having Helen narrate her own story. Through her eyes and in her voice, we experience the young Helens discovery of her divine origin and her terrifying beauty. While hardly more than a girl, Helen married the remote Spartan king Menelaus and bore him a daughter. By the age of twenty, the worlds most beautiful woman was resigned to a passionless marriage until she encountered the handsome Trojan prince Paris. And once the lovers flee to Troy, war, murder, and tragedy become inevitable.

In Helen of Troy, Margaret George has captured a timeless legend in a mesmerizing tale of a woman whose life was destined to create strife and destroy civilizations.

The Review

Before we begin you may have noted I marked this book at DNF, but it stands at a crazy 700 pages and I have yet to finish such an epically long book. I am cursed, cursed I tell you. So I was trying to break it with this book and I made it past 400 pages. Unfortunately, Christmas, exams and lots of other things got in the way and I ran out of steam as well as renewal times for a library loaned book. So I can’t tell you whether I didn’t finish this one because I didn’t enjoy it because I did or if I’m lazy with big books or I just seem to have this fear of their sheer size and I cannot fathom how to finish such a book. Still, I must say Helen of Troy is not a book to dismiss just because I did not finish it.

Honestly, I don’t read that much historical-fiction for an avid history lover. I soak up all the facts and the figures and just revel in the world of the past, but I’m always a little wary of historical fiction and I just couldn’t tell you why… Maybe because I fear it will not capture the world or I just won’t get honest facts. However, Helen of Troy is about a world that may or may not have existed.  It’s about a woman who has been part of Greek legends for centuries and who is the claimed daughter of a God. So much of this ‘historical-fiction’ relies on Fantasy. There is evidence today that the sight of Troy that can be found in northwest Turkey in a place called Anatolia. Still, this is not certified exactly, which is what makes this story so fascinating and gives George a huge artistic license.

I enjoyed how George slowly drew us into the world of Greece and Sparta and Troy. I loved how she revealed the characters slowly and built upon them giving them fleshed out foundations and characteristics that made them real. I adored how the developed and changed over the storyline and they evoked anger and sadness and frustration in me. Truly, the characters of Helen and Menelaus particularly came to life. Honestly I felt like Paris is a naive, silly boy who is too weak to truly fight and understand the world and this is where I began to abhor Helen for her decisions.

I am sure you all know the story of Helen of Troy in how she ran away with Paris, the Trojan prince which led to the Spartans waging war on her. George takes lots of time to unravel the story in Sparta and Helen as a child and uncovering her true heritage. I liked this touch and the links we got to her father and Zeus because they really added to the tale. I even enjoyed the journey over to Troy. Nevertheless this story had to fall flat somewhere, it is when we reach Troy and she seems to be searching for time to fill the space. I never reached the huge, colossal battle that destroys a civilization, the great Achilles and all over a woman. NEVER did I reach that in OVER 400 pages. George didn’t leave us action less, but I felt like it was dragging too much to actually reach the battle which is where my interest lost.

In some ways I wish I had preserved because I feel the battle would have again stole my attention because George wrote in a fabulous detail that managed to encapsulate every essence of Ancient Greece but stopped before you became lost in every tiny detail.

Helen of Troy is far from being a bad book, I think George takes an inventive, new approach to the tale of the famed Helen of Troy who know felt like a real person and not some absolutely stunning woman on a pedestal that has been famed. She had thoughts and feelings and she wasn’t entirely stupid. I liked Helen for most of the story until she ran off for Troy. For that, I find it hard to forgive her. However George creates a story that gives a reason and adds flavour to the previously rather vague story of Helen of Troy. I think that if George had cut the story 200, even 100 pages shorter she would have managed to keep the story with a much tighter narrative and not lost us in the mundanely-ness and politics of Troy that first occur when Helen enters which I felt too much time was spent on.

So, despite not finishing Helen of Troy for those mythology lovers and those much more ready and with much more spare time ready to take on a 700 page novel, I utterly recommend Helen of Troy. For those, like me, cursed never to finish such a long book, I’d say maybe try an audio of this book or just skip it and wallow in annoyance that you cannot finish a darn book beyond 600 pages.

~ 2.5 / 5 Books ~

Nerd Fact

The Trojan War is depicted in the Iliad written by Homer which was written quite a while after the events and is unknown whether to be truthful or largely fiction.

Heinrich Schliemann is the German man who claimed his fame in finding Troy, but in actual fact the city remains he uncovered were not Troy and whilst the place in Anatolia, Turkey, is where the city is. It was actual several layers of earth below this in which more city remains were found which are now believed to be Troy.

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Filed under 2.5 Books, 2007 Publication, Adult, DNF, Historical Fiction, Margaret George, Pan Publishing, Paperback, Romance

Blood Red Road

Blood Red Road

Blood Red Road by Moria Young

Series: Dust Lands #1

Genre: Dystopia, Young-Adult, Romance

Published: June 2nd 2011 by Scholastic

The Plot.

“I ain’t afeared of nuthin.”

When Saba’s brother is stolen, red rage fills her soul.

She races across the cruel dustlands to find him.

Saba can trust no one. Even the boy who saves her life.

She must silence her heart to survive.

Blood will spill.

The Review.

Blood Red Road is a novel I have seen everywhere! It seems to just keep popping up in the world of YA books and blogging alike and when I saw a copy in my library I just knew I had to get my hands on it. It didn’t disappoint me, although it was entirely not what I expected. I’m not sure what I thought would happen going into the novel but it blew me away on a whirlwind of different, rather brutal scenes that kept a fast-paced, emotional and exciting plot. It touched on friendship, family, trust and a destruction in the world that is the undertone for most dystopia/post-apocalyptic novels.

