Thursday, 19 February 2015

Challenge Sign Up: British Books Challenge 2015

Today is my day for signing up to challenges as part of getting back into blogging. As with The Flights of Fantasy challenge I wanted to choose challenges which weren't too restrictive and which would cover books I definitely wanted to read/books I already had on my shelf waiting for me to pick up.

The British Books Challenge is hosted by Fluttering Butterflies and sets participants the task of reading 12 books by British authors in 2015. I've been wanting to read more UKYA (I think I have failed badly at this in the past) and also have a lot of adult books - like all of Dorothy Dunnett's historicals - which I've been wanting to get to.

I'm not going to do a full list of 12, as there are bound to be new books that I grab, but on the list at the moment are:

- Anything by Dorothy Dunnett. I'd love to finish The Lymond Chronicles at least but that is a huge undertaking.

- Arsenic For Tea by Robin Stevens (I loved Murder Most Unladylike and will review that soon).

- The UKYA books I've bought so far in 2015: The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury; The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell; and Me & Mr J by Rachel McIntyre because seriously I need to get on top of my buying to reading ratio

- Darkness Hidden and Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott (with a reread of The Night Itself)

There are others, and I will update this post and my 2015 Challenges page as I read and review.

Challenge Sign Up: Flights of Fantasy

I've been wanting to get back into blogging for a while and so was looking for some challenges to sign up for to a) get me to read more, and b) get me to post/review more. I didn't want to go for anything too restrictive though, as I tend to suck at those.

So Flights of Fantasy - hosted by Alexa Loves Books and Hello, Chelly - is perfect. The challenge focuses on reading fantasy, which is one of my favourite genres, and the number of books we set is entirely up to us.

I'm setting myself the challenge of reading 15 fantasy books in 2015. And while I don't want to set myself a list of 15 (because that guarantees I won't read those books) I would like to at least attempt to do the following:

- Reread Throne of Glass and read Crown of Midnight and Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas (preferably before Queen of Shadows is published)

- Finish reading A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin (preferably before series 5 of Game of Thrones starts - I have this in my desk at work and read it during lunch, so I should be able to do this)

- Read Clariel by Garth Nix, and possibly reread The Abhorsen Trilogy (one of my favourites) as well

- Read at least one book by these authors, many of whom are sitting there on my shelf mocking me (the books, not the authors): Leigh Bardugo, Scott Lynch, Patrick Rothfuss

There are numerous other books that I have on my shelf, and there are some rereads I want to do, but I think the above is enough to be going on with. I'll add to this post and to my 2015 Challenges pageas I read/review/update.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Review: Splintered by A.G. Howard

Splintered by AG Howard
This reimagining of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is just as freaky, scary and wonderful as expected.

Title & Author: Splintered by A.G. Howard
Published: 2013
Pages: 371 (Amulet Books, 2013)
Read: 3/2/13 - 13/2/13
Series: N/A
Challenge(s): 2013 Debut Author Challenge
Source: Owned book

Synopsis: Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.
When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.(from Goodreads)

Loved/liked: Loved.  This was actually one of the January debuts I passed over when I did my initial list, which now seems mad as this is so good.  I'm glad it was picked as the Debut Author Challenge's book club book for February or I might not have read it, which would be a shame as I really enjoyed the read. 

I have to admit, one of the things that made me a tad wary was the love triangle.  It's right there in the synopsis and I was sure it would irritate me but no!  I actually liked it, mostly because a) it made sense, b) it didn't dominate the whole damn plot, and c) I agreed with the outcome, which didn't feel forced.  It was what I was rooting for throughout, which was nice (usually I pick the 'losing' guy).

The writing is gorgeous, the reimagining of Wonderland superb, and the characters all well-rounded. I liked Alyssa and rooted for her, and her evolution from freaked out teenager to total badass is believable and awesome.  Both guys - Jeb and Morpheus - are great, and while I won't say which one I wanted to 'win' the love triangle I didn't feel that either didn't deserve to.  Plus, Morpheus has various hats to suit his mood and/or the occasion, which is something I adored.

