In review: 2015 so far…

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This week over at the Broke and the Bookish the Top Ten Tuesday topic for discussion is:

‘Top Ten Books I’ve Read So Far In 2015

This should be an interesting week checking out everyone’s ‘best of so far!  I must admit it wasn’t as easy to choose as I hoped as I’ve read such a lot of good books so far this year but these are my choices so far listed in the order in which I read them:

  1. The Just City by Jo Walton – thought provoking
  2. The Iron Ghost by Jen Williams – great characters and action
  3. Flex by Ferrett Steinmetz – so unique and compelling
  4. The Mechanical by Ian Tregillis – excellent and gripping story
  5. Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier – beautifully written and fairytale(esque)
  6. Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu, The Deaths of Tao by Wesley Chu, The Rebirths of Tao by Wesley Chu (bit of a cheat here but I read all three in fairly short order – bit like reading Lord of the Rings all in one go – so, not really a cheat at all when you think about it!) – really original, full of action
  7. When We Were Animals by Joshua Gaylord – strange and yet unputdownable
  8. Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien de Castell – good action, good characters, plenty of humour
  9. The Liar’s Key by Mark Lawrence – fantastic story arc, amazing ending, great writing
  10. The Tower Lord by Anthony Ryan – action packed and wonderful characters

And – because I’ve already got my 10 – an honorary mention to:

Death House by Sarah Pinborough – unique, beautiful writing, emotional

Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey, readalong week No.8

Today is the eighth week in our readalong of Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart.  This week I am hosting.  A lot took part this week and there were uplifting and bittersweet moments. The questions and answers for week No.8 are below.  If you haven’t read this book already be aware of spoilers in the following text.  If you have read and want to jump in with your own answers then please do so.  If you want to join in with the readalong then leave a comment – the details are here.

This week chapters 64-73 are covered below:

1.  We finally go sailing and everything seems to be going so well that we were lulled temporarily into a false sense of security!  Sailors are a superstitious bunch, throwing coins to the Lord of the Deep, for example.  What did you make of the Master of the Straits?  Any similarity to other myths or legends?

I loved this part of the journey and I admit that the part with the Master of the Straits made my jaw drop.  This is a reread for me but I had forgotten that part completely.  The Master of the Straits is a bit scary and he certainly knows how to drum up a storm.  He puts me in mind of Poseidon to be honest, controlling the waves like that.  It was strange the way he was calmed by music – music to calm the raging beast eh? I suppose the God of the Straits doesn’t get to see much so he presumably welcomes anything new!  I do wonder though why the MofS is so adamant about people not crossing his waters?

2. Hyacinthe plays a much larger role in this instalment and has come into his own, plus given a new title – ‘Waking Dreamer’.  His travels so far have been very bitter sweet and you really do feel for him.  Bearing that in mind what did you make of the strange dream that Breidaia had where she saw Hyachinthe on an island – this was skimmed over a little but did it give you pause for thought.  Do you have any ideas of what’s in store for our Waking Dreamer?

I can remember some of what happens next to be honest so I won’t elaborate too much on that.  You kind of feel for Hyachinthe, he doesn’t seem to have a smooth run of it.  In the last few chapters he was briefly accepted by his people only then to be rejected again and to leave them.  In this instalment he finally meets a woman, with a similar gift – and look what happens!  Phedre is supposed to be the one with the unlucky name, with bad luck following her around – I begin to wonder what Hyachinthe’s name must mean then!  His strange ability with the Dromonde is certainly coming into it’s own isn’t it?  It’s interesting that Breidaia had a vision for him – it made me wonder whether he can actually have visions that relate to himself?  I also thought it was interesting to learn that his mother taught him the Dromonde because she had a vision of him and realised he would need it!

3. You have to hand it to Ysandre for choosing Phedre as Ambassador.  It seems her strange talents come in very useful indeed.  What did you make of her tactics and powers of persuasion? 

It’s intriguing that a large portion of this section seems to rely on Phedre’s sexual prowess – whether that is to gain the access beyond a border or persuade twin rulers to go to war for a cause that isn’t really theirs.  I liked that she sung them out of trouble when the Master of the Straits appeared and it certainly gives meaning to the phrase about all knowledge being power.  If she hadn’t taken the time to learn the Skaldi women’s songs who knows what would have happened.  I also thought it was amusing watching the twins bicker over her!  Although it did kind of stop me momentarily in that – well, what would’ve happened if she hadn’t wanted either of them??

4. We finally meet Drustan he at first seems like an unlikely match for Ysandre and yet they both seem to have a shared vision.  Can they make it work do you think?  They have so many differences even if they do succeed in battle?

I like to think that they will make it work – of course they have a massive confrontation to overcome first.  It was interesting to see Drustan’s feelings, even though he tried to hide them, about Ysandre.  He also seems to have a romantic vision in that respect much like she does herself.  It must be so strange to be the subjects of a prophecy – or to think you are!  It’s almost as though it makes the two of them even more romantically inclined or opens up their eyes to the possibility of something that they may not have otherwise ever thought of.

