Posts Tagged ‘Magic’

Daughter of the Burning City

Amanda Foody
Reality is in the eye of the beholder…
Even among the many unusual members of the travelling circus that has always been her home sixteen year old Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years.
This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all of their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.
But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real.
Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.
Now she must unravel the horrifying truth before all her loved ones disappear.

I really enjoyed this book, the premise, the world building, the dark and shadowy setting, the characters and the twisty, turning plot all contributed to a wonderfully unique and absorbing story.

I love how the author took historicity of Gomorrah and developed an alternative time line with a fantasy spin. Rather than being destroyed by fire and brimstone, the city survived as a roaming mobile carnival-city of vice, freaks and magic workers.

I loved the imagery of a gigantic; smoke engulfed city crawling from region to region bringing with it its many entertainments. Despite its intimidating façade and its reputation of vice and dubious inhabitants, it held within it a community that was generally accepting of all of its inhabitants, and each member valued for their individual skills and their contribution to the ongoing function of the city.

I don’t have a single favorite character; rather I really enjoyed Sorina’s entire family. I loved the premise behind their creation. How, despite springing forth from Sorena’s imagination, they emerged altered in ways that she couldn’t even begins to envision and how they develop way beyond the initial concept of Sorina’s imagination, developing personalities and leading lives independent of Sorina. I think it was a great analogy of young adulthood, building an increasingly independent life away from your family and beginning to see that the members of your family and community exist outside their roles within your own experience.

Peppered throughout the book are illustrations of Soruna’s family of freaks, each one doctored by an unknown assailant. These brief sketch like interludes give you further glimpses in to the mind of Sorina and her feelings for her family as she was creating them, while the sinister unattributed additions ramp up the tension and give a glimpse in to the nefarious pans of a disturbed imagination.

These clever additions ramped up the tension and made me worry for the characters I had grown to love. It was a really interesting way to add an alternative “voice” to a story that is otherwise told in first person present tense. A brilliant example of how illustration can complement and add depth to the text of the story by evoking and enhancing the atmosphere the author’s words have provoked.

I would thoroughly recommend this book. It was an absorbing, fantastical twisting and turning tale, like nothing I’ve read before.

Verdict: Like the smoky nocturnal city itself this book invites you in to its constantly moving world of magic and stomach twisting entertainment.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: HQ Young Adult
Publication Date: July 2017
Format: eARC
Pages: 308
Genre: Fantasy
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroine
Source: Netgalley
Challenge: Debut author
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Royal Bastards

Andrew Shvarts
Being a bastard blows. Tilla would know. Her father, Lord Kent of the Western Province, loved her as a child, but cast her aside as soon as he had trueborn children.
At sixteen, Tilla spends her days exploring long-forgotten tunnels beneath the castle with her stablehand half brother, Jax, and her nights drinking with the servants, passing out on Jax’s floor while her castle bedroom collects dust. Tilla secretly longs to sit by her father’s side, resplendent in a sparkling gown, enjoying feasts with the rest of the family. Instead, she sits with the other bastards, like Miles of House Hampstedt, an awkward scholar who’s been in love with Tilla since they were children.
Then, at a feast honoring the visiting princess Lyriana, the royal shocks everyone by choosing to sit at the Bastards’ Table. Before she knows it, Tilla is leading the sheltered princess on a late-night escapade. Along with Jax, Miles, and fellow bastard Zell, a Zitochi warrior from the north, they stumble upon a crime they were never meant to witness.
Rebellion is brewing in the west, and a brutal coup leaves Lyriana’s uncle, the Royal Archmagus, dead—with Lyriana next on the list. The group flees for their lives, relentlessly pursued by murderous mercenaries; their own parents have put a price on their heads to prevent the king and his powerful Royal Mages from discovering their treachery.
The bastards band together, realizing they alone have the power to prevent a civil war that will tear their kingdom apart—if they can warn the king in time. And if they can survive the journey

What are your overall thoughts?

I have to admit rather predictably that it was the title that first grabbed my attention; among the residents of my monstrous inbox (if only it was due to popularity rather than inept email management) it certainly stood out. The synopsis seemed right up my street, courtly intrigue, fantasy, magic, an epic journey- so far so Caroline.

