Review: The Hunt by Andrew Fukuda

 

Title: The Hunt {The Hunt #1}

Author: Andrew Fukuda

Published: Simon & Schuster May 2012

Status: Read on February 05, 2013 -I own a copy {Courtesy The Reading Room}

My Thoughts:

In Andrew Fukuda’s fast paced, exciting young adult novel, The Hunt, humans (also known as hepers) have been driven to edge of extinction by creatures that appear to be a hybrid of human,vampire and zombie.

Seventeen year old Gene has lived amongst the ‘people’ his entire life, carefully disguising his human scent, adopting their mannerisms, being like them, all to avoid a bloody, violent death. He lives alone, keeps to himself, remains unobtrusive at school… until his number is chosen. Gene is to join The Hunt, a government sanctioned extravaganza that happens only every decade, a chance to hunt and feed on a handful of hepers released into the desert. Sequestered to the Institute for Heper Research with his fellow competitors, Gene is desperate to maintain his subterfuge, or risk becoming the hunted.

I very quickly got caught up in this fast paced story upon being introduced to Gene, a heper hiding among creatures that would devour him in seconds should they learn what he is. I enjoyed reading a male perspective for a change in this genre and Gene proves to be a likeable protagonist. I liked that Gene was a little conflicted by his human status wishing, on occasion, he could be like everyone else and even that Gene’s first extinct is self preservation, despite learning the truth about the captive hepers. It’s such an interesting internal conflict and one that Fukuda doesn’t shy away from.

The behaviours of the people are unusual but satisfyingly visual and different. The creatures scratch their wrist to express amusement, affection expressed by grinding armpits with elbows and they drool copiously. Yet they go to school, they hold down jobs, they live an ordinary life, albeit one where the eat raw meat, sleep hanging from the ceiling and disintegrate in sunlight.

I’m not sure how I felt about Gene’s fragile relationship with Ashley June, she is fairly inscrutable and remains so through out the story. I am looking forward to getting to know the Heper’s better in the next installment and predict that Sissy will replace Ashley June as the love interest.

I have no problem suspending belief in fantasy but there has to be an internal logic that makes sense in context. There are some flaws with the world-building in The Hunt, elements that don’t quite make sense or contradict each other. It’s a shame because these issues could have been easily resolved and done a lot to enhance the credibility of the author’s world vision.

The Hunt offers something a little different to the current field of young adult dystopia fiction, though it also embraces familiar elements, with similarities to The Hunger Games. Despite it’s problems, I loved the action and the constant tension which carried me through the story quickly and I looked forward to reading the sequel, The Prey.

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Review: The Scrivener’s Tale by Fiona McIntosh

@ Goodreads

Title: The Scrivener’s Tale

Author: Fiona McIntosh

Published: Harper Voyager December 2012

Synopsis: In the bookshops and cafes of present-day Paris, ex-psychologist Gabe Figaret is trying to put his shattered life back together. When another doctor, Reynard, asks him to help with a delusional female patient, Gabe is reluctant… until he meets her. At first Gabe thinks the woman, Angelina, is merely terrified of Reynard, but he quickly discovers she is not quite what she seems.  As his relationship with Angelina deepens, Gabe’s life in Paris becomes increasingly unstable. He senses a presence watching and following every move he makes, and yet he finds Angelina increasingly irresistible. When Angelina tells Gabe he must kill her and flee to a place she calls Morgravia, he is horrified. But then Angelina shows him that the cathedral he has dreamt about since childhood is real and exists in Morgravia. Soon, Gabe’s world will be turned upside down, and he will learn shocking truths about who he is . . . and who he can – or cannot – trust.

Status: Read from December 10 to 11, 2012- I own a copy {Courtesy Harper Collins Australia)

My Thoughts:

Reader’s familiar with Fiona McIntosh’s popular fantasy trilogy The Quickening will be thrilled with her latest release, a stand alone novel that is set in the same imaginative landscape. Though best known for her fantasy series I have only read McIntosh’s stand alone historical fiction novel The Lavender Keeper and recently purchased the first two books of her crime fiction series. I am pleased I took a chance on The Scrivener’s Tale as I found it to be a fabulous read. Moving from Paris, France, to the kingdom of Morgravia, The Scrivener’s Tale is an extraordinary, epic fantasy adventure that involves a bitter curse, a vengeful demon and a magical prophecy.

