Thursday, 14 August 2014

Review: 'Cursed Moon' by Jaye Wells

Cursed Moon (The Prospero's War, #2)This book was, in many ways and from the very beginning, a surprise to me. I was sent this book by Orbit after I became more interested in Urban Fantasy and I had never heard of the author, the book or the series. In some ways you could argue this is a terrible starting point, on the other hand it doesn't happen often I get to start a book completely blank. And in the case of Cursed Moon that was a definite advantage.
When a rare Blue Moon upsets the magical balance in the city, Detective Kate Prospero and her Magical Enforcement colleagues pitch in to help Babylon PD keep the peace. Between potions going haywire and everyone's emotions running high, every cop in the city is on edge. But the moon's impact is especially strong for Kate who's wrestling with guilt over falling off the magic wagon.
After a rogue wizard steals dangerous potions from the local covens, Kate worries their suspect is building a dirty magic bomb. Her team must find the anarchist rogue before the covens catch him, and make sure they defuse the bomb before the Blue Moon deadline. Failure is never an option, but success will require Kate to come clean about her secrets.
Cursed Moon is completely different from, well, almost everything I have read before. Wells writes completely unapologetically and when it comes to magic that unleashes sexual aggression, it shouldn't come as a surprise that some of the passages in the book are quite confrontational. On the one hand I found myself disliking these parts of the book and on the other hand I loved the honesty of those scenes. And even if they are not your cup of tea, the more explicit scenes are relatively sparse and surrounded by some really fun and energetic writing. Energetic might seem a strange word to use for a writing style, but Wells' writing moves easily between dialogue, exposition and description and successfully keeps the pace going. Not once does a scene feel unnecessary or as if it's dragging the book down. The frequent cursing might throw some readers of but I felt that most of the curses were relatively colloquial ones that people do genuinely do use in their every day lives, so I wasn't too bothered by them.

One of my favourite things about this book (and the rest of the series, which I am yet to read) is how it deals with magic. Although it is something innate, to some people, it is highly addictive and is also something you can leave behind you. Magic is something that is used in a lot of books but not always successfully. In Harry Potter it works because Rowling spent a lot of time figuring out how it should work. Similarly, it feels as if Wells really thought about the idea of magic being cooked and how it would operate, which means that the concept works. Although there are a few gaps for me here and there, those will probably be filled when I read Dirty Magic, the first book in the Prospero's War series, and then anxiously wait for the next one.

Kate is a fascinating main character. Helped by Wells' insightful writing, it is really interesting to see Kate Prospero battle with old and new demons. Although her situation sounds about as unrelatable as they get, her problems are very human. Whether it is dealing with family members, struggling with your job or trying to come to terms with your past, there will always be problems and I really enjoyed how Wells combined those "normal" problems with magic. Apart from Kate, there are a whole range of interesting characters with a good balance between female and male characters. I also enjoyed the appearance of a hermaphrodite, which is a group who we don't often see represented in literature or any kind of media. I also felt that their relationships were well developed and not too cliche. Of course there is romantic attraction here and there but it never overpowered the narrative, which I was very happy about.

I give this book...

4 Universes!

I really enjoyed reading Cursed Moon. It isn't often a book manages to overthrow my expectations and I enjoyed this book much more than I thought I would. Wells' writing style is really fun and recognizable, which makes her characters all the more enjoyable as well. I would recommend this to people who need a strong, female heroine in their life and are looking for something new with magic. Cursed Moon is a quick read but is full of remarkable moments.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Review: 'The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm' by the Grimm Brothers, Jack Zipes

