This will be my first review of a short story collection here on the blog and it makes me happy that it is a Neil Gaiman collection. My first Neil Gaiman book bought with my… More
One thing I have enjoyed the most this year is the amount of literary events happening here in Ireland. We obviously just had World Con here , Dublin 2019, which was my first World Con and I thought was as a total success. This year also saw the opening of MoLI, the Museum of Literature Ireland, which is part of a collaboration between bout UCD and the National Library of Ireland.
MoLi have started what they intend to be an ongoing series of events for younger readers and families. Their first of which was for Eoin Colfer’s new book, The Fowl Twins, and I attended Saturday just gone (30.11.19). The event was event to launch the new book and the series of events that will be happening at MoLI in the future and was followed by a signing.
This was my first trip to the museum and being my typical self, I was over an hour early for the actual event and spent a while looking at the content of the museum. MoLI primarily houses items of the James Joyce collection form the National Library of Ireland but also details a history of writing here in Ireland.
Now I am not a reader of Joyce myself, maybe someday I might be but I was still really intrigued to see videos of interviews, objects that were associated with his writing and the Copy No. 1 of Ulysses donated by Joyce’s patron, Harriet Shaw Weaver, to the NLI in 1952.
This is not the crowing jewel though of the museum. What was the best inclusion was the entire sections dedicated to modern Irish writing and Young Adult Fiction. In this section I was delighted to see many of my favourites from my own teenage years (Darren Shan) and writers I love and read right now (Sarah Maria Griffin, Louise O’Neill, Dave Rudden and Peadar O’Guilín). This is very important and an excellent choice of inclusion for MoLI.
The event with Eoin Colfer was incredible. Honestly, I still delight in talking to anyone about Artemis Fowl and how truly significant it has been to me. It’s like going home constantly to a world I’ll never quite leave. The event was led and introduced by Sarah Webb who I talked to briefly at my ridiculous early arrival and is very lovely and so friendly. She is also an Irish author who write for children and does lots of other amazing things.
Colfer as always is a wonderful person with a fantastic sense of humor and a gift with younger readers and older ones alike. We were regaled with stories of Ireland in the 1970’s (some things that shocked me as well as the younger members of our audience)and especially entertaining stories about his sons who inspired both Beckett and Myles Fowl.
After this was of course the book signing and meeting the author. I had met Colfer for the first time this August at World Con and spent a chunk of my first meeting with him roasting his treatment of a certain character. The signing was a numbered one by one meeting and in this beautiful old room that is very suited to anyone named Fowl. (It was basically super fancy and old timey wimey with a big table and chairs)
The fact that Eoin Colfer remembered the fact my hair was orange and queried when I had changed it is what has caused a past version of me in another timeline to faint quite suddenly. We briefly chatted about the event, his upcoming novel Highfire (that I am lucky to be reading) and finally I got the photo that is now my laptop wallpaper.
I had such a good day at MoLI an left the event feeling fantastic and just so happy to have been among so many other fans and met some lovely people (shout out to Hannah and Dylan for sitting next to me!) I will be keeping a close eye on their future events, would highly recommend a trip and one more thing? READ THE FOWL TWINS AN ARTEMIS FOWL.
Good evening all and welcome to The Write Reads blog tour for The Devils Apprentice by Kenneth B. Andersen!
Philip is a good boy, a really good boy, who accidentally gets sent to Hell to become the Devil’s heir. The Devil, Lucifer, is dying and desperately in need of a successor, but there’s been a mistake and Philip is the wrong boy. Philip is terrible at being bad, but Lucifer has no other choice than to begin the difficult task of training him in the ways of evil. Philip gets both friends and enemies in this odd, gloomy underworld—but who can he trust, when he discovers an evil-minded plot against the dark throne?
If there is one thing I love is good, old fashioned devil tale. As a figure of mythology and a commonly used figure of evil in popular culture, the devil’s greatest trick has been making us all so obsessed with him. I’m a massive fan of Neil Gaiman’s Lucifer from the Sandman comics, Angelheart is one of my favourite films and my dream is to have a cat named after him. Yep. A bit of a thing here.
