Biblioshelf Musings – Wolf Hall

Hello my bookish friends,

The typical Bibliophile that I am, as soon as social distancing and lockdown began to start, my bookish mind went straight into TBR compilation mode to try and put together the reads I wanted to get through now that I had slightly more headspace to do it.

With the recent release of The Mirror and The Light, the final instalment in Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy, Wolf Hall was one of the books that went straight on the list.

Writing this review and looking back on it has perhaps made me rethink my initial grading of 4 stars and uplift it to 5/5. It really is a literary masterpiece and I can see now why it won the Man Booker Prize in 2009. Humour, despair, power, philosophy just drips from every single page.


Book: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: 30th April 2009
Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 653
Rating: 📚📚📚📚📚

Synopsis from Goodreads:
England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell: a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people, and implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph?

Over the city lies the sweet, rotting odour of yesterday’s unrecollected sins.

The Tudors have always been my favourite period of British history. I love the drama, pageantry and wife-swapping nature of the whole dynasty. Mantel did a superb job of bringing this to life and making it jump right off the page. From the descriptions of food, to the stench of the Thames, every sense was catered for as she rebuilt her own idea of the lush and extravagant world of Henry VIII’s England. I kind of wish Austin Friars was still standing today just to glimpse Cromwell’s world physically with my own eyes. I understand that lots of description is a bit of a Goldilocks situation for most readers but for me, Mantel got this spot on!

He thinks, I remembered you, Thomas More, but you didn’t remember me. You never even saw me coming.

I have to admit, it took me a little while to get to grips with the narration. We see the story through the perspective of Cromwell who is referred to as ‘He’, but then sometimes I’d get a little lost as to which ‘he’ we were talking about because there seemed to be lots of ‘he-s’ walking round the palaces and streets of Tudor London that I didn’t really know which He was thinking or which he was speaking or whether it was Him narrating… you get my point?! Nevertheless, I quickly got into the rhythm of the writing style and what seemed like Thames mud at first rapidly became the clear prose of Cromwell’s narrative. It really enabled you to see the world through his eyes, almost video-game style. Thinking back upon it now, I can really appreciate how clever Mantel’s writing actually is.

Mercy comes in and says, a fever, it could be any fever, we don’t have to admit to the sweat…If we all stayed at home, London would come to a standstill.

When you’re in strange times like these, do you ever seem to focus on some things or interpret comments and thoughts in a particular way that you may not have done previously? It seemed so ironic that parts of Wolf Hall seemed to echo real life and poignantly link to Covid-19. There was an almost philosophical sense to the novel and one particular line metaphorically slapped me in the face:

We are always dying – I while I write, you while you read, and others while they listen or block their ears; they are all dying.

It was a real ‘The Power of Now’ moment, that whilst in my little Cromwellian hole I’d almost forgotten the passing of time going on and on. The book is littered with little sentiments like this; they’re not all doom and gloom like the one above, but they stick out in your brain and really make you think. It’s one of the things I admired most about the writing in Wolf Hall.

‘Call her Elizabeth. Cancel the jousts.’

‘We are young enough, he says, and next time it will be a boy. One day we will make a great marriage for her.’

The tone of this entire scene, upon the birth of Elizabeth, was just so melancholic – you could feel Henry’s despair through the quietness of his actions and words. I think it’s such a shame that Henry VIII will never have the hindsight or awareness to recognise the magnanimity of his daughter. I wonder how he would feel if he actually knew of her achievements and that she was one of the defining and longest standing rulers of our entire history. Perhaps it’s wishful thinking, but maybe he wouldn’t have written her off just because of her gender.


All in all, Mantel has created such a fantastic work of fiction. I’m so glad I finally got around to reading it. Don’t get me wrong, trying to keep up with what was going on was like running a marathon for my brain, but the story, characters and writing is just so encapsulating that I needed to drag myself back into the 21st century after closing the final page. I would highly recommend this to anyone who has even an ounce of interest in the Tudors or historical fiction. Bring Up The Bodies, is currently sitting on my shelf waiting to be picked up… but not until I’m finally ready and in the right headspace to train my mind into reading Cromwell-speak again!

Have you read Wolf Hall? Should I watch the follow-on TV series? What’s your favourite time period in history? As always, drop me a comment to chat!

T xx

Biblioshelf Musings: A Heart So Fierce and Broken

Howdy y’all!

I’m starting off with what may be a slight ‘unpopular opinion alert’ but after reading A Heart So Dark and Lonely last year, I was not 100% sure whether I wanted to continue with the Cursebreakers series. The first book had so much hype surrounding it and was hailed as one of the best Beauty and the Beast retellings of all time. As much as I enjoyed reading ACSDAL, I clearly wasn’t as blown away by it as everyone else. Don’t get me wrong it was a highly enjoyable read but perhaps I just love the original tales too much.

That being said, when I saw the sequel advertised on Amazon as part of their 2 for £7 deal (a steal!) I could not resist buying it to see what happened to Rhen and Harper!
The narrative and focus of the tale moving away from Rharper/Harpen onto Grey and a completely new character called Lia Mara didn’t entirely appeal to me at first (another thing which stopped me from putting it on auto pre-order), but when the prompts for the OWLs Magical Readathon 2020 were revealed and Ancient Runes was to read something with a heart in the title or on the cover then this was my immediate pick. 💚


Book: A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer
Genre: YA/Fantasy
Publication Date: 7th January 2020
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Pages: 450
Rating: 📚📚📚📚

Whilst there are no major plot spoilers ahead for AHSFAB, there will need to be a little bit of discussion as to my thoughts on where this story is going so bear that in mind if you haven’t already read this book or series (which tbh I think you should!!).