In present day Paris, Gabriel is persuaded to assess the mental health of a young woman, Angelina, despite having abandoned his successful psychology practice some time ago. Though initially reluctant to become involved, Gabe finds himself intrigued by Angelina’s delusions particularly when she reveals an odd connection to his own dreams.
In the Kingdom of Morgravia, Fynch senses the approach of a great evil that threatens the Wild and puts his long term strategy to protect the land into action. As Gabriel is pulled into the magical realm, Cassien, a warrior of great mental and physical strength, is dispatched to protect Queen Florentyna, soon joined by Hamelyn, a young orphan. Together the three unwittingly form a triad of power, destined to defeat the demon, Cyricus and save the land.

Though the story begins in our modern day real world, where Gabriel works as a bookstore clerk in Paris, it swiftly moves into Morgravia with all the elements of an epic fantasy including a daring quest, magic and a final battle between good and evil. Morgravia is a medieval society, reigned by royalty, neighbored by the kingdoms of Briavel and The Razors. Magic still lingers, tolerated but rarely acknowledged. The land will be familiar to reader’s of Myrren’s Gift though The Scrivener’s Tale is set several generations after the events of The Quickening series and the novel is a stand alone.

Fynch is the enigmatic guardian in The Scrivener’s Tale, charged with ensuring the demon, Cyricus, is unsuccessful in his plan to destroy the land. His manipulation of events has been centuries in the making, sometimes raising questions about if he is to be trusted.
I found myself drawn to Cassien’s character more than Gabriel’s, perhaps because Cassien as the warrior is the more active hero of the story. I would have liked to get to know Hamelyn a little more as I felt his his extraordinary gifts are never quite fully realised.
The royal Morgravian family has it’s own intrigues, a poisonous step mother, a spiteful, envious princess and a young queen desperate to lead. I really liked Florentyna who is a strong, intelligent Queen, despite her vulnerabilities.
As a demon, Cyricus is of course utterly irredeemable as is his acolyte, Aphra. After escaping the void he was trapped in eons ago after trespassing upon the Wild, Cyricus seeks vengeance for his exile, possessing the bodies of those that advance his cause. His goal is to take Queen Florentyna’s role and then order the destruction of the Wild while pitting kingdom against kingdom for his own amusement.

While The Scrivener’s Tale is quite a lengthy tome at 500 pages, McIntosh sustains the adventure and intrigue through out. The novel moves at a good pace, weaving together the destinies of Gabriel, Cassian and Hamelyn, leading to a final pitched battle between good and evil.

The Scrivener’s Tale is an entertaining fantasy novel which I really enjoyed, so much so in fact that I wish I could expect a sequel. Instead, I will be sure to seek out some of the author’s earlier fantasy series.

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Review: Shine Light by Marianne de Pierres

Title: Shine Light {Night Creatures #3}

Author: Marianne de Pierres

Published: Random House November 2012

Synopsis: Ixion. The island of ever-night.  If she had a choice, Naif wouldn’t go back. But her friends will die if she doesn’t find a cure for the badges that are slowly killing them, and her brother is there, fighting against the Ripers who hold everyone in thrall. And Naif has knowledge that might save them all. First she must solve the mystery of Ixion’s eternal night. Then she must convince everyone – rebels and revellers alike – to join her cause. And all the while, she must fight the urge to go to Lenoir – her greatest love, her mortal enemy.  The secrets of Ixion must be revealed. The evils must be stopped. A new dawn will come

Status: Read on November 12, 2012 — I own a copy {Courtesy Random House/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

In the stunning conclusion to Marianne de Pierres Night Creatures trilogy, Shine Light reveals the secrets of Ixion when Naif returns to the pleasure island to lead a revolution. Having learned the horrific fate of those withdrawn from Ixion and discovered the conspiracy between Grave and the Ripers, Naif now must solve the mystery of Ixion’s eternal night to save her friends before their time runs out.

Fast paced and action packed, Shine Light races towards the shocking climax that sees the teens in a pitched battle against the night creatures. de Pierres brings together the characters we have met over the preceding installments of the series, Rollo, Suki, Markes, Ruzalia, Dark Eve and Lenoir to name just a few and all play a part in this finale. With the Ripers split and the night creatures restless, danger is ever present for Naif and the rebels as they search for the answers they need. What they discover is the origins of the island chains that are trapped in darkness, and a way to shine a light on the truth.

Naif is almost unrecognizable from the timid baby bat that came to Ixion in search of her brother in Burn Bright. In Shine Light she comes into her own, loyal, determined and fearless she refuses to give up even if the cost is her own life. Naif also has to deal with her relationship with Lenoir, the Riper to whom she is bonded, and the way in which her actions will affect him.
Several of the other characters readers are familiar with also have to make sacrifices in the story. Liam is forever changed, Kero has to confront his grief and the rebel gangs have to put aside their rivalries to create a united front.

