Category: book reviews

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, together with the rest of the series, holds a very special place in my heart. Firstly, I grew up with these books. I read them starting as a teenager through until becoming a newly minted adult and I loved these books! I enjoy how the story and complexity scales throughout the series. That worked really well with how I read them initially, and also how I ‘aged’ with them.

I wanted to re-read these books as an adult. Mainly, I wanted to see if my experience of the books differed now that I was reading them from a more mature perspective. For the most part, I can’t say that they did; I enjoyed them just as much as I did back then!

 

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 251

Audience: Young Adult

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Publication Date: 02 Jul 1998

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

 

Goodreads – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Ever since Harry Potter had come home for the summer, the Dursleys had been so mean and hideous that all Harry wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he’s packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange impish creature who says that if Harry returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike.

And strike it does. For in Harry’s second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor and a spirit who haunts the girls’ bathroom. But then the real trouble begins – someone is turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects… Harry Potter himself!

 

My Thoughts…

After the magic and drama of his first year at Hogwarts, you would think that going home for the summer would be a break for Harry. However, his aunt and uncle, and their son, treat him so awfully that he cannot wait to go back. Thankfully for us, it doesn’t take too long in the narrative and we get to dive into the magic and nostalgia of going to school very quickly.

This year is a little bit different, as they are no longer the newbies. However, the events that take place at the school or even stranger than the last. Students (and Mr Filch’s cat, Mrs Norris) are found petrified in school corridors. Tension rises and speculation begins on what is happening to them. Harry himself falls under suspicion. But, as we can only expect from these books, Harry ends up getting to the bottom of the matter. Not only that, but he finds himself in danger once again.

As with the first book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is a very quick read. I enjoyed the pacing of the book. It is full of action to keep the narrative moving along, but at the same time, we still get to see world-building and character development. I prefer the books towards the end of the series because I enjoy depth and complexity in my fantasy books. However, the fact that this book doesn’t necessarily fit into this category didn’t matter at all. The fact is, I knew going into it that these early books set a lot of foundation for the later books.

Whilst we don’t necessarily realise that at the time, significant events in this book or the introduction to a wider storyline come into play later on. When I think about where these events begin, it is Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets that immediately comes to mind. 

Whilst there is a lot of controversy around J. K. Rowling, I would recommend these books to anyone wanting to start out with reading fantasy, or anyone wanting to read a series without too much mental commitment. These books are really easy to digest. They are the kind of books that you could always get more out of with the next re-read. Equally, you can take them as you read them first time. They have a lot to give, and it is a series that I will go back and read again and again throughout my lifetime, I am sure! I know one of my friends re-reads these books regularly!

Have you read the Harry Potter series? Have you not read them? Let me know what you think in the comments.

 

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Shelf Control #54 – 23/09/2022

Happy Friday everyone and welcome to today’s Shelf Control post!

Shelf Control is a regular feature on my blog. It’s a meme run by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies… a celebration of the unread books on our shelves! The idea is to pick a book you own but haven’t read and write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up!

If you want to read more about the Shelf Control feature, check out Lisa’s introductory post.

by the time this post goes live, I may actually be reading today’s featured book. This has been on my reading list since 2018. I am excited to pick up this science-fiction-style thriller novel.

Keen to find out what today’s feature is? Here are the details: –

 

Dark Matter – Blake Crouch

Genre: Science-fiction

Pages: 352

Audience: Adult

Publisher: Crown

Publication Date: 26 Jul 2016

 

 

Goodreads – Dark Matter

Jason Dessen is walking home through the chilly Chicago streets one night, looking forward to a quiet evening in front of the fireplace with his wife, Daniela, and their son, Charlie—when his reality shatters.

“Are you happy with your life?”

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream?

And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

Dark Matter is a brilliantly plotted tale that is at once sweeping and intimate, mind-bendingly strange and profoundly human–a relentlessly surprising science-fiction thriller about choices, paths not taken, and how far we’ll go to claim the lives we dream of.

 

My Thoughts…

Described as a science-fiction thriller, dark matter is the kind of book that you can dive into and enjoy regardless of your reading habits. At just over 350 pages, it is neither too big, nor so short that it lacks any plot to hold the story together.

Dark Matter has a high rating on Goodreads, and a number of reviewers I follow and look to for their opinions have really enjoyed this book. It has been sometime since I read a book marketed as a thriller. Given the time of year, I think it is the perfect time to finally pick this up.