The Unanswered Story Strands
From the off it felt so good to be back in the world of Emberfall and pick up essentially where the story left off. The curveball twist of an ending from book 1 needed to be played out as many strands had been left unanswered: Lilith, the mystery heir, Syl Shallow’s forces descending on Emberfall, the ‘Disi/D.C.’ sham…
I really like Brigid’s writing style and feel that she has hit the balance between detail, pace and storytelling so that I could allow myself to get lost in the vortex of the story without having to overthink or reread paragraphs just to keep up with what was going on.

New Character Alert
Usually, I’m not a fan of main character introductions part way through a series; I like to see a full, well-developed character arc, however I was pleasantly surprised by Lia Mara. She is smart, clever and definitely no wallflower. She added a really down-to-earth yet vibrant dynamic which counterbalanced Grey’s personality really well. Although the ‘main plot’ thread of the story seemed to move a little slowly to make room for this, I did not mind in the slightest as it enabled us to fully understand these main characters’ backgrounds and motivations. As Lia Mara’s story unfolded alongside Grey’s, my initial worries went out the window and I became totally invested in their relationship; in fact, I think I even prefer them to Rhen and Harper! [Side-note: I know the ages don’t match up at all, but I can’t help but visualise Grey as Michael Fassbender…anyone else?!]

Is It Really That Complicated?
As I touched on above, the whole point of this novel seems to revolve around Rhen trying to discover the identity of the mysterious other heir to Emberfall and Grey trying to hide the fact that it’s him. In my head, surely their relationship wasn’t that bad that they couldn’t have chatted about this and worked it out between them…? They could have been co-rulers or Rhen could politically shape the kingdom and Grey could focus on the military side of things…? My brain just doesn’t see why this had to be the massive problem that it turned out to be; it’s like when you’re watching a TV programme and you think to yourself ‘there’s no way that would happen like that” – anyway that’s how it did happen yet I was hooked with my reading and carried on with the plot regardless.

If anyone is interested, my prediction theory for Cursebreakers #3 is: (aside from any shockingly twisty main character deaths) Rhen and Harper rule Emberfall, Grey and Lia Mara rule over Syl Shallow; together they unite their countries in some sort of alliance then everyone has world peace and lives happily ever after…!

We Need To Talk About Scravers
Can we just take a minute to talk about the incredible creature creation ‘scravers’?! For me these are the coolest things to come out of this book. I really enjoyed Isaak’s character and loved his little curiosities and mysteriousness. It feels like there is a whole other backstory here that we need to explore and I really really hope that this comes out in Cursebreakers #3 otherwise I’m going to need a novella or a side-series or something!

And finally…
All in all, I am so glad that I took a punt and carried on with this series. Despite the epilogue, which is a little ‘trope-y’ for my liking although I see why it had to happen, I thoroughly enjoy Brigid’s writing style, characters and the world she’s created. They really got me invested into the series again. Cursebreakers #3 – A Vow So Bold and Deadly is definitely going to be on auto-preorder because I need to find out if my theory about how this resolves itself is correct – and I need to find out what happens to Isaak!

My finishing thought is a little insight into how this series fits into my brain…
It’s like the two separated sides of a Victoria Sponge – A Curse So Dark and Lonely was half the sponge and cream; A Heart So Fierce and Broken was the other half of sponge and the jam. Each yummy on their own but… hopefully A Vow So Bold and Deadly is going to put the whole damn scrumptious cake together! Bring it on!


If you have read AHSFAB or wanted to chat about any part of the series or characters, as always drop me a comment below! 🙂

Txx

5 Biblioshelf Musings about… The Immortal City by Amy Kuivalainen

Series: The Magicians of Venice
Genre: Fantasy
Publication Date: 19th September 2019
Publisher: BHC Press
Pages: 324
Rating: 📚📚📚📚

The Immortal City is an adult fantasy novel set in Venice from Amy Kuivalainen. The story revolves around Dr. Penelope Bryne who is on the trail of finding the Lost City of Atlantis. There are some pretty awesome magicians, stunning scenery and a captivating alchemical mystery rooted in the mythology and folklore of a lost city which has baffled generations of academics and history lovers alike. Huge thanks to BHC Press and Netgalley for providing me with a complimetary eARC in an exchange for this honest review.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

In the heart of Venice, a woman is sacrificed to a forgotten god, sparking a mystery lost for thousands of years.
Dr. Penelope Bryne is ridiculed by the academic community for her quest to find the remnants of Atlantis, but when an ancient and mysterious script is found at a murder site, she flies to Venice determined to help the police before the killer strikes again.
Penelope has spent her entire life trying to ignore the unexplainable and magical history of Atlantis, but when she meets the enigmatic Alexis Donato, everything she believes will be challenged. Little does she know, Alexis has spent the last three years doing his best to sabotage Penelope’s career so doesn’t learn the truth—Atlantis had seven magicians who survived, and who he has a duty to protect.
As Alexis draws her into the darkly, seductive world of magic and history, Penelope will have to use her heart as well as her head if she is to find the answers she seeks.
With the new MOSE system due to come online, and Carnivale exploding around them, Penelope and Alexis will have to work together to stop the killer and prevent dark magic from pulling Venice into the sea.


Viva Venezia – There were two words that made me hit that Request button as soon as I read the blurb of The Immortal City – one of them was ‘magicians’ and the other was Venice. Having been lucky enough to visit this stunning city, I’m always longing for a novel which is going to instantly transport me back to those canals and bring about the nostalgia of spending time there. Not many books have been able to do that for me, but The Immortal City definitely invoked my inner wanderlust and transported me back to that wondrous place. The detailed ways Amy describes the Magicians’ palazzo and local landmarks of Venice creates an absorbing setting which makes me want to hop right on plane and head back over to Italy. Incorporating the MOSE system (a design to try and protect Venice and the Lagoon from flooding) into the storyline adds a realistic and poignant edge to many of the topical news stories currently surrounding this famous city such as the rising water-levels and protection of the city and its heritage from mega cruise ships and mass tourism – preventing it from becoming our own modern-day Atlantis.