So obviously this a is a far cry from the Lucifer comics and neither does it have Mickey Rourke but this book is wonderful. I really enjoyed the entire premise of the devil choosing a new successor but somehow choosing the wrong one. There is a sense of irony throughout the story such as Philip’s second name being a play on the word angel, the method of how he arrives in hell and a couple of other’s that are genuinely funny. It’s so hard to find good fantasy books with humor these days and this one is just that.
We obviously spend pretty much the entire book in Hell. It’s a Hell we know with condemned souls being tortured for all eternity but this is a Hell you also have never seen before. This is a far more mundane Hell. I mean that entirely as a compliment. There are teenage devils, devils that are part of a family unit, there’s festivals, people have jobs. It’s just a Hell that makes a lot more sense to any of us who work, go to school and lead everyday lives.
Philip is eternally wonderful and is a precious sweet lad who Lucifer intends to corrupt no matter what it takes. His gentle nature makes for a hilarious contrast with those who surround him. Lucifer especially in his weakened state reminded me of Rasputin from the Anastasia movie which I know shows my age but only made me enjoy it more. Any of the scenes between them both are highly entertaining and bring to mind the strangest jedi/padawan type relationship that I thought really improved the plot.
There were some tiny pacing issues for me, but then again the ending of the story does work to explain this but in places I did feel the plot could be a little inconsistent. The overall story is very readable and I found it so easy to get wrapped up in the whole world of the book and the every day (or should I say night) we get to see of Hell. I would like to have spent more time with Grumblebeard but that might just be me as a person.
I would like to thank Dave from The Write Reads for offering me a place on this fantastic blog tour and providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. I highly recommend this book for any fans of what I’ve discussed above and anyone who is in need of a fun fantasy with an fun twist on a typical story.
Good evening dear readers and welcome to stop on the ever fabulous Random Things Tours blog tour for Unprotected by Sophie Jonas Hill!
She’s fighting to save everyone else, but will she have anything left to save
Witty, sharp and sarcastic tattoo artist Lydia’s life is imploding. Her long-term relationship has broken down after several miscarriages and she’s hiding from her hurt in loss and rage. After a big night out she wakes beside a much younger man who brings complications she could really do without.
As her grief about her lost babies and failed relationships spirals out of control, she obsesses about rescuing a wayward teenage girl she watches from her window and gets more involved than she should with her charming but unstable young lover.
Unprotected is a raw and punchy story of love, family and accepting yourself
for who you really are.
This kind of book is not usually my cup of tea but I still wanted to give it a try and unfortunately, I was correct that this was not to my tastes. BUT that does not mean I didn’t admire the writing of this book and the raw story woven with it.
The book is written almost in a stream of consciousness, patterned with Lydia’s thoughts and memories throughout the course of the story. Lydia is at a very low point in her life that I think we can all empathise with. The very honest discussion of miscarriages and how it affects both mothers to be and their relationships is an aspect I thought was particularly important. Too long the suffering of women has been ignored and hidden due to ‘shame’ and social norms that are nothing but harmful and old fashioned.
The plot can be difficult to follow in places due to Lydia’s point of view being affected by several factors. At one stage at the start of the novel she is taking MD at a fetish club and its very easy to lose track of what is happening. However it works very well for this book since Lydia as a character is intended to be a flawed, broken character on the very edge of discovering the self she truly is.
Something that I really took from the book was a story Lydia tells is that of a ballet class of when she was young and how she ended up playing a mushroom instead of a fairy in the big performance. All in all I could feel that sense of awkwardness and being the biggest misfit among girls my age come rushing back when I was that age. One quote stuck with me:
That’s what it’s like, when you’re a mushroom girl. You have to be grateful for the role life has handed you, because it is a pivotal role.
