In today’s post, I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts on Taking Liberties. Taking Liberties is an anthology containing several short stories, and has been contributed to by a number of authors. I hadn’t read any works by the contributors as of reading this anthology; it proved a great way to explore many different writing styles!
Before I go into my review, I would like to disclose that I was contacted by Stephanie Bretherton, one of the contributors, to request a review. To do so, I was provided a copy of the book. However, as always, the thoughts I share in this review are entirely my own.
If you’re interested in finding out more about Taking Liberties… let’s dive into the details!
A daring rescue. A time-trapped forest. Paranormal problems for a down-to-earth detective.
War waged over wi-fi. An app to die for and a fateful shirt. Musing on the rails. Hermits, caves and epic tales. Roboboats aimlessly afloat. Passengers and paintings. The keys to sunlight, and young love in sunlit Santiago. Freedom has many faces. In Taking Liberties it is met in a dozen different guises and in worlds where nothing is what it seems.
Threaded through with the theme of freedom, the stories explore what it means to yearn for escape and to search for the true self, whether in the DNA or in the human soul. Mirth and myth, mystery and magic, noir and memoir shape this first offering from the Breakthrough Book Collective, a group of established and emerging authors embarking on its own journey of creative liberty.
Contributors: Stephanie Bretherton, Jamie Chipperfield, Sue Clark, Jason Cobley, Stevyn Colgan, Samuel Dodson, A.B. Kyazze, Virginia Moffatt, Ivy Ngeow, Eamon Somers, Paul Waters and PJ Whiteley.
Whilst each short story in the anthology may have a broad theme of freedom, they have very little in common beyond that! These stories are entirely different takes on a subject, and are interesting in their diversity. That makes them more enjoyable to read; the next one is always fresh, and you never quite knew what to expect!
I’d recommend Taking Liberties, or any other type of anthology, for people who are in a changeable mood or don’t know what to read next. Based on the variety in this book, there will be something that will appeal to you, and you’ll know where to look for more!
Even though the stories are short and the theme is broadly light reading, there are some stories that push those boundaries. We get to enjoy many perspectives and walks of life. As a result, it encouraged me to consider the different ways in which humankind may interpret freedom.
The main thing I enjoyed about this anthology is that I got the opportunity to try out different authors and writing styles. Not all book qualities are created equal. Whilst I can tolerate a character I don’t like, or a plot point I don’t agree with, writing style is make or break.
Anthologies are perfect for trying out different voices or themes without investment in a lengthy narrative. That way, if you don’t get on with something, you don’t feel like you have to stuggle through it.
In Taking Liberties, we get to experiment with a lot of different authors and narrative styles. Personally, I enjoyed every single one. Each narrative was unique and engaging, especially considering the page count of each story! Making an impression with a smaller word count is a challenge, but not one that appeared to present in this collective.
Taking Liberties is a short, enjoyable read I picked up and read over a 24 hour period. I had fun with the diversity of stories, characters, and situations in the book.
Taking Liberties is a great read to pick up between larger volumes as a palatte cleanser, or for anyone who wants to try something new or different.
Hello everybody and welcome to today’s blog tour review of Eagle of Mercia by MJ Porter.
Eagle of Mercia is the fourth book in the Eagle of Mercia Chronicles. If you are interested in catching up with the earlier books in the series, you can find my reviews of Son of Mercia, Wolf of Mercia and Warrior of Mercia by following each respective link.
I always like to thank the author MJ Porter, Boldwood Books and Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for organising the tour. It is a privilege to take part. Not only that, but I am really excited to be one of the bloggers kicking off this tour… and on publication day no less! So, let’s get into it!
A mercy mission in the heart of Wessex is beset with deadly, bloody dangers.
Icel’s profile continues to rise. Lord of Budworth and warrior of Mercia, he’s acknowledged by King Wiglaf and his comrades to keep Mercia safe from the ravages of Wessex, the king-slayer of the East Angles, and the Viking raiders.
But, danger looms. Alongside Spring’s arrival comes the almost certain threat of the Viking raiders return.
When Lord Coenwulf of Kingsholm is apprehended by a Viking and held captive on the Isle of Sheppey in Wessex held Kent, Icel is implored by Lady Cynehild to rescue her husband.
To rescue Lord Coenwulf, Icel and his fellow warriors must risk themselves twice over, for not only must they overpower the Viking raiders, they must also counter the threat of Mercia’s ancient enemy, the kingdom of Wessex as they travel through their lands.
Far from home and threatened on all sides, have Icel and his fellow warriors sworn to carry out an impossible duty?