Lost civilisations – Atlantis has inspired countless stories and conspiracies across the generations. Don’t be duped, The Immortal City is not a quest to find the physical location of The Lost City of Atlantis – the author takes a different thread of this well-known myth by making it so that Penelope ends up finding the heart of what Atlantis left behind – the last guardians and magicians from a place lost to the sea. In my own opinion, I felt that one of the main messages here was trying to highlight that it is the stories and remnants of places which end up forming its heritage and keeping them alive, not necessarily physical places. The way the mythology of a lost civilization is tied together with a plot-line filled with forgotten languages, alchemical symbology and the one of the most amazing historical archives literature could ever imagine all makes for a fascinating plot which kept me turning page after page.

Move over Christian Grey…
…There’s a new hot guy in town and his name is Alexis Donato. This fantasy novel is definitely one for the adults out there. Alexis Donato, the dark and brooding magician at the centre of the story is HOT! The romance and relationship between him and Penelope tastefully fits into the story without bordering on seedy or distracting away from the plot and changing the tone of the novel to something more “chick-litty”. I definitely wouldn’t say no to being pulled out of a Venetian canal by him!

 The Atlantean microcosm – gimme more! – Amy Kuivalainen has created such an intriguing bunch of immortal characters. Packed with romance, banter, tension, tragedy and friendships, I quickly grew attached to each and every one of them. The events that happen towards the end of the story left me on a cliff edge waiting to see where this story goes next. Amy has created a little world of characters who I want to find out everything about. Having seen two listings for this book on Goodreads, I’m slightly unsure as to whether or not this is a standalone or part of a series as it’s listed as both but I would instantaneously be adding a sequel to my TBR should one be written… *hint hint* 🙏🙏 

More than just watery – There is a whole sunken city’s worth of different elements to like within this story that it could appeal to many readers. When I first requested it, I didn’t really know what to expect and at the start of reading it was clear this story didn’t really fit into just one bracket: there are murders and violence, but this doesn’t feel like a typical crime novel – the murders are filled with alchemical symbols and mystery which are used as plot devices throughout the story; there are magicians, but they are not your typical Dumbledores walking around in stuffy castles wearing cloaks – they are the last immortals left over from a lost civilization who are now living in our modern world; there is romance which varies from zero to all-consuming within mere pages but didn’t distract me from the main story; there is fantasy, history and magic that feels totally realistic, even though you know it’s just fiction.  Either way, there’s plenty to entertain!


Overall thoughts –
For the past few years, the books I’ve read have tended to be the ones which have been hyped about all over Goodreads or Bookstagram. I took a chance in reading The Immortal City and it was a breath of fresh air to my reading pile – this is the adult fantasy novel I have been waiting for! If you’re a fan of some of the things mentioned above, then I definitely recommend you try this book. It’s a little whirlwind of a ride and like all stories there are some points which don’t always flow or which may make you roll your eyes internally, but this book has definitely left me wanting to find out more about the captivating world of the Magicians of Venice and I’m positive I’ll be rereading it at some point in the near future. There is magic, gore, lust, danger, passion and a whole load of Italian/Atlantean goodness packed into every page. Yes this is a work of fiction, but holy gods do I wish it were real! Get me to those Palazzo archives right away!

T xx

5 Biblioshelf Musings about… Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Series: The Illuminae Files #2
Genre: Sci-Fi (YA)
Publication Date: October 18th 2016
Publisher: Rock the Boat
Pages: 659
Rating: 📚📚📚📚📚

Gemina is the second book in the epic YA Sci-Fi trilogy, The Illuminae Files. I’m not typically a sci-fi fan but I was so glad when I succumbed to the hype and picked up the first instalment, Illuminae, last year. It truly offers a reading experience with a difference. I read this for my Arithmancy exam in the OWLs Magical Readathon as it has more than one author. Needless to say, there may be spoilers below for anything that happened within the first book, but I’ve tried my best to hold them back so as not to spoil Gemina. Apologies for any space related puns, jokes or language.

<Synopsis from Goodreads>

Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminae continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.

Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.


The format

This series skyrockets the form of the novel to a whole new dimension – pun DEFINITELY intended. Now, I don’t tend to read comics, graphic novels, manga or anything similar so I can’t comment on how much this novel is like one of them, however the format of these books are unlike any other I have ever come across. I love it! The story is told through a dossier of evidence-based files which include video surveillance footage summaries; transcripts of emails and instant messaging programs; scrapbook and diary pages; computer screen graphics and some pretty superb illustrations from Marie Lu. Gemina offers a much more immersive read than normal novels and it also takes the edge off the whopping 659 pages that some people may find daunting. I’ve never read anything like it and it’s definitely a contributing factor into me giving this a 5* rating.

AIDAN is BACK!

After the ending of Illuminae, I wasn’t really sure how I felt about AIDAN. AIDAN: Artificial Intelligence Defence Analytics Network – for me, he’s definitely up there on the morally grey character list.  (I also have a bit of a thing about A.I.s developing their own non-programmed thoughts and feelings, but that’s a whole other rant!) The fact that he has the ability to rise from the ashes of the Alexander fleet makes him the mythological phoenix of our story…then again this is Illuminae where plot twists are shooting from hangar bays everywhere and you have to just go with the flow to work who’s really alive or dead. I loved that he appears again in this story along with some of the other characters from Illuminae; it brought the series back into continuity as at the start of Gemina it felt like the two stories weren’t going to merge. But when they did…cue the nebula-style explosion propelling the story light years ahead! It really felt like a mini-family reunion when the casts of Illuminae and Gemina collided! As for the other characters, at first I found Hanna really annoying, especially the way she moons after her boyfriend, but then as the story progresses she really comes into her own. Nik is awesome and his cousin Ella is comedy gold. Special mention to Ella’s little black goldfish – had my heart in my mouth for that little sucker!