I adore fairy tales. They were the first stories I ever really read to myself from a thick volume with hardly any drawings. It made me feel very grown-up. Knowing fairy tales really helps in discovering underlying themes in most other works of literature, however, over time it's easy to lose track of the actual fairy tales themselves, which is why I really enjoyed this collection.
When Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm published their Children's and Household Tales in 1812, followed by a second volume in 1815, they had no idea that such stories as "Rapunzel," "Hansel and Gretel," and "Cinderella" would become the most celebrated in the world. Yet few people today are familiar with the majority of tales from the two early volumes, since in the next four decades the Grimms would publish six other editions, each extensively revised in content and style. For the very first time, The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm makes available in English all 156 stories from the 1812 and 1815 editions. These narrative gems, newly translated and brought together in one beautiful book, are accompanied by sumptuous new illustrations from award-winning artist Andrea Dezsö. 
From "The Frog King" to "The Golden Key," wondrous worlds unfold--heroes and heroines are rewarded, weaker animals triumph over the strong, and simple bumpkins prove themselves not so simple after all. Esteemed fairy tale scholar Jack Zipes offers accessible translations that retain the spare description and engaging storytelling style of the originals. Indeed, this is what makes the tales from the 1812 and 1815 editions unique--they reflect diverse voices, rooted in oral traditions, that are absent from the Grimms' later, more embellished collections of tales. Zipes's introduction gives important historical context, and the book includes the Grimms' prefaces and notes. 
A delight to read, The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm presents these peerless stories to a whole new generation of readers.
Being half-German and having the good fortune of having a grand-father who loved telling tales, I grew up with all the fairy tales there were. As a child I preferred Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales over those of the Grimm Brothers, but this collection really made me appreciate them anew. I always felt like they had too strong a moral but the introduction to this collection made it clear how strongly the Grimm Brothers edited the fairy tales in the later editions. Jack Zipes reproduces the original fairy tales from the first edition and they are a real joy to read. Zipes translates these stories very well and captures the tone perfectly. The rather blunt punishment of those that are wicked and the extravagant reward of those who are good are almost humorous and the moral is not quite as obvious in all of them.

This collection is absolutely bursting with stories. It was an amazing experience to be brought back to my childhood, where there was always a next story, there was always more. So although this collection would be great for children, it also has a lot to offer to adults. Apart from the story-telling aspect to fairytales and folk tales, it is also really interesting to look at the similarities and differences between the stories. They can tell you a lot about Northern European culture and this aspect is really brought out by Zipes in his introduction. The Grimm Brothers were originally philologists and sociologists and they collected stories for the purpose of exploring what they shared. Seeing that the morality lessons were added later on, mostly, really allows you to

The fact that these are the original stories rather than the edited is important because this is the first time they have been translated. Where people are used to Disney-esque fairy tales in which princes rescue princesses, these stories are actually very different. Did you know there was a fairy tale about the Virgin Mary which starts out very Bluebeard-ish. Who'd have guessed! Similarly I was very happily surprised by the role of women in these stories. The traditional image of women in fairy tales is quite bad, painting them as passive and simply as prices. However, these original fairy tales show daughters protecting their fathers from the Devil, sisters saving their brothers (again and again) and girls saving their lovers. Naturally we also have it the other way round but that is equality for you. Sure, there are also fathers and men who command their daughters around, but there atr women who do the same. Fairy tales allow for women to be maids, daughters, sisters, mothers, wives, queens, princesses and murderers. I am really happy that these versions of the stories are now translated and will soon be available because every nursery needs one. Maybe save the more gruesome stories for later on.

I give this collection...

5 Universes.

This collection of Original Fairy Tales is one I would love to read to my future children. There are short and long stories, ones about knights and farmers, men and women, children and adults. Although reading should be educative, these fairy tales aren't submersed in moral but are allowed to be fun and interesting. Not only suitable for children, even adults will love sinking into the world of magic and wishes that come true again.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Review: 'Untold' by Sarah Rees Brennan

Untold (The Lynburn Legacy, #2)The first book in The Lynburn Legacy, Unspoken, was the book that opened my eyes to the fun things that the YA and Paranormal genre actually can offer. Up until that point I had only really encountered YA/Paranormal books that disappointed me and I had basically given up on both genres. Unspoken popped up on Netgalley and I thought 'Why not?' and I raced through the book, loving pretty much every page. It should come as no surprise then that I picked up the second book as well.