5. Can we discuss the Dalriada and the Cruithne – do they put you in mind of any particular races?  What do you make of them??  

Both are great additions to the book.  I’m thinking that the Dalriada and Cruithne are based on the Irish and Scottish – or at least that’s what I’m taking from this and that the language is Gaelic or that it’s similar to.  I love their recklessness and passion, they seem to fight with a wild abandon.  Just before the fighting where Drustan was riding up and down talking to everyone, great leadership and motivation.  I was  also intrigued by the Dalraida going into battle on chariots.

6. I’m puzzled about Joscelin – he’s always so severe on himself, particularly after the battle and Moiread’s death.  I wonder why he blames himself so much – and I also wonder how he’s coping with watching Phedre’s actions – in particular her closeness to Hyacinthe.

In these chapters it felt like Joscelin had been relegated to a lesser role for a spell and we were having more of a focus on Hyachinthe.  I was surprised by how severe he was on himself at Moiread’s death, of course it was really bad but she was out there fighting, I don’t think anybody was really expecting him to protect everybody, some people will defend themselves after all.  I do feel kind of sorry for him watching Phedre, she’s being herself after all, but it must be difficult to watch!

7. Finally, we’re working ourselves up for the grand finale – do you have any predictions as to how this will all pan out?

I sort of threw this in as a teaser because I’ve already read this – what we do know is that there is going to be lots of action and suspense!

I love that Phedre had to knight the crew and they’ve become known as Phedre’s Boys.

 Other participants:

Allie at Tethyan Books
Lauren at Violin in a Void
Celine at Nyx Book Reviews
Jenn at Morrison Girl
Igret at Igret’s Corner
Michael at Nashville Book Worm
Kheya at Not Food Porn
Emma at EmmaMaree.com
Nancy at FaeStruck’s Reviews & More
Kelly at Orange Pekoe Reviews
James at James T. Witherspoon
Susan at Dab of Darkness

Real Neat Blog Award

Thank you Caitlinsternwrites for nominating me for the Real Neat Blog award. This seems like a nice simple one–answer random “either/or” questions, nominate a couple of people, ask a few questions of your own and there you go!  Nice and easy people.  Here goes :

  1. Which would you prefer – to never be able to leave your home city, or to never be able to go back to it?  Ah, that’s tough, it’s hard to not be able to go back to your home city but I think it would be harder to never leave it.  It’s natural to leave and travel really.  Yeah, I would prefer to never be able to got back to home than never leave.  That sounds really harsh now I’ve said it!
  2. Would you rather never re-read a book, or only read the ones you have read? (Assume someone could present you with a list of all the books you’ve read over your lifetime.)  I’ve reread lots of books – even recently, however, if it was a choice of never reading another new book I’m afraid there would be no more rereadings!
  3. Would you rather have a dragon, or be a dragon? I would rather have a dragon – that way you have you – and the dragon!    Okay, it would be ace to fly and breathe fire – but it would be kind of cool to have a dragon – you could ride anyway, which is flying at the end of the day – and, YOU”D HAVE A DRAGON.
  4. Which would you choose–to live permanently in a fictional world, or visit as many as you liked but you couldn’t stay more than a few hours? If you’d do the former, which book/series?  I think I would have to go for living in a permanent fictional world rather than just stay a few hours.  You can’t even see a full City in a few hours after all.  I’d just choose a fictional world that was huge – maybe middle earth?  Or the Foundation series which isn’t restricted to one planet??
  5. What book that you’ve read recently would you recommend to everyone? I recently read The Liar’s Key by Mark Lawrence – which is excellent and I would highly recommend.  Of course, you would need to read Prince of Fools first – but that would not be a problem as both books are excellent.

My Questions:

  1. Okay, if you had to choose would you sooner travel in a tardis or the Star Ship Enterprise and why.
  2. If you had to choose someone to rescue you from the jaws of certain death would it be a superhero or a supernatural creature of some description.
  3. Hot or cold – would you like to sit in the sun relaxing, or do you prefer something a bit more chilled or challenging?
  4. Cats or dogs (or other) (or neither)-  do you have a favourite cat, dog or other animal that you would love to accompany you? Or not?
  5. Earth or not? If you could choose anywhere in the world or universe to live where would it be?
  6. If you had to choose between book or e-book, no going back – which would it be??

I hope you can both take part but don’t worry if not – I know you have very busy lives and this is just for fun. :D :D

Darkhaven by A F E Smith

Posted On 25 June 2015

Filed under Book Reviews
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Just finished reading Darkhaven and what a very enjoyable start to series this is. (at least I think or hope it’s a series?)

We start off with Ayla escaping from captivity with the help of her brother Myrren.  From there we learn that Darkhaven is ruled by the Nightshades, people with the ability to shapeshift, known as Changers.  The ruler of Darkhaven, Florentyne, is a Firedrake, the other forms taken by the purebloods are Griffin, Phoenix, Hydra or Unicorn.  Florentyne is not a man to be messed with, ruthless and dark, he will stop at nothing to ensure the continuation of the Nightshade line.  Unfortunately his son and heir, a trueblood, has manifested no ability to shift.  His daughter however, born to a regular human during a second marriage can shift but not in a pure form.  Ayla is not popular, not with her father, or the Helm, the body of training guards who are sworn to protect the Nightshades.