The title should have given me some clue that the author was not going to pull his punches. One minute I’m floating along, very contently I might add, on a familiar cloud of hooped skirts, banquets and a gathering of unlikely companions about to impark on a risqué nocturnal excursion, which will undoubtedly trigger the aforementioned travel …

…then KABOOMB (literal explosions) sh*T gets real, and from that moment the book flips from a predictable band of teenagers hiking across the country to thwart a dastardly plot, to something more.

Sure, there is a collection of young adults with powers and ability’s beyond their years, there’s hiking across the country and there’s even evil to foil. But this book was so much more than I anticipated; it had more energy, more action, more gruesome ends and more pulse raising horrors- from the shuddering inducing cave dwellers to the horrific aftermath of war.

From the moment the group made their clandestine trip to the cove I was so caught up in the non-stop action and griped by the adventure, that I risked developing a DVT from immobility. Thankfully aside from a numb bum and a mild case of sleep depravation I am no worse from reading the novel in a single sitting.

What was your favorite aspect of the book?
My favorite aspect was the main character, Tilla. While I don’t claim to know many royal bastards to form a truly informed opinion, Tilla felt authentic and she was easy to relate to. Tilla, is no chosen one, she doesn’t suddenly discover immense magical powers, her badassary is developed through weeks of training and she questions why she has even gotten involved with events.

I liked that she didn’t blindly follow some pre ordained destiny, allow herself to be used as a political pawn or take up a moral crusade without questioning why on earth she had gotten involved in the first place. In fact she strongly considers taking the easy option and getting out of dodge. Her reasons for staying the course felt relatable and believable.

Who was your favorite character and why?
Probably our protagonist Tilla, although I enjoyed getting to know all of the characters and I look forward to getting to know them further as the trilogy progresses.

Would you recommend this book?
Yes, it was a gripping, fast paced read. Fair warning- parts of the book make uncomfortable reading, particularly those with a gentle disposition and a completely understandable aversion to our eight legged friends *shudders*

Summarise in one sentence.
Not your predictable fantasy road trip

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publication Date: June 2017
Format: ARC
Pages: 346
Genre: Fantasy, magic
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: None
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Witch Wars Review and Author Interview

Sibeal Pounder and Laura Ellen Anderson (illustrator)
WitchWarsCoverFINALWhen Fran the Fabulous Fairy turns up in Tiga Whicabim’s shed to tell her she’s a witch, Tiga doesn’t believe her. Or at least not until Fran points out that TIGA WHICABIM is actually an anagram of I AM A BIG WITCH and magics her away down the drainpipes to compete in Witch Wars – the competition to crown the next Top Witch of Ritzy City.
Filled with silly spells, delectable dresses, ridiculous riddles and a serious shoe problem, Witch Wars is a witch story like no other. Although if you enjoyed The Worst Witch or Witchworld, you’ll love this too

Move aside Hermione Granger! Tiga’s in town…

I was pleasantly surprised by Witch Wars. Despite its menacing title, this was a cheery, funny and light hearted book.

Life as she knows it, is literally going down the drain for Tiga, when out of the blue… well purple fairy dust an extravagant fairy named Fran (or Fran the Fabulous Fairy as she would prefer to be known) appears out of nowhere, to reveal to Tiga a world of magic more commonly known as Ritzy City. Approximately one day before the start of Witch Wars Tiga arrives in an unreal land of good and bad where she picks up many a friend and has a shot at winning witch wars. With nine competitors, all wanting the coveted prize: to rule Ritzy City and beyond, the stakes were high.
With some evil, some good and some plain dumb contestants the competition was hotter than ever but who would win…

Witch Wars has been by far the best book I’ve read this year! Full of action, humour and epicness this book was awesome. The chapters are nice and short and are perfect for flicking in and out of.It is very fast paced and never leaves you bored. Consequently, some of the events aren’t explained as fully as I’d like.

Over all this is an amazing book and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes Harry Potter from 8+ (and feels like a good read.)