I say this with each book I have reviewed in the series so far, but my favourite thing about this series is the protagonist Icel. Way back in book one, Icel was a young boy who had been raised in a small village, assisting the local healer. He quailed at the thought of having to raise a weapon… even in his own defence. Throughout the series, he has matured and developed into the warrior of renown he is in Eagle of Mercia. Through the development that has already occurred, we see a very different young man. His fundamental values and beliefs are still there. He doesn’t necessarily enjoy being a warrior, but he is more than capable and steps up to his duty to protect others.
Eagle of Mercia is an action-packed addition to the series. In this book, we are taken off Mercian soil as a group of Wessex warriors attempt to rescue own of their own, Lord Coenwulf. The rescue attempt is already fraught with danger, as the promise of battle with Danish Vikings looms heavy. However, the band also risk discovery anda further fight from Wessex men. As a result, the urgency of the mission and danger element make for a fast-paced narrative, which I liked.
Eagle of Mercia is a perfect size to book for anyone to read. Each book in the series has been approachable so far, and this one is the same. At 320 pages, there is plenty of capacity for all the political intrigue, action and character development to unfold in the narrative. At the same time, it isn’t so chunky that the narrative becomes dense or unapproachable. So much so, I read Eagle of Mercia in just a few days. All in all, the pace of the book and the natural flow of the writing style make this very easy to pick up and devour!
If you enjoy historical fiction set on English soil, or are set around the time Vikings came to Britain, then this book/series won’t disappoint! An example of popular books with a similar setting is Bernard Cornwell’s The Last Kingdom series. Without a doubt, I strongly recommend this series to fans of Bernard Cornwell’s series.
I hope you have enjoyed today’s blog tour review. Don’t forget to check out the other posts that form part of the tour over the coming days. If you are interested, I share some details of other bloggers taking part below.
Thanks for reading!
MJ Porter is the author of many historical novels set predominantly in Seventh to Eleventh-Century England, and in Viking Age Denmark. They were raised in the shadow of a building that they believed housed the bones of long-dead Kings of Mercia – so their writing destiny was set. The first novel in their new Anglo-Saxon series for Boldwood, Son of Mercia, was published in February 2022.
Today’s book review is for the first book I picked up and finished in January 2022 – The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon.
The book was recommended to me (and a copy loaned to me) by my sister’s boyfriend, Chris. I will be open and honest and say that I didn’t know what to expect going into this book. It sounded good, but it combines a theme and a setting that I wouldn’t necessarily expect to go together… World War II and comics.
Even though I’m not a comic book fan, I actually enjoyed it’s inclusion and emphasis in this narrative. I wasn’t sure how I was going to get on with this particular theme, but it ended up working out really well. Even if you’re not sure about it, I would recommend giving it a go anyway!
If you want to find out more, here are the details of the book!
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay – Michael Chabon
Joe Kavalier, a young Jewish artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdini-esque escape, has just smuggled himself out of Nazi-invaded Prague and landed in New York City. His Brooklyn cousin Sammy Clay is looking for a partner to create heroes, stories, and art for the latest novelty to hit America – the comic book. Drawing on their own fears and dreams, Kavalier and Clay create the Escapist, the Monitor, and Luna Moth, inspired by the beautiful Rosa Saks, who will become linked by powerful ties to both men. With exhilarating style and grace, Michael Chabon tells an unforgettable story about American romance and possibility.
I really enjoyed this multifaceted novel and all the different elements and subgenres it brings together. It combines historical fiction, which I already love, with an emphasis on living in times of war. There are parts which touch on direct conflict, but the emphasis is more on the average Joe (no pun intended) and life during the period of World War II.
A subject that played heavily in the narrative, which was completely new to me, was comic books. Our main protagonists, Sam and Joe, become famous for producing new comic books and characters. This is a combination of genres which I have never seen before. If you’d asked me if I thought I would enjoy them together, I would have been sceptical. But, they go hand-in-hand very well in this book.
Whilst the subject of comic book producers could be seen as whimsical, in the wider landscape of World War II, it’s easy to believe these creations become a tonic for both the populous and the protagonists looking to escape their everyday lives, and enact a form of justice which they will never see in their lifetimes.
Naturally, this book does not shy away from difficult subjects. Joseph Kavalier escapes the clutches of the Führer when he is sent to America. He has a distant familial link to the country and narrowly manages to get in. He hopes to save enough to be able to pay for the rest of his family to join him the US. However, not all goes as planned. Adversity and strife are no strangers to the characters in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.
Sam experiences his own difficulties. For a long time, he struggles to come to terms with his identity, in a world which isn’t very accepting of him, or others like him. He may not have had to flee for his life from a sadistic individual who would end it, but instead, he would face more widespread persecution if people knew his secret.
Both of these characters come from very different backgrounds, and yet we see a lot of similarities between them. Whether they know it or not, I think these similarities draw them together… even more so than the family link they have. Yet at the same time, their differences create conflict in the narrative.