This is something I struggled with when I was younger, that you should be grateful and not complain about what you have been given in life. Fuck that. There is no need to ever settle for unhappiness, and Lydia does exactly this. She breaks out from her mould and embraces a side of herself that in doing things that may be harmful or excessive, she figures out her own pace and embraces her traumatic past to rescue herself.
A bold tale of rescue that even though it takes confronting the darkest corner of yourself to embrace what you truly are. Like I said, these kind of books are way outside my comfort zone but I felt deeply for Lydia and moments of the book have really stuck with me.
Sophie has had what might be politely described as a varied career, which has seen her be a black-smith, silver-smith, jewellery designer, pattern-cutter and wedding dress designer, home help, teacher, extreme knitter, burlesque performer, artist and various combinations of the above. Her one abiding passion alongside drawing has always been writing, from her early work in year four producing hand bound novellas mostly written in crayon, to the inevitable fantasy epic which pushed 500 pages and, thank goodness, has never seen the light of day.
She began focusing on her writing after the birth of her first child, and has been working on it ever since, losing hands down to the publishing industry’s gatekeepers and Gorgons, until she met fellow traveller Amanda Saint, who as the name suggests, was something of a shining light on the path.
She is currently studying an MA in illustration and discovering how much she hates academic writing, and what a wise move it was to give someone else the task of designing the cover for her first book with Retreat West, Unprotected. She lives in Kent with her long suffering husband, two children and a very handsome cat.
Thank you very much to both Anne and Retreat West for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! Unprotected comes out today, November 28th.
Good evening and apologies for my absence! I have been work busy, a bit exhausted and had an impromptu weekend away which was well needed. This book, is shockingly, the only Neil Gaiman book I have never read. And I dragged reading this book out for an entire week.
Richard Mayhew’s life takes an unexpected turn after a small act of kindness. After saving the life of an injured young woman named Door, Richard is suddenly confronted with the fact that the London he knew is not the only London. There is a London with rat speakers, angels, vicious assasins and train stations that never existed. When Richard is left with very little choice to go to this London Below, he is left with one option. Survive.
The alternate London trope in fantasy is a favourite (a post on this someday) and noone does it better than Neil Gaiman. Neverwhere is the original alternate London story. London Below is a place that belongs to various baronies and duchies and is littered with people, streets, trains and other things that have just been forgotten. It is very interesting that the people of London Above don’t see or remember anyone of London Below. This initially being how Richard ends up in London Below. The relationship between those above and below is so close to the approach people have towards the homeless that I even began to question my own attitude towards this too. Very relevant today I think.
Gaiman can write characters that will both walk with you, comfort you and put you in great danger after you leave the book on the shelf. Richard Mayhew has some very similar traits to Shadow Moon but he does use his voice a lot more and speaks his mind quite often. His development and character arc is very much that of an unlikely hero but there are some questions about him that are never answered that really work in the novels favour.
Door is very interesting but I did much prefer Hunter and of course, the Marquis de Carabas. Hunter is a woman that is known, feared and respected by many of London Below and her past especially that associated with Serpentine is hinted at heavily. I’m hoping it is addressed in the eventual sequel. The Marquis is a man who is two steps ahead at all times an wears a very wonderful coat. An unlikely semi anti hero figure who deals in favours he is fun as he is captivating.
I can’t not mention Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar. They. Scare. Me. Neil Gaiman always manages to brew a character that freaks me out long after I have put the book down. Before it was the Other Mother, Mr World and Tiger. Now I can add this murderous pair.
This book is following a journey. The journey of Door trying to find out who murdered her family while also being that of Richard as he see’s the true nature of London Below. The plot is a constant walk with many stops along the way. Many places are literal translations of the locations within London Above that will delight and frighten many. How many times will you look at Black Friars now and wonder where the friars are?
There was no surprise that I loved this book and that I am always slightly biased toward Gaiman’s work. But I am not lying when I say this book is such a good starting point for reading his books and a great gateway into fantasy. Again, it is getting a sequel which Gaiman doesn’t do so if you do love it stay tuned.