Easter Eggs

One of the benefits of a format such as Illuminae means that so much fun can be had within the pages. I adore media easter eggs (little clues or intentional jokes that are hidden in things) and I loved spotting the ones that are littered through these books. I don’t think there were as many in here as there were in Illuminae however I still had fun spotting different authors names in the pages and the graphics. The illustrations matching specific parts of the action or plot also just add to that fun-factor during reading.

Plot-Twists

Just when you think you’ve got a grip on the story, the authors turn it on its head and makes you think again. Sometimes the twists go beyond all reasoning, well I suppose we are in a sci-fi book after all! These books are brilliantly researched and incredibly well-written. Even with all the Science info, which is perfectly explained and diluted for us non-astrophysics types, Kaufman and Kristoff still manage to keep you completely clued up with what is happening in those precise moments that you’re reading. The facts don’t become overbearing and even when we’re discussing the heights of wormholes and parallel universes, we still feel like we’re finding these things out and comprehending them at the same time as other characters in the novel.

Cover-Ups and Conspiracies

At the heart of this story is a corporation trying to cover-up any of its little naughty goings-on in the Kerenza star-system. I’m sure I’m not the only out there in the entire galaxy that thinks this kind of stuff already happens in our real-world everyday. Wiki-leaks anyone…??? Our news is full of stories of fraud, injunctions, hushed-up investigations, and conspiracies and this is one of the major factors I love about these books. I love a good conspiracy, that’s one of the paramount reasons I love these books, and I know this is sci-fi (emphasis on the fiction), but I completely believe that at some point in our future there will be more and more groups like the Illuminae group who are working towards uncovering all of the wrong-doings and cover-ups that happen on our plant and beyond, if they aren’t out there doing that as we speak…


If the children I teach at school were that little bit older, then these books would definitely be on my syllabus! With that kind of story-line, the galactically great format and the absolute, a$$-kicking whopper of an ending, Gemina was always guaranteed to find a way into my heart and onto my elusive 5* Biblioshelf!

Bring on Obsidio!

Have you read The Illuminae Files? Are you as much as a sucker for literary easter eggs as I am? As always, drop me a comment to chat!

T xx

Top Ten Tuesday – First Ten Books I Reviewed

Hey Bibliofriends!

The Easter holidays are officially over for me now and it’s back to work time…but guess what, it’s also another Top Ten Tuesday time! TTT is a weekly, list-themed book prompt hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

This week we are discussing the First Ten Books (I/you/we) Reviewed. When I first thought about this topic, I must admit I panicked at whether or not I’d actually even reviewed ten books.

I’m relatively new to the blogosphere and despite starting this thing way back in September 2017 (under the guise of Cotswold Bookaholic) my posts were patchy and eventually life caught up, leading to the abandonment of my blog. Reading in general disappeared from my life and family matters, work matters and mental health matters all demanded more attention. However, life is now happily back on that upwards curve and the re-launch of this blog as ‘The Biblioshelf’ gave me a renewed focus on the literary world as well as a something positive to concentrate on. I’ve been back for about two full months and already this blog has grown considerably. This month, we’ve passed the 100 followers mark! I’m so grateful and thankful to all those who’ve stuck by it and the brilliant new blogging friends that have joined the journey along the way. It isn’t perfect and I’m still thinking of ways to adapt it and improve it going forwards but it’s stepping in the right direction.

Rambling aside…TTT this week helped me to look back at all the reviews I’ve done and I did breathe a little sigh of relief that it’s more than ten! Below are links to those first ten books I reviewed.


 

There you have it! Have you read any of these titles? What was the first book you ever reviewed? Drop me a comment to chat!

T xx

5 Biblioshelf Musings about… Circle of Shadows by Evelyn Skye

Circle of Shadows by Evelyn Skye

Series: Circle of Shadows #1
Genre: Fantasy (YA)
Publication Date: 22nd January 2019
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Pages: 454
Rating: 📚📚📚📚

Circle of Shadows is the first instalment in a brand new series by Evelyn Skye and its filled with magic, friendships, ninja-style sass and a brand new tigerific world for us to get lost in. I was supposed to be reading this as a buddy-read on Instagram but the story just grabbed me and before I knew it I was near the end! Also, this formed as one of the twelve books on my TBR for the OWLs Magical Readathon so I was quite keen to motor through.

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Sora can move as silently as a ghost and hurl throwing stars with lethal accuracy. Her gemina, Daemon, can win any physical fight blindfolded and with an arm tied around his back. They are apprentice warriors of the Society of Taigas—marked by the gods to be trained in magic and the fighting arts to protect the kingdom of Kichona.
As their graduation approaches, Sora and Daemon look forward to proving themselves worthy of belonging in the elite group—but in a kingdom free of violence since the Blood Rift Rebellion many years ago, it’s been difficult to make their mark.
So when Sora and Daemon encounter a strange camp of mysterious soldiers while on a standard scouting mission, they decide the only thing to do to help their kingdom is to infiltrate the group. Taking this risk will change Sora’s life forever—and lead her on a mission of deception that may fool everyone she’s ever loved.
Love, spies, and adventure abound as Sora and Daemon unravel a complex web of magic and secrets that might tear them—and the entire kingdom—apart forever.


Now this review was actually fairly difficult to write which is probably why it’s taken me so long to get it posted. I’ll go through my main musings about Circle of Shadows and then at the end I will attempt an overall verdict of this novel.