The American Dream and escapism are the main themes of this novel. From Joe smuggling himself in to US, and his obsession to Houdini-esque escapes, to both protagonists escape attempts from the oppressive forces in their lives, the author has created a realistic narrative and setting.
The narrative combines a fast-paced plot line with an immersive story. From the busy streets of New York to an isolated army base and a mission to defeat the enemy, there is a depth to this novel which is difficult to describe, yet easy to appreciate when reading the book.
Had The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay not been recommended to me by my sister’s boyfriend, it is unlikely I would have read this of my own accord. However, I’m glad I did! It was refreshing to try something new and to push the boundaries of my usual reading repertoire!
Have you read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, or any other books, written by Michael Chabon?
Happy Wednesday readers! I’m back with another book review today. I’ve been taking the time to review the Harry Potter books after my re-read of the series in 2021/2022. Today’s review is for the final, and my favourite book of the of series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
If you want to read up on my reviews of the earlier books in the series, you can find links to those posts below.
Harry has been burdened with a dark, dangerous and seemingly impossible task: that of locating and destroying Voldemort’s remaining Horcruxes. Never has Harry felt so alone, or faced a future so full of shadows. But Harry must somehow find within himself the strength to complete the task he has been given. He must leave the warmth, safety and companionship of The Burrow and follow without fear or hesitation the inexorable path laid out for him…
In this final, seventh installment of the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling unveils in spectacular fashion the answers to the many questions that have been so eagerly awaited.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is by far my favourite book in the series. We get to see al the plot threads that have been unveiled and unraveling for some time finally come together. I also enjoy hope this book follows on nicely from Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince in that its content is more mature than the previous books. There isn’t a happy ending for everybody! I think the plot, through either the books or films, is well enough known that I’m not really spoiling anything here…
I also enjoy how this final book deviates from the typical structure we have seen throughout the rest of the series. The rest of the books are written with the narrative starting in the summer holidays, progressing through the school terms, and then wrapping up at the end of the school year. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, we almost completely break away from that.
There are some twists in the plot that I didn’t necessarily expect the first time I read the books. Naturally, with this being a re-read of the series, nothing surprised me the second time. However, I was able to more appreciate the set up and execution of them. There are some plot threads that begin in the very early books in the series. It will have taken some planning in order to incorporate these elements throughout the series and finally bring them to a close towards the end. I really appreciated those this time around.
Throughout the series, the Harry Potter books have been easy to read. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is no exception to that rule. In this final book, the narrative deals with a lot of plot threads that initially float around before coming together throughout the book. Even though there are quite a lot of unresolved conflicts and such to juggle and wrap up, this isn’t overwhelming. There are gradual revelations and resolutions throughout the book. It’s almost gives a sense of gratification that the ending isn’t being rushed and helps to pace the novel nicely.
As I mentioned briefly above, the structure of this book changes quite significantly to that we have experienced earlier. That has to happen in order for the story to progress as it does. That could be a challenge if you are expecting the same format. However, not only did I find it easy to follow, but I actually preferred that it broke away from that. It was getting slightly repetitive; had it gone on for much longer then I would start to get bored with it. Moving away from the structure means that instead of working towards an epic conclusion at the end, the author was able to intersperse more throughout the novel in a more paced way. Don’t worry, there is still an epic conclusion as well!
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, we finally see the battle lines drawn, and we know who sides with who.
In terms of active characters throughout the plot line, this is very similar to the penultimate book of the series, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. There are a good number of individuals that stand out in these books and we have grown to love them throughout the series. There aren’t really any surprises as to who stands out from the crowd, and we finally get to see these people shine.
As with all good writers, the author hasn’t pulled her punches in this book. Although I knew what to expect reading this for the second time, reading the events, and the impact on characters lives, still hit me just as hard as it did the first time.
I would recommend the Harry Potter series to pretty much anybody. They are the perfect mix of fantasy and magic that are approachable to anybody, regardless of your experience of the genre. They are books to grow with over time. The early series is relatively juvenile in size and complexity, but not in such a way that it feels oversimplified to an adult reader. This series progresses and we get more complexity and darker themes as the story expands into the later novels.
I grew up reading this series and appreciated these books even when I read them the first time. Going back and picking them up for a second time was just as enjoyable an experience as the first. I’m pretty sure I will go back and read them again at some point later in my life. I have a friend who could read these books on loop and not get bored!
Have you read any books from the Harry Potter series? Let me know in the comments.
I’m back with another book review and I’m picking up where I left off in the Harry Potter series. Today’s review is for the penultimate book, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling!