While Shine Light deftly concludes the trilogy, tying up loose ends and revealing Ixion’s secrets, it seems to me that the author has left a thread that could be picked up again in the future. The Night Creatures has proved to be an exciting and creative series blending fantasy and science fiction. I am sure fans of the series will be satisfied with the climax and will no doubt hope de Pierres shines on.

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Sci/Fi

Review: Breathe by Sarah Crossan

Title: Breathe {Breathe #1}

Author: Sarah Crossan

Published: Bloomsbury November 2012

Synopsis: When oxygen levels plunge in a treeless world, a state lottery decides which lucky few will live inside the Pod. Everyone else will slowly suffocate. Years after the Switch, life inside the Pod has moved on. A poor Auxiliary class cannot afford the oxygen tax which supplies extra air for running, dancing and sports. The rich Premiums, by contrast, are healthy and strong. Anyone who opposes the regime is labelled a terrorist and ejected from the Pod to die. Sixteen-year-old Alina is part of the secret resistance, but when a mission goes wrong she is forced to escape from the Pod. With only two days of oxygen in her tank, she too faces the terrifying prospect of death by suffocation. Her only hope is to find the mythical Grove, a small enclave of trees protected by a hardcore band of rebels. Does it even exist, and if so, what or who are they protecting the trees from? A dystopian thriller about courage and freedom, with a love story at its heart

Status: {Courtesy Bloomsbury ANZ}

My Thoughts:
In Sarah Crossan’s new YA novel, Breathe, what is left of the world’s population has been forced to live within Pod’s to survive after the destruction of all vegetation resulted in the oxygen levels dropping so low as to be unable to sustain life. Within the dome oxygen consumption is heavily taxed by the Breathe corporation, allowing the wealthy members of the dystopian society, the Premiums, the opportunity to live a near normal life while the Auxillary’s are unable to afford to engage in even the simplest of activities that would increase their monitored respiration rate. Alina, Bea and Quinn have known no other way of life but they are about to learn the breathtaking secret Breathe is desperate to hide.

Breathe is told from multiple points of view and begins with Alina in the midst of a daring raid on the Pod’s conservation area. Alina’s bitter cynicism contrasts with her naive idealism, she is not the most likeable character but her earnest belief in the cause is admirable. A Zone Three Auxillary class citizen of Breathe, her parents are missing, presumably murdered for their efforts to undermine Breathe, and Alina has taken up the cause. When the mission goes wrong and her partner killed, she has no choice but to escape the Pod and join the Resistance in the Outlands.
Quinn is a Premium, the privileged son of one of Breathe’s top executives who rarely thinks to question the regime that oppresses his best friend, Bea. It is only when he is confronted with Bea’s failure to gain an indisputably well deserved place in the Pod leadership program that he becomes uneasy with his blind acceptance of Breathe’s rule.
Gaining a place in the Pod leadership program would give Bea and her parents a chance at a better life but when she is denied entry, she is resigned to the status quo. Instead she looks forward to the planned camping trip with Quinn into the Outlands, hoping that the time alone will make him look at her differently.

The three teens become a reluctant team when Alina uses Quinn’s attraction to her to escape the Pod during his camping trip with Bea. Though Alina quickly attempts to ditch the pair in the Outlands, Quinn and Bea decide to follow her. I thought the concept of the book was strong, though not original (I watched The Lorax with my children just the other week). There are some elements that could have been more fully developed, others that follow a tenuous chain of logic but in the main Crossan has developed a believable setting for the novel.
Much of the story concentrates on the dangerous journey across the Outlands, providing plenty of action at a good pace as the trio encounter Drifters and are hunted by Breathe soldiers.  The journey also involves Bea and Quinn having to face uncomfortable truths about Breathe and their unconscionable manipulation of the Pod’s citizens. Their discovery of Breathe’s machinations contributes to their own personal growth. Quinn has to face the source of his comfortable existence and Bea has to develop the courage to stand against her oppressors.

Breathe is a solid dystopian young adult story for fans of the genre, who seemingly can’t get enough of the now familiar trope. I enjoyed Breathe but sadly, it didn’t quite take my breath away.

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Joint Review & Giveaway: A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty

Title: A Corner of White (The Colors of Madeline #1)

Author: Jaclyn Moriarty

Published: Pan MacMillan October 2012

Synopsis: Madeleine Tully lives in Cambridge, England, the World – a city of spires, Isaac Newton and Auntie’s Tea Shop. Elliot Baranski lives in Bonfire, the Farms, the Kingdom of Cello – where seasons roam, the Butterfly Child sleeps in a glass jar, and bells warn of attacks from dangerous Colours. They are worlds apart – until a crack opens up between them; a corner of white – the slim seam of a letter. A mesmerising story of two worlds; the cracks between them, the science that binds them and the colours that infuse them.

