The Girl and the Stars *Sparkled*

*I received this from Netgalley in exchange for review- but the hot take is all me 😉*

the girl and the starsAnd my hot take is that this is an EPIC start to a new series! Intriguing and with chilling breadcrumbs scattered along the way, I had so many thoughts on the opening alone! From the instant I picked up the book, I was immersed in the world of the Book of the Ancestor once more, I was gripped by the icy setting, I was struck by the promise of something a little different… and I wasn’t disappointed.

With its fantastical edge and carefully balanced storytelling style, the writing was nothing short of awe-inspiring. I felt like I plunged a thousand feet into another world.

Even more so, I was stunned by the world building. Though you don’t have to read Book of the Ancestor (as much as I recommend it!) to get to this bad boy, it is set in the same world. And this book doesn’t simply resurrect the world of Red Sister, it excavates deep into its bones and plants something new. Out of that story, we get an entirely new fantasy to capture our imaginations. There were fascinating developments in the lore; there were intriguing hints at all that is to come. This was a substantial expansion of the world- and it came from the most unexpected of directions. And it was a most welcome distraction in the current times.

The characters were interesting as well- particularly Thurin. Yaz herself stood out, not just because of her powers, but for her inspirational grit and determination. I will admit that I did have some trouble connecting to her as a main character- though I cannot say for certain where this disconnect came from and I have a sneaking suspicion this is because of my mood while reading, so please bear that in mind.

The person I actually liked the most, surprisingly, was one of the villains. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I found his tone delightful and even wise at times. It was a clever touch and left a deep impression on me.

Plotwise it’s a non-stop thrill ride, hurtling by so fast you won’t have time to stop and think about where it’s headed. By the time it came to the end, I was breathless I’d completely lost sight of this world. Then, just when you think it’s all over: BAM! The twists hit out of nowhere and they’re powerful. The strong opening was undoubtedly matched by a brilliant ending. Best of all, I can see that it’s all building to something spectacular. It makes for a bright start to a new series!

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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So, do you plan to read this? Or have you read the Book of the Ancestor? Let me know in the comments!

Dispel Illusion Cast its Spell Over Me!

*Received from Netgalley in exchange for review, but the endless gushing is all me*

That’s right- I’m back baby! Dressed in my Dungeons and Dragons gear, because I’ve been whizzing through time/space/my reads to get to today’s release… (okay I got an ARC, but we can pretend I’m a space-hopping primate, can’t we? 😉) Either way, I am more than ready to review the final book in the Impossible Times trilogy!

Much like the first two instalments, this was a compulsive, dramatic and entertaining read. Unlike the first two, this had interlocking timelines, flipping between Nick’s present and future selves. This worked perfectly. The two stories were layered over each other, taking time to get from point a to b, and yet speeding us to the final destination… I barely had the chance to pause for breath!

From the witty first line to the chuckle worthy last, I was on the edge of my seat trying to figure out “how on earth are they going to get out of this one”. There were innumerable twists and turns; the plot closed off loops, only to open up more possibilities. I think it’s safe to say I had no idea where it was heading- even though I knew exactly how it had to end.

Still, this managed to hit BIG EMOTIONAL points. The friendships and relationships were beautifully realised. For all the action, there was real heart to this story. As the plot ticked towards a seemingly inevitable conclusion, I felt the protagonist’s desire to roll the clock back. The story began to feel like a love letter to a former self, the wonderful writing giving weight to the narrative and inspiring a sense of longing for simpler times.

Speaking of nostalgia, one of my favourite things about this series was the Dungeons and Dragons subplot. It reminded me of the “what you study in school somehow lines up with real life” trope- except this was way more inventive and ingenious and appealed to my inner geek!

But that was not all- oh no! Because Lawrence had an ace up his sleeve. Like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat- I knew it was coming and yet couldn’t see how… until *tada*! Everything came together with a flourish! I’m happy to say, it was one of the best endings I’ve read in a long while and it made me a very satisfied monkey. My reaction to that last masterstroke could only be described as gleeful; my only frustration is that I cannot talk about it for fear of spoilers! Which is why, I’m giving this:

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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So, have you tried the Impossible Times series? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Limitless Praise for Limited Wish!