Based on the synopsis and reviews, I have read, the narrative is cleverly written, so it is difficult to determine what is going on, and what is significant in the narrative until we reach the crux of the story. Personally, I really like a book and a narrative to try and unpick and work out for myself. So, you can see why this particular book really appeals to me!

As you may know, I have this on my reading list for September as part of Bookoplathon. I may be reading this particular book by the time this post goes live. In any case, I can’t wait to let you know what I think of this one.

Have you read Dark Matter? Do you like the sound of it based on the synopsis?

 

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Sunday Summary – 18th September 2022

Hello everyone and welcome to… you guessed it, another Sunday Summary post! Every Sunday I share my latest bookish updates – what I have been reading and books I have added to my reading list. I also cover the posts you can expect to see on my blog in the following week.

Before diving into that though, let’s quickly recap what I have shared with you this week. I wanted to finally commit my thoughts on Fire and Blood by George R.R. Martin. With the ongoing prequel series, House of the Dragon, currently airing, I thought this was perfect timing. A little fun fact for you – the events in House of the Dragon don’t begin until 340 pages into Fire and Blood. There is a lot of ground not covered in the show. It remains to be seen as to whether any of this is used either for a pre-prequel or a second season. If you want to find out my thoughts on the whole book, which spans a far greater time period the series, you can check out that post here.

Later in the week, I shared a First Lines Friday post. In that post, I shared a short and snappy introduction to a book currently sitting on my bookshelf and begging to be read. I have already read several books by this author, all part of another series he has written. However, I am yet to read anything of his set in the time period. I have read another similar book by a completely different author recently; I’m interested to see if there’s any commonality or whether it is just a certain famous character and setting that overlaps. If you want to check out what that book is, here is a link for that one as well.

 

Books Read

In last Sunday’s Sunday Summary update, I was reading Red Sister by Mark Lawrence. As I shared in that post, I wasn’t overly enamoured with the book. I made the decision that I was going to continue reading until at least 33% of the book before making a decision on whether to continue or not.

Unfortunately, my initial impression didn’t change in the additional 10% I read. I didn’t hate the book by any stretch of the imagination. However, I didn’t love it either. It just didn’t grip me or hold my interest particularly. With that in mind, I didn’t want to invest in a further 5 to 6 hours for a book that was just… meh. There are so many books out there, (God knows I have enough of them on my TBR already!). So, I really don’t need to waste my time if I know I’m not loving a book. I made it a third of the way through, I gave it a very good chance. However, this one just didn’t hit the mark. It is disappointing as I loved another series of Mark Lawrence as a teenager – The Broken Empire. Oh well, you can’t win them all!

Next, I moved on to my third read of my September TBR. I must admit I went into this not really knowing what to expect. It is not a typical read for me at all; romance isn’t really a genre I go for. However, I am really enjoying In Case You Missed It by Lindsey Kelk! I think it’s fair to point out that this is a romantic comedy, and it’s the comedy element that really works for me. The writing style is really easy to read, and the narrative and characters are hilarious!

I think maybe this book came at a good time. Clearly, my ‘typical reads’ aren’t meeting expectations at the moment. Perhaps going for a complete change is something I needed. In Case You Missed It is providing that for me. As of today’s Sunday Summary post, I am 132 pages into the book. That equates to about a third of the way through. It’s not the most reading progress in the world, but I do plan to read more of this tonight and tomorrow.

 

Books Discovered

I have added one book to my TBR this week, and you will probably understand why. You would have to be living under a rock to not know that Queen Elizabeth II passed away by now. There has obviously been a lot of talk about her and the British monarchy. As a result, it has made me realise that I would like to learn more.

So, I have decided to pick up a biography about her, and one that was published as recently as April this year. I want to learn more about her, her life and family to truly appreciate what she has done for us over the last 70 years of her life.

 

Coming Up…

My first blog post will be a Top Ten Tuesday post next week. I had an idea in mind for a similar type of post anyway, and so I decided to take part in this week’s theme. If you want to find out what I plan to read in the next few months, check out my post on Tuesday. In that post, I will be talking about 10 books on my autumn to-read list. You may just find the one I just mentioned above on that list!

As usual, I’ll be sharing another Shelf Control post later next week. In the post, I feature a book that I may be reading this time next week, as it is on my September TBR for Bookoplathon.

That’s the latest from me. I hope you have enjoyed today’s Sunday Summary update post! Have you read anything good this week that you would like to share?

 

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Book Review: Fire and Blood – George R.R. Martin

I’m really looking forward to sharing today’s book review with you all for Fire and Blood. It is well documented that I am a huge fan of George R.R. Martin, and with the current airing of the prequel show, House of the Dragon, I wanted to share my thoughts on the book that inspired the series!