I first read the Harry Potter books as a teenager, into early adulthood. I wanted to see how reading the books again from a more mature perspective affected the overall experience. Obviously, I hoped to enjoy them just as much second time, and I did!
If you want to catch up with my reviews of the earlier books in the series, you can find links to those posts below.
It is the middle of the summer, but there is an unseasonal mist pressing against the windowpanes. Harry Potter is waiting nervously in his bedroom at the Dursleys’ house in Privet Drive for a visit from Professor Dumbledore himself. One of the last times he saw the Headmaster was in a fierce one-to-one duel with Lord Voldemort, and Harry can’t quite believe that Professor Dumbledore will actually appear at the Dursleys’ of all places. Why is the Professor coming to visit him now? What is it that cannot wait until Harry returns to Hogwarts in a few weeks’ time? Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts has already got off to an unusual start, as the worlds of Muggle and magic start to intertwine…
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is the book in the series from where I would suggest the series transitions from children’s to young adult. Technically, I think the books are classified as young adult, however, the previous books in the series are definitely readable by children to young teens. The themes in it are generally more mature, and as the storyline takes a more sinister turn, there are characters and events that take place that I wouldn’t recommend to a younger teenager. I read this book at around the mid to late teenage. I wouldn’t have read it any sooner.
In a way, I think the formatting and the length of the previous book in the series helps with the timing of picking this up. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is a very large book. Whilst not as dark as this one, the length and the political machinations within require a bit more thought and concentration in the reading of it. As a result, I think naturally readers will progress with the series at a more mature age.
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows are by far my favourite books in the series. I enjoy how some of the very early plot threads (which are largely unknown at the time) start to come together and make sense at last. Others are resolved or at least explained in full. The magic involved has a degree of complication that the earlier books lack, and I really enjoyed exploring that aspect. It almost feels as if we have graduated with the characters in mastering the basics to be able to take on the more complex.
As with all of the Harry Potter books in the series, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince remains easy to read. There are lots of webs and elements of the storyline in which there is complexity, but the writing style is kept simple. This works as it doesn’t detract from the storyline as the main focus.
The pacing of the book is perfect to the events that are taking place. Whereas in previous books, we have had the structure of Harry spending summer with the Dursley’s current followed by the school year. That is switched up a little bit in this book. Instead, we are thrown into the action quite quickly. This previous structure was familiar, but a little bit formulaic and repetitive if I had to make one criticism. I was glad to see things pan out a little differently in this book.
The character pool in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is thinned a little in comparison to the previous book. However, there are a lot more players on the board compared to the opening books in the series. By now, a lot of them are old friends. Readers of fantasy won’t struggle with this at all. I wouldn’t even say I struggled with this as a late teenager. If there was any book I had difficulty with following what was going on, it was the previous book. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince reins it back in to a manageable level.
At this stage of the series, we have a wide range of characters that we love, and those we hate in equal measure. In a book and series like this, you need the broad spectrum of characters; J. K. Rowling does not disappoint in providing these. The events in this book line us up for the final showdown. The lines are drawn. Good and evil will come together to do battle, and by the end of the book, we know who is on which side.
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is an exciting read. It was satisfying to see some of the opening plotlines start to come towards a resolution. I also enjoyed the dark side of the narrative and exploring the dark side of magic that we get to in this book, as well as the last.
Have you read any books from the Harry Potter series? Have you re-read it? Let me know in the comments.
Today’s book review is about Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling.
I originally read these books growing up as a teenager. However, I decided to pick them up again in 2021 and read them through into the beginning of 2022. I loved this series as a teenager, but I wanted to see how my experience of the series, compared from a more mature perspective.
The reviews I have shared to date based on my experience of reading the books more recently. If you want to catch up with my reviews of the earlier books in the series, you can find links to those posts, here.
Harry Potter is about to start his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Unlike most schoolboys, Harry never enjoys his summer holidays, but this summer is even worse than usual. The Dursleys, of course, are making his life a misery, but even his best friends, Ron and Hermione, seem to be neglecting him.
Harry has had enough. He is beginning to think he must do something, anything, to change his situation, when the summer holidays come to an end in a very dramatic fashion. What Harry is about to discover in his new year at Hogwarts will turn his world upside down…
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the chunkiest book in the series. There is a lot going on in this particular book. Despite its size, I still found it easy and entertaining to read as a teenager. However, if I’m honest, I don’t think I fully appreciated the political elements of the storyline until my re-read.
In previous books, we have had tasters of the more intricate and sinister elements of the plot line. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, we see these machinations take centre stage.
I love the little books in the series. Although the earlier books are nice and lighthearted, I prefer the depth and grittiness of the narrative that comes with the threat of “he who must not be named”. With this, we get to see more morally ambiguous characters and events, but most importantly, it adds excitement and fear to what would otherwise be a fairly basic storyline.