Firstly I’m going to start with the most distinctive part of Blood Red Road and that being the writing style. I have read a few reviews that rant about grammatical correctness and the language being hard to get into and unreadable, but frankly I adored it. Now I realise it won’t be for everyone, but I immediately fell into the character and style of Saba and it only enabled me to connect so much more to her as a character. I found that it distinguished the novel into a unique light that makes it different from other dystopia novels of its age and I like Young’s daring to step outside the boundaries of grammatically correct fiction because whilst I always appreciate a well-written novel, Blood Red Road brought with it rough edges that really reflected the brutality of the world. Another element to why I enjoyed the language so much is because it reminded me of something rather archaic and old world that I loved. The interesting concept to wrap your mind around is the lack of differentiation between speech and Saba’s thoughts, but it quickly becomes easy to pick up and fall into reading.

It was all set in the stars the moment the world began. The time of yer birthin, the time of yer death. Even what kinda person yer gonna be, good or bad.”

Young brings you in rather steadily I felt to this language style because the further the novel develops, the more Saba seems to slip into the “yer” and “kinda” that truly encapsulate her character. Moving on to Saba’s character she annoyed the hell out of me, she was stubborn, ungrateful and refused to believe she could be wrong, but in a way she reminded me of myself in the fact that I can’t be wrong and I think that’s what made her relatable; her faults. I don’t want to read about a perfect character and she certainly wasn’t, but she developed with her band of friends and family that she acquired (the friends, not the family) over the novel and seeing her character change before you eyes, especially when the novel was narrated through her eyes was really enlightening. I also liked that she was tough and feisty because she wasn’t prepared to let other people fight her battles and whilst this at times could be a flaw to her desire to conquer the world on her own, I did love her for it. Saba has to be one of my favourite heroines because she was smart, feisty, full of faults, but at the heart of her she cared and that was what pushed her forward.

My choice of next character is a crow, Nero. Not just any crow. I have never quite found myself enamoured with a crow and when I see them flying and swooping about their send shivers down my spine with their circling and caws. However Nero was a crow that crept into my heart in his smart behaviour and his loyalty to Saba. The dynamic of their relationship was interesting and I never thought Young would be able to develop a crow in such a manner that he could be almost like a person. He is an integral part to the novel and as such, he appears on the cover I have. I rather like the simplicity and effectiveness of this cover with the stark black of Nero and the red blood splatter that covers the words with the road in yellow to symbolise the dustlands. It’s incredibly effective in portraying the novel.

The next character I’m going to look at is Jack… It took me a while to get my head around this boy and like Saba I was wary. I felt at every moment he was going to break my heart in some way and he was exceedingly complicated. And the fact that I didn’t like his character to start with, or how he treated Saba. I thought he was unfair and he behaved in a way that he had no right to, but then when you really looked, he helped her and I liked that my opinion of him changed by the end of the novel. I could appreciate him as a sexy love interest and a brooding hero, but he didn’t capture my heart. I followed the rather torturous romance between these two and watched it break my heart and I wanted to shake them both, but I didn’t feel invested in loving Jack like I have done with so many previous love interests. There was just something about his character that didn’t settle with me.

“Jack’s voice comes from behind me, makes me jump.

He ain’t got a chance when you smile at him like that.

I turn around. He’s closer’n I thought. My stupid heart skips a beat. He leans against the wall with his hands in his pockets.

The plethora of secondary characters really build to the novel and develop Saba as a character because of her multiple settings she picks up new people along the way. Across all of this, I like how Young builds up the character basis gradually and she doesn’t bombard us with them all at the start. In fact we start with very few characters with Lugh, Emmi, Saba and their father. By the end we have many, many characters we have met from Proctor John, Mercy, Ash, Epona, Helen, Mrs Pinch, Ike, Tommo, DeMalo and just keeps on going and I loved the layers that Young added to the novel with all these characters. And she doesn’t leave us without a little bit of heartbreak, so I warn you, tissues may be needed because indeed Blood Red Road is plenty bloody!

The biggest problem I probably have with Blood Red Road is the lack of knowledge about the world. Why is it in this state? What happened? Why is everything dustlands? Why is the mystery? Since this is only the first novel in what I believe to be a trilogy, I hope Young will go on to answer my questions that give actual depth to the setting of Blood Red Road. However, I think for a first novel she has sufficiently  set the environment and has got me hooked enough that I am dying to get my hands on the next book in the series!

Overall, I really enjoyed the novel and found that I’ll be eager to get my hands on a copy. I’ll be interested to see more of Lugh, the twin brother that Saba definitely placed on a pedestal in this novel because obviously he occurred very little in this one and I’ll be looking out for the development between Saba and Jack. I think Young has a fantastic idea going and I’m excited to read more from her in her unique style and bravery to not shy away from brutality of the world.

4 books

Extra Nerdy

Moria Young originally developed Blood Red Road when thinking about climate change, the limited resources of our environment and the change in human civilizations. She planned to set the world in an ice district and still in the future, however the only remains of that novel are the futuristic setting and the names, Saba, Lugh and Emmi so we can certainly see she’s come an awful long way! And one of her biggest influences being one of my favourite musical films, The Wizard of Oz. How awesome?! More information about the origins can be found here.

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Filed under 2011 Publication, 4 Books, Dystopia, Moira Young, Paperback, Romance, Scholastic, Young Adult

Rebecca

Rebecca

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

Genre: Gothic, Classics, Romance

Published: January 30th 2003 by Virago Press Ltd

The Plot

With these words, the reader is ushered into an isolated gray stone mansion on the windswept Cornish coast, as the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter recalls the chilling events that transpired as she began her new life as the young bride of a husband she barely knew. For in every corner of every room were phantoms of a time dead but not forgotten a past devotedly preserved by the sinister housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers: a suite immaculate and untouched, clothing laid out and ready to be worn, but not by any of the great house’s current occupants. With an eerie presentiment of evil tightening her heart, the second Mrs. de Winter walked in the shadow of her mysterious predecessor, determined to uncover the darkest secrets and shattering truths about Maxim’s first wife the late and hauntingly beautiful Rebecca.