Status: Read from July 24 to 27, 2012 — I own a copy {Courtesy Pan MacMillan}

“Imaginative, original and Colourful, A Corner of White is a magical story that leaves “a trail of light” for the reader to follow..” 

I teamed up with Marg at The Adevntures of an Intrepid Reader to discuss A Corner of White. I am hosting he first part of our discussion, make sure you visit her post to read the rest of our review.

Marg:  Whilst this is my first Jaclyn Moriarty book, you have read her before Shelleyrae. How did you find this book compared to her previous books?

Shelleyrae: I wasn’t sure what to expect from A Corner of White, whose premise is very different from that of Moriarty’s Ashbury/Brookfield series which I have read, but I was surprised to find strong similarities between the two. Both share teenage protagonists with similar traits, the themes of friendship and family are central to the story and Moriarty incorporates newspaper columns, notes, letters and book excerpts into the narrative (the Ashbury/Brookfield books are written entirely in epistolary format). A Corner of White also has a lot in common with Jaclyn’s I Have A Bed Made of Buttermilk described as a ‘fairytale for adults’. A Corner of White is, I think, a unique blend of all of the works the author has published so far.

I’m interested to know, Marg, who you think the audience of A Corner of White will be?

Marg: Initially, given the ages of the protaganists, I assumed that this was going to be another Young Adult book  (and it does suggest that it is YA on the author’s website) but I would suggest that this is a book for more mature YA readers. Maybe towards mid to late teens. The reason why I suggest that is the dual world setting is quite complex and personally I found that at times it was a challenging read.

Did you like the way that the two worlds in the book sat together in the book?

Shelleyrae: Essentially I feel there are two separate stories within A Corner of White, despite the link between Madeleine and Elliot.. What I found most challenging were the very individual ‘rules’ of the Kingdom of Cello, I’m still not sure how Colours work exactly, and though I applaud Moriarty’s imagination I felt a little lost at times. It was easier to relate to the events in the World amongst Madeleine, Jack and Belle though their story is not entirely straight forward either.

What did you think of Madeleine and her relationship with her parents and friends?

Marg: I have had to stop and have a think about this question, simply because of the change that occurs at a pivotal point in the book when we find out the truth about Madeleine and her family and friends. There were times when my heart broke for her in that she seemed to inhabit her own world (for want of a better descriptor) and so she didn’t really have a solid grasp on how things were. An example of this was in relation to Tinsels.  I wouldn’t go so far as to call her selfish but she somehow kept herself removed from her friends and when she was achieving some closeness she then inadvertently sabotaged herself.

It is interesting that the YA phenomenon of missing parents only played out in this case because only one parent was missing from both Madeleine and Elliot’s lives.

What did you think, and how would you contrast it to Elliott’s relationships with his family and friends?

Shelleyrae: Actually I thought there were  a surprising number of adults in A Corner of White, none of the teens escape notice though they do seem to have considerable leeway in their movements. In Cambridge, Madeleine has her mother, and the unusual collection tutors that homeschool her, Belle and Jack. In Elliot’s life, his mother is present as are a number of community members like the Sheriff and Jimmy.
I often wondered how much of Madeleine’s family history was real and what was imagined, did she, as she said, lead a jetset lifestyle with her parents before she and her mother left her father on a whim or was the situation far more ordinary or perhaps even bleak and difficult? Elliot’s separation from his father has that same ambiguity, did his father leave by choice with a mistress or was he taken in a violent Colour attack? In both cases though Madeleine and Elliot prefer to think the best of their absent fathers, and miss them, while also feeling a vague sense of guilt at having ‘lost’ them.
The friendships Madeleine and Elliot have are very different, while Elliot is surrounded by life long friends and is the golden boy of his community, Madeleine has only Belle and Jack and is anonymous in the city.

Marg: I think the friendship angle is very important, especially given that there are tests of the friendships within the story. I think we also saw something in Elliot’s relationships where it appears as though he is surrounded by lifelong friends, but even in that situation there is also still the possibility of inconstancy despite that. It is some times easy to look at a group of lifelong friends and be a little envious, but it is not always as it seems within those relationships.

Shelleyrae: The Kingdom of Cello has some very individual rules, what did you think of them?

Marg: The colour rules do seem to be very complex, and at times I was surprised by the order of the severity. It would seem obvious that red would be a very strong attack but I was surprised when a colour like violet was even more dangerous. When you add in that there were different levels of strength within the various colours as well, it is an interesting and complicated world.