Even though Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is a long book to read, it isn’t difficult. As in previous books, the narrative style is consistent and easy to follow. Even as a young reader, I didn’t struggle to keep up with what was going on. in my opinion, the writing style is just at that balance of being readable by a younger audience, but also appeal to the older.
If you enjoy fantasy with a little bit more depth, then stick around for these later books. Not only do we see a lot more in the way of developing the history of the world and magic as a whole, but there are a lot more parts at play that contribute to a wider narrative. As a fan of epic fantasy as an adult, I have a distinct preference for the later books in the series. Don’t get me wrong, the earlier books set down a good foundation. However, in my opinion, they are definitely for the younger reader.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix introduces one of the characters I hate most in literature – Professor Umbridge. If I were to describe this character to you frankly and honestly, then this post wouldn’t be suitable for reading by a younger audience. And to put it mildly, she is an awful woman. Equally, the fact that J. K. Rowling can write a character who invokes such emotions says a lot!
I feel likeHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix introduces far more characters than any of the books to date. Through this book, we start to expand our knowledge of the wizarding world, and the bigger parts at play, rather than just sticking to Hogwarts and a small exclusive setting.
If there is a book in which you could get lost with the amount of characters bouncing round, it’s going to be this one. As a teenager, I probably didn’t follow all of this as best I could. As an adult, that definitely got easier. But, I’m a lot more experienced now in reading epic fantasy with complex worlds and lots of characters! This isn’t to say I don’t think anyone shouldn’t tackle the book at that age, but it’s just something to bear in mind.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is one of my favourite books in the series. As a fan of complex worlds, the darker plot line and opportunities for strong character development, this book appeals in so many ways.
If there is any book in the series that I think I benefited most from reading again as an adult, I would say it is this one. There is a lot going on and I probably didn’t Pick up on all of it as a younger reader!
Have you read any books from the Harry Potter series? Have you re-read it? Let me know in the comments.
Hello everybody, and welcome to today’s book review of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling.
I re-read the Harry Potter series in 2021/2022. It had been a long time since I read the series – in the case of the earlier books, I started those as a young teenager and read the series over the course of around six years. I wanted to revisit the books to see if my experience and perception of them changed by reading them as an adult.
The summer holidays are dragging on and Harry Potter can’t wait for the start of the school year. It is his fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and there are spells to be learnt and (unluckily) Potions and Divination lessons to be attended. But Harry can’t know that the atmosphere is darkening around him, and his worst enemy is preparing a fate that it seems will be inescapable …With characteristic wit, fast-paced humour and marvellous emotional depth, J.K. Rowling has proved herself yet again to be a master story-teller.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire has an interesting plot line. That’s not to say I don’t think it has its flaws, however. Installing a magical cup in the school and inviting those who think they are adept enough to take part in a dangerous tournament is one thing. Doing so around a community full of minors, well, can only go wrong somewhere. Especially when entering your name is a legally binding contract. It’s all a bit too convenient that Harry finds his name put forward.
Despite this, it still makes for an interesting read. In particular, the tournament itself adds a lot of drama and action to the narrative. Its dramatic conclusion also adds to the book and the series as a whole. I’m not going to spoil it for you-you’ll have to read it yourself.
What I like about Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is that we, break away from a narrative almost purely set in the usual school year cycle. We see wider plot development. We still have that familiarity of the school year, which comes to a conclusion with the Triwizard tournament. However, there is a lot more to this book, and plenty of it is quite sinister.
In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, we are introduced to characters that come into this world and plot line later on. I would argue that in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, we start to see this take shape.
Despite being significantly larger than its predecessors, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire still retains the easy narrative style readers can come to expect.
You know me, I’m not one to shy away from a chunky book. I really hope that the length of this book doesn’t put potential readers off. It is not complicated. Even if you are less enthused by big narratives with wider story arcs, and lots of elements that will inevitably come together at the end, there isn’t so much going on that it will confuse you. Equally, there are little bits and pieces you can pick up in hindsight that hint to what happens later on.
Personally, I think the latter part of the series is quite well balanced in that it offers a little bit more than the first few books in the series (which are for the most part, comparatively superficial). This works perfectly well for people like me who grew up reading these books. At age 11, I wouldn’t have the reading capability to be able to take on these later tomes. Even so, going back and reading these later on has made me appreciate the later books in the series even more. They are more similar to my reading taste a an adult.
As with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, we see a full new complement of characters introduced in this fourth book of the series. Some of these have a direct impact on the story, whereas others set the scene (for later books) and help develop the wizarding world in which these books are set.
I am a huge fan of world-building and the depth of detail that can be explored in these kind of books that fill out the whole story. Knowing everything from relatives of the main characters, down to the sports personalities, all comes together to make an immersive reading experience.