My Review

Rebecca is a novel that haunts you long after you’ve set it aside. It wriggles its way into your brain and has you recounting every event to try and define the very moment that such extraordinary events took a turning because it blindsided me. I found myself unable to pinpoint within the novel a point of elusion to such events and it was utterly fantastic. To be so shocked by the novel really shows Maurier to have a craft. We recount the naive footsteps of the new Mrs de Winters as she recalls her youth and innocence at becoming Maxim’s second husband and the events that conspire to amount against her and test her very strength.

The way in which Maurier delivers the novel means we very much see the world through Mrs de Winters eyes and her utter ignorance at the world is enlightening because we learn with her as she begins to stand on her own feet and discover the world. She’s so childlike and desperate to learn and please and it’s rather endearing at first because there is this drive in her to succeed and she just continues to stumble. She appears to be rather a weak and sappy character and whilst some protagonists fail to make any development, Maurier completely diverts her character into somebody who has been forced rather brutally to grow up in only a few moments. From the feeling of drowning and not being able to survive she is once again thrown into a colossally damned situation and manages to recover herself that makes her character truly courageous and strong by the end of things.

“I suppose sooner or later in the life of everyone comes a moment of trial. We all of us have our particular devil who rides us and torments us, and we must give battle in the end.”

Rebecca is definitely a novel that touches on appearances to be deceiving because not only does it appear to fit into so many genres from mystery, to romance to the Gothic, it is most certainly a hybrid of genres, the plot and the characters change beyond belief throughout the novel and Maurier teases us with little glimpses of a truth and a dark side, to slowly unveil the truth of Rebecca. After all, the novel at first sight appears to be about a woman Rebecca who is indeed present, but only in the ethereal sense because she haunts the characters lives and manipulates their emotions even whilst dead. This makes the novel so distinctly Gothic in the effect that ricochets across all their lives from a dead woman. It’s so unnerving to think the presence of a dead woman could unsettle a house so much and this makes Maurier’s Rebecca so infinitely gripping that you are kept on tenterhooks as you turn each page waiting for the new bombshell to fall and to twist the story again.

There are some critics who dismiss Maurier’s Rebecca as merely a “Gothic Romance” but honestly the romance is focused on very little as a romance. There is a focus on the relationship and the dynamic of this relationship and to how events impact upon their lives. The tensions between the Winters and the strain that Rebecca the dead women, haunting the house who continues to drive the couple further and further apart without even trying and it makes for an engaging and thrilling read. Rebecca touches every aspect of their lives and I found it so utterly intriguing to watch the romance that seemed so perfect if not rather awkward at the beginning begin to crumble because of doubts and misgivings that unravel by the end of the plot and change a whole spin on my previous perspective.

“Either you go to America with Mrs. Van Hopper or you come home to Manderley with me.”
“Do you mean you want a secretary or something?”
“No, I’m asking you to marry me, you little fool.”

Maxim is a man that baffled me from the very moment the novel began until the very end. I had a very turbulent relationship with his character because his mood swings were rather violent. He could appear loveable and doting and the next he was a brooding angry mess. His character was so wrapped up and secretive that I could never truly fathom him, but I think this was partly the nature of the narrative that makes Rebecca so utterly engaging because we see the world through Mrs de Winter’s eyes and she never truly understood Maxim. There always appeared to be a rift between them and whilst I never disliked his character and he appeared strong and dashing and everything a love interest should be, I found I could never truly like his character either. It is not that I felt indifferent to him, I just can’t place whether I could place him directly in one camp of emotions because he was so diverse and changing. He never settled because he was in this constant state of agitation and this reflects into Maurier’s protagonist, Mrs de Winters and that keeps the pace of the novel forever pushing forward when it seems as though we are about to drag.

The most fascinating element of the tale is Rebecca and how she was reflected her in her hut, the decor of Manderley, the ball every element of Manderley could be seen by Mrs de Winters as reflecting Rebecca. She was constantly present and this is what made Maurier’s recount of a dead woman so effective.

Then there was the cold, hard and rather sad Mrs Danvers. Its safe to say I abhorred the woman, but equally I felt deep sympathy for her sad attachment to Rebecca who seemed to be her very reason for life. She made a fantastic villain and it is very often that we see somebody so dark and seedy becoming a villain or terrifying and monstrous like Frankenstein’s monster in the Gothic. However Mrs Danvers appears to be a women driven mindless by devotion to Rebecca which drives every action of hers and leaves pour Mrs de Winters terrified. Ultimately though, I found that Mrs Danvers is a woman I could not like under any circumstance because however she appeared to be motivated by love, her actions filled the book with hate and rage that made her an unsightly character.

I simply adored the setting of Manderley it was so encompassing and suffocating in its stature and reputation. The idea of the old house that was so poignant and Gothic. I could so clearly image this dark, almost brooding house in my imagination with the vivid red flowers that cloaked the side of the house. It only adds to Maurier imbedding symbolism everywhere in Rebecca and the little connections and misgivings and feelings that you got when reading it, all added up to making it a wonderful experience.

Classics have not been a genre I’ve ventured far into, but with Rebecca I found a new door and a new avenue in which I genuinely found a magical experience in that wasn’t clustered with archaic language that took hours to unravel, but the complexity of the plot made up for the simplicity of the writing style (in comparison to something as Austen) and that made it all the more enlightening that I found nothing to be the same in Rebecca. For me, Rebecca can never just be a “Gothic Romance” because it is so much more and undeniably one of those tales that shall sit with you long after reading. It is a novel I am desperate to get on my shelves and whilst the ending isn’t entirely fulfilling in its rather tragic way that leaves one pondering what can really come, particularly from whence we came in a place not known, it is one that I would love to read again and a novel that I recommend without a doubt to each and every one of you!

We’re not meant for happiness, you and I.”