Tiger Tiger
A lot of things in this book are centered around tigers; even the Kingdom of Kichona itself. Maps in books are one of my favourite things ever and the map of Kichona at the beginning of this book did not disappoint. Shaped like a leaping Tiger, many aspects of the world are linked to parts of its anatomy: the eye is the Imperial City, Stiped Coves refer to the tiger’s infamous stripes and there’s even a town called Tiger’s Belly. Kichona gained its wealth from the Tiger Pearls which are fished from the waters around the island. Lastly, members of the famous ninja society at the centre of Circle of Shadows are called Taigas in honour of the animal and Kichona’s heritage. I loved that this motif ran through so many elements of the story. It really helped to blend the plot, storyline and characters all together.

Food Glorious Food
🚨WARNING: Do not read this book on an empty stomach if you like Asian food! Seriously, the mentions of foods in this book was vivid. Now I am a huge foodie so the way Evelyn Skye included these ‘taste notes’ when they were visiting different places around Kichona was a major factor in winning me over. Miso-glazed butter-fish, fried shrimp, bamboo shoots braised in sticky soy sauce, bacon-wrapped shrimp, ginger-honey chicken skewers, Autumn Festival cake (a ten layered cake rich with lemony yuzu and confectioners’ sugar)…need I go on? Take me to Tanoshi already, I’m salivating over here!

“Work Hard. Mischief Harder.”
Spirit (Sora), Wolf (Daemon), Fairy and Broomstick form as the main gang of characters within the story and I loved the vibes their friendship gave off throughout the novel. Their motto ‘Work hard. Mischief harder,” really encapsulated the way they stick by each other no matter what and put themselves in potentially hazardous or dangerous situations just to help each other out. It reminded me a little of Harry, Ron and Hermione’s relationship from the Harry Potter series. They really are a brilliant foursome.

From Forbidden Love to…a Love Triangle?!
Sora & Daemon/Fairy & Broomstick are geminas which means that they are bound together and can communicate emotions to each other through a bond (…think Rhysand and Ferye ACOTAR fans). Unfortunately for Daemon, geminas cannot form romantic relationships with each other so his feelings towards Sora are not only forbidden, but on Sora’s part they’re also seemingly unrequited. This forbidden love trope was quite subtly done throughout a majority of the book and Skye definitely didn’t overdo it or make it tacky – but then…without giving too much away, we seem to have an is it/isn’t it love triangle thrown in right towards the end which left me actually quite perplexed and slightly angry as it just didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the story and the impressions I’d built up of these characters.

Shifting Perspectives
This story is told in the 3rd person and starts off primarily from Sora’s viewpoint. But then, as the plot gets more complex, we seem to have viewpoints from a whole host of other characters which at times left me confused as to who’s perspective I was actually reading from or where I was in the story. I guess the giveaway for the narration came from the fact that the first sentence in the chapter starts with the character’s name but the whole shifting perspectives kind of detracted me away from the flow of the story at times.


The whole idea of shifting kind of sums up what I really feel about this whole story. Whilst reading and being caught up in all that was going on I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  • The interactions between characters was fun and I did like them all. Even the villain had me doubting whether they were actually an enemy or just a victim of past suffering who genuinely believes their course of action is for the ‘greater good’.
  • The magic was intriguing. I was keen to find out how and why the Ryuu could use magic differently to the Taigas.
  • Skye’s narrative was were well-written in many places and I am partial to flowery descriptions of things.

It’s only when I sit back and try to pick apart the novel for a review where my opinions about it start to change. The plot is fairly predictable in places and the ending seemed to leave me with a strange feeling as if it had been rushed or had taken on a whole different tangent to what had been laid out in the rest of the novel.

Immediately after finishing it, I gave the novel 4 out of 5 and I do stand by that. There are plenty of things that I enjoyed and liked Circle of Shadows whilst reading. I will probably read the second one in the series to see where it all goes and if my questions are answered.

If you haven’t read Circle of Shadows yet and you’re going to give it a chance, I’d recommend you treat this as a fun read, don’t dissect it too deeply and just enjoy the ride.

Have you read Circle of Shadows yet? Did you have as many conflicting feelings as me? Drop me a comment and let me know!

T xx

5 Biblioshelf Musings about…Mirage by Somaiya Daud [Spolier Free]

Mirage by Somaiya Daud

Series: Mirage
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy (YA)
Publication Date: 28thAugust 2018
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Pages: 320
Rating: 📚📚📚📚

Mirage is the debut novel from Somaiya Daud and is the first instalment in this Middle Eastern style Fantasy/Sci-fi series. There’s friendship, romance, droids, mythology and an epic planetary world for you to get your teeth stuck into. Here’s five spoiler-free musings I had about this brilliant novel.

Synopsis from Goodreads:
In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and will travel beyond her isolated moon. But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place. As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty – and her time with the princess’ fiancé, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play princess to perfection…because one wrong move could lead to her death.


Maram vs Amani
Maram is supposed to be the villain of this story, yet somehow I found myself sympathising with her the more her character developed and extra details about her upbringing were revealed. Don’t get me wrong, she starts off quite cruel and nasty, however in reality she is just a product of the Vathek world she was raised in, thanks to her father King Mathis. Whether or not Maram is the tragic hero of the story is subjective but the relationship arc between her and Amani was probably my favourite part of the book. Amani’s character on the other hand was almost the opposite of Maram’s. A humble village girl who is stolen away from her family and made to live amongst the riches of the Royal Palaces. Sooner or later, she starts to embrace the world that she’s been forced into and takes on more than just the ‘body double’. The interactions between Maram and Amani and the role they play within the story was incredibly well-written and I found myself looking forward to the parts of the book where their characters would intersect. With the way Daud leaves the ending of the novel, I’m really intrigued to see what happens next to this pair of characters.

“Could I live my life knowing I’d never stepped close to such a flame? Could I exist in the Ziyaana knowing I had chosen my shadowed half life, had accepted a horrible changing in my soul, instead of reaching out with both hands with something that might remake me? Arinaas’s flame might char my skin and break my bones, but in the end I would emerge remade, newer and stronger and a version of myself no one could snuff out.”