It's time to choose sides.... 
On the surface, Sorry-in-the-Vale is a sleepy English town. But Kami Glass knows the truth. Sorry-in-the-Vale is full of magic. In the old days, the Lynburn family ruled with fear, terrifying the people into submission in order to kill for blood and power. Now the Lynburns are back, and Rob Lynburn is gathering sorcerers so that the town can return to the old ways.
But Rob and his followers aren’t the only sorcerers in town. A decision must be made: pay the blood sacrifice, or fight. For Kami, this means more than just choosing between good and evil. With her link to Jared Lynburn severed, she’s now free to love anyone she chooses. But who should that be?
A darkly humorous take on Gothic romance, Sarah Rees Brennan's Lynburn Legacy weaves together the tale of a heroine desperate to protect those she loves, two boys hoping to be saved, and the magical forces that will shape their destiny.
Unspoken ended on a very painful note, which made me both want to read this book but also curl into a ball and pretend the last chapter of Unspoken never happened. In Untold Sarah Rees Brennan continues along the same paths of misery, but in a different way. What I really appreciated about this book was that you could see that in some ways, the characters had grown up. Although hardly any time passes between the two books a lot has changed from the beginning of the first to the beginning of the second and it was really interesting to see how this impacted upon the characters. I loved Kami Glass in the first book and maybe I love her even more now. Whereas in the beginning she was plucky and maybe a little bit too reckless, she becomes a lot more responsible and protective, while securely remaining a teenage girl. While this may sound as an impossibility to some, Brennan makes Kami very three-dimensional, giving her a character that can change and adapt, depending on the circumstances.

Although romance played a part in the first book, it is definitely a bigger theme in Untold, which I really enjoyed. Although there is a hint of a love-triangle, Brennan deals with it in such a fantastic way that it becomes quite clear love-triangles don't really exist. If that doesn't make sense, read the book and it will. Brennan writes some really steamy scenes without making her characters act out of character, another really refreshing aspect of this book. I really enjoyed how she explored some of the side characters more and the further the book progresses, the closer they all grow to your heart, which is its own special kind of torture considering how dark the future looks for Sorry-in-the-Vale. It was also fun to see parents actually try to keep their children out of trouble. Often when the protagonists are teenagers parents are either completely oblivious or support their children's strange exploits. Untold offers a number of different parental and maternal figures, which once again creates a lot of variety. Not that this means the protagonists get into any less trouble than in the first book.

Where in Unspoken it was just the key characters who faced danger, Untold definitely pulls out all the stops in making the danger tangible. There is one scene near the beginning, which must be one of the creepiest ones in the whole book. All I will say is it involves scarecrows and if that doesn't give you an idea of how scary it can be then nothing can. Sometimes when series amp up the drama, it comes of as ridiculous. For example, in Eclipse it is almost impossible that no one notices the "massive" vampire battle going on in the forest just outside of town. In Untold however, it all seems quite plausible if one accepts the existence of magic. The whole town is suffused with it and has been for centuries, which makes what happens almost logical. Props need to be given to Brennan for that.

I can't wait to read what happens in the next book, Unmade. If the title is anything to go by we can expect a major showdown. The only thing I wish had been different was the coverart. I loved the gothic-like drawings that were on the cover of Unspoken and the two prequel novellas. It really made the books pop out.

I give this book...

4 Universes.

I really enjoyed Untold and would have finished it sooner had I not been desperate to not finish it. It's the kind of book you race through and don't want to put down, but then when you finish it you wish it'd been longer. I recommend this book to YA fans but also to readers looking for a book/series with a diverse cast, interesting characters and a strong female protagonist. This series offers it all!

Weekly Overview

It's been quite a strange week, partially because it's gone really quickly and on the other hand it's been quite a slow week. Strangeness all around. This also means I haven't been able to post as much as I would've liked to or participate in memes the way I usually do! I'm still making the round on visiting blogs from the Friday memes, so bear with me.

Emma and Elton: Something Truly HorridMonday:





That was my week. I've got a few books which I've just finished which means that hopefully next week there'll be more reviews! How was your week? If you have a weekly overview post as well, leave a link in the comments!

Friday, 8 August 2014

Friday and Vonnegut

I got the keys to my new house and it looks amazing! It's definitely an upgrade from where we're living now (not that this house is bad) and I can't wait to move all of my stuff in. Unfortunately I don't have a car or currently anyone around with a car, but the house is just down the street so I'm just packing boxes, carrying them over, unpacking them and then repeat that process. It's long but also fun. But let's move on to the memes:

Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Billy over at Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. This week's question was submitted by Elizabeth over at Silver's Reviews.

Do you have a pet peeve about when someone posts a comment on your blog? Example: no link back to their blog?