4 books

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Filed under 2003 Publication, 4 Books, Adult, Classic, Daphne Du Maurier, Gothic, Paperback, Romance, Virago Press Ltd

Poison Study

Poison Study

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Young-Adult

Series: Study #1

Publication: March 1st 2007 by Mira Books

Choose: A quick death…Or slow poison…

About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She’ll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.

And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly’s Dust—and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.
As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can’t control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren’t so clear…

My Review:

This is what good fantasy should be and this is clearly why I adore the fantasy genre. A quick witted, tenacious and determined heroine and an undeniably exciting, engaging and intricate plot. I think the only thing that could have made this novel better is for it to have been an adult book rather than young-adult. I felt that the market Snyder was aiming this book at slipped from being an adult into being a young-adult only in the relationship of Yelena and Valek. Despite this, I still fell in love with this book.

“He probably held a couple of poisons in reserve just in case he decided to replace the taster. Glancing over my shoulder, I imagined Valek coming into the kitchen to poison my breakfast. I couldn’t even enjoy talking with a chatty cook without being reminded that tasting potentially poisoned food wasn’t the only danger of my new job. “

The novel drew me in from the very first moment and kept me on my toes from start to finish. I found I was always waiting for a new turn, a new development and this really excited me. I like the uniqueness of the idea that Snyder created. The position of food taster is such an old tradition for positions of power and Snyder really moulds it into her own and entwines it with the fantastic world she creates with so many different elements that all build up. The particular strength of the novel being the poison and whilst this isn’t a strong “fantasy” element on it’s own, the world that Snyder creates around and the use of the poisons and then the magic and the power it holds all entwine to connect so many strands of a plot that interweave so perfectly. 

Valek is a character I liked from the first moment I met him. He didn’t have this astounding physical presence of a love interest to fall madly in love with him, but his character was that which drew me in. Snyder did seem to focus more of the personality than the aesthetics which pleased me because sometimes I feel too much time is spent on the descriptions of features and the romance was very subtle. I didn’t feel like there was any insta-love and it really didn’t evolve at the centre of the novel. It was hidden deep and it bloomed slowly until it was just there and unveiled and it really worked. Valek is one of my favourite love interests and I can’t wait to see him in the next novel.

“You look stunning,” I blurted.

Mortified, I blushed as a rush of heat spread through my body. I must have swallowed more brandy than I’d realized.

Yelena was a fantastic character. She was stubborn and hard-working and I valued her all the more for learning to stand up for herself and trying really hard. At first she seemed a little wet and easily pushed over, but actually she matured and grew as a character as she began to settle into the castle more and acquaint herself with the other characters. The fact that she was smart and intuitive only added to my liking of her character as well as the physical ability to defend herself and not be afraid of herself whilst not being emotionless. Snyder crafted a well thought out heroine and made her likeable. Not only was Yelena a strong, likeable character, but she didn’t attempt to struggle through on her own and shun other people. I feel sometimes heroines have to have this dependency that mean other people are not needed, but Yelena sought help to aid her growth when she needed it, but that didn’t mean she was incapable of solving problems all on her own.

“We owe you one. Anytime you need help, just let us know.” Ari said. His words gave me a bold idea. Brazell might be gone, but he was still a threat. I thought fast, searching for reasons why my plan wouldn’t be to my benefit.

“I need help,” I said.”

Ari and Janco really added to my enjoyment. I find that there always has to be two happy go lucky lads there to mess around and be serious enough to be there is a crisis. They kind of reminded me of Fred and George from Harry Potter because they were incredibly loyal, but at the same time willing to have a joke and tease with Yelena. Synder created a dynamic that I hope to see in the next two novels even though Yelena will be moving in a different directio, the loss of their characters would be a real shame for me. It also goes to show that Synder could build up a real background of secondary characters that added to the story enjoyment and I think every character had an individuality and story that came across to me as a reader which drew me into the world of poisons and food tasting.

To balance out all the action and excitement, Synder had some really touching and emotional moments built from the friendship bonds that Yelena made with the other characters and this really rounded the story to touch on elements of sadness, pain and sorrow with the light heartedness really touched me and made me keep turning the pages to see the character development. I also think the pain and anguish in the novel which sometimes led to anger and vengeance made the characters realistically human and relatable.

“Everyone makes choices in life. Some bad, some good. It’s called living, and if you want to bow out, then go right ahead. But don’t do it halfway. Don’t linger in whiner’s limbo.”

Synder also built up a good world and there were lots of levels to the world. I think a little more description of the surroundings would have helped me visualise the setting a little more, but I think that Synder didn’t overload us with the information. She also had lots of poisons to learn and seem to have spent time and thought into working out the names which made the whole novel more realistic.

Overall, ‘Poison Study’ has to be one of my favourite fantasy novels of this year. It’s a shame I haven’t read it sooner, but I intend to read the next couple of books soon. And I heard there are plans to write three more after the ones, so there is even more to come. Yelena is everything a heroine should be, Synder has a world that is the basic foundations for fantasy and a plot that whilst might have elements of predictability is ultimately something contrived in uniqueness and only leaving me wanting more!

5 books

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Infinity

Infinity

Infinity by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Series: Chronicles of Nick #1

Genre: Urban-fantasy, Demons, Young-Adult

Published: May 25th 2010 by St. Martin’s Griffin

At fourteen, Nick Gautier thinks he knows everything about the world around him. Streetwise, tough and savvy, his quick sarcasm is the stuff of legends. . .until the night when his best friends try to kill him.

Saved by a mysterious warrior who has more fighting skills than Chuck Norris, Nick is sucked into the realm of the Dark-Hunters: immortal vampire slayers who risk everything to save humanity.

Nick quickly learns that the human world is only a veil for a much larger and more dangerous one: a world where the captain of the football team is a werewolf and the girl he has a crush on goes out at night to stake the undead.

But before he can even learn the rules of this new world, his fellow students are turning into flesh eating zombies. And he’s next on the menu.