*Received from Netgalley in exchange for review, but the infinite gushing is all me*

 

Well hello there! No, you’re not getting déjà vu, I am wearing the same outfit that I did when I reviewed One Word Kill, but that’s not cos I time travelled from an alternate reality, it’s cos I’m here to review the sequel! (plus I didn’t want it to go to waste 😉)

Reading the recap, I was immediately reminded how complex Lawrence’s creation is. With more time travelling fun, this sequel has the added benefit of dual timelines, hinging on multiple choices.

From the outset, there were even more laugh out loud moments and perfectly balanced descriptions. Each sentence had a careful equilibrium, making me appreciate the writing in new ways. With unbelievable skill, Lawrence showed us maths through the eyes of the protagonist, making it more beautiful than I ever could have imagined.

This all works to create a world that is both vivid and a little mind-boggling. What I especially like about it is the way there’s a supernatural strangeness to the story. And of course, I love the characters that populate this world.

I was blown away by the characterisation here. For instance, when Sam introduces himself as Sir Algeron, we instantly know what he is about. All of them are made from an intelligent blend of chaotic and orderly traits, making sense on the surface and yet having enough incongruities so that they feel astoundingly realistic.

This not only equates to a fascinating window into human nature, it also allows the reader to be fully immersed in the story. And what a fantastic story it is! There’s no middle book syndrome here, as we’re thrown straight back into the narrative. Remarkably, the ideas are just as sophisticated as the last. I particularly loved the idea of Nick being a “statistical anomaly” and the clever consequences that produced. I did guess who Eva was, but that didn’t subtract from my enjoyment in any way, though I will say I was more impressed by how D&D was entwined with the plot again! If you do pick this up, you can expect non-stop action and excitement. And, miraculously, Lawrence managed to pull all this off, whilst also managing to end on a sweet note yet again!

The sum total of all this is I enjoyed the heck out of this sequel!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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So have you started the Impossible Times series? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

One Word Kill *SLAYED ME*

*Received from Netgalley in exchange for review, but the limitless gushing is all me*

Me a month ago: “wow, the book of the ancestor was probably Lawrence’s best series.”

Mark Lawrence: HOLD MY BEER!

one word killThis is one of those pieces you just have to stand back and marvel at. All the exquisite intricacies, the intriguing ideas and the time-bending concepts come into view. And even with the full picture you are blown away.

Let’s back up a minute. This is a book where dungeons and dragons playing teens get embroiled in mystery and high stakes drama. It’s a book so deliciously dorky and endlessly entertaining- plus it made me want to plan more D&D 😉 I enjoyed every second, from beginning to end- not least the heartstoppingly cute last line!

But, if you think it’s just fun and games, don’t be fooled! This is Lawrence’s most sophisticated work. Something about this book switched the lights on in my brain and wouldn’t let me switch them off again. For all its seeming simplicity, there are resonant messages beneath the surface and an abundance of genius to keep a reader preoccupied. Forgive me, I am lost for words: this book was simply brilliant, beautiful and meaningful.

And that’s to say nothing of the writing. It was sharper than ever and witty to boot. The descriptions were incredible and the thoughts insightful. It was so gorgeous that I highlighted way too much and consequently had a difficult time going through my notes 😉

While there is a sense of pervasive sadness to the mood, given that the main character is deathly ill, I was amazed at how often there is light to offset the darkness. The atmosphere is ever-present and yet not overwhelming. Thanks to the distinctive voice, the reader can see both the beauty and the humour, even when all seems lost.

Personally, it was this main character that drew me into the story. Unlike so many figures in fiction, he has a toughness that is all the more admirable, because it doesn’t form in his fists. Not that I don’t appreciate that- but is characterisation hit me hard, because it rests on mind over matter. This protagonist, together with an incredible cast, makes it impossible to not to get heavily invested.

Ultimately, if I could give more than 5 bananas I would… *hang on a minute*… Let me work some magic…

dungeons and dragons orangutanOk I called over some more monkey mes from a parallel universe so we could pool our resources- this should do the trick…

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So have you read this? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments! 

Bless me: Holy Sister is *Glorious*!

Hallelujah! Holy Sister is here and damn it delivered. *Look upon it in wonder*

Thank you so much to the author who sent me a copy in exchange for review!

The prologue shines, from the pov of an empath, meaning you can feel the intensity from the get-go. And that, my friends, is nothing- because there is so much more emotion to come!