Welcome to a new segment on my blog! Short and Shorter is going to be a selection of 3 works of short fiction that I do small quick reviews of so I can discuss them with everyone. I’m going to be including graphic novels some times in here too but I will still continue to review them as standalone works.
- Title: Sour Candy
- Author: Kealan Patrick Burke
- Genre: Contemporary Horror
Mt first time reading Kealan Patrick Burke and wow. Just wow. This is a novella that explores the horrors of sudden parenthood. I read this one morning in bed when my boyfriend went to work and I was blown away by the writing. The sheer creepiness of the story and this child who pulls as full Midwich Cuckoo and shows up makes for a great read. There is also some mild body horror with visceral descriptions of sour candy.
- Title: How the Marquis got His Coat Back
- Author: Neil Gaiman
- Genre: Fantasy
I read this directly after finishing Neverwhere. This was a nice way to slowly exit the world after completing the novel and avoid a book hangover. The Marquis de Carabas is my favourite character from the book so it was nice to know he was up to his old tricks. I do think it was a good follow up to Neverwhere but does suffer from the 1.5 book syndrome where it leaves you with more questions than answers. Still I would recommend reading directly after finishing Neverwhere.
★ ★ ★ ★ /5
- Title: The Sandman: Endless Nights
- Authors: Neil Gaiman, Glen Fabry, Milo Manara, Miguelanxo Prado, Frank Quitely, P. Craig Russell, Bill Sienkiewicz and Barron Storey
- Genre: Graphic novel, fantasy, horror
I love the Sandman series very much. So much I have a Sandman tattoo. So this year I reread the entire main series and this is the first volume after the conclusion of the last volume. This is short stories that follow each of the Endless and is illustrated by 7 different artists. The stories were great but the art left me down in places. Especially Manara’s since his art has always made me feel a bit…. ick. But still overall, good read and great to go back to that world.
★ ★ ★ ★ /5
So that’s it! This was nice to rattle off some smaller reviews of shorter works. Do you like short reviews? Do you think this is a handy way to talk about recent reads? Please tell me below! That’s all for this week and until next time happy reading!
Now I have made no secret in the past that I have not got on well with Leigh Bardugo’s books. Shadow and Bone irritated me and I have yet to even touch the remaining books in the Grisha trilogy. Granted, I have yet to read Six of Crows, but that was my experience with Bardugo so far. Thank god this book was what it was. Holy shit it’s perfect.
Alex Stern has gotten a second chance, she has been offered a place at Yale after a traumatic incident and a harder life. But there is a catch, Alex most join Lethe, the organisation tasked with monitoring the secret societies of Yale and keeping their rituals in check. When a girl from the inner city is found murdered on campus Alex is tasked with reporting on the homicide and what she discovers is something that could crumble Yale itself.
This book is obviously severely hyped this year and contains some very graphic content but it is honestly a refreshing work of dark fantasy. Bardugo is very much in her element here crafting this grim, disturbing view of New Haven and holding a mirror to the world of college education and the darker underbelly beneath it.
I have never had any interest in visiting Yale, not a single notion. Then as I did this review I discovered that Yale does in fact have 41 secret societies. And one of them in the book is completely real, with more maybe existing. I am literally shook, I know nothing about American colleges and their history and after reading this book I want to know more. I also know for a fact I am going to go down a rabbit hole of researching these societies.
We get a fantastic set of characters but most of all our anti heroic Galaxy Stern. (I too would probably shorten my name to Alex but that is a cool name.) Alex is so incredibly flawed and does things during the plot that even as you come to know her, you are still taken aback by it. I find characters like Alex intensely fascinating. I love anti heroes and morally grey characters so she was always going to be a treat to read. Her development, her very distressing past and her determination to prove herself at Yale all make her so great to read.
Darlington is also super interesting for the simple fact being we get so little time with him since most of the book is Alex’s POV but I loved having him on the page. He contrasts well with Alex and she definitely succeeds in taking this blue-blooded graduate down a peg or two. Darlington also has a cat and loves reading, I can always get behind a man like that. Also credit to Pammie. She is an introvert who makes soup. I love her.