There are also a few introductions which will help us later in the series (particularly for the next book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix). I think this is pulled off very well so as to not overwhelm, but it does make a difference when you read the next book. Understanding who everybody is and what their role is ahead of time is a big help! Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix is the chunkiest book in the series by far. If we’d had to go through all those introductions in that book as well, then it would be significantly larger!
Despite the slightly convenient plot line, I rated Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire five stars. If you enjoy fantasy series with darker elements to the story, or broad, overarching story lines that run throughout a series, stick with this one until you’ve read this fourth book. It’s at this point we really start to see this woven into the storyline.
Have you read any books from the Harry Potter series? Have you re-read it? Let me know in the comments.
Hello everybody, and welcome to today’s post, which is all about my top reads of 2022! I read a total of 47 books throughout the year, and my average rating was actually quite high. It’s fair to say I had a great reading year!
Today’s post is all about the best of the best.
When going through the books I read in 2022, there were three very distinct books that jumped out at me as my favourites. There is also one honourable mention, and I’ll explain why this didn’t quite make the list.
If you enjoy fantasy or dark academia, then there is at least one book on my top reads list for you! I’m listing the books in chronological order, as there is very little between these books for me to rank them. They are a bit different, and I enjoyed them for these differences!
Empire of the Vampire
Empire of the Vampire is what I would describe as an epic Gothic fantasy, written by Jay Kristoff. If you are a fan of his other books (such as the Nevernight series), you enjoy stories that heavily feature vampires, and/or epic fantasy novels with elements of coming of age, detailed world-building, and character development, then Empire of the Vampire has something for you.
I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this book. I wanted to give it a try because I have really come to enjoy Jay Kristoff’s writing style. Having listened to the audiobooks for the Nevernight series, I knew I like the way he dealt with darker topics. Personally, I’m not really one for vampire stories. There are some exceptions, this book and future series now being one of them. However, the narrative style (likened to Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind) and setting of the world appealed to me.
This appealed to me for all the right reasons! I love the way in which this story is told. As in the aforementioned book, the story is told almost in the style of a confessional, through the eyes of the main character as a mature adult. Throughout this narrative, not only do we experience the development of the main character, but we also come to learn a lot about the world in which the story is set, the lore behind the vampire families, and how they grew large.
This book has everything you would expect from an epic fantasy – complex and detailed world-building, a vast array of characters with detailed backstories and relationships, and a storyline that will inevitably span a large number of chunky books!
The cherry on top of this very large cake was how well the book managed to create and retain atmosphere. It definitely maintained Gothic vibes throughout. I really enjoyed this. You may not expect this to be the kind of book to would take on holiday to read in 20+ degrees sunshine, but that is exactly what I did. Even despite the vast contrast in the fictional and actual setting, my mind lived in this book whilst reading it… and for a long time afterwards!
I can’t wait for the sequel!
Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb is another fantasy series I started in 2022. I can only ask myself why I didn’t start it sooner! This series has been recommended to me before, especially by a close friend of mine. She knew what this was all about, and I should have listened to her and picked it up before now.
Before picking up this book in earnest, I had trialled the first chapter or two previously. However, I had done so from the e-book on my phone. I just don’t read this way at all. I don’t quite remember the circumstances in which I picked this up on my phone, but the intention wasn’t just to sample it. Why I didn’t pick it up properly thereafter is beyond me.
Anyway, I finally got there in the end. I decided to pick up a physical copy of the book, trusting Rachael’s recommendation, and knowing that I really enjoyed the sample I had tried previously. I have since gone on to purchase seven books out of sixteen, and I read four of them in 2022. I’m sure that in itself will speak volumes, but I’ll go into some more detail about the book, and why I specifically enjoyed this one, below.
Assassin’s Apprentice is also an epic fantasy. Whilst the first book isn’t too chunky in itself, it is the opening book of the first trilogy in the Realm of the Elderlings universe. In my opinion, it is the perfect introduction to such a world – there is plenty of page count to set the scene, explore the characters, and establish the wider story arc, without intimidating the prospective reader either.
If you enjoy your fantasy with detailed plotlines and character relationships, then Assassin’s Apprentice will scratch that itch for you. There is already a lot going on in this first book. Royalty, political subterfuge and magic intertwine to set the scene in this first book. These are all elements I have enjoyed in other fantasy series and did not disappoint in this one either!
The last book in my top reads of 2022 list is Babel by R.F. Kuang.
Babel was my first real foray into the dark academia genre. If you are unfamiliar with the premise of this book, we follow a character called Robin Swift. He is taken from China as a young boy after losing his family. He is taken in by a professor at Oxford University, where he later studies translation in the titular building.