If you are unfamiliar with the book, Fire and Blood is the first of a two-part history of the Targaryen family line. The book begins with Aegon the Conqueror’s conquest of Westeros, and from there, history only gets, well… bloodier.

 

Fire and Blood – George R.R. Martin

Genre: Epic fantasy

Pages: 706

Audience: Adult

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Publication Date: 20 Nov 2018

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

 

Goodreads – Fire and Blood

From the masterly imagination behind A Game of Thrones – one of the greatest fantasy epics of all time and an unmissable HBO hit series – comes a definitive history of Westeros’s past as told by Archmaester Gyldayn.

Unravelling events that led to A Song of Ice and Fire, Fire and Blood is the first volume of the definitive two-part history of the Targaryens in Westeros. Revealing long-buried secrets and untold lasting enmity, it sets the scene for the heart-stopping series conclusion, The Winds of Winter.

300 years before the events of A Song of Ice and Fire, long before the schism that set the houses of Westeros at each other’s throats, one house ruled supreme and indomitable. House Targaryen, the house of the last remaining dragonlords.

After surviving the Doom of Valyria the Targaryen’s established themselves on Dragonstone. This volume traces their legendary lineage from Aegon the Conqueror to the bloody Dance of Dragons; a civil war that pitted Aegon II and his half-sister Rhaenyra in a bitter conflict for the throne of their father, nearly wiping out the Targaryen dynasty forever.

What really happened during the Dance of the Dragons? Why did it become so deadly to visit Valyria after the Doom? What is the origin of Daenerys’s three dragon eggs? These are but a few of the questions answered in this essential chronicle, as related by a learned maester of the Citadel.

With all the scope and grandeur of Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Fire and Blood is the ultimate guide to Westeros’s past. Featuring more than eighty all-new black-and-white illustrations by artist Doug Wheatley this is an essential volume for any Game of Thrones fan’s library. For the first time the full tapestry of Targaryen history is revealed.

 

My Thoughts…

If you are watching House of the Dragon and wonder how it compares to Fire and Blood, you may be interested to learn that the events of the TV show don’t start until approximately 340 pages into the book. Those events are the passing over of Rhaenys as heir in favour of Viserys I (because God forbid a woman sits on the Iron Throne!). It was touched upon very briefly in the first few minutes of the TV show, and from there the rest unfolds.

Naturally, that means there is a good deal of history that the prequel show doesn’t even touch upon. Granted, I can see why that is the case. A significant portion of the book prior to these events covers the reign of Jaehaerys I Targaryen. By all accounts, Jaehaerys was a well-suited ruler and lived to a ripe old age. If you are unfamiliar, that’s about as rare as hen’s teeth in the Targaryen bloodline! Whilst good Kings are good for the realm, they don’t make the most interesting of stories!

My copy of this book is the illustrated hardback edition, illustrated by Doug Wheatley. The pictures are interspersed throughout the narrative and really bring the characters to life. Some of my favourite illustrations in the book are of Aegon the Conqueror and his sisters Rhaenys and Visenya, the portrait of Maegor the Cruel, as well as a number of the action scenes and dragon fights within.

I would be lying to you if I said that this first instalment of the Targaryen histories wasn’t dense. There are a lot of characters in this book. As a result, I benefited from taking a break and splitting reading the book into two. It gave me the opportunity to digest what I had read so far. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it, because I absolutely did! George R.R. Martin went to a great deal of trouble to incorporate the histories of both Westeros and Essos throughout the A Song of Ice and Fire series. I am glad that it made it into its own book(s), as the depth of detail deserves its moment in the limelight.

As I thoroughly enjoyed this first book so much, I cannot wait for the second half of this history. If it is anything like the first then there will be plenty of tension, drama, and conflict to look forward to. As we can only expect from George R.R. Martin, I am sure it will not be a short book either. There is nothing superficial about the world or characters he creates. For fans of epic fantasy like me, that leaves us a lot to dive into. These are the sorts of books to find some new detail in with every re-read.

If I had one wish about Fire and Blood, it is that it went further back in history. The book begins with the conquest of Aegon the Conqueror, which happens approximately 100 years after an event referred to in this book and the main series as the ‘Doom of Valyria’. Personally, I would like to finally understand what this mysterious event is. We don’t know what happened, other than Valyria is destroyed as a result. It is written into the lore of the world as to why we don’t know about what happened, but it’s an itch I would love to scratch one day. Surely he can come up with a loophole to finally leak the story somehow?!