From there the plot goes at breakneck speed, never letting up, dropping bombshell after bombshell. Hell, Holy Sister is jam-packed with action!! Flashing back and forth, from past to present, layer upon layer of intrigue is added. The twists and turns keep coming, the story gains a breathless-pace, until all I had left to say was: wow. Lawrence certainly knows how to write explosive endings- cos this is certainly a fantastic series finale.

It certainly helped that Nona Grey’s characterisation was wicked strong here. I loved the idea that Nona felt the loss of her shadow- it showed the high cost of magic and also gave her something to strive for. What I especially liked was the theme of learning to be a little more human, rather than superhuman, and the journey of a hero to perhaps live beyond their saga. I also appreciated how this arc was presented in contrast to Zole- the characters being two sides of the same coin and yet Nona is learning to embrace her demons, to be imperfect and to rely on others.

Which was wonderful, because this has always been a series about the threads that bind us. Sisterhood and friendship are strong motifs- but sharp characters like Glass cannot be forgotten- pulling the strings from behind the scenes. In a cast of vivid characters, she still manages to shine.

Beyond this, I loved the descriptions and enjoyed the acute aphorisms like “We are never more vulnerable than when we are giving chase”. It was an effortlessly quotable read and the world building felt so real (even if it’s the kind of all-out fantasy you can revel in 😉). I was awed by how complex the magic system was and carried away by the powerful atmosphere. All in all, it can come as no surprise that I gave this:

5/5 bananas

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Oh and I also couldn’t resist getting all dressed up in celebration of this series- although I’m not going to claim my costume is book accurate, I reckon I make a pretty killer nun! 😉

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So what do you think? Have you read this? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Bound to Love Bound

*Received from the author, but all gushy opinions are my own*

bound lawrenceGotta admit: this review is coming a little sooner than I planned. Basically I’m procrastinating on a review of a book that made me less-than-happy with one that made me all warm and fuzzy inside. Makes sense, right?

This novella, which takes place between Grey Sister and Holy Sister, packed *a lot* into the tight space. It was entertaining, emotional and even a little funny. The dialogue had a witty punch to it; the writing was assured and effective. It’s intricately plotted and manages to come full circle in a delightful way.

More importantly, it’s an incredibly sweet tale. There are moments of atmospheric tension, however, above all this is a romantic tale- and you guys know how I love my romance! This was a simply lovely story woven from a seemingly insignificant point. As you might be able to tell, I’m struggling not to give anything away and will only say that this is a narrative that shows us there is nothing more dangerous than a kiss.

What I especially liked was how it felt like a necessary edition to the series- yet is also a delectable treat that whets the appetite for more. As someone that already adores the characters, I was obviously invested, but this gives a little bit more when it comes to going behind the scenes and developing relationships. Bound brings you straight back into the world of Book of the Ancestor, whilst easily being its own thing. In short, it does exactly what a story of this length should do!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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Evidently, I’m having a lot of luck with novellas recently! Has anyone else read this? And do you have a novella you’ve enjoyed lately? Let me know in the comments!

Fighting the Good Fight: Red Queen’s War Trilogy Review

*Spoiler Free*

So some of you will know, I was in a MASSIVE book slump while I was away. With everything going on, I struggled to concentrate on reading… until I picked up Mark Lawrence’s Red Queen series. Because one thing I know for sure is that some authors are just perfect for pulling me out of a slump- and Lawrence just so happens to be one of those authors for me.

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Prince of Fools– this was *exactly* the action packed, witty book I needed to get me reading again! I’d describe a lot of Mark Lawrence’s work as “read in one sitting” kind of books and this was no exception! As part of the Broken Empire universe, I felt the vivid descriptions built on the world beautifully and the crossover elements worked very well. In fact there were some parts of this book that made me almost prefer it to Prince of Thorns. As always, the sense of voice was incredible and I loved Jalan as a character- dare I say, even more than Jorg. I felt he was relatable, his motivation made sense, his flaws were well thought out and he’s probably Lawrence’s funniest character to date. It was thanks to his persona that I was laughing the whole way through this one. I also liked the way Jalan played off other people. However, I did find that this didn’t quite light the spark under me in the same way as Lawrence’s other books, which is why I gave it:

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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liar's key