There is a lot going on in Babel, and a lot of it I didn’t expect in the extent that the book went to. Whilst part of the dark academia genre, there are elements of fantasy in this book. It is a nod to a genre I really enjoy, but in execution and tone, it doesn’t read like a fantasy. On the contrary, it reads quite academically. It is evident that the author knows her stuff when it comes to translation. Through the narrative, we explore ideas around translation, such as maintaining fidelity, and how that is best achieved.
But more surprisingly, it is the more difficult topics for which I really enjoyed this book. Babel in particular explores colonialism, racism and classism. It is a book that makes example of how the British empire has invaded, taken, and manipulated its way into other countries resources in order to selfishly better itself. There’s a lot of debate about this in the book, but also in the wider community at the moment.
Some people find this uncomfortable to read. Personally, I don’t think you should shy away from a book/topic that makes you uncomfortable. More often than not, it should make you uncomfortable – it’s intended. If you think that any person, country, or idea is perfect and shouldn’t be challenged, then you are wearing rose-tinted spectacles. Babel is very much an example of this kind of book, and I really enjoyed taking on these ideas in a loose fantasy setting.
It was everything I expected it to be, and a bit more besides. It has made an R.F. Kuang reader out of me!
The First Binding
My honourable mention for this list is The First Binding by R.R. Virdi. I had the pleasure of reading this debut novel to review it in the blog tour organised by the publisher in August 2022.
There is definitely a theme to my reading and this post. Epic fantasy is a very significant genre that I read but also have high expectations for. Even so, this one has made it very close to the top of the list. Did I mention it was a debut?
Similarly to Empire of the Vampire, The First Binding is narrated by the main character after events have taken place. In this particular example, the character ends up taking on the role of a storyteller in the early days of the novel. Naturally, setting up a character in such a way raises expectations exponentially. Most authors would be setting the bar so high that they’d be setting themselves up to fail. However, R.R. Virdi does not disappoint in pulling off a flawless narrative with theatrics and compelling language to complement this already interesting narrative.
The only reason The First Binding is an honourable mention, rather than a top read, is because of the circumstances in which I read this book. I only had around two weeks to read and then review this book for the blog tour. At over 800 pages, this is quite the undertaking. As a result, I had to effectively set myself daily reading targets to get through this in time to review it. If I’d had the luxury of reading this book at my own pace, it probably would have been a top read. I almost had to force myself to read it, and that detracted ever so slightly from the experience. But I will stress, it is slight!
What was your favourite read of 2022? Have you read any books that made it onto my top reads list?
Earlier this year I completed my re-read of the Harry Potter series. Now that I’ve made it through the books again, I’m making the effort to pin down my thoughts. Wher I can, I’ll consider my experience of the books compared to my initial read as a teenager. Before going into today’s review, if you would like to catch up with my reviews of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, here are the links to do so.
Today I am reviewing Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. If you are unfamiliar, this is the third book in the seven-part series. This is the book in which the plot really starts to hint at the metamorphosis the series will undergo later on, whilst still short and digestible for younger readers.
The plot has a darker element to the narrative, and some of the more sinister characters start to introduce themselves properly. The early books are quite lighthearted in introducing you to the wizarding world. By the time you’re done with the series, you have explored its darkest avenues.
I grew up with these books (literally). I started the early ones in my late childhood/early teenage years and read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as an adult. This is something I have really come to enjoy in the series.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter, along with his best friends, Ron and Hermione, is about to start his third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry can’t wait to get back to school after the summer holidays. (Who wouldn’t if they lived with the horrible Dursleys?) But when Harry gets to Hogwarts, the atmosphere is tense. There’s an escaped mass murderer on the loose, and the sinister prison guards of Azkaban have been called in to guard the school…
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban takes on a different tone compared with the first two books of the series. With a whole school year to pack into 300+ pages, you will not be bored making your way through this one. Whilst we are familiar with the school year and structure at this point, there are new and different things happening that keep the narrative fresh.
As I mentioned above, the more sinister aspects of the narrative really worked for me. Reviewing this in hindsight from the position of having read the whole series, this is one of the pivotal books in my opinion. Whilst short and sweet, it introduces characters such as the dementors, who go on to have a more significant role later on in the series.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is a quick read. As this book is one of the last shorter ones of the series, it is still very approachable for the everyday reader. I managed to re-read this book in just over a week. And that is a very casual pace for me! Whether you are reading this book for the very first time or like me, going back into the series again, I don’t think it will disappoint. Even though the theme of the book is a shade darker than the previous two books of the series, it doesn’t detract from its readability whatsoever.
In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, we experience the narrative through the perspective of Harry Potter himself. Along the way our friends old and new. It is in this book that we are introduced to characters who are pivotal to the story later on in the book series.