Verdict: I’m already looking forward to Witch Switch out later this year!

As a special treat Sibeal has kindly answered some of Izzy’s pressing questions.

Sibéal Pounder Head Shot credit Richard Grassie low res-1Sibéal Pounder currently works as a writer and researcher for the Financial Times’ How To Spend It section and has interviewed everyone from designer Vivienne Westwood to director Sam Taylor-Wood. She also tutors children who want to get into the media industry, helping them to develop articles and documentary shorts and teaching them how to put together magazines. Sibéal has a degree in History, a masters in Publishing and recently completed the Faber Academy’s Writing for Children course. Learn more about Sibeal on the Bloomsbury site here.

Where did your inspiration for Ritzy City come from?

I loved witches when I was little, Izzy! And also I had a bit of a weird obsession with sink pipes. I would say things like, ‘We just don’t know what’s down there!’, even though everyone assured me we definitely did.

I always worried it was something terrible, but after reading Alice in Wonderland when I was about eight, I realised it was almost definitely a world. And maybe it had witches in it. I imagined a bossy little fairy shooting out of the sink, pinching my nose and shouting ‘FINALLY! I knew you would figure it out EVENTUALLY.’

Over the years, Fran (as I later named her) stuck with me – all through school and until I was a wrinkly older human and I started writing snippets of it down, for fun, and began linking the witches to the pipes. Things like, witches hats are only pointy in our world because they’re sucked up the pipes – down in Sinkville they’re flat.

Do you base any of your characters around people you know?

I tend not to because if you base a character on someone (especially someone alive) and then you want the character to do something horrible, it makes it difficult to write it without thinking, Oh no, I hope the person won’t mind me writing this bit about them being DISGUSTING… But, I did name Peggy after my gran and Mrs Clutterbuck is based on a woman called Mrs Maypother, who owned the newsagents in Sandymount, Dublin (she gave me free chocolate, Izzy. She was the best). And Felicity Bat and the way she treats Peggy is based on when I was bullied at school. Luckily the girls who bullied me couldn’t levitate!

Would you say it’s hard to write a book about witchs after the bestseller Harry Potter?

Good question! Yes and no. Yes in terms of making it unique (see next question), but no in the sense that JK Rowling has done wonders for books! Kids love fantasy books more than ever now, and so many kids get into reading because of her. So really, if anything, it’s easier to write a book – even a book about witches – because of JK Rowling and Harry.

If so, do you think it’s hard to not pinch ideas from J.K Rowling?

It can be hard! If you create your own world, like Witch Wars’ Sinkville, it helps because you determine the terrain and can make it very different to somewhere like Hogwarts and Rowling’s amazing wizarding world.

Luckily, my witches are more flamboyant and mad and many of them are caricatures, so that means the content is a lot more of a farce and doesn’t have much crossover with Harry Potter in that sense.
Where I do put in similar references, I love to play around with the fact it’s a pinched idea and make that the joke. For example, a really common construct in kids stories is to have an other-world being meet the kid in the story and take them to a magical world – think of Peter Pan, Tinkerbell and Wendy, the rabbit and Alice in Alice in Wonderland, and Hagrid in Harry Potter. In the opening scene of Witch Wars, Fran (the Fabulous Fairy) meets Tiga and tells her she’s a witch, exactly like, “You’re a wizard Harry.” But in Tiga’s case, when she doesn’t believe her, Fran points out that when you jumble up the letters in Tiga’s name it spells I AM A BIG WITCH. She can’t argue with that. So it’s taking a familiar set-up and messing with it to make a joke.