As if starting high school isn’t hard enough. . .now Nick has to hide his new friends from his mom, his chainsaw from the principal, and keep the zombies and the demon Simi from eating his brains, all without getting grounded or suspended. How in the world is he supposed to do that?

My Review:

Exciting and engaging from the first moment, ‘Infinity’ has a real air of mystery that draws you in and really ensnares you in the action. Nick is a character I have heard from people time and time again that they don’t like him. Honestly, I’ve never had a problem with him, his sarcasm has always humoured me and whilst he can be a little cynical and offensive, his intentions are never bad. Nick is frankly a very likeable character and he unravels deeper in this novel in his own way that creates a greater understanding and might make him more likeable to you.

“What rock you been living under not to know that?”

Some people would probably call that rock “reality”, but Nick valued his life enough to keep that sarcasm inside.”

It clearly felt strange to read this book alongside the Dark-Hunter series, which is Kenyon’s adult series where Nick is first introduced. We jump back in time to when he is much younger and not yet as heavily involved in the Dark-Hunter world; well actually he’s entirely oblivious for the start of the novel and his understanding of the world is rather entertaining to see, especially when reading this alongside the Dark-Hunter series two very different worlds are seen. However, I wouldn’t say it is necessary to read the Dark-Hunter series because this clearly stands on it’s own as a series and whilst those who read the Dark-Hunter series will clearly be able to appreciate Kenyon’s style and versatility to move into young-adult and a separate series that develops Nick (who is primarily a secondary character in the Dark-Hunter series) as his own individual, those who haven’t will still gain equal enjoyment and may be encouraged to venture into the realm of adult books.

Kenyon has to be applauded for venturing into using a male protagonist because so many authors stick to the same female protagonist that becomes a little expected at times and I find a very different experience comes from male protagonists. Most of her adult novels take on a dual tone with male and female perspectives interspersed for each half of the couple and generally the female tone is more dominant, this is all in Nick’s perspective with intermingled scenes from others who are generally the ‘bad’ guys or mysterious creatures who are all part of the paranormal world. I really enjoyed the humour Kenyon managed to really put into Nick’s narrative and it was clear whilst being a teenage boy, his relationship with his mum was really developed and he clearly loves her deeply. The dynamic of their relationship was really evolved and nice to see that Kenyon didn’t put Nick as shying away from his emotions even as a teenage boy and presented him as very much a guy with an attitude who loved his mum.

“I swear you’re the lippiest child on the planet.”

Onto the actual plot, we get lots of characters, but they’re all introduced at different points in a way as not to confuse you so I felt like the plot slowly revealed itself which really allows the smooth flow of the story. The plot is a little slow to start with, but this is all character introductions and setting the scene which allows Kenyon to set this novel aside as a separate series that you are not expected to know any of the characters. Once we get into the bulk of the story and the zombies, demons, vampires and everything else that is hectic, mayhem and paranormal things really get exciting with enhanced cow prods and rocket launchers, there is humour, action and excitement galore. I don’t think I found a point of this novel to be boring once we got past the mundane introduction.

“But once you let me live … your big mistake … now I know you think I’m too cute and fluffy to kill.”

Overall, ‘Infinity’ is a novel that I urge all fans of Kenyon and fantasy young-adult fiction to pick up. Nick is a character that I think is likeable if you enjoy sarcasm and aren’t easily offended, so don’t be intimidated for him because beneath the surface is a “mummy’s boy” who is humorous and caring he just needs to find the straight path. I’ll be looking out for the next book in the series and whilst the recent read of ‘Seize the Night’ has confused by view of Nick and some of the relationships he has with characters, particularly Simi in this novel, but I’m sure Kenyon will enlighten me in the future of both the Dark-Hunters and the Chronicles of Nick since I feel they will both lead to a pinnacle point where they intertwine.

4 books

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Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

Genre: Classics, Romance, Adult

Published: April 29th 2003 by Penguin Classics (first published 1814)

‘We have all been more or less to blame …
every one of us, excepting Fanny’

Taken from the poverty of her parents’ home, Fanny Price is brought up with her rich cousins at Mansfield Park, acutely aware of her humble rank and with only her cousin Edmund as an ally. When Fanny’s uncle is absent in Antigua, Mary Crawford and her brother Henry arrive in the neighbourhood, bringing with them London glamour and a reckless taste for flirtation. As her female cousins vie for Henry’s attention, and even Edmund falls for Mary’s dazzling charms, only Fanny remains doubtful about the Crawfords’ influence and finds herself more isolated than ever. A subtle examination of social position and moral integrity, Mansfield Park is one of Jane Austen’s most profound works.

My Review:

Classics are far from being my thing. I’ve read a total of three in my life if you include Mansfield Park. However, I am on a kick to read more and I had heard the raves over Jane Austen. Unfortunately, I probably picked up what seems to be the least liked books of all Austen’s books and I can safely say, my opinion wasn’t much better. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean I have given up on Austen and I think whilst she is very wordy and proper about her writing, I did have small elements of enjoyment. Mansfield Park could never be labelled a bad novel and it’s definitely an old world classic and I can see why so many people enjoy such an exclusive and well-written novel. Mansfield Park is literary gold! But it just didn’t hold an enjoyment factor for me that I could really sustain to give this novel a good rating.