The mix of familiarity combined with a touch of new makes the pace and introductions to new characters easy to follow. If there’s one thing I like about these books is that there aren’t so many characters that you can’t keep track. As somebody who read a lot of epic fantasy, this is something I find happens a lot. That is not the case in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
I really enjoyed my re-read of this book and the whole series!
Have you picked up Harry Potter for yourself? Is this something you want to read?
In today’s audiobook review, I’m sharing my thoughts on the first book of the Greatcoats series, Traitor’s Blade. This is the first book I have read/listened to by Sebastien de Castell, but it’s not the first I’ve seen. If I recall correctly, I first saw Spellslinger.
However, I added Traitor’s Blade to my TBR as it’s a more typical fantasy with tropes I know and love. This was a massive hit and I’ve gone on to download the rest of the series on audio. To date, I have also listened to the second book of the series.
But, we are getting ahead of ourselves. We’re here to talk about the first book. Let’s dive in!
Falcio is the first Cantor of the Greatcoats. Trained in the fighting arts and the laws of Tristia, the Greatcoats are travelling Magisters upholding King’s Law. They are heroes. Or at least they were, until they stood aside while the Dukes took the kingdom, and impaled their King’s head on a spike.
Now Tristia is on the verge of collapse and the barbarians are sniffing at the borders. The Dukes bring chaos to the land, while the Greatcoats are scattered far and wide, reviled as traitors, their legendary coats in tatters. All they have left are the promises they made to King Paelis, to carry out one final mission.
But if they have any hope of fulfilling the King’s dream, the divided Greatcoats must reunite, or they will also have to stand aside as they watch their world burn…
If you enjoy your fantasy when it’s full of action, with plenty of fight scenes, Traitor’s Blade is the start of a series I would recommend to you! As somebody who typically enjoys fantasy with more magic than we see in Traitor’s Blade, this didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book at all. Rather, I enjoyed the change of pace and emphasis within the writing.
Traitor’s Blade is the kind of book that will have you on the edge of your seat throughout. There is not a chapter that goes by without hasty retreat, violent clashes, or danger lurking around the corner. I can only liken the main characters of the story to the three musketeers in terms of companionship and the dangers, they find themselves in constantly!
Political turmoil is the driving force behind current events in Traitor’s Blade. There is plenty of backstory in the narrative to explain how Falcio, Kest, and Brasti wind up in less than favourable straits at the beginning of the narrative. I already enjoyed how much world-building there is already, but I hope to see yet more of it throughout the series. If anything, the plot is slightly more action-heavy than I would typically read, but that’s understandable. I hope a full explanation of historic events comes to pass in future books.
I really enjoyed the narrative of this book. The writing style is really easy to read and approachable. If you enjoy your sarcasm and witty comments, then this will appeal to you. I really enjoyed the humour that shines through even in the grave situations our main characters end up in.
The narrative is told in first person from the perspective of Falcio. If I have to choose, my preference is to read in third person as it’s a neutral perspective. However, I really enjoyed this even though it was first person. The telling of this story from Falcio’s perspective gives us ample opportunity to explore his past and backstory in more detail – of which there is a lot to unpick!
Whilst Traitor’s Blade already has a compelling narrative style, it’s really came to life in the audiobook edition. The narrator, Joe Jameson, brings each of the characters and the events to life. In particular, I think he does a great job with the sarcasm and witty remarks that form a significant portion of the dialogue between our three main Greatcoats.
Each of the characters has their own distinct voice, and it was very easy to follow the narrative and dialogue because of this. The acting behind the events of the story really added an extra layer of enjoyment.
This was not a chore to listen to by any stretch of the imagination. Rather, this is a great companion listen to accompany you whatever you are doing. I listened to Traitor’s Blade whilst commuting, doing Pilates, or even when washing the dishes. It made everything more entertaining and is a great distraction from real life.
Traitor’s Blade is told from the perspective of Falcio, the first Cantor of the Greatcoats. He was once head of this great order, however, he now finds himself with just a small band of friends. As a result of reading the story from his perspective, we get far more in the way of character development from him, and his experience in the past than Kestand Brasti. Whilst there is enough in the book to get a distinct feel of the characters and personalities, I hope to see a little bit more from them in the future.
The main characters are developed quite well, but there are a lot of peripheral characters that are honestly quite forgettable. Personally, I think the book would have benefited from focusing more on a smaller pool rather than adding in a vast array of characters that couldn’t be done justice in the page count available.
I enjoyed listening to Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien de Castell so much that I have already listened to the second book of the series! This was my first book by this author, and it certainly wasn’t going to be my last! I can’t wait to resume the series and see what heroic events await Falcio and the gang next.