I do think we still have an awful lot to learn about the Kingdom of Cello, particularly as each particular town seems to have its own characteristics. For example, in Elliot’s town, there are very similar technologies like electricity and computers etc, but there are other areas of the Kingdom where they may have none of that kind of technology but something different ways. I guess the closest I can compare it to is the different districts in The Hunger Games. So far, there are no shared characteristics, but I just mean in the way that all the various parts of the kingdom have different characteristics.

Is there any aspect of life in the Kingdom of Cello that you find particularly interesting?

Shelleyrae: I like the mix of magic and technology within the kingdom which seems to be distributed quite haphazardly. I’d like to know more about how the colours work, do they have form or substance for example. Red simply drifts over the town like a mist before raining fireballs, but how does Violet kidnap a person? The sometimes hourly change in seasons would certainly make life interesting though I imagine it would be particularly difficult for the Farm region. The residents of Bonfire feel that the weather has grown increasingly erratic, I wonder if that reflects the instability in the kingdom?

To read the rest of this discussion visit Marg at The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader

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US/UK Release March 2013

An interview with Jaclyn Moriarty about A Corner of White

 

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Review: Corrupted Classics by HarperCollins Australia

Title: Corrupted Classics

Author: The Corrupted Classics Team at HarperCollins Australia

Published: HarperCollins August 2012

Synopsis: This is a spine-tingling collection of scenes from beloved novels of yore, reworked with a deliciously gothic edge. The classics aren’t dead. They’re undead. Stories include: Alice in Zombieland: A Mad Z Party Hood and his Undead Men Never Neverland: To Live would be an awfully Big Adventure The Swiss Family Robinson: A Tale of Zombie Survival Hector the Undead Prince of Troy Capulet’s Garden of Horror

Status: Read on August 17, 2012 — I own a copy {Courtesy Harper Collins}

My Thoughts:

This is not my usual reading fare, a short story collection featuring zombies which have corrupted much loved classics such as Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and Robin Hood. What intrigued me about this publication is how it came it to be.

“In early 2012 HarperCollinsPublishers Publishing Director, Shona Martyn, and Head of Digital, Mark Higginson, gathered together a small but intrepid group of staff from various departments and issued a challenge: to go where no traditional, book-loving trade publisher had gone before — into the land of the digital unknown.
Staff were separated into teams, given a small budget and asked to produce an original digital publication or product to release into the market. Each team was asked to create, research, cost and produce their product. The winning team would be the one that generated the most revenue for the business.
After months of surreptitious meetings, brainstorms, setbacks and small victories — the Corrupted Classics team is the first of these Project Flash Pub groups to release a product into the market.
Shona Martyn said: ‘In the world of digital, we need our publishers, editors and other creative team members to think about creating book products in a totally original way. Rather than attending seminars, reading articles about the future of digital or simply transforming existing books into e-books, we thought it would be fun to get staff to become the authors and the creators themselves so they could truly explore the medium — and test the results by actually putting them on sale. I am thrilled by the outcome. This has been empowering, a learning experience, has strengthened inter-departmental bonding and, hey, now we are selling the first product!’”*

Australian publishers have been slow to support electronic publishing so I am impressed that HarperCollins Australia shows such initiative to embrace a digital future.

Each story in this ebook is only a few pages long and uses the beloved characters from six classic stories in a scene rife with flesh eating zombies. In ‘Alice in Zombieland’, the doormouse is chained to the table to prevent him from eating the dinner guests, Alice calls herself Ali, having left her childhood innocence behind and has, lets say, an interesting relationship with the Mad Hatter. Robin Hood and his band of Undead Men, take from the living to give to the dead, ambushing travelers for their flesh. In Capulet’s Garden of Horror, Romeo climbs Juliet’s balcony to feast upon her not with his eyes but with his teeth.
If you are a zombie fan you are sure to enjoy the bloody horror, twisted humour and almost sacrilegious corruption of childhood classics.

The good news? There are still 3 teams to publish their own projects.

*Quoted from the promotional materials

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Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas

Title: Throne of Glass {Throne of Glass #1}

Author: Sarah J Maas

Published: Bloomsbury August 2012

Synopsis: Meet Celaena Sardothien. Beautiful. Deadly. Destined for greatness. In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake: she got caught. Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament—fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin’s heart be melted?