There’s also some blatant pinching from Mary Poppins – like when Patricia the Producer comes sailing into the scene, flying with an umbrella and Fran says “She saw it in a film once and now it’s the only way she’ll travel.” And Patricia sings “SUPERCALAFRAGI-“ before crash landing. I try to always overtly reference stuff like that rather than being like, “so…this is my character Garry Rotter, he has a star on his head and a crow called Redfig. His nemesis is Mouldersnort…”

Review and interview questions by Izzy (11)

Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s
Publication Date: March 2015
Format: Paperback
Pages: 127
Genre: Fantasy, Magic
Age: Middle grade
Reviewer: Izzy (11)
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: Debut Author
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Finish It February 2015: Week Three Round Up

FinishItFeb1

Personal Target: Finish/get up to date with four series

Books read this week: Half

Total books read: Two

Series completed for challenge: Two

General feedback: With the bigs off for half term I was expecting this week of the challenge to be a struggle. As a result I am actually really pleased that I managed read half a book.

Having taken the last three weeks in to consideration, I know that I am unlikely to meet my personal target of four books. While I am really excited to read This Shattered World by Kaufman and Spooner I have decided to prioritise Ensnared by A G Howard. Finishing this book will allow me to “cross off” one of my outstanding series.

If I do happen to have any additional time this week I will try to finish some of my half written reviews from last years reading and reviewing slump.

Meanwhile, for those of you who are interested, my Downton obsession is still going strong and I am just about to start season three.

Currently reading: Ensnared by A G Howard

Faye’s week:Faye shares her Finish It February update post over at her personal blog (here). I am excited to see that Faye is currently reading C J Redwine’s Deliverance and I can’t wait to sit down with her and discuss it over coffee.

Other Participants:Debbie of @Snugglingonsofa fame is speeding through this challenge with seven books read!

Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan
unmadePowerful love comes with a price. Who will be the sacrifice?
Kami has lost the boy she loves, is tied to a boy she does not, and faces an enemy more powerful than ever before. With Jared missing for months and presumed dead, Kami must rely on her new magical link with Ash for the strength to face the evil spreading through her town.
Rob Lynburn is now the master of Sorry-in-the-Vale, and he demands a death. Kami will use every tool at her disposal to stop him. Together with Rusty, Angela, and Holly, she uncovers a secret that might be the key to saving the town. But with knowledge comes responsibility—and a painful choice. A choice that will risk not only Kami’s life, but also the lives of those she loves most.
This final book in the Lynburn Legacy is a wild, entertaining ride from beginning to shocking end.

Sarah Rees “I feed on the tears of my readers” Brennan’s The Lynburn Legacy trilogy turns me in to a two year old. One minute I’m smiling and laughing and clapping with glee, then in the next I’m shouting, stomping and flinging myself and my toys (the book) on the floor*. Like any fickle toddler I’m easily distracted by shiny things and guided back to the cooing happy version of myself** before, with very little warning , I’m repeating the cycle again.

What I am essentially trying to communicate is that SRB has a way of leading you in to a false sense of security before pulling the rug out from under you. Her use of sparkling dialogue, laugh out loud quips and loveable*** charismatic characters make you wish that you could visit Sorry-In -The -Vale, become a member of the Scooby gang and fight blood thirsty sorcerers. Despite having experienced SRB’s own brand of evil genius before (in the first two books) I was unprepared for each gasp of shock, cringe of horror and snot bubble of sadness. I felt so emotionally involved with the characters, that at one point I actually had to take a break from the book.

I loved this series and will be seeking out more of SRB’s books in the future.

Verdict: A series for people who like their angst sprinkled with snorts of laughter.

*Ok I didn’t actually throw the book across the floor. I would never do such a terrible thing to one of my beautiful, beautiful hardbacks.
** No I’m not exactly sure where I’m going with this analogy either. I blame half term and a continuous child filled week.
*** Also despicable. She writes despicable very, very well

Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: September 2014
Format: Hardback
Pages: 384
Genre: Fantasy, Magic
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Own copy
Challenge: Finish It February

Posted by Caroline

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Cover Reveal: Hidden Huntress

Danielle L. Jensen‘s Stolen Songbird was one of my favourite debuts of 2014 (Click here to read my review and an interview with author, Danielle Jensen) therefore I am absolutely delighted to share the cover for its sequel, Hidden Huntress, with you. HiddenHuntress-300dpi
Sometimes, one must accomplish the impossible.
Beneath the mountain, the king’s reign of tyranny is absolute; the one troll with the capacity to challenge him is imprisoned for treason. Cécile has escaped the darkness of Trollus, but she learns all too quickly that she is not beyond the reach of the king’s power. Or his manipulation.
Recovered from her injuries, she now lives with her mother in Trianon and graces the opera stage every night. But by day she searches for the witch who has eluded the trolls for five hundred years. Whether she succeeds or fails, the costs to those she cares about will be high.
To find Anushka, she must delve into magic that is both dark and deadly. But the witch is a clever creature. And Cécile might not just be the hunter. She might also be the hunted…

I can’t wait to spend more time with Cecile and Tristan!