Liar’s Key– I always feel transported by Lawrence’s work- and this book was a perfect example of why! Even though this is the 5th book set in this universe, what was remarkable about it was how fresh Lawrence managed to make it. By building on the previous work with deeper connections to the mythological elements, Lawrence created a richer tapestry and added so many layers to the storytelling. The hints of the previous destroyed world, especially the inaccuracies in their interpretations of Florence and Venice, created a sense of history. Subplots, like with the bankers, were really clever and totally worked for me. I also liked the way the dreams interwove with the rest of the tale and formed pieces of a puzzle. What I also liked was Jalan’s developing relationships and the real sense of the character’s progression, without losing a sense of his original identity. I particularly liked how he became a kind of roguish mentor to Hennan and how this showed he was softening (albeit still giving advice like “take the money”).

Rating: 4/5 bananas

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Wheel of Osheim– annoyingly, I didn’t take enough notes for this one… but that’s because I was too wrapped up in it. From the intriguing prologue to the epic conclusion, I was transfixed by this story. Again, I loved the mythological side to the story- and really loved the direction that took! I don’t want to spoil anything, so all I’ll say is the world building was intricately mindblowing and the origin of how Aslaug came to be was just perfect. Of course, as a fan of the original trilogy, I also appreciated the Jorg cameo and the repetition of one of my favourite quotes (death isn’t what it was). All in all, it made for another fantastic finale!

Rating: 4½ bananas

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So, yeah reading a whole series back to back definitely classifies as snapping me out of a slump! Have you read it? Did you like it? And what’s the last book or series that got you to start reading again? Let me know in the comments!

Grey Sister was a *Technicolour* Masterpiece!

grey sister

Yes, I went with that title, and no, it is not an exaggeration. Because I really cannot express HOW MUCH I FRICKIN LOVED this book! I think this probably the best Lawrence book I’ve read to date (and I always love Lawrence books). I was already enraptured by Red Sister, so I knew I had to read this pronto when it came out- and man was I satisfied with this sequel!

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Let’s start with what happens before you even read the book- because I think I owe Mark Lawrence a big thank you for the recap! I’m one of those readers who really doesn’t like in-text “we need to remind you what’s going on in case you’ve forgotten things” conversations- especially cos I usually like to binge series. But if it’s a newer release, I most likely have forgotten things. So this worked brilliantly for me! Especially since it was done in such a lovely way and created intrigue for what was to come- I immediately wanted to know who this Keot fellow was.

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See what I mean!

The opening itself was nothing short of exquisite. It started from a super emotional point and didn’t loosen its grip on my heart strings for a single second. In fact, it was so good that I read it in one sitting, while I was in the middle of one of the worst reading slumps I’ve had in years. If anything, the reason why this review isn’t longer is because the book is just that good!

It’s beautifully, beautifully written. The only time I paused was to scribble down a particular phrase I loved like “arboreal gloom” or the “headache knifed its way past her forehead” that captured my attention. In between though, there were tiny little messages that I really liked: “My father told me, your weaknesses have more to teach you than your strengths”.

There were many hidden depths to the story, reflected in the striking figure of Nona. What I loved about her depiction in particular was how her black eyes created a sense of her being somewhat primal- from an evolutionary standpoint we’ve developed to have visible whites of the eyes, so that other primates can see where we’re looking and trust us… Nona is an exception and ergo an exceptional character. Lawrence has tapped into this primordial element of humanity and carved a protagonist into someone who feels like a shade of our most feral nature. Her lacking a shadow adds to this, making her unanchored and impossible to pin down. She’s like an inner wildness we all hold and strangely relatable. With our view into her mind, we can witness how misunderstood she is and simultaneously understand why she’s so isolated.

Evidently, I really, really liked Nona, but she’s not the only standout character! When Keot did turn up and was explained it was a *brilliant* addition!!! All the other characters served their purpose and were well drawn- I was particularly rooting for Apple and Kettle in this one. And of course, Brother Pelter cut a chilling figure.

What more is there to say then? I was simply blown away by this book. Just take my bananas already!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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So have you read this? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

AWESOME Authors I Discovered in 2017 *and* Am Looking Forward to Reading More From

Technically this was a Top Ten Tuesday topic… buuut it’s not this week’s, so this is a fail 😉 Ah well, pish posh, who cares about rules when it comes to sharing great books? I certainly don’t. And I really wanted to do this topic, because there’s nothing I like more than talking about AWESOMENESS (aside from griping about suckfests… moving on…). Besides, it was this or talk about *nothing* for Nothing Day (yes that’s a thing to, happy Nothing Day everybody!)