Have you read Fire and Blood? Are you a fan of the A Song of Ice and Fire series? I would love it if you let me know and we could have a chat in the comments!

 

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Discussion Post – Diversity Matters!

Diversity matters. There are billions of people on this planet, and every single one of us counts. We are all unique, and have our own experiences… some good, others not so much. 

What is the best way to enable us to see things from a different perspective to our own? How do you put yourself in someone else’s shoes; experience something you could never possibly do in your own lifetime? Well, perhaps an obvious answer is to read a book!

Truly being able to empathise with others can be tricky. How do you understand what it is like to experience something when you have never experienced it for yourself? How do you imagine living in a life of fear and slavery, when you were born free and privileged?

It is important to read out of your comfort zone and experience new things. It is how we learn. Some people may be lucky enough to be able to garner such things from the experience of those they have grown up with. If someone can tell you, candidly, about an experience, it can enrich you. But, for a lot of people, we don’t have access to these perspectives.

 

We have books.

Reading a book from somebody else’s perspective, whether fiction or non-fiction, offers an intimacy that is rare to find anywhere else.

I have been making more of an effort to read books from different perspectives. One of the most recent I have read is The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. When we think of Greek mythology and war, we immediately think of the male perspective/experience. Fighting, clashes, conquering. The Silence of the Girls flips this on its head. Rather than focusing on the role of men in the war, we instead look at the women who are enslaved within the war camp. The women who weave cloth and prepare food – are bed slaves to the men, who work in the hospitals and prepare the dead for burial. This is not the typical narrative of war, and it was enriching to read.

There is a very poignant bit at the end of this book. So often the narrative is about victory and people being conquered. But what is often overlooked is that those peoples are not really conquered. The men may have died in battle, but the women live on. They may be the children of their captors, but their mother’s stories, histories, and identities are taught to their children. In this particular book, a mother sings an old nursery rhyme to a child… prompting this revelation. The contrast in narratives was startling, but appreciated!

 

Diverse voices are out there.

As much as I am making an effort to read different perspectives, there are so many more out there to choose from! Now more than ever we are able to access books from ethnic or minority perspectives that weren’t readily accessible until quite recently.

With radical shifts in society, namely movements around LGBTQ+ and equality, it is far easier than before for authors to write diverse characters without prejudice or stigma. Whether these characters are from an #ownvoices perspective or not, it is a pleasure to see the drastic shift we have made regarding attitude towards others.

Take LGBTQ+ as an example. Earlier this year I read Dune by Frank Herbert; it is definitely a book written in its time. One of my biggest gripes about one of the characters (Baron Harkonnen), is that he is further demonised by being made to be so grossly fat he can’t support his own weight, but also by being gay. It may not have been so scandalous to characterise somebody in such a way back in 1965, but it certainly doesn’t sit well now.

I haven’t read so much recently from authors of ethnic minorities, but I do have them on my reading list. This isn’t a deliberate choice; rather, it is as a result of historic bias in the publishing industry. More recently I have added books to my reading list from diverse authors. I have books by Michelle Obama, N.E Davenport and Christina Soontornvat on my list. I have just read The First Binding by R.R. Virdi, which is an epic fantasy book but has themes of Asian mythology. I have also historically read children of blood and bone by Tomi Adeyemi (a series I need to continue with).

In a way I have struggled to write this post. Who am I to talk about the difficulties experienced by those in social minorities? I don’t fall into any of these categories. But just because we don’t fall into these categories, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about the experiences of those who do. It is only by being open and transparent that we can acknowledge the history and difficulties experienced, even sadly to this day.

It is important that we learn of these experiences, in order that we can empathise with those who have suffered so terribly and treat others with kindness.

Just because we have never had to go through the struggles ourselves, it doesn’t mean we are entitled to ignorance.

 

My pledge

I am going to be making even more effort to read books that explore the lives of ethnic minorities, those from an LGBTQ+ perspective, and to learn more about the history and culture of other countries. Because diversity matters! I have read Greek and Norse mythology so far, but something I have never explored is Asian mythology. It is every bit as rich, and so I can’t wait to read about it.

Here is my pledge. What is yours?

 

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Book Review: The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank

In today’s book review post, I am featuring my review for the first non-fiction book I read this year – A Diary of a Young Girl. I have been making more of an effort to read non-fiction of late, and so I felt it fitting that I also feature this on my blog. It reflects my current reading, and this book naturally led to some very strong emotions.

A Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank

Genre: Non-fiction/classic

Pages: 283

Audience: Adult

Publisher: Fingerprint Classics

Publication Date: 1947

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

 

Goodreads – The Diary of a Young Girl

Anne Frank’s extraordinary diary, written in the Amsterdam attic where she and her family hid from the Nazis for two years, has become a world classic and a timeless testament to the human spirit. Now, in a new edition enriched by many passages originally withheld by her father, we meet an Anne more real, more human, and more vital than ever. Here she is first and foremost a teenage girl—stubbornly honest, touchingly vulnerable, in love with life. She imparts her deeply secret world of soul-searching and hungering for affection, rebellious clashes with her mother, romance and newly discovered sexuality, and wry, candid observations of her companions. Facing hunger, fear of discovery and death, and the petty frustrations of such confined quarters, Anne writes with adult wisdom and views beyond her years. Her story is that of every teenager, lived out in conditions few teenagers have ever known.

 

My Thoughts…

Having read so much historical fiction, particularly around World War II as I’m interested in the subject, I’m surprised I hadn’t read this book before now. Most of the narratives are about the overarching movements on the war, but it’s personal stories that really make it hit home. But this isn’t fiction. Anne Frank was a real young lady, who went into hiding because a regime did not like her faith. All the devastation that took place is disgusting.

Up until the family go into hiding, Anne lives a reasonably normal life. She has a school and classmates… A family who love her. All the things a child should have. Fear and doubt are not things that a child her age should know, but they come soon enough. There is a stark difference between the schoolgirl gifted a diary for her birthday, and the young woman confined into the Annex.

Throughout her diary we watch Anne struggle to come to terms with her new life, her relationships and living in a small space with very few provisions. Through the various chapters, we experience Anne’s day-to-day struggles, angst and moods, as well as her extended periods of melancholy. Anne becomes a teenager in The Annex; she has to battle with herself to come into her own, deal with her hormones and the like with no help or privacy.

The knowledge that this is a real girl’s diary makes the content all the more stark. That I concluded this read on the day Russia invaded Ukraine brought this to the forefront of my mind once again.

It is an educational read that helps those of us who have never known such hardship to really understand the atrocities experienced by the Franks, amongst others, had to live through. But, it also has a glimmer of hope – as it highlights those who risked themselves to hide and protect Jews. It is a pity it was in vain for too many people.

I don’t know what I expected, but the abrupt ending of the diary left me at a loss. Naturally, Anne had no inkling of their discovery and so there was no lead-up to that in her narrative. To mentally conclude the book, I researched what happened to the family after the events in her diary, and I was saddened by the reality. It is sad that anyone should go through this, but the truth is, so many lives ended in similar, or worse ways.

The Diary of a Young Girl wasn’t light reading by any stretch of the imagination, but I think it is important. It gives insight into the horrors that oppressed Jews had to live in, and only through wearing their shoes can we understand how they lived, suffered and fought for their lives.

Have you read The Diary of a Young Girl? What are your thoughts on this book? As always, let me know in the comments or on social media.

 

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Book Review: The First Binding – R.R. Virdi

Hello everybody and welcome to today’s review of the most epic of epic fantasy novels, The First Binding by R.R. Virdi. Advertised as The Name of the Wind meets City of Brass, this book appealed to me instantly and I added it to my TBR back at the beginning of the year. As a huge fan of Patrick Rothfuss and his The Name of the Wind series as a teenager, this book was full of promise… and a little touch of nostalgia.

And I got that from this book. The narrative style is just what I was looking for, and there’s even the odd little Easter egg that relates to the series if you can spot it.

I’m excited to share today’s review with you, which is just ahead of the publication of the book (18th August if you’d like to get yourself a copy). Before I get into sharing my thoughts on this book, I like to say a massive thank you to Gollancz for providing me with a copy of the book so I could read it and tell you all about it today. All the opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own, and shared voluntarily. 

 

The First Binding

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Pages: 832

Audience: Adult

Publisher: Gollancz

Publication Date: 18 Aug 2022

Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

 

Goodreads – The First Binding

All legends are born of truths. And just as much lies. These are mine. Judge me for what you will. But you will hear my story first.

I buried the village of Ampur under a mountain of ice and snow. Then I killed their god. I’ve stolen old magics and been cursed for it. I started a war with those that walked before mankind and lost the princess I loved, and wanted to save. I’ve called lightning and bound fire. I am legend. And I am a monster.

My name is Ari. And this is the story of how I let loose the first evil.