Status: Read from August 16 to 17, 2012 — I own a copy {Courtesy Bloomsbury ANZ}

My Thoughts:

I love it when a book surprises me and Throne of Glass did just that. This engaging debut fantasy novel by Sarah J Maas introduces the world of Erilea, a kingdom in conflict as the King of Adarlan ruthlessly seeks to conquer his neighbours.
Celaena Sardothien was rescued near death at age eight and trained by Arobynn known as the King of the Assassins. Her talent earned her the title of Assassin of Adarlan but her capture saw her incarcerated in the Salt Mines of Endovier, a slave who is starved and beaten. Near death, Celaena is offered a reprieve, the chance to compete to become the King’s Champion. Despite her hatred of the Adarlan royalty, Celaena can’t resist the promise that, should she win, four years of service will earn her her freedom.

Celaena is an appealing heroine, for despite her deadly nature she is exactly that. Though she has endured much pain and heartbreak she retains a sense of empathy and her vulnerabilities offset her arrogant facade. Celaena has earned the right to be proud of, and confident in, her prodigious skills, though we see little of them before the competition in Throne of Glass (There are 4 e-novellas, prequels, available that illustrate her talents). Perhaps if anything, Celaena is a little too perfect, as well as being an expert assassin she is also intelligent and beautiful, however I like that Celaena makes no apologies for who she is and in fact, uses her gifts to accomplish what she needs too.
While I would have preferred less of the romantic element in Throne of Glass, which includes the obligatory love triangle, at least the attraction between Celaena, Prince Dorian Adarlan and King’s Guard, Captain Chaol Westfall, develops slowly. It’s a bit of a stretch to believe Celaena would be willing to fall for Dorian’s charms, simply by dint of his birthright but I liked the way in which his relationship with Celaena changes him. Dorian is a promising character, he is not quite the feckless prince one might expect and I have hopes that he will come into his own as the series progresses. I thought Chaol could have been a more well rounded character, I did’t feel I learnt enough about him, aside from some basic personality traits, to feel strongly about his fate.
The storyline of Throne of Glass includes an engaging balance of action and magic. Erilea is still a little sketchy with the world building receiving less attention than the establishment of character and relationships, but I didn’t find it lacking. There is enough information provided through out the story to form a solid impression of the kingdom and its operation and as it is just the first in a series I am sure there is much more to come. Throne of Glass has elements that are definitely skewed towards to the female YA market, the love triangle and descriptions of court gowns among them, but I do think it has broader age appeal.

Throne of Glass is similar in some ways to Kristin Cashore’s novel,Graceling, another YA fantasy novel I enjoyed despite not being fond of the genre in general. True high fantasy fans will probably find Throne of Glass a bit light for their tastes but I found it an entertaining and engaging escapist read.

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Review: Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce

 

Title: Some Kind of Fairy Tale

Author: Graham Joyce

Published: Knopf Doubleday July 2012

Synopsis: It is Christmas afternoon and Peter Martin gets an unexpected phonecall from his parents, asking him to come round. It pulls him away from his wife and children and into a bewildering mystery. He arrives at his parents house and discovers that they have a visitor. His sister Tara. Not so unusual you might think, this is Christmas after all, a time when families get together. But twenty years ago Tara took a walk into the woods and never came back and as the years have gone by with no word from her the family have, unspoken, assumed that she was dead. Now she’s back, tired, dirty, dishevelled, but happy and full of stories about twenty years spent travelling the world, an epic odyssey taken on a whim. But her stories don’t quite hang together and once she has cleaned herself up and got some sleep it becomes apparent that the intervening years have been very kind to Tara. She really does look no different from the young women who walked out the door twenty years ago. Peter’s parents are just delighted to have their little girl back, but Peter and his best friend Richie, Tara’s one time boyfriend, are not so sure. Tara seems happy enough but there is something about her. A haunted, otherworldly quality. Some would say it’s as if she’s off with the fairies. And as the months go by Peter begins to suspect that the woods around their homes are not finished with Tara and his family…

Status: Read from July 08 to 09, 2012 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

I was intrigued by the premise of Some Kind of Fairy Tale which seemed similar to that of Don’t Breathe a Word, which I really enjoyed last year. When Tara disappeared it was assumed she had been abducted and murdered in the woods surrounding the village but twenty years later, on Christmas Day, a disheveled Tara, looking barely any older than when she left, knocks on the door of her childhood home. When pressed she claims that she was lured away by a man on a white horse, just six months ago and has been trapped in an otherworldly place, eager to return but forced to wait until the hinge of the day. Tara’s parents accept her story afraid of driving her away again, but her brother, Peter, is infuriated by her whimsical explanation. Richie, Tara’s childhood sweetheart who was briefly a suspect in her disappearance, is thrilled by her return, no matter where she has been. The psychiatrist she is forced to consult with believes Tara’s story is simply an elaborate confabulation to obscure a horrible trauma. As the line between fantasy and fact begins to blur, who will you believe?