Florentyne has made the decision to disinherit his son and place Ayla as his heir.  Of course, she’s got something to say about that and consequently her father places her into captivity.  And, that brings us back to the start of the story with Ayla’s escape and the beginning of all the trouble as on the same night her father is murdered – by a charger.  Ayla is the only other charger so she’s the number one suspect.  From here we have a situation where Alya, having escaped to one of the lower rings of the city and secured the help of a former guard, now needs to clear her name.  Meanwhile Myrren, also convinced of his sister’s innocence is also looking for evidence to prove her innocence assisted by a priestess who has been attacked by this murdering charger and may have additional information.  Now, what makes this tricky is that the Helm are convinced of Ayla’s guilt, they’re not really too bothered about evidence, and they’re also looking for her.

I’m not going to go on about the world building because we only really see Darkhaven – which is dark – with good reason.  The City is split into rings, all planned as means of defence in times of siege.  I have no real idea about the shifters history, why they’re in control – I mean, obviously there used to be more of them, a lot more, and in their charger form they’re almost entirely invincible – almost, entirely!  For some reason, there are a lot, lot less now – again, at this point, not sure why – and I’m not sure that it matters to the story to be honest.  Although it does lead to some rather nasty realisations about what exactly needs to take place to ensure the survival of the remaining shifters – yeah!

Characters.  Ayla and Myrren are the Nightshades.  They are assisted by Tomas, former Helm guard who is now living in disgrace, and Serenna, the Priestess who is assisting Myrren.  We also follow the course of one of the helm guards who has his own personal mission and a secret character who has a protector – an assassin/sellsword called Sorrow.

The action and the story are pretty gripping.  I think the author manages to keep the tension concerning the actual identify of the murderer in debate for a large portion of the story.  I had my own thoughts on where the story was going but admit that the story was written in a way to keep more than one possibility alive and kicking.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, Alya was one of my first thoughts in that respect.  I don’t dislike her as a character particularly, but, I’m puzzled.  She has the ability to change into this really cool creature and yet she spends the majority of the book either shut in a room hiding or being taken captive or just running away.  She really doesn’t have much about her in that respect.  She changes into her other form only twice in the book and never to actually evade capture or protect herself.  I was just puzzled by her really.  She seems to have no real chance of looking after herself at all. Merryn on the other hand has no shifting ability but he’s clever, quick witted and greatly skilled with a blade.  Then we have Sorrow – an infamous assassin and sellsword – who frankly falls at the first hurdle!

I didn’t feel like we had enough time seeing or finding out about the shifters or seeing their other forms – but then this is the first book so there is room for more exploration.  And, I felt the relationships – and the ending – were a tad rushed not to mention bittersweet.

And yet, in spite of my criticisms this was a very engaging read that I really enjoyed and it ended on a perfect set up for the next book.

I received a copy of this from the publisher through Netgalley for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

‘Join me, and together we can rule the galaxy as father and son…’

Posted On 24 June 2015

Filed under Book Reviews

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I had to go there – I just couldn’t help it!

This week at the Fantasy Review Barn we will once again be Tough Travelling.  Our topic this week: FATHERS

Comes in two types in fantasyland.  Either a semi-mystical figure proving impossible to live up to or the overbearing type who doesn’t understand why his daughter doesn’t accept the traditional princess role.  He may be tough to get along with but usually does think he has his kids interests in mind.

Age of Iron by Angus Watson – I loved this book and talk about your overbearing father!  Difficult to give up too much information without – well, giving up too much information – but, the young girl Spring has a very demanding father – to say the least.

Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton – in this book Apollo, who has taken human form – becomes father to a number of children.  I wouldn’t call him overbearing, in fact he seems like a rather nice father figure – but it’s a lot of living up to do – he’s a God!

Darkhaven by A F E Smith – in which the Nightshade family rule.  Ayla and her brother Myrren are a great disappointment to their father, the ruler of Darkhaven.  The Nightshade family are changers – changers basically have the gift of shapeshifting – unfortunately Ayla’s heritage is mixed blood and therefore she shifts into a form that is considered impure and her brother cannot change at all!  Their father is not pleased!!  He doesn’t take disappointment well.

The Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence – this book doesn’t really need an introduction!  Prince Jorg is a piece of work – but his father the King takes it to a whole new level of bad.

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman – Talk about demanding fathers.  Coralie’s father runs a museum of curiosities – and he sets his daughter up as a mermaid.  She spends most of the day in a tank of water while people stare at her!  Not a spoiler – she’s not a mermaid!

And, finally, in case there was any doubt that I would include Lord of the Rings : I give you Lord Denethor, Steward of Gondor, who having lost one son in battle sends his remaining son to almost certain death

Faramir: ‘You wish now that our places had been exchanged… that I had died and Boromir had lived.’ 
Denethor: ‘Yes.’

Really, couldn’t you just slap him!

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