First and foremost I love all the comments I get. It makes me feel very appreciated to receive comments, so thanks to everyone who does. However, I do prefer it when people add links so I can visit back. It might take me some time, but I will eventually. I also always try, when I comment on other blogs, to comment on the actual post or respond to something said in the post, because I myself prefer it as well when people actually comment on things I say. It always makes me laugh when I quote something from a book and then say I don't like it and then people comment saying they absolutely love that quote as well.

Follow Friday is hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee.

Social Share! What is your favourite social network and leave us a link so we can join you!

Does Blogger count as a social site? Because this one is quite possible my favourite. But since we're all on that (or Wordpress) anyway, I'll pick another one. Or two.

I absolutely love Tumblr. It's so much fun and I spend hours and hours on it. I am most definitely on the Fandom-side of Tumblr, rather than the "hipster-side". My dashboard is basically full of SuperWhoLock, Teen Wolf, Star Wars, The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings and so much more. Also a lot of Buffy and Firefly. Here's a link to my blog there, I follow back :) The more the better and I apologize in advance for any random posts that are currently on the first page.

The Sirens of TitanI'm also enjoying Twitter a lot more in the last few months. I used to get really nervous about it because I didn't know whether I could reply to tweets etc. But I've loosened up a bit and everyone is really friendly up there!

Book Beginnings and Follow Friday are hosted by Gillion over at Rose City Reader and Freda at Freda's Voice. This week I'm using Kurt Vonnegut's The Sirens of Titan. I really like Vonnegut and I saw this one on sale so I had to buy it.

The Sirens of Titan is an outrageous romp through space, time, and morality. The richest, most depraved man on Earth, Malachi Constant, is offered a chance to take a space journey to distant worlds with a beautiful woman at his side. Of course there’s a catch to the invitation—and a prophetic vision about the purpose of human life that only Vonnegut has the courage to tell.
'Everyone now knows how to find the meaning of life within himself. But mankind wasn't always so lucky. Less than a century ago men and women did not have easy access to the puzzle boxes within them. They could not name even one of the fifty-three portals to the soul.' p.1
I like how absurd his writing is and it's hilarious at the same time. He always seems to write stories that no one else could come up with and yet it always seems so incredibly human, if that makes sense.

'It was a marvellous engine for doing violence to the spirit of thousands of laws without actually running afoul of so much as a city ordinance. Noel Constant was so impressed by this monument to hypocrisy and sharp practice that he wanted to buy stock in it without even referring to his Bible.' p.56
I just love the tone oft his F56. I have no idea what exactly is happening because I haven't started reading this one yet, but the whole idea of something being so wrong it's a 'monument to hypocrisy' had me laughing out loud! I really hope the whole book is like that!

So, that was my post for today. What is your commenting pet peeve? And do you have a favourite social netowork?

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Harry Potter Moment of the Week - Favourite Romantic Moment

I'm currently reading a variety of books, all of which are only a few chapters removed from being finished. This means that there's a lack of reviews right now but hopefully that drought will end soon. Next to that my other posting is a bit all over the place, but Harry Potter is here to bring order to the chaos, sort of. Harry Potter Moment of the Week is hosted by Leah at Uncorked Thoughts. This week we're picking our:

Favourite Romantic Moment

This isn't really a "moment", although the quote below is a moment. My favourite relationship in the Harry Potter-books is that between Remus Lupin and Tonks. They are just absolutely beautiful and they love each other so much. The moment below is from Half-Blood Prince when they're discussing Bill Weasley, who has also been bitten by a werewolf, and Fleur Delacour.
“You see!" said a strained voice. Tonks was glaring at Lupin. "She still wants to marry him, even though he's been bitten! She doesn't care!" "It's different," said Lupin, barely moving his lips and looking suddenly tense. "Bill will not be a full werewolf. The cases are completely-" "But I don't care either, I don't care!" said Tonks, seizing the front of Lupin's robes and shaking them. "I've told you a million times...."And the meaning of Tonk's Patronus and her mouse-colored hair, and the reason she had come running to find Dumbledore when she had heard a rumor someone had been attacked by Greyback, all suddenly became clear to Harry; it had not been Sirius that Tonks had fallen in love with after all. "And I've told you a million times," said Lupin, refusing to meet her eyes, staring at the floor, "that I am too old for you, too poor....too dangerous....""I've said all along you're taking a ridiculous line on this, Remus," said Mrs. Weasley over Fleur's shoulder as she patter her on the back. "I am not being ridiculous," said Lupin steadily. "Tonks deserves somebody young and whole." "But she wants you," said Mr. Weasley, with a small smile. "And after all, Remus, young and whole men do not necessarily remain so." He gestured sadly at his son, lying between them. "This is....not the moment to discuss it," said Lupin, avoiding everybody's eyes as he looked around distractedly. "Dumbledore is dead....""Dumbledore would have been happier than anybody to think that there was a little more love in the world," said Professor McGonagall curtly.'
Ugh, it's just so beautiful! And the fact that they got to live their short lives at least partially together makes me really happy and sad at the same time. Below is a Deleted Scene from Deathly Hallows which I wish they would've left in the film!