Mythology
If you love mythology and fairytales, particularly those with an Arabian feel, then Mirage should appeal to you. Myths, legends and folklore are the undercurrent within the novel and this is what gives it that fantasy-like feel. The stories of the Tesleet bird and Massinia, to name just a few, help to pad the story out and give what is a relatively thin plot more substance. In turn, they also add to the amazing world-building created by Daud.

“Hope. Hard won, soaked in blood, a hope that burned as much as it lit her way.”

World-Building

A74BEC88-D15C-462A-BC6E-95EAD7608089First off, the map at the beginning of this book is gorgeous. There are so many places in the world of Andala. If I could hop on a space-shuttle right now, I absolutely would. The Ouamalich Star System is so wide and vast; there are many, many places listed in this fabulous world that Somaiya has created and whilst a lot of them are mentioned and visited, a fair few are left unexplored. I’m hoping that they will have a part to play in the future of the series. To back this up, the writing in Mirage is incredibly rich. It appeals to practically every sense…and then some! I love a story where the writing is lyrical and descriptive so this is probably why Mirage appealed to me so much.

“I could feel the water in the air, cool, thin, but there. It carried with it the smell of lemons and oranges, and the sound of a hundred trees, waving gently in the wind.”

The Vathek
The Vathek are really the main drivers for the plot in this story. After all, they are the ones who have taken over the Andala Star System and imposed their rule. That being said, I would have liked so much more of the Vathek from this book. The storyline is fairly narrow and thin: girl gets taken from her home moon to be the body double of the princess and then faces the challenges that being the heir of an invasive regime brings. There’s a backdrop of a resistance which is lightly touched upon, the beginnings of a romance, which is subtle and twee but that (being honest) I didn’t really buy into. I can’t really explain why the Vathek wanted to take over Andala or what their motivations are within the book. We don’t really see a lot of King Mathis at all and to me, he is supposed to be the real villain as opposed to Maram. Hopefully these will get picked up more within the next book.

“In my experience, fear and hatred are great motivators for great evils.”

Sci-Fi vs Fantasy
Is Mirage Sci-fi? Is it Fantasy?
If you’re not a Sci-fi fan, don’t be put off by the fact that this book takes place in a star system…it really isn’t your classical sci-fi novel. When Maram is first described as half-Vathek, I had some strange image in my head that she was half-human/half-robot. I don’t tend to read a lot of Sci-fi stories and for the first part of this book, I couldn’t really get my head around the fact that all of the characters in the story are human beings. The only real Sci-fi parts are the fact that they live on planets and moons in a star system, travel between those planets and moons on space-crafts and use droids as their servants. (Note to self: Vatheks are not robots!) Other than that, the rest of the novel has a fantasy-like feel. It is rich in terms of characters, both living and mythological. You can easily forget that this story takes place in a star system far, far away.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed Mirage. The best way I can think to describe it is like an Arabian Star Wars story (I even pictured King Mathis as a bit like Darth Vadar if I’m being totally honest). It’s got brilliant female characters, an incredibly exotic world and a folklore all of its own. Daud really has the scope and ability to turn Mirage into a thrillingly exciting series, I can’t wait to see if she takes us there!

Have you read Mirage? As always, drop me a comment to chat! 

T xx

 

5 Biblioshelf Musings about… A Curse So Dark and Lonely [Spoiler Free]

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

Series: A Curse So Dark and Lonely
Genre: Fantasy (YA)
Publication Date: 29th January 2019
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Pages: 477
Rating: 4/5 Shelfie Stacks 📚📚📚📚

A Curse So Dark and Lonely is a modern-day retelling of Beauty and the Beast by Brigid Kemmerer. The story is a dual perspective novel and alternates between Harper and Rhen’s narrative. It is set between Washington D.C and Emberfall, the fictional location of Rhen’s kingdom.

Synopsis from Goodreads

Fall in love, break the curse.

It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper Lacy. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

  • Beauty and beast fairytale retelling!

Fairytales are my absolute favourite thing to read; I even wrote my university dissertation on them. When I discovered this was a Beauty and the Beast retelling I knew I just had to read it. There’s been a lot of hype surrounding fairytale retellings recently so I’m pleased that this was a fresh and different interpretation on the original. Even if I hadn’t known prior to reading, it is made very clear that that this story is based on Beauty and the Beast. The novel sticks to the main idea of the girl falling in love with the monster to try and break the curse but diverts away from it in the fact that Harper actually does have a chance to get to know Rhen as a human before he turns. Therefore it’s almost like Beauty and the Beast but in reverse… Harper’s character is in no way a wallflower either and it was the style in which her character was written that was one of my favourite parts of the novel.

  • Harper

It’s Harper’s modernity that is what keeps this retelling fresh. She’s a girl from Washington D.C who is used to all of the mod-cons of today’s life. Not only that, but she has cerebral palsy and her brother is involved with some sort of violent loan-shark. I really liked the way that Brigid tentatively dealt with Harper’s affliction without it taking over the story – and I don’t mean that in an insensitive way at all. Brigid’s light touches on Harper’s condition resembled how living with a limp and the other aspects of CP is part of Harper’s reality everyday and how normal it is for her. Harper is very clear that she doesn’t want to be seen as weak just because of her CP and that strength shines through in volumes. I absolutely loved her character. She bounced off the archaic chivalry of Rhen perfectly and I felt like their pairing was a great match. Elsewhere in the novel, Grey broke up the dynamics between Rhen and Harper, I’ve heard in some places that their relationship is likened to a love triangle but I didn’t really see it in this way to be honest. I really liked the input of the Harper’s brother and Noah as well. Their reaction to Harper’s story and the world of Emberfall was brilliant and definitely had me chuckling in some places.

“I am always surprised to discover that when the world seems darkest, there exists the greatest opportunity for light.”