They call Miss Fanny Price a heroine. Whilst a heroine in modern terms, especially for the young-adult genre is somebody like Katniss from The Hunger Games who takes on a governmental system or Claire from the Morganville Vampire series who battles vampires and searches to find a cure using her brain. To me, a heroine is pro-active and jumping into the way of danger like those I’ve stated before. That doesn’t mean I expected Fanny Price to wield a sword and massacre the villains of the story or jab a knife in somebody’s back, I just wanted something strong and gritty from her. Unfortunately, Miss Fanny Price falls flat compared to so many others. She is weak, nervous and a whelp to put it simply. Her nervous disposition and inability to be a normal human being besides her cousins frankly infuriated and annoyed me. I wanted to grab hold of her and shake her. Fanny Price to me is not somebody who you would label a heroine, whilst her family may have sought her for advice, they never truly gained an insight to their problem from her, merely used her as a listening post. So this does not make Fanny Price a “heroine”. There was only one moment in which Fanny Price surprised me, where she spoke out, and then she was immediately to rebuke herself and thus she feel out of esteem once again. If she had managed to speak up and behave like this throughout the novel, it is safe to say I would probably have adored Fanny Price because she showed such potential for wit and humour!

“So very fond of me!” ‘tis nonsense all. She loves nobody but herself and her brother. Her friends leading her astray for years! She is quite as likely to have led them astray.”

When moving to look at the other characters, it’s hard to find redeeming, likeable qualities about most of the secondary characters that Austen develops. The Crawfords are fickle creatures who pretend to be something that they aren’t. Fanny’s cousins are all despicable people too, who treat her dismissively and her aunt Norris I do not even have words to cover. She is the most vile woman I have ever met. She continually degraded, dismissed and deprived Fanny of what little enjoyment she had in life and really just treated her like a maid of a servant to follow her every whim. The two characters I did find to my liking were William—Fanny’s brother—and Edmund—one of Fanny’s cousins—who looked after her from childhood and treated her kindly, always looking out for her interests and wellbeing.

An example of aunt Norris behaviour would be when Fanny was invited to dinner at Mrs Grant’s and she tried to rebuff Fanny for being invited and suggest that she would not be suited to going for dinner. How rude of her!?

“But I must observe, that five is the very awkwardest of all possible numbers to sit down to table; and I cannot but be surprised that such an elegant lady as Mrs. Grant should not contrive better!”

As for the plot.. What plot? Until about 300 pages into the book, I don’t think I found a substantial trail to the plot. Until this point, we followed Fanny through her daily life at a rather sedate, disinteresting pace which allowed me to place Mansfield Park down far too easily than I should be able to do with a book. It just didn’t hook me enough. Then around 300 pages in, I really become hooked! Unfortunately this engaging excitement really didn’t last for more than 20 pages because Fanny had me in a huff with her behaviour. In the long-term her behaviour benefitted herself, but it still annoyed me. Overall, the plot isn’t a really strong theme and the novel is definitely character and era driven novel. So if you’re looking for a strong plot that flows through the novel as distinguishable, I wouldn’t say Mansfield Park is that. Whilst you might go through the novel thinking Fanny Price will be looking for a love interest, she is so shy and bumbling that there are really very little points to how the plot can be manipulated and strengthened to follow this strand which makes Austen’s Mansfield Park a very weak novel when it comes to the plot.

Overall Mansfield Park was not a novel I loved, nor one I really liked, but it’s one I could appreciate for it’s literary talents and made me realise that I want to read more classics since they broaden your knowledge and give you an influx of the proper English language. I recently picked up Northanger Abbey and I believe I own Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. So hopefully my journey into the abyss of Classics will only move in the direction of positives! If Jane Austen is your idol, then you’ll probably really enjoy this novel or if you just enjoy the fancy eloquence of old world writing, then this book will be right up your street, but for me it’s literary merits were few and far between!

2.5 books

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The Winter King

The Winter Kingh

The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell

Genre: Historical-fiction, Adult

Series: The Warlord Chronicles #1

Published: 1996 by Penguin Books Ltd

The tale begins in Dark Age Britain, a land where Arthur has been banished and Merlin has disappeared, where a child-king sits unprotected on the throne, where religion vies with magic for the souls of the people. It is to this desperate land that Arthur returns, a man at once utterly human and truly heroic: a man of honor, loyalty, and amazing valor; a man who loves Guinevere more passionately than he should; a man whose life is at once tragic and triumphant.

As Arthur fights to keep a flicker of civilization alive in a barbaric world, Bernard Cornwell makes a familiar tale into a legend all over again.

My Review:

This book my friend has bugged and pestered me to read for absolute months, along with a tonne of other books so she can finally find somebody to discuss books with and because I read a little bit of everything and I’m unable to say no, I finally got around to picking this one up. I’m only glad for the extra encouragment and can safely say I wasn’t tossing this book aside as something I wanted to forget. It was also entertaining to read this book as part of a read along, which pushed me to read this book and not leave it lying around for a few weeks. For the book may be engaging, but I felt like at times there was the greatest possibility that I could put the book down and come back to it. It just didn’t hold the push throughout the whole novel to keep reading all the time. However, at around 500 pages that would be a pretty mean feat for Cornwell to achieve.

Arthurian legends are certainly one of my favourite genres encompassed within the historical fiction genre. There are lots of different interpretations and questions surrounding Arthur and whether he was even real and once again, Bernard Cornwell brought a fresh view from the previous Arthurian legend books I’ve read.

It certainly stands out as different and unique, with a prose told from the perspective of old Derfel looking back unto his youth with his experience of being born a Saxon boy, who’s thrown into a death pit and survives. Then he rises against the odds to become one of Arthur’s men, and this is just the very beginning.  We go on to accompany Derfel through a maze of twists and turns, deceits and upheaval on his quest to serve Arthur. Following the perspective of Derfel really broadens the understanding of the kingdom’s workings and looking through Derfel’s eyes allows us to connect with other characters that we may not have necessary seen from the view of Arthur and witness events in the kingdom that may go unseen by the eyes of “royalty.

“Derfel Cadarn: The narrator, born a Saxon, ward of Merlin and one of Arthur’s warriors”

Cornwell introduces us to a lot of characters very quickly and all the Saxon names and positions can definitely become confusing, but the character glossary at the start of the novel really helps to ease the confusion of the numerous characters and their positions so you can draw the connecting lines to family connections.