Posted by Caroline

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Shadow and Bone

Leigh Bardugo
shadow and boneThe Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.
Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite—the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?
The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfill her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.
But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him?

What were your overall thoughts?
Before I started reading Shadow and Bone, so many people told me that I simply had to read it. So many, in fact, that I almost didn’t want to. What if I disliked it? How disappointed would I feel? Bute, eventually I pushed my fears aside and decided to crack open my paperback copy of this gorgeous story. And, I am very pleased to report that I was the oppopsite of disappointed. I loved this book. I fell straight into the story, got truly addicted, and quite simply fell in love with Leigh Bardugo, Alina, Mal, and the Darkling. This story was absolutely brilliant and I am very glad I read it.

What was your favourite aspect?
It is incredibly difficult to choose just one thing about this book that I adored above all else because everything was so inspiring. The plot was detailed, heart-wrenching, and complicated. The characters were all three-dimensional, interesting and truly loveable. The world-building was also fantastic and written in a way that you could really imagine. I guess, if I had to choose, I really enjoyed the magical aspect. I loved the Grisha and all their powers and how unique they are to different characters. I also adore how they use it and the idea of the amplifiers. It definitely helped to make this book more enjoyable and entertaining.

Who was your favourite character and why?
Yet another difficult choice as all the characters were really easy to love but I think that my favourite character has to be Alina. I love that she isn’t this all powerful, all knowing character. She has flaws, weaknesses, and insecurities that her truly human and relatable. Yes she is strong, powerful and incredibly caring and protective but we are also able to see that she is so much more than that. Alina is a character that everyone can empathize with. Second favourite is definitely Mal, but I did, surprisingly, also like the Darkling. Looking forward to seeing what they get up to next!

Would you recommend this book?
Absolutely! I am certain that lovers of fantasy stories would devour this story. It is set in a unique world with amazing world-building and characters that could easily walk off the page and exist in this world. If you’re someone who loves books that are gripping, intense, stunning, and full of magic then you should read this book. It is also a book that is likely to really make you feel so if you like books that you can really connect with, then you must read this book. If fantasy isn’t your favourite thing, this may be a difficult book to start with but I’m certain you’d grow to love it eventually!

Summarize in one sentence. (Verdict)
Shadow and Bone is an adventurous story that is compelling, emotional, and has all the best qualities that make a brilliant fantasy.

Reviewed by Faye

Publisher: Indigo
Publication Date: June 2013
Format: Paperback
Pages: 308
Genre: Fantasy
Age: YA
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Own copy
Challenge: None
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The Three Little Witches

Georgie Adams and Emily Bolam
three witchesHubble Bubble!
Meet Zara, Ziggy and Zoe.
The three little witches are having a party, but naughty Melissa is out to make trouble!

This book is about is about three little witches. They made funny spells like this…

“Splitter, splitter, splatter
Sausages and batter
Bake them in a dish for tea
For Ziggy and Zoe and me!”

The story is about the fun the adventures that the three little witches have with their friends.

My favourite part is when they flooded the kitchen because it looked like a swimming pool. I didn’t like when Melissa was always cross, I preferred it when there was lots of fun and laughing.

I was able to read this book by the swimming pool on holiday on my own. I understood most of the words. The spells were written using wriggly letters which were difficult to read, I had to ask Mummy to help me read those bits. The story words were fine though as the lettering used was straight.

Verdict:I really enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend other children my age to read it.