  • Kingdom and Peoples of Emberfall

Emberfall seems like such a fun place to be – if you rule out the fact that a monster terrorises through the whole country periodically… The castle is your typical magical abode with mysterious music being played on instruments by invisible hands; food turning up deliciously cooked and seemingly from nowhere; the opulent surroundings of Harper’s room which are at odds with the visceral room of blood and gore; it suited this fairytale to a tee! I was so happy that we also got to see the wider world of the kingdom and meet the people of Emberfall. When Emberfall comes under attack from neighbouring territories and the evil enchantress Lilith, Rhen’s protection and sense of guardianship over his kingdom give the novel an added depth which sets it apart from older versions of the fairytale. It also provides for more action within the story which allows it to become meatier than just your average retelling.

  • Brigid’s Writing Style

I loved how easy this book was to read. Every time I picked it up it was like sinking back into a big fluffy pillow. The split narrative was easily distinguished by having the name of the character at the start of each chapter but also through the different voices of Harper and Rhen themselves. Harper’s language was much more contemporary whereas Rhen had the refined elegance of a Crown Prince. It suited them really well.

“My father once said we are all dealt a hand at birth. A good hand can ultimately lose – just as a poor hand can win – but we must all play the cards the fate deals. The choices we face may not be the choices we want, but they are choices nonetheless.”

  • Ending

For me, this is the one aspect of the book that just lost a little bit of love. Everything seemed to happen so fast and before I knew it all of the action was over and we were setting up for the next novel in the series. We sent so long in getting to know the charcaters and the kingdom, as well as the build up to the battle and the transition of Rhen from Prince to Monster, that I felt the transformation elements weren’t as well developed as the rest of the novel. Right at the beginning when Harper is in DC and Rhen is in Emberfall, the very blood underneath their fingernails is mirrored between their two narratives and I missed these little extra details and nuances towards the ending of the novel. Then from out of nowhere it just seemed to end and I’m still not even sure I’ve actually read the ending correctly…

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed A Curse So Dark and Lonely. It had me completely hooked whilst reading and was everything I was looking for in a Beauty and the Beast retelling. It is definitely more than just your average Disney-style echoing. The characters and world-building tied in neatly with plot. Although the cliffhanger of an ending left me slightly confused about what was actually happening, I’m keen to see where this series goes next. The sequel, A Heart So Fierce and Broken is set for release on January 28th 2020.

Have you read A Curse So Dark and Lonely? What did you think? Drop me a comment to chat!

T xx

 

5 Biblioshelf Musings about…Onyx and Ivory [Spoiler Free]

Onyx and Ivory by Mindee Arnett

Series: Rime Chronicles #1

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: May 12th 2018

Publisher: Balzer & Bray (Fairyloot Exclusive Edition)

Pages: 512

Rating: 4/5 Shelfie Stacks 📚📚📚📚

Onyx and Ivory is the first in a series of books by Mindee Arnett called The Rime Chronicles.

Synopsis from Goodreads

They call her Traitor Kate. It’s a title Kate Brighton inherited from her father after he tried to assassinate the high king years ago. Now Kate lives as an outcast, clinging to the fringes of society as a member of the Relay, the imperial courier service. Only those most skilled in riding and bow hunting ride for the Relay; and only the fastest survive, for when dark falls, the nightdrakes—deadly flightless dragons—come out to hunt. Fortunately, Kate has a secret edge: she is a wilder, born with magic that allows her to influence the minds of animals. But it’s this magic that she needs to keep hidden, as being a wilder is forbidden, punishable by death or exile. And it’s this magic that leads her to a caravan massacred by nightdrakes in broad daylight—the only survivor her childhood friend, her first love, the boy she swore to forget, the boy who broke her heart.The high king’s second son, Corwin Tormane, never asked to lead. Even as he waits for the uror—the once-in-a-generation ritual to decide which of the king’s children will succeed him—he knows it’s always been his brother who will assume the throne. And that’s fine by him. He’d rather spend his days away from the palace, away from the sight of his father, broken with sickness from the attempt on his life. But the peacekeeping tour Corwin is on has given him too much time to reflect upon the night he saved his father’s life—the night he condemned the would-be killer to death and lost the girl he loved. Which is why he takes it on himself to investigate rumors of unrest in one of the remote city-states, only for his caravan to be attacked—and for him to be saved by Kate.With their paths once more entangled, Kate and Corwin have to put the past behind them. The threat of drakes who attack in the daylight is only the beginning of a darker menace stirring in the kingdom—one whose origins have dire implications for Kate’s father’s attack upon the king and will thrust them into the middle of a brewing civil war in the kingdom of Rime.

Magists

Ok, we need to talk about the Magists…These guys hold the monopoly on magic in Rime – if you’re not a magist then you shouldn’t be doing magic at all; you’re a wilder and you’re an outlaw. The only way to access magic in Rime is to buy it off a magist. This really struck a cord with me. Somewhere in the World Wide Web is an infographic which shows 10 major companies who supposedly control the world because they own pretty much every other ‘big business’ that’s out there saturating our mass market. Now I’m not going to go on a political rampage here, but I couldn’t help but link the role of the magists in Rime to these top ten companies. The way the magists are able to control everyone, including the royals who run the country, really pulled me into the story. I was immediately suspicious of them and quite incensed to be honest.

Horses

If you have read some of my recent posts then you’ll be getting to know that I love horses. 🐎 I am massively envious of Kate’s wilder ability to talk to them! The horse theme and Arnett’s love for these wondrous creatures definitely came through in her writing and really appealed to the horse-enthusiast in me.

Supporting characters

The band of supporting characters in this novel are absolute gold. Bonner’s loyalty; Signe’s sass; Dal’s dark humour; Raith’s mysterious-ness; Corwin’s Princely charms… I loved them all and they complement Kate perfectly! Each of them had their own role to play in the story and I found myself wanting to learn more and more about all of their backstories. A truly fabulous cast of characters.