Now we can’t avoid talking about the controversy of this book. I’m just gonna say that I love dark, adult books. I mostly read books that are written with adults in mind. Did this shock me in places? Yes. Am I going to stop reading Bardugo’s books in future? Hell no, this is way more my thing than anything she has written that is YA. Should you do some research beforehand just in case you are upset by any of the content? Maybe, just if you wanna be cautious. Honestly I don’t see why everyone is losing it, I think the author has been totally honest all along and there is no indication this is in any way suitable for younger readers. But that’s just me.
I really enjoyed the murder mystery style the story took in places but I think the plot came apart a little part at the end. The format it takes at the start with telling the story in reverse worked so well until where it caught up in the timeline. The plot is still fairly solid but this was the main issue I had.
My main favourites of this year have been controversial books and this one is no exception. I think that I have a taste that books like this appeal to, probably from my background in horror reading but honestly if you can handle the more shocking moments in this book I implore you to try it. If like me Bardugo’s YA stuff was not for you, then maybe this is your book too.
Mors vincit omnia.
I think you all know by now, whether it is from my blog, twitter or you got stuck talking to me at a party, His Dark Materials is one of my favourite series of all time. I did a full series review, a reread that took me only a week to do and I have not shut up about the new series on BBC/HBO. This book continues Lyra’s journey as well as my own.
Malcolm Polstead lives in Oxford with his daemon, Asta, and his boat, La Belle Sauvage. With his natural curiosity, it seemed only natural he would become a spy. Malcom sees secrets everywhere he goes, strange men meeting in his parent’s inn, mentions of Lord Asriel and his crimes, the mysterious Magesterium and then, an intercepted message about Dust. Then a baby called Lyra is delivered to the care of the local priory and suddenly things have gotten a lot more dangerous.
This book utterly blew me away. I know I’m slightly biased when I say this but this is a perfectly laid out world that is well built and easy to step into. I listened to this on audio with the fabulous Michael Sheen narrating the book and I would highly recommend reading the book this way.
As I already mentioned it is a seamless transition back into the world of daemons, the Magesterium and alternative Oxford. We get to see nothing pretty much of Jordan College but a more mundane, everyday version of this Oxford and it is a pleasure to experience. People are working, children attend school, people are going to the pub in the evening and it all felt so real, aided by the fantastic voices from Sheen.
Old characters return such as Asriel, Coulter, Coram and obviously Lyra but I truly fell in love with our new cast. Malcolm is a sweet bean that needs to be protected at all costs. He is a child close to the age that Lyra is during Northern Lights and I think Pullman does that well, characters that learn with the readers. His development is honestly one of the best written arc’s I’ve read this year. Alice also gets a standout mention from me because I wish that when I was her age I had that sass and attitude. She also has some wonderful character development but she is a treat for anyone who wished they had more spine when they were a child.
We get the usual villains of the Magesterium but there is an antagonist in this story that is genuinely horrifying. He doesn’t really become a threat until at least halfway through the story but when he arrives he is like that bad feeling you get that just won’t go away. You know at any moment he could just appear and cause so much horror.
Pullman paces this story in a very similar way to The Amber Spyglass in a way that it never ceases to keep the reader moving along with events and crises. Unlike the first 2 books in His Dark Materials we get no slow moments in a particular place to gather our thoughts. This book is not waiting for you, you have to figure it out and keep up or you will get left behind.
One of the great advantages of the audio version is how well Sheen can change the plot pacing with his voice alone. Like there were moments where I was STRESSING hard for my poor baby Malcolm and Asta and just wanted it over. It’s so good since you will actually forget it was one narrator and not many.
I intend to follow up with The Secret Commonwealth since I bought it so recently but with some other projects and stuff it may have to wait until January. Also I am watching the TV show and I do love it so far. (Bonus easter eggs in it for people who read this). Are you watching it without having read the books or after reading them? Do let me know!