So, what's your most romantic moment?

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Review: 'Emma and Elton - Something Truly Horrid' by Alexa Adams

Emma and Elton: Something Truly HorridI decided to read this book as one of my adaptation-reads during #AusteninAugustLGR this month. I have a fear of adaptations, especially when the original is a book by a favourite author. I usually run for the hills when I see Jane Austen adaptations but I have decided to be strong this year. I figured Emma & Elton: Something Truly Horrid would be a good place to start, since Emma is one of my least favourite Jane Austen novels, so any major deviations wouldn't bother me too much.
Few heroines evoke such diverse emotions as Jane Austen's Emma Woodhouse, for whom readers profess everything from disdain to devotion. In "Emma & Elton", Alexa Adams explores what might have befallen the supercilious Miss Woodhouse if she were made aware of Mr. Elton's affection prior to his proposal. This short story was first published on Adams' blog in tribute to Halloween, and though you'll find no ghost or ghouls gracing its pages, tenderhearted Janeites be warned: here lies "something truly horrid".
I always thought of Emma as one of Jane Austen's harshest novels. Although I haven't read it in ages and my knowledge of it is therefore very limited, I felt that Emma is Austen's only character who has to be saved from herself by a man. Elizabeth Bennet independently realizes she has been very proud and prejudiced, as does Mr. Darcy. They don't have to spell it out for each other. Similarly, in Northanger Abbey Catherine learns that her faith in Gothic novels and her overactive imagination need to be tempered. Although Mr. Tilney helps in that realization, she herself is a very active part in her growing up. Emma on the other hand, in my eyes, often seemed to be on the brink of disaster, were it not for Mr. Knightley. This short story by Alexa Adams draws that into the extreme but I wonder whether this ending is any more horrid than what Austen conjures up in the original.

Not to say that Emma doesn't have its beautiful moments and great characters. I enjoyed reading it, but mainly because I felt the same way about Emma as I think Jane Austen felt about her. She is too frivolous, too focused on herself and too naive. Where Adams, in this story, brings a relatively swift end to the story, Austen stretches her story out and allows Emma to make sacrifices for her friends and family, thereby growing as a person. That this is, in some ways, all for the sake of Mr. Knightley, soit. Whether the combination of Emma and Elton is so horrid, apart from the fact that Mr. Elton made me want to tear down walls, is only the question because Emma is not at all changed. Rather than this being something horrid for her, Adams' story would be a horror for the others in Emma's village.

Something Truly Horrid is only a short story so it's quite difficult to say something about it. However, the plot overall was good, largely following Jane Austen's novel except for the few deviations here and there that allowed for the truly horrid thing to happen. However, where Austen is a relatively distant narrator, in the sense of that she doesn't write in first person and is generally the moral authority that hovers over the characters. Adams seemed to get a lot closer, which allows for a bit more insight into Emma. Since I don't like Emma as a character very much, I got relatively annoyed with her. But there were quite some moments that were funny and for being the short read it was, it was very enjoyable.

I give this short story..

3 Universes.

Adams writes a short story which is a lot of fun if one knows the source material. She doesn't bring enough to the table independently to allow for this short story to stand on its own. I would recommend this story to people who are Jane Austen and especially Emma fans. For others it will not have the same attraction. I enjoyed reading it but I doubt I will be rereading it at any point.