Anyhoo enough rambling- gonna try to not repeat myself too much from my best of 2017 post, although it can’t be entirely avoided 😉 Here’s some amazing authors I discovered in 2017:

solzhenitsyn

Solzhenitsyn– I’m beginning to sound a lot like a broken record when it comes to the Gulag, but that’s not the only book I read by Solzhenitsyn last year. I started off my journey into the Siberian wastes with One Day in the Life of Ivan Densovitch and that motivated me to continue reading. Speaking of Siberia…

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Ruta Sepetys– WOW what a writer. Of the two books I read by her last year, I preferred Salt to the Sea to Between Shades of Grey, but either way her stories pulled me in and were impossible to forget. There’s no question that I want to read more by this author.

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Agatha Christie– two things happened on my blog last year relating to Christie: 1) I announced that I had zero intention of reading her work and… 2) I actually read her work. I have since seen the error of my ways and plan to read more soon 😉

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S. K. Tremayne– gosh Tremayne reminded me reignited my zest for thrillers… I have to read MORE!

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“Alan Partridge”– I read two books by “Alan Partridge” last year- I don’t think I’ve ever laughed at a book so much. It’s easy for me to say, considering that there are hilarious (yet totally mundane) asides on getting a car into gear in these books, that Steve Coogan could literally put out *anything* for this character and I’ll read it.

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Robin Hobb– it took me long enough but I finally read Assassin’s Apprentice last year! And as some of you may know, I was so blown away it that I ended up going a little crazy, reading both the Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies in one go… Yeah, it’s no wonder I got a bit Hobbed out by the end of my massive binge. Still, though my appetite may have been dampened temporarily, I want to *jump right back up on that horse* and continue reading in 2018!

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Mark Lawrence– I read a very respectable 4 books by Lawrence last year and they were all fantastic fantasies- now I want MORE… Lucky for me Grey Sister is out this year 😉

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Ed McDonald– Blackwing was certainly one of the best debuts I’ve ever read- WOWEE- you can make a safe bet that I want to read the next one!

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Katherine Arden– what list about 2017 would be complete without Arden? You all know by now how much I loved Bear and the Nightingale (if not, hi nice to meet you, I’m the Orangutan Librarian and I loved this book). So naturally I’ll be reading and reviewing Girl in the Tower soon- watch this space.

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Eowyn Ivey– gorgeously atmospheric and beautifully written- I adored how this was a fairytale retelling woven together with a historical setting. I will definitely have an eye out for her other books!

Phew- managed to only repeat 3 from my top ten! Have you read any of these? What’s the best author you discovered in 2017? Let me know in the comments!

Emperor of Thorns Was a Sharp One

*No spoilers!*

emperor of thornsI’m an endings person. I’ve mentioned this before- I’ve always thought there’s no point starting well and ending badly. That cathartic chord of a well struck conclusion is where it’s at for me. And I’m not the only one that thinks this- series are often judged on their endings- so there was a lot of pressure for this book, the last in a so-far excellent series, to deliver that perfect final note.

And boy- what an ending this was! To say that the tempo was raised in this book would be an understatement. So far the journey had been mental, but even then there was no way to see where the road was heading. The direction it took was on another plain (quite literally- it is fantasy after all). With more than one twist of the knife, this story skewered my heart and dragged it up through my throat. Every wild turn gave me palpitations. Lawrence said in the afterword that he wanted to end this series on a high- and by god did he do that. (And by high I mean: mind-blowingly, soul-crushingly good)

As you all know by this stage, I love Jorgy. But what was a marvellous addition to this book was having sections dedicated to the villainous Chella. Yes, that’s right, this book has villains to offset its anti-heroes. It added another dimension to the book.

And like always, it was amazingly well written:

“The scars of the briar mark me, a calligraphy of violence a message blood-writ, requiring a lifetime to translate”

“Careless words scattered like broken glass for the Brettan to pick a path through. Chella came to Kai’s aid before he cut himself”

“I’m only an echo and I feel only an echo of the love he would have had for you. But it’s a very loud echo.”

I mean that just speaks for itself!!

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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Do you like this series? Are you planning on picking it up? And which book do you reckon ended especially well? Let me know in the comments?