 

My Thoughts

Ari, known as The Storyteller, recounts his youth and introduction to the ten bindings all men must know. Written in the same vein as The Name of the Wind, fans of the series by Patrick Rothfuss will recognise and enjoy the narrative style. This is one of the primary reasons that I wanted to pick up this book for myself, and in every aspect, it didn’t disappoint!

Ari, aka ‘The Storyteller’ does not shy away from the dramatic. An expert narrator, he teases his audience and dabbles in anticipation to his audience. Slowly, his stories unravel in a way that steadily builds to a grand crescendo – it appeals to the audience. And with the very same craft and skill does R.R. Virdi tease Ari’s narrative across 800+ pages.

Capturing our attention from the opening lines, we go back to the very beginnings of Ari’s life as an abandoned child. From there we watch Ari advance in years and in his desire to learn about where he came from. Along the way, he encounters a vast array of characters. Not all of them are good. Not all of them are kind to him. Through sheer grit and determination, and with a few friendly faces to help him along, Ari struggles to find himself and his place in the world. He has no foundations from which to build, and so he is determined to make his own.

Epic in scope, and full of adventure, magic, and misdeeds, we reminisce on Ari’s early years. And the best thing is that this is just the beginning of the story. Of his story.

The First Binding is very well written. Full of in-depth and detailed world-building, with its own history and myths/legends, The First Binding is every bit as well developed as other popular and well-known fantasy series. In particular, I really enjoyed how the last chapter plays out, as we are almost taken back to the beginning. Almost. We have enjoyed this expansive journey with Ari, and yet the setting reminds us of where we humbly began. Consequently, it also inevitably leaves us wondering, what happens next?

Another point that really sold this book for me is how I enjoy magic systems in fantasy that have rules relating to the physical world. Authors such as Brandon Sanderson are favourites of mine because he also does the same thing.

This is also true to an extent in The First Binding. When magic takes place, things don’t just appear and disappear at will. The magic alters them in such a way that it changes their state, or where something is, for example. It is these same rules, rooted in science, that make the magic seem more plausible. They have limitations, meaning that any inconvenient plot point cannot just be made ‘right’ with magic. It must be a lot more difficult to employ a magic system that has such constraints, so I have a lot of respect for authors who are able to incorporate this, and well, and make the magic all the more believable!

Every good storyteller knows how to construct a cliffhanger, and R.R Virdi has done just that in The First Binding! I cannot wait for the sequel to see what happens next. Inevitably, there are still unresolved plot points that have not yet been explored in full detail (such as the ten bindings themselves – we only know eight of them). Some of these I expect to span over multiple books. As a huge fantasy fan, I really enjoy this depth and the promise of what is yet to come! 

Undeniably, The Fist Binding is one of my favourite reads of 2022, and I hope I have convinced you to pick this book up for yourself!

 

Author Bio

http://rrvirdi.com/about/

Book Review: A Feast of Phantoms – Kat Ross

Hello everyone and welcome to today’s book review of A Feast of Phantoms by Kat Ross. If you like books that are an eclectic range of genres, then this book is for you! With an underpinning western theme and elements of steampunk, this fantasy has a lot going on in a nice, concise page count that is approachable to read.

Full disclosure, I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review. All of the opinions shared in this post are my own.

 

A Feast of Phantoms – Kat Ross

Book cover of A Feast of PhantomsGenre: Fantasy

Pages: 270

Audience: New Adult

Publisher: Acorn

Publication Date: 17 Mar 2020

Rating: ***

 

Goodreads – A Feast of Phantoms

THE JOB

It was supposed to be simple.

Help Marshal Sebastian Hardin escort his prisoner one stop on the railway to Charter Oak.

Just one stop.

But when that prisoner is a savant who talks to ghosts, even the simplest plans have a way of falling apart.

THE LAW

Sheriff’s Deputy Ruth Cortez always does the right thing. Lucky Boy is a company town, dependent on the rich and powerful Carnarvon family. Besides which, the charismatic Sebastian Hardin isn’t an easy man to say no to. When his transport derails in the middle of the prairie, Ruth begins a relentless manhunt that leads straight into the dark heart of the Carnarvon empire.

THE FUGITIVE

Lee Merriweather favors sharp suits and fast trains – especially when he’s stealing them. At the ripe old age of 18, he’s managed to become the most wanted criminal in three territories. Lee can’t resist playing cat and mouse with a small-town deputy, but what starts as a game becomes deadly serious.