Some Kind of Fairy Tale started quite strongly, and I’m not entirely sure when my attention began to drift but I think it was before I reached the half way point. I was determined to keep reading though, certain that the story would pull me back but unfortunately that never really happened. The element of ambiguity that the entire novel relies on failed to provide the tension I hoped. The overlap between Tara’s ‘truth’ and the more rational perspectives of her family and the psychiatrist, simply never blurred enough to provide the element of doubt. I needed to question Tara’s story, without the space to do so the attempts of Peter and the psychiatrist to prove otherwise seemed crude.

Peter was probably the strongest character, his hurt and confusion at his sisters return and his desire for a rational explanation are realistic. I was disappointed we learn almost nothing of how Tara feels to be back amongst the world and reunited with her family. I never figured out the identity of the mysterious narrator, and that it was at least partially why I felt removed from the story.

Perhaps if I hadn’t previously read a similar story to this I would have enjoyed Some Kind of Fairy Tale more. The structure is there, as is the concept and the writing is fine it just didn’t find it gripping. Though for me Some Kind of Fairy Tale was a fairly ordinary read, others have found it impressive, you will have to make up your own mind.

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Alternate Cover

Guest Post: Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made On by Sabrina Furminger

SUCH STUFF AS DREAMS ARE MADE ON

Restless sleeper Sabrina Furminger turns to dreams for inspiration

Original Image By Lisa Ellen

For most of my life, I’ve found sleep to be an exhausting activity.
I’ve never been able to simply close my eyes, succumb to unconsciousness, and resurface eight hours later refreshed and ready to tackle the day. I’ve envied those people who find a sublime peace while asleep. Instead, my dreams—with their alternating sexy and nightmarish locales, hyper-real scents and tastes, and puzzling, dangerous characters—have long left me fatigued.
Much debate surrounds the true function of dreams. Science suggests that we needn’t read too much into our dreams, that they’re merely mental slideshows of ideas and images collected during our waking hours that don’t mean much at all. Others—Jung and Freud spring to mind—maintain that dreams are a manifestation of our deepest desires, and that the symbols contained in our dreams hold clues as to what ails or excites our psyches. I’ve always been simultaneously terrified and tantalized by the sci-fi idea that our dreams occur on some collective dreamscape that we all inhabit when we sleep; we close our eyes and our avatars meet up in this alternate, Dali-esque dimension.
Regardless of the mechanics, since early childhood, my dreams—at least those that I can remember, which typically occur right before waking—have exhausted me. They tend to be more vivid than my waking life. If I’m eating chocolate cake, it’s the most delicious cake I’ve ever eaten. If I’m walking in a meadow, it’s the most glorious meadow ever to exist on Earth, with soft green grass underfoot and a sweet breeze running its fingers through my sun-kissed hair (which is far from sun-kissed in real life). Alas, I don’t eat a lot of cake or walk in a lot of meadows in my dreams. Instead, I usually find myself in action-heavy, mostly paranormal scenarios which require me to run from cyborg ninjas, fly through the air, single-handedly fight off alien armies, or despair as human life is wiped out by an apocalyptic flood. When I finally wake from such dreams, I’m usually shaking, or sweating, and—until recently—dreading the moment sixteen or so hours in the future when my head will hit the pillow and I’ll begin the fatiguing dream cycle all over again.
For many years, I was plagued by one such draining dream. The dream was vaguely different each time, but the essentials were always the same: someone I love—be it a family member, my cat, or a character from Star Trek—would be grievously injured in some horrible manner, and in my despair I would suddenly find myself able to call the healing power of the universe to my palms. I’d lay my hands upon the injured party, and they would be healed in a burst of wind and light—at which point I’d wake up, trembling, breathless, and in tears.
The dream played out countless times over the course of many years. Each morning I’d do my damnedest to shake the image of my injured loved one out of my head, and hope it would be the last time I’d ever endure that particular vivid dream.
But one morning, as I lay in bed staring up at the ceiling, tears drying on my cheeks, I wondered what it would actually be like to possess that particular power. How would it feel to place my hands upon someone and heal their wounds? To what kind of life could that lead? Would I love it? Hate it? Face persecution? Would I try to keep it a secret?
I realized I’d been ignoring a rich story idea.
A story thread had presented itself. After years of swatting it away, instead I pulled the thread and found The Healer. It’s a road I never would have walked had it not been for my dreams.
Now many of the stories I write originate in my dreams. I sleep with a notebook and pen on my night table. There are stories I need to tell brewing within me, stories that I can’t or won’t find by staring at a blank computer screen. I see now that the stories require the act of sleeping in order for them to surge to the surface through my dreams.
I feed my subconscious with books, film, art, television, travel, food, and conversation, and it in turn delivers scenarios and situations that I shape into speculative fiction.
Now when I go to sleep, I’m eager to see where my subconscious will take me. As before, I’m still exhausted when I wake up. I still need several giant mugs of coffee in the morning to get me going. But instead of being upset with my subconscious for the fatigue, I’m grateful; I know I’m tired because I’ve been working all night long.
As for my healing hands recurring dream—well, I haven’t dreamt about healing anyone since I finished the first draft of The Healer. But I’m not sad; new recurring dreams have taken its place—and their literary offspring will be available via multiple book retailers in the not-so-distant future.