The Relay

‘Running the gauntlet’ is the phrase I would use to try summing up what the Relay Riders have to do every day whilst delivering things around the world of Rime. And perhaps it’s my mischievous side coming through but this sounds like such a cool job! You get to ride your horse all across the country whilst trying to avoid the dangerous nightdrakes that come out in the dark…only to find that you then have to start dodging the daydrakes too – Royal Mail eat your heat out, these guys are the badass, tough-nuts of the Postie world! I’m definitely adding Relay Rider to my list of ‘fictional jobs I wish I could do’.

Storytelling

It didn’t take long at all for me to become engrossed in this story. The world building, characterisation and plot devices were everything I wanted from a fantasy story. I liked the suspense of trying to guess who the villains were (and whilst I guessed some of it, I definitely didn’t get all of it). I was rooting for the romance between Kate and Corwin. I was intrigued by the types of magic both from the magists and the wilders. I was thrilled by the fight scenes.

All in all, this made for a brilliant series starter which is why I gave Onyx and Ivory 4 Shelfie Stacks and put the sequel, Shadow and Flame, straight onto my TBR.

Have you read Onyx and Ivory? Did you love it as much as I did? Drop me a comment and let me know! ☺️

Txx

5 Biblioshelf Musings about… Crooked Kingdom

So my February mission was to try and start finishing some series which I was part-way through before every plot from every book I’ve ever read starts bleeding into each other. I read Six of Crows towards the end of 2018 and knew immediately that I wouldn’t be waiting very long before getting my hands on Crooked Kingdom.

I enjoyed this duology much more than the Shadow and Bone trilogy. To me, Bardugo’s writing was really well developed in terms of the clever plot and the characters’ interactions (and as an Ocean’s movie fan I was bound to love a good heist).

With an ending like Crooked Kingdom there is no way that I can keep this review completely spoiler-free so if you haven’t read these books yet then what are you waiting for? Go buy them, read them, then come back so we can talk about this!

Here’s just five of the many things I thought after reading Crooked Kingdom (I can’t promise that some of them won’t sound garbled, rant-ish or fangirly. Sorry, not sorry!):

Domhnall Gleeson would be my dream casting for Sturmhond/Nikolai…

Seriously, does anyone else visualise Domhnall Gleeson as Sturmhond? Now the image is in my head, I can’t unsee it. I think he’d be absolutely perfect for the role. However as this is now a Netflix TV show I’m not really sure he’d be in the frame but I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled on the casting news nevertheless. Who would be your dream Crow Club cast? Let me know below!

What is the deal with Kaz and Inej?

This is a ship I am constantly conflicted over. I was so happy at the end of Crooked Kingdom that Inej stays in Ketterdam and Kaz helps to reunite her with her family etc etc, but I can’t really see them as a couple, even though I want them to end up together and be happy – does that make sense? What is this confusion?!

I really like Inej. Her morals, her intuition, her integrity, her ability to blend into darkness or walk on tightropes in the air…this girl has a major coolness factor.

Then I think, what in Ghezen’s name makes her stick with Kaz Brekker?

BUT THEN, I also really like Kaz! He is so clever how he thinks of all of his schemes and plots. I can see how his actions and determination are due to the trauma and sadness in him from his brother’s death. He is a tragic kind of flawed-hero who reminds me in part of Severus Snape (one of my all-time literary heroes) and deserves that happy ending…just rip off the gloves Kaz and tell her how much you love her!!

Is Dunyasha an alien from another planet?

Dunyasha – some exotic ninja-warrior whose only real part in the story is to give Inej a run for her money. So who is she, where does she come from? It’s like she doesn’t fit in the Grishaverse at all. With a moniker such as the White Blade of Ahmrat Jen, this Ravkan assassin who was trained at a Shu monastery (of all places) and believes she’s some sort of Lansov heir…I need more on her! Some kind of novella or back story or something…pretty please? 🙏 Anyone else get this?

From a rushed ending to a proposed book 3?

The build-up in this book felt massive compared to the fast paced nature of Six of Crows. A fair portion of it was character development and setting the scenes for the showdown at the end which I understand, but by the time of the auction it all felt like it was over so quickly. They’re escaping the Church, then Matthias gets shot, then the bad guys go away, then Kaz saves the day, then they all disperse and that’s the end? I wanted just a little…bit…more before I parted ways with characters that I had been made to grow attached to! And now I’m told that there might be a third book but it may not happen until many years down the line…Leigh Bardugo, you are the Corporalki messing with my heartstrings! Good thing we have King of Scars to read whilst we’re waiting! 🙂

Poor, poor Matthias!

I guessed that at least one character might die as it seemed a little too twee that the whole group would come out unscathed, but not Matthias! Are you kidding me? 😱

‘Mattina’ was my favourite Six of Crows couple and to kill him off by a bullet wound to the stomach from a junior Drüskelle rather than in the midst of big action AND when they’re all about ready to ride off into the Ketterdam sunset?! It brought tears to my eyes when he died in Nina’s arms, especially as I thought he’d managed to escape the stupid junior Drüskelle guy. Then I cried again when they said goodbye to him and put him on the barge. #gutted

Someone out there needs to write a fanfiction where Matthias never really dies, he and Nina go to Fjerda, rescue his wolf Trassel and then live happily ever after. Any takers…?

So there we have it; my own rambled musings about this fantastic “duology-rumoured-to-be-a-trilogy”.  I’m really glad the hype surrounding this book swayed me into reading it. I’m now definitely a Grisha fan, not sure how much longer I’ll be able to hold back from buying King of Scars. 🙈
As always, drop me a comment below if you want to chat books!

Happy Sunday bookish friends! ☺️ Keep reading!

T xx