The novel is split into five different parts and there are no chapter titles or labels as such, the chapters are incredibly long stretching from 20 to 50 pages. So I’d suggest if you plan to read this novel, make sure you have plenty of time on your hands because it’s difficult to slip from the storyline mid-chapter without falling out of the story. Nevertheless I felt this was a highlight of the novel because you became so immersed in the tale that you didn’t want to put it down and generally I found myself reading a least a whole part which was generally made up of two chapters.

The secondary characters that fall behind Derfel all have a strongly built history and characterisation to their person, which makes them equally entertaining. Merlin, Arthur and Nimue were three of my favourites and Arthur and Nimue become a central part of Derfel’s life and their relationships are certainly entertaining. Merlin didn’t appear much in the story for the “ancient magician” but his appearances served to prove humerous. He was to put it bluntly a “batty old man” and for those of you that might have watched the BBC’s production of Merlin, he reminded me of the old man that Merlin transforms himself into.

“The cat!’ Merlin explained. ‘I can’t abandon the cat! Don’t be absurd!’

‘For the Gods’ sake, Lord!’ I yelled at him, but Merlin was scrabbling under the table to retrieve the frightened grey cat that he cradled in his arms…”

Merlin wasn’t the only point of humour and whilst much of Cornwell’s time might have been spent discussing tactics, betrayals and quests and the gruesome gore of battle, he did have time to inflect some humour into his story. Humour is definitely a point of appreciation for me, so seeing elements of it brought into Cromwell’s historical fiction pleased me, not quite enough to astound me, but it made it thoroughly enjoyable.

“Arthur, despite Uther’s denial at Levum, was the son of the High King, though there was small advantage to be gained from that patronage for Uther fathered as many bastards as a tom cat makes kittens.”

If you’re worried that you might not like this book because it doesn’t have enough Arthur, fear not, we get plenty of him in all his glory and it’s nice to admire him from afar, but I think viewing the book from Derfel’s perspective dampened my connection to him as a character because it was overshadowed by his relationship with Derfel. Despite this, the book is definitely not a romance tale of Arthur’s love for Guinevere or Derfel’s adventures, most of all it documents the events of this time of Arthur rising to take control of the kingdom.

This book leaves the tale of Arthur far from finished and whilst we aren’t held on a particular cliff-hanger, I definitely want to know what the future holds in store and where Cornwell will be taking us on in the next instalment of this series. If you like historical fiction then this book is definitely for you, but if you’re looking for a swoony romantic tale of Arthur, then this book is probably not for you.

4 books

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Killing Me Softly

Killing Me SoftlyKilling Me Softly by Nicci French
Genre:
Thriller, Adult, Mystery
Publication: January 1st 1999 by Grand Central Publishing

Alice Loudon has a devoted boyfriend and a challenging job as a research scientist. Then one morning, on her way to work, she exchanges a lingering look with a devastatingly attractive man. As a lover, Adam Tallis is more passionate than Alice’s wildest imaginings. Soon, there isn’t anything or anyone she wouldn’t give up to stay by his side.

Review:

This was part of my library loot from a couple of weeks ago. I haven’t read too many thrillers, but I do enjoy reading them. The premise for this book sounded very intense and brooding and we really hit these moments at times and then others I felt the book flopped a little. However this does not mean to say I didn’t find this book a page turner because it certainly was. I devoured it happily in a couple of sittings throughout one day. It’s not a long read at around 360 pages so that made it easier to read too.

The story happens to be a little slow to start because we are setting the scene for Alice Loudon’s very boring and plain life with her devoted boyfriend where everything seems “hunky dory” until she sees some illusive stranger on the street. This happens to be Adam Tallis and things kick off from there where events start to spiral very quickly out of control for Alice. It’s possible to find their sudden and strange connection a little far out, but I suppose this is all part of the mystery and tension of the book.

The beginning of their relationship happens to be my favourite part of the book because where she first meets Adam Tallis, we begin a game of cat and mouse. It’s all very intense and exciting and the suspense builds throughout and these are the moments that we really witness a brooding intensity I desired.

I found the energy throughout the first half of the middle of the story was very high and tense. We were always expecting something new and there was a lot of emotional strain being placed on Alice. Alongside that we were desperate to learn about Adam Tallis and this really drew me into the novel and allowed my imagination to thrive.

Nevertheless when we hit the second half of the middle I found my interest lacking slightly because Alice became a whiny, obsessed character over Adam’s past and at times this became tedious. I understood the reasoning for this with all the mystery and suspicion around  Adam’s character, but Alice did grate on my nerves. For the first half of the novel I’d appreciated her and enjoyed following her, but then she began to annoy me. Whilst it’s all part of the plot and interesting, I felt at times French overdid Alice’s obsession and it became silly enough that I wanted to hurl the book across the room and kill Alice myself.

However, I feel like French redeemed herself and Alice by the end of the novel because she certainly gave us lots of twists and turns that got the heart pacing and left us desperate to finish the story. She also fitted the whole mystery nicely together to make an ending that didn’t leave a lot or even any real loose ends hanging around. If you don’t like loose ends, I think this book is a perfect one for you.

Alice by the end was a rather dismal character, but she was on the road to recovery and I certainly appreciated her strengths and lengths in which she strived to. She probably wasn’t the weak character I’d first seen and she was incredibly perceptive and intelligent across the novel, which I appreciated.

In a very strange way, I found myself caught up in Adam’s magic too and whilst it seemed the perfect example of an abusive relationship at times, his behaviour was bizarre and loving. I found that I could never hate Adam at any point and I think this was what made the reading so strange. Adam is a man with many problems, but ultimately I felt he was vulnerable and desperate for love and despite his problems he touched my heart. That might make me a little psychotic, but I couldn’t condemn him in the end because French gave me nothing to condemn him with. He seemed like the ‘perfect’ character at times, but I think this thriller reminds you of a depth to a facade that is incredibly chilling.