 About The Author

Sabrina Furminger writes from an antique secretary desk in Vancouver, Canada. Her speculative fiction has appeared in Ricepaper Magazine, OCW Magazine, and Luna Station Quarterly. In October 2012, her short story Matryoshka will appear in EDGE Publishing’s Danse Macabre anthology. Her story No Man’s Land recently placed third in the Brucedale Press’ Thirteenth Annual Acrostic Story Contest. Sabrina published her first novel a paranormal romance entitled The Healer in 2011. For more information, visit http://www.sabrinafurminger.com.

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Review: The Healer by Sabrina Furminger

Title: The Healer

Author: Sabrina Furminger

Published: iUniverse. August 2011

Synopsis: More than anything in the world, Ivy Merchuk longs to be just another face in the crowd-easier said than done for a woman born with the ability to heal grievous injuries with the touch of her hands. To a young girl just struggling to fit in, this gift is an unbearable burden, one that fills her with shame and anxiety. Her mother understands and cautions the young girl to keep this strange and wonderful ability a secret, for fear that her daughter will attract the wrong sort of attention. So Ivy struggles to conceal her extraordinary skills from the world as she grows into adulthood.  Desperate for answers, she pours herself into a life of research and lands a job as a librarian. One fateful night after work, she stumbles onto a brutal crime scene. Horrified and conflicted, she makes the difficult decision to help the victim, who has been beaten almost to death. And this chance encounter with a brooding urban samurai named Victor Morgan sends her already precarious world skidding off its axis. What these two discover together will change both of their destinies

Status: Read from April 03 to 04, 2012 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

I was intrigued by the premise of The Healer when it was pitched to me, having the ability to heal injuries no matter how severe seems like an wonderful power but author Sabrina Furminger explores how such a gift can also be a curse.

We are introduced to the novels protagonist at the moment when the stillborn Ivy Merchuk, spontaneously takes first one breath and then another. At five, as Ivy cradles her beloved puppy who has been badly injured by a car, a light pours forth from her small body and when Ivy collapses, Suzy has been healed. As she grows, there are other incidences that Ivy is urged to keep secret by her loving mother, and afraid of revealing her ability Ivy isolates herself from her peers. When her mother dies, Ivy is cast adrift ending up working in a library, going home to a tiny apartment each evening. Until the night she stumbles across a man who has been brutally beaten and reaches out to heal his wounds, drawing her into a shadowy world of crime and corruption.
The author firmly establishes Ivy’s character by sharing her childhood experiences ensuring the reader will be sympathetic to the woman she becomes. Frightened of herself, and everyone else, Ivy has to learn to accept her power in order to wield it. It’s a challenge though, especially when she discovers that her ability can also cause great harm. Falling in love with Victor finally provides Ivy with a safe place to explore her talent and it is rewarding to witness Ivy’s growth. Ivy is faced with a complicated moral challenge when she is kidnapped by ruthless Yakuza gangsters and it’s interesting to see how she deals with the dilemma. Despite the grim situation, Ivy discovers unexpected strength, refusing to be a victim any longer.
Victor Morgan is not a hero exactly though neither is he a villain. He has been trapped under the thumb of the crime gang led by siblings Joji and Mariko for years, producing samurai swords for the organisation in order to pay his debts. I was never sure if I liked him or not though ultimately he proves his love for Ivy and chooses the right path.
The plot is fairly vague until Ivy is abducted, though it firmly establishes character and background. The novel tends to be more character than story driven but it has its moments of explosive action and there was more violence than I was expecting, but Furminger does build tension through to the conclusion. I’m not sure I would agree The Healer is a paranormal romance despite its strong romantic element and HEA, it’s a hybrid that straddles several genre labels.

While I think there are some minor structural flaws this is a good first effort from a debut author. The Healer is an entertaining read with interesting characters and original ideas.

Stop by later to learn more about Sabrina Furminger and The Healer at Book’d Out

The Healer

is available to purchase

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