Zi71bFS9nQHnivtvUJquhejTHIQ The Story Factory Reading Zone

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Review: Never After by Rebecca Lickiss

Goodreads description:

A prince in search of a bride, a lady in search of adventure, and a wizard in search of a job each follow a folktale to a remote castle buried in thorns and briars and find what they seek in this delightful non-Grimm fairy tale from the author of "Eccentric Circles."

My review:
A charming and entertaining spin on the world of fairy-tales, this book seemed like a lesser Terry Pratchett to me. 
I enjoyed trying to spot the different traditional tales that were woven into the story. However, it seemed rather too familiar at times.
My favourite character was Prince Atheslstain. I felt rather sorry for him at times and I think this was enhanced by the well-rounded nature of the other characters that  surrounded him.
A light-hearted easy read.

I wonder, what is your favourite fairy-tale?

Review Request: The Knightmare by Deborah Valentine


When Scottish Formula 1 driver Conor Westfield is injured in a racing accident, could it be mere coincidence that as he recovers from his injuries his childhood nightmare recurs — a strange jumble of terrifying images that feel more like memories than dreams? Or that he is soon informed a mysterious woman with whom he had very brief affair has died and left him as her heir? But this was no ordinary woman and no ordinary affair. Dogged by a niggling feeling of déjà vu, Conor reluctantly travels to Amsterdam to identify the body. At her home he finds an illuminated book that transports him back in time to a past life as a Knight Templar where he rediscovers the woman he left behind and a life lived in the shadow of a tragedy that cries out across 800 years for resolution.

My review:

When struck me first about this story was the effective way that the language changed between the 'past' and the 'present'. Sometimes, when chapters just around time periods, it can be hard to follow when exactly you are, but this was definitely not the case in 'The Knightmare'. The writing was clear and understandable and gripped me from the start.

The characters were complex and original. I enjoyed discovering who Mercedes was along with Rhyswr and Conor, feeling as if I was joined in Conor's emotional journey. Conor was a character I didn't instantly find likable, but as I read on his personality grew and by the end I was wanting to know what happened to him. Rhyswr appealed more to me from the start, whilst Mercedes was a mystery ready to be solved.

It was interesting to consider the narrative links between the two time periods and theorise about what they might mean. At first the links seemed a little too contrived in places, but as the story developed I began to be taken in by the twists and turns. 

I very much enjoyed this book. I think it will appeal to anyone interested in mysteries, fantasy and history. An original tale.

Author bio:

Deborah Valentine is a British author, editor and screenwriter. She had three books published by Victor Gollancz Ltd in the UK, and Bantam and Avon in the US. Unorthodox Methods was the first in the series, followed by A Collector of Photographs and the Ireland-based Fine Distinctions. A Collector of Photographs was short-listed for an Edgar Allan Poe, a Shamus, a Macavity and an Anthony Boucher award. Fine Distinctions was also short-listed for an Edgar. They are soon to be available as eBooks on Orion’s The Murder Room imprint. With the publication of The Knightmare she has embarked on a new series of books with a supernatural edge. For more visit her website http://www.deborahvalentine.co.uk/ or The Knightmare Facebook page. She is a Goodreads author.

Why not share your favourite mystery?!

Clear Your TBR Pile Challenge Intro

OK so I'm a little late starting this challenge, but when I saw it I thought- that just fits me perfectly!

I currently have several shelves and 6 boxes of unread books, and my review request list is set for the next two years, unless I speed up a bit. It would be great to be able to get rid of some books because I've read them, rather than because I've decided their not my style any more. 

Objective: Read as many books from your TBR pile as possible during the two weeks this event will span.

My goals: Simply to read as many unread books as possible. I'm on holiday so this should be a little easier than usual, although I may get distracted by blogging and twitter I suspect.

More info and sign up at Fly To Fiction

How many books are in your TBR Pile?

Monday, 28 July 2014

Musing Mondays: July 28th

Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week…
• Describe one of your reading habits.
• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
• What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it!
• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.
• Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up? Share it with us!
• Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it, then!

I've been on a bit of buying spree recently on the Aslan Books website. My problem is that I get catalogues both electronically and physically on a regular basis. I sift through and circle all the books that I like the look of. Then I add any children's ones I think would be good for our church bookshelf and are only a few pounds (I'm not supposed to pay for these myself, but I can't resist sometimes). Occasionally the magazines then sit on the side until the offers are over and I forget it I've bought the books or not. More often than not, I go immediately online and buy about £100 worth of books to add to the overflowing bookshelves and 7 boxes of books that won't fit on them. That's what I did recently.