Basically, I loved this book and am finding it a bit tricky to put that into words without potentially ruining the whole dame plot.  It's the sort of book I want to babble about to someone who's also read it, to point at favourite bits and discuss the sheer wonderful weirdness that was this take on Wonderland.

Problems/issues: None.  The length of time it took me to read it was entirely my own fault; whenever I read the book I couldn't put it down.  It's only not a 10/10 because, as much as I liked it, I didn't love it as much as I love my favourite books (which is, again, entirely on me).

Extra Awesome: Court intrigue, flying, hats for every occasion, weirdness everywhere.

Do I want more? Definitely.  This isn't a series - though there is the potential for a sequel at the end, it's just something mentioned in passing - but I will be reading A.G. Howard's next book for sure (whenever that is *peers at Goodreads author page*).

Do I recommend it? Yes. Especially if you like darker, twistier fantasy - I'm thinking Holly Black and Melissa Marr, the sort of books that occasionally make me go "oh, that's nasty"...but not so nasty that I stop reading.  Also, there are hats for specific events which is something I need in my life.

Rating: 9/10

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Review: The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
This swashbuckling tale of derring do, gambling, drinking, getting money off your mistress because you've spent it all on the gambling and drinking, challenging people to duels, dashing to England and back, and generally being a total seventeenth-century badass is, in short, a fantastic read.

Title & Author: The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Published: 1844
Pages: 720 (Penguin, 1982)
Read: 13/01/13 - 23/01/13
Series: The D'Artagnan Romances #1
Challenge(s): Project Fill in the Gaps
Status: Owned book

Synopsis: One of the most celebrated and popular historical romances ever written, The Three Musketeers tell the story of the early adventures of the young Gascon gentleman D'Artagan and his three friends from the regiment of the King's Musketeers - Athos,Porthos and Aramis.

Under the watchful eye of their patron M. de Treville, the four defend the honour of the regiment against the guards of the Cardinal Richelieu, and the honour of the queen against the machinations of the Cardinal himself as the power struggles of seventeenth-century France are vividly played out in the background. (from Goodreads)

Review: I have to admit, much of my knowledge of this book comes from the adaptations of it, especially the cartoon Dogtanian (what?  It was a favourite of mine as a kid.  And my friend who is Dumas obsessed says it's probably the most faithful adaptation she's ever watched).  So while I knew the gist of the story going in I wasn't prepared for how dark the book would get - the ending if more tragedy than comedy - or how daft the Musketeers frequently were when it came to anything involving money.  They may have been living the lives of seventeenth century heroes, but they could have at least tried to have some money set by for (picking an example purely at random) buying the equipment they'd need to go to war.  Seriously, guys, think ahead.

The plot itself will be familiar to most: D'Artagnan, a young hot-headed Gascon, travels to Paris to seek his fortune as a member of the King's Musketeers.  He finds out that he can't just wander in and become a Musketeer, and in the course of discovering this he ends up challenging three of the other Musketeers to consecutive duels.  These fights don't actually come off because the four of them are attacked by the Cardinal's guards and I thought the 1970s adaptation (with Michael Yorke as D'Artagnan) was exaggerating how many sword fights these guys get into but it is constant.  Anyone who so much as looks at them funny is challenged to a duel.  I think it's possibly this that helps them all become friends, though part of it is probably also the aforementioned inability to save money when they could be out drinking and gambling.

A vast chunk of plot was unfamiliar, however, and this is the part that makes the book so good: Milady and her machinations.  The Cardinal isn't as sinister as I was expecting, but Milady is (as the book frequently puts it) a fiend from hell.  The Musketeers may challenge those who slight them to duels; Milady simply kills anyone in her way, usually with poison or by getting someone else to do it.  She is devious and tricksy and fabulous, and there are so many awesome revelations about her that I'm just going to say you need to read the book because I am not spoiling.  The end is dark and reminded me of the darker moments of The Count of Monte Cristo - I genuinely didn't expect it to end that way, or that brutally.

The Three Musketeers is one of those books that I thought I knew, but I was still surprised by it.  Well worth reading for the swashbuckling romance alone, it's also a fantastic story that - as usual with Dumas - keeps you turning the pages so quickly that it's size feels less daunting.

Rating: 8/10
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