THE FIXER

Sebastian Hardin is the Carnarvons’ right hand, loyal to the death and willing to keep any secret to protect the family. They want Lee alive, but with the young savant’s disturbing abilities it won’t be an easy proposition. Whoever catches Lee gets the keys to the kingdom and the Carnarvons aren’t the only ones hunting him down. Sebastian has enough problems without falling for Deputy Cortez – but you can’t always choose who you love.

THE PHANTOMS

They terrorized the settlers until Calindra Carnarvon learned to speak their language. Her empire relies on controlling their telekinetic powers, but Lee Merriweather could destroy it all. And not even Lee suspects the shocking truth of the phantoms’ real nature.

 

My Thoughts…

If you like the crossover of genres in the likes of Stephen king’s The Dark Tower or Brandon Sanderson‘s second Mistborn trilogy, A Feast of Phantoms has a similar vibe. It is also set in a western type setting. The incorporation of steampunk elements reminded me of the technological advancements we see between the first and second Mistborn trilogy, which is why I have likened this book to that.

Ruth is a small-town girl happy with her quiet life as a deputy in the town of Lucky Boy. Life is fairly rudimentary, but it’s all she’s ever known. When she is conscripted to help the secret services transport a prisoner for trial, she doesn’t have much choice but to accept. From here on, Ruth world opens up to magic, intrigue, and danger that she couldn’t foresee.

I really liked Ruth as a character. I love that she has very strong, good morals. In a world that is clearly corrupt, Ruth is a breath of fresh air. She is also very headstrong, and despite her youth, she is able to make a decision and act upon it. Quite often characters of this age can be a bit wishy-washy or uncertain. A lot of the plot conflict derives around that issue.

That’s not the case in A Feast of Phantoms, however. Instead, Ruth is decisive and more often than not, it is this that gets her into more trouble… Despite her good intentions.

A Feast of Phantoms has a fast pace plot. Once the story has been set up, we are whisked upon the mission to escort Lee Merriweather to his fate, and all the drama and turmoil that unfolds thereafter., In true fashion, all is not as it seems. Hardly to be expected, given that the secret services are involved. Instead, Ruth finds herself dragged into a conflict she could never have imagined and is far away from her hometown.

A Feast of Phantoms is also a short read, and very easy to pick up. I managed to read this book in just a couple of days. The narrative style is easy to follow and get lost in. Reading this book was effortless, and the story keeps you hanging on to read just one more chapter… over and over again.

The good news for fans of this book is that it is the first of a trilogy. This first instalment leaves us on a cliffhanger that will have us picking up the next one to know what happens next!

What are your thoughts on this book? As always, let me know in the comments or on social media. Get in touch with me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, or of my new blog posts as and when they go live!

Until next time,

 

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Shelf Control #51 – 29/07/2022

Happy Friday everyone and welcome to today’s Shelf Control post! Shelf Control is a regular feature on my blog. It’s a meme run by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies… a celebration of the unread books on our shelves! The idea is to pick a book you own but haven’t read and write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up!

If you want to read more about the Shelf Control feature, check out Lisa’s introductory post.

If I recall correctly, I own today’s featured book on Kindle. I saw this a long time ago but was immediately pulled in by the synopsis, and sneak peak of the opening line, below.

I am trying to read more non-fiction, more so now than never. If you recall my midyear review post, I set myself a goal of reading at least one non-fiction book a month. This book will fit nicely with this challenge. Having reminded myself of the synopsis, I may well be picking this up soon!

Here are the details for today’s book: –

 

The Adversary: A True Story of Monstrous Deception – Emmanuel Carrère

Genre: Non-fiction / True Crime

Pages: 208

Audience: Adult

Publisher: Picador

Publication Date: 31 Jan 2000

 

 

Goodreads – The Adversary

On the Saturday morning of January 9, 1993, while Jean Claude Romand was killing his wife and children, I was with mine in a parent-teacher meeting…

With these chilling first words, acclaimed master of psychological suspense Emmanuel Carrère begins his exploration of the double life of a respectable doctor, 18 years of lies, five murders and the extremes to which ordinary people can go.

 

My Thoughts…

With this synopsis, I cannot help but think that less is more. There is not a lot of detail to go on, but that opening line really sucks you in. Who is Jean Claude Romand, and what is his story?

From the basic research I’ve done, the answer is, he’s a fraud. He is a man who fails to qualify to become a doctor, lies about getting a job with the World Health Organisation and lives comfortably for 18 years off of other people’s money. However, when the web of lies risks coming undone, he murders those closest to him.