The problem is that, due to my enormous about of books, I recently promised myself 1 book in, 1 book out. So, on Saturday I made the sacrifice of sorting through all my books, recategorising them so that I'd (hopefully) be more likely to find the perfect read in the future, and deciding what I could bear to get rid of. It was a great exercise, but it did make me wonder who much I've spent on books that I'm never likely to read.

On the plus side, I'm now looking forward to the fun on BookCrossing all my unwanted books (as well as sharing some unregistered ones with the charity shops). Most of them will be coming to my next London meetup in a few weeks time. A few may be  wild released more locally. 

So, I'm  now wondering: what are your book buying habits?

More Musing Mondays

It's Monday: What Are You Reading?

I'm currently reading two books:

  1. The Knightmare by Deborah Valentine
This is an ebook which I was asked to  review by the author. 
This is its blurb:  When Scottish Formula 1 driver Conor Westfield is injured in a racing accident, could it be mere coincidence that as he recovers from his injuries his childhood nightmare recurs — a strange jumble of terrifying images that feel more like memories than dreams? Or that he is soon informed a mysterious woman with whom he had very brief affair has died and left him as her heir? But this was no ordinary woman and no ordinary affair. Dogged by a niggling feeling of déjà vu, Conor reluctantly travels to Amsterdam to identify the body. At her home he finds an illuminated book that transports him back in time to a past life as a Knight Templar where he rediscovers the woman he left behind and a life lived in the shadow of a tragedy that cries out across 800 years for resolution.
According to my iPad, I have about an hours reading time left, so I'm hoping to finish it today or tomorrow.
2.  36 Arguments for the Existence of God by Rebecca Goldstein
I'm not sure when or where I picked this one up. I resorted my bookshelves on Saturday and this is one that struck in my mind as something I'd like to read sooner rather than later. I started it last night and its quite a long one, so it may well take me the rest of the week to read.

My next review request book to read is 'A Vision of Angels by Timothy Smith'. I may read something else at the same time, or I may not- it depends what mood I'm in at the time. 

What are you reading? What do you plan to read next?

Bout Of Books Readathon 11

It's been a while since I've done one of these (the picture file on my computer still contains the banner for number 3), so here goes:

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 18th and runs through Sunday, August 24th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 11 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

I'm planning to read for as many of my waking hours as I can in the hope that I get more done than usual as its holiday time, and that I'll catch up on some of my book reading backlog.

Do join me during  the week beginning the 18th August, and why not read along as well?!

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Cassie Scott: Paranormal Detective by Christine Amdsen

Promo blurb:

Cassie Scott is the ungifted daughter of powerful sorcerers, born between worlds but belonging to neither. At 21, all she wants is to find a lace for herself, but earning a living as a private investigator in the shadow of her family's reputation isn't easy. When she is pulled into a paranormal investigation, and tempted by a powerful and handsome sorcerer, she will have to decide where she truly belongs.

My review

From the start I could see that I was going to enjoy this book. Something about the way it was written truly spoke to me.
I loved the character of Cassie, who appeared as a realistically strong young lady. Evan was an intriguing character, which fitted his role in the story well. 
The plot was a good mystery-style story, and I found myself truly wanting to work out 'who-dunnit' for myself, however I did feel that the outcome was a little too predictable.
The only thing I really didn't enjoy about this book was the form of paranormal investigation. I can't go into more details without ruining the plot, but suffice to say that it was one of my personal dislikes. If you enjoy all forms of paranormal then this book will be fine for you.
I would also have liked it to have finished on more of a cliff-hanger as had ending felt a little too resolved for my liking (in the middle of the final chapter would have been perfect).
Overall, an enjoyable book which had me reading the quickest I have for a long time.


Saturday, 21 June 2014

Review: The Ghosts of Nagasaki by Daniel Clausen

One night a foreign business analysis in Tokyo sits down in his spacious high rise apartment and begins typing something. The words pour out and exhaust him. He soon realises that the words appearing on his laptop are memories of his first days in Nagasaki four years ago. 
Nagasaki was a place full of spirits, a garrulous Welsh roommate, and a lingering mystery.
Somehow he must finish the story of four years ago- a story that involves a young Japanese girl, the ghost of a dead Japanese writer, and a mysterious island. He must solve this mystery while manoeuvring the hazards of middle management, a cruel Japanese samurai, and his own knowledge that if he doesn't solve this mystery soon his heart will transform into a ball of steel, crushing his soul forever. Though he wants to give up his writing, though he wants to let the past rest, within his compulsive writing lies the key to his salvation.

My review
At first appearance this book is a collection of adolescent goings on from the point of view of an intoxicated man living in Japan. It jumps back and forth between points of time and is quite hard to follow. For this reason it took me a long time to recognise any real story.
Then, slowly, I began to get into the book. It began to make sense and become something more spiritual and meaningful. By the end the protagonist no longer felt like a jerk, but more like an understandable human being. 
This is a story of growing up and discovering yourself. I only wish it had started from half way through.


Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Review: The Testament of Mary by Colman Toibin



Provocative, haunting, and indelible, Colm Tóibín’s portrait of Mary presents her as a solitary older woman still seeking to understand the events that become the narrative of the New Testament and the foundation of Christianity.

In the ancient town of Ephesus, Mary lives alone, years after her son's crucifixion. She has no interest in collaborating with the authors of the Gospel—her keepers, who provide her with food and shelter and visit her regularly. She does not agree that her son is the Son of God; nor that his death was “worth it;” nor that the “group of misfits he gathered around him, men who could not look a woman in the eye,” were holy disciples. Mary judges herself ruthlessly (she did not stay at the foot of the Cross until her son died—she fled, to save herself), and is equally harsh on her judgment of others. This woman who we know from centuries of paintings and scripture as the docile, loving, silent, long-suffering, obedient, worshipful mother of Christ becomes, in Toibin’s searing evocation, a tragic heroine with the relentless eloquence of Electra or Medea or Antigone. This tour de force of imagination and language is a portrait so vivid and convincing that our image of Mary will be forever transformed.(less)

My review:

A very well-written and captivating book full of emotion, The Testament of Mary would do very well as an account of a grieving mother focusing on how depression can affect memory. Unfortunately for a Christian reader, such as myself, it is supposedly about the mother of Christ.

Or rather, it's about the mother of a man who claimed to be The Christ. A man who made up miracles, as if they were magic tricks. A man whose followers would do anything to fulfil prophecy.

For me this book is useful as an alternative viewpoint to challenge and help me think about my faith. If you're someone who likes this sort of challenge then go ahead and read it, but I would not advise this book for newer believers. 

Rated:4/5 stars

Monday, 3 February 2014

Music Out of the Pages: Studying music

He spent as much time as he could studying the drum records, tapping his fingers on his fur even as he was falling asleep to memorize the times and rhythms of the most complicated measures.
Dragondrums by Anne McCaffrey

What's your most extreme way of studying?

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett (a review)


To the consternation of the patrician, Lord Vetinari, a new invention has arrived in Ankh-Morpork - a great clanging monster of a machine that harnesses the power of all the elements: earth, air, fire and water. This being Ankh-Morpork, it's soon drawing astonished crowds, some of whom caught the zeitgeist early and arrive armed with notepads and very sensible rainwear.

Moist von Lipwig is not a man who enjoys hard work - as master of the Post Office, the Mint and the Royal Bank his input is, of course, vital... but largely dependent on words, which are fortunately not very heavy and don't always need greasing. However, he does enjoy being alive, which makes a new job offer from Vetinari hard to refuse...

Steam is rising over Discworld, driven by Mister Simnel, the man wi' t'flat cap and sliding rule who has an interesting arrangement with the sine and cosine. Moist will have to grapple with gallons of grease, goblins, a fat controller with a history of throwing employees down the stairs and some very angry dwarfs if he's going to stop it all going off the rails...

My review:

Perfect for adults, young adults and older children alike, Terry Pratchett's latest novel takes us into the world of the railway. Moist van Lipwig is faced with the challenge of promoting this new invention whilst simply trying to stay alive. And, is it just him, or is it somehow taking on a life of it's own?

The seasoned Discworld reader will recognise many familiar characters in this tale. But there are also some brand new ones storming their way into the story. My favourite of these is Of a The Twilight The Darkness, a goblin who has a unique outlook on dealing with humans and the world in general. 

In this book Discworld continues to embrace the rise of science, clearly not the same as magic (otherwise the wizards would be involved) but yet somehow different from that we're used to. This story seems to take a more everyday approach to this compared to earlier books where it would be quite usual for mythical creatures to replace cogs and lights. I think that this does, unfortunately, detract slightly from the mystical nature of the telling.

Whilst the writing lacks a certain quality in places at first, it soon takes off and it's easy to become enthralled in the adventures of Mr Lipwig. I think this is because I personally found his exploits much more interesting than those of Mr Simnel the engineer. One of the fantastic things about The Discworld (and particularly Mr Lipwig's life) is that you can never be sure what is going to happen next. When The Patrician threatens to dispatch a key character then it could just happen, and yet the story would still go on.

I really enjoyed experiencing the railway through Moist van Lipwig's eyes, my interested heightening as I got further and further into the story. The last third of the book was particularly exciting. Having said that, this certainly wasn't my favourite of Terry Pratchett's novels. I think Raising Cities will particularly appeal to those who are familiar with the Discworld universe, although those with an interest in both fantasy and railways may also enjoy it.

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