Another aspect I loved about this thriller was the realism that we got because it’s something we could very much witness in the real world. At times I believe some thrillers and mysteries can be a little bit far fetched, this slotted easily into a society we witness today. A very scary thought for one to ponder.

On the other hand, I don’t think the mystery was all that mysterious because at times I found it as I’d expect and ultimately a little predictable. I think at times it’s hard to really surprise a reader when there is so much similar literature out there, but that’s not to say it’s impossible and so I found the mystery aspect a tad disappointing.

The writing was pacey and imaginative and I never found myself really lagging to read. Whilst Alice’s character may have become tedious, French always found a way to engage my interest to be sure I kept on reading which I salute her for. I think whilst she didn’t really expand my learning, she left a well-written thriller that will keep you turning pages.

Another thing I did whilst reading this book was compare it to the storyline of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and whilst I haven’t read that book, I found myself thinking that the storyline is almost a mirror in effect. Whilst this may be a thriller we witness an abusive boyfriend, because that what he is, and that maybe people should recognise this about the Fifty series too. Whilst the character may be loving, the style of their relationship is unhealthy and wrong. Just a little thought that rattled around my head whilst reading.

Whilst this story might not be the most amazing thriller or mystery I have ever read, it was a good way to spend an afternoon, curled up in a chair and I’ll be on the lookout for more books by French because I think she has some real talent. Pick it up because I don’t think it’ll disappoint you.

My Rating:

3.5 books

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Sebastian

SebastianSebastian by Anne Bishop
Genre: Romance, Fantasy, Adult
Series: Ephemera #1
Published:March 6th 2007 by Roc

Long ago, Ephemera was split into a dizzying number of magical lands-connected only by bridges that may take you where you truly belong, rather than where you had intended to go. In one such land, where night reigns and demons dwell, the half-incubus Sebastian revels in dark delights. But in dreams she calls to him: a woman who wants only to be safe and loved-a woman he hungers for while knowing he may destroy her. And an even more devastating destiny awaits him, for an ancient evil is stirring-and Sebastian’s realm may be the first to fall.

Review:

There is a tale to accompany this story because I don’t think believe I’d have ever picked it up willingly if I’d have seen it. One day I may have read it, but I couldn’t say definitively that I would. Anyway… the story. I was wandering around my library browsing for books to see if they had anything interesting in, then my librarian came up to me and asked if I read paranormal-romance. I nodded, and she scurried off and brought back this book. She shoved it into my hand and told me it was one of her favourite books. I nodded again and took it to the desk to take it out.

So I’m not really sure what I expected from this book. It turned out to be more fantasy than paranormal-romance, but that didn’t change a thing for me because it was still a very enjoyable read.

This book took a while to get into and I wouldn’t class it as a short read at over 400 pages long, it was quite a hefty paperback to carry around. Then it took around 100 pages to get into and I really had to focus on reading this book because there was lots of complex ideas and multiple plots threading through the story. This made for an intriguing read and I found myself being constantly buffered around the world into a new place. Bishop didn’t like to keep things dull and dismal. However it did take me at least a week to get through the first one hundred pages. I suggest you don’t allow that to deter you because once past those first hundred pages I began to eat up the novel.

For me, I’d probably lay blame to finding the first one hundred pages slightly drab because it was background building and setting the scene very much. We didn’t witness much action, but more of an introduction to the characters and their life. I found this important to the story because with the idea of multiple landscapes to make up Ephemera and the many leading characters it worked to make the later chapters easier to understand. However at times I found it to be a slightly information overload that could lead to confusion. Even when I’d finished the book, I found aspects of the novel extremely confusing and secrets not really unravelled. I shall have to hope that in the sequel to this two part series everything is explained.

The characters were certainly interesting. Sebastian was a tormented man and the protagonist of the tale who grew into a strong character with a heart of gold, in my opinion. We witnessed a journey for his character and this held strongly throughout the novel. This certainly added strength to Bishop’s story. He’s an incubus with morals and certainly not quite what I was expecting. Then we meet the love interest Lyenna, who he calls his “little rabbit” and I found that irresistibly cute. I think in many novels we lay names to women as “babe”, “baby”, “sweetheart” they all seem to follow the same thread of thought, but Bishop fit the name to the character. This also brought a smile to my face every time I read it. Not only did we witness Sebastian’s journey, but Lyenna developed from rather a push-over character into a strong, independent and wilful character. I like to see a strong women and I think a journey is incredibly important, so this was great to witness.

Besides our two ‘lovers’ we witness family with Nadia, Lee, Belladonna and Teaser. Then we have the background characters to those of the Wizards and the men of the Den of Iniquity. I felt like Bishop had really put a lot of work into creating her characters and they are defining aspects of the novel.

The world… what can I say? It’s just a fabulous idea. The building of different landscapes particularly the School of landscapes, the wizards domain and the Den of Iniquity, along with all the other little landscapes. The Den of Iniquity is a fabulous place and I really felt the essence of it being built up into the novel and that I could visualise the place. This was certainly important and I felt like Bishop didn’t neglect her world building at all. For those of you that like particularly strong visual worlds and characters, Bishop has got to be an author for you.

I was pleasantly surprised by the romance, if not a tad disappointed too. The front cover declared this a “erotic romance” but I don’t think it really fits into that category for me. This certainly isn’t a young-adult novel, but we didn’t go into depth of their intimate relations. However, I don’t think we really lost anything because of that, I just felt that with Sebastian as an incubus, I kind of expected it. Otherwise there was no insta-love, overdone soppiness to the romance, it all fit perfectly into place.

Overall, I found this an enjoyable read, but it took a little too long for me to get into it and at times it was a tad confusing. I’d recommend this to fantasy and romance lovers alike because it’s certainly a different book to what I usually read.

My Rating:

3.5 books

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Filed under 2007 Publication, 3.5 Books, Adult, Anne Bishop, Fantasy, Paperback, Roc, Romance