I’ll admit, I have never heard of this case before. This book is translated from French, so it’s not necessarily a story you would know about. Other books and even films have been made on the subject, so you may be more familiar with the story than I am. I can’t wait to dive into this particular book, as Jean is clearly a very sinister character. My understanding is that the author initially wanted to complete some kind of psychological assessment with this book, however he wasn’t able to do so.

I am looking forward to coming to my own conclusions about this man and his behaviour. I’m a huge fan of psychology, and it’s for this reason that I wanted to read this book!

Have you read The Adversary, watched any of the films about Jean Claude Romand, or read any other true crime books that you would recommend?

If you’ve enjoyed today’s Shelf Control post and want to see similar posts, you can subscribe to be notified whenever I post new content by clicking the follow button below. In addition, you can find and get in touch with me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook!

 

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Book Review: The Taking of Annie Thorne – C. J. Tudor

In today’s post, I am sharing my book review for The Taking of Annie Thorne by C. J. Tudor. I read this book just over a year ago, so it’s well due its five minutes of fame on my blog.

I really enjoyed The Taking of Annie Thorne. Previously, I had read and loved The Chalk Man, also by the same author. It’s for this reason that I wanted to pick this latest book up, and I’m glad I did. This time last year I wasn’t reading anywhere near as much as usual. However, I read this book a lot quicker than I had been managing other books of similar length.

I think that speaks volumes for itself, but in today’s post, I share plenty more reasons why you should read this book for yourself!

 

The Taking of Annie Thorne – C. J. Tudor

Genre: Thriller/Mystery

Pages: 346

Audience: Adult

Publisher: Penguin

Publication Date: 21 Feb 2019

Rating: *****

 

Goodreads – The Taking of Annie Thorne

One night, Annie went missing. Disappeared from her own bed. There were searches, appeals. Everyone thought the worst. And then, miraculously, after forty-eight hours, she came back. But she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, say what had happened to her. Something happened to my sister. I can’t explain what. I just know that when she came back, she wasn’t the same. She wasn’t my Annie. I didn’t want to admit, even to myself, that sometimes I was scared to death of my own little sister.

 

My Thoughts…

With any mystery or thriller, one of the greatest aspects of this kind of narrative is the characters and their backstory. The Taking of Annie Thorne is told in a dual timeline; we learn the history of the characters and what happened in the past, and we see some of those same characters back as adults. If you like this kind of idea, and in particular, if you liked the timeline in the likes of Stephen King’s book, IT, this is very similar.

Given that we are juggling two timelines interspersed within each other, the pacing of the book works really well. Nothing is revealed too early, keeping us on our toes as to what happens – in both timelines! If you are concerned that juggling both at the same time is confusing, I can assure you, I didn’t find this to be the case at all. Each is clearly set out at the beginning of the chapter as to which timeline we are in. The chapters are also not too long, so nothing too chunky happens all at once and we then forget the events of the other timeline.

I particularly liked the characters of Annie and Joe. The story is told from Joe‘s perspective. As Annie’s brother, he is close to the event when she goes missing, and in the subsequent action. I liked both of these characters for different reasons. Annie, after she comes back, is creepy. She definitely has a sinister vibe that defines this mystery novel for me, but adds elements of horror. She is characterised perfectly.

I like Joe for different reasons. He turns out to be a very complex character with very distinct character development between these two timelines. Also, I enjoyed how this was kept consistent throughout the book; at no point did his personalities or perspective merge. It made the reading of each timeline easier to follow, and was very interesting to observe how he has changed outside of the book. Joe turns out to be a character with varying shades of grey when it comes to morality. I really enjoy this element of a book. I like reading a narrative and having to consider whether whatever has happened is true, or whether the perspective is biased or not. Having Joe as a morally grey character really added to the mystery that was already here and present in the book, and I’m all for it!

As I said in my introduction above, I read this book a lot quicker than I was reading other books of a similar length. I was deliberately not taking on anything too ambitious last year, as I experienced a little bit of burnout. Yet, I managed to devour this book in a handful of days at a time when that wasn’t really the norm for me. At about 350 pages, I think this is a book that anybody could pick up at any given time. It’s not too heavy (and I don’t just mean in the literal sense) – it’s a very easy narrative to consume. It is engaging with its interesting mystery with a creepy twist, so this can appeal to a lot of readers.

As a fan of The Chalk Man, I wasn’t disappointed by The Taking of Annie Thorne. I got the narrative style and characterisation of a calibre I was expecting, with a plot twist that I couldn’t anticipate; this was one of my better reads of last year when you consider the five-star rating I gave it, and how quickly I read it!

What are your thoughts on The Taking of Annie Thorne? As always, I would love to hear from you!

 

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