Review by Avilee Gillett age 6 ½

Publisher: Orion
Publication Date: September 2003
Format: Paperback
Pages: 96
Genre: Fantasy, Magic
Age: Early reader
Reviewer: Avilee
Source: Own copy
Challenge: None
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Cassandra Rose Clarke’s Favourite Flawed Queens

It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Cassandra Rose Clarke (see my reviews here), so you can imagine my excitement when Big Book Little Book was given the opportunity to host the latest stop on the blog tour for Cassandra’s latest book,The Wizard’s Promise.

One of the things I really admire about Cassandra’s writing is her ability to write strong but flawed female characters. I was delighted when Cassandra agreed to share her favourite flawed Queens with us.

the wizards promiseAll Hanna Euli wants is to become a proper witch – but unfortunately, she’s stuck as an apprentice to a grumpy fisherman. When their boat gets caught up in a mysterious storm and blown wildly off course, Hanna finds herself further away from home than she’s ever been before.
As she tries to get back, she learns there may be more to her apprentice master than she realized, especially when a mysterious, beautiful, and very non-human boy begins following her through the ocean, claiming that he needs Hanna’s help.

It’s become a trend lately to say one’s favorite female characters are flawless. Usually this descriptor is paired with queen, as in, “Ripley from Aliens is a flawless queen.” I’m certainly guilty of doing this myself, usually on Tumblr. But the truth is most of the characters I call “flawless queens” aren’t actually flawless at all—and that’s exactly why I love them so much.

Flawed characters are more interesting to me as a rule, regardless of gender. A perfect character is dull and inoffensive, a bit like a meal at Chili’s. Utterly forgettable. A flawed character, on the other hand, will grab your attention and won’t let go. Consider movies like Star Wars or Pirates of the Caribbean: in both you are presented with a bland hero, ostensibly the main character (Luke Skywalker and Will Turner, respectively). But who grabs our attention? Who do really remember when we talk about of the theater? That’s right—it’s Han Solo and Jack Sparrow. That’s the power of the flawed character.

Of course, Han and Jack are both men, a trait they share with a lot of the favorite flawed characters out there in the world. Today, I want to focus instead on flawed female characters, a rarer beast. So without further ado, I present you with my Top Eight Flawed Queens:

rosa_diazRosa Diaz, from Brooklyn 99: Rosa is such a classic anti-hero type in the vein of Han Solo and his male brethren, only she’s a lady. A fabulous, fabulous lady. Let’s see: She’s secretive and mysterious. She has a horrible temper and responds to IT problems Office Space style, with destruction. Her coworkers frequently refer to her as “scary,” and she can bring the meanness when she’s of a mind. But she’s also loyal to her friends, and although it will take some wheedling, willing to admit she’s made a mistake. Plus she wears a bad ass leather jacket.

Sansa Stark, from A Song of Ice and Fire: A lot of people reading these books tend to relate to Arya, but I was always much closer to Sansa when I was younger, and so she has a special place in my heart. I don’t consider femininity and politeness flaws (just the opposite, in fact), but Sansa can be incredibly naive at times, and she frequently makes poor decisions based on her ideas of how the world should be, rather than how it is, particularly at the beginning of the story. However, as her arc progresses, we see her learning from her mistakes, and coming to understand how her strengths—the aforementioned femininity and politeness—can help her thrive in a misogynistic, violent world.

harriet_welschHarriet M. Welsch, from Harriet the Spy: Harriet is the first flawed character I ever fell in love with—male or female. I read this book around the same time I was devouring The Babysitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High, and as delightful as those series are, they really don’t bring the flaws in their main characters. Harriet, though, is a piece of work. She’s nosy (I mean, c’mon, it’s right there in the title). She’s intractable. She cares more about the truth than she does tact. She yells when she doesn’t get her way. And yet all those qualities make her incredibly relatable, and at the end of the story, when she realizes just how important friendship is, what could have been a saccharine after-school-special type message becomes resonant and powerful.

Hermione Granger, from Harry Potter: She’s brilliant, yes, but she’s also a know-it-all and overly obsessed with her grades. One of her most famous of lines — “Try not to get killed, or worse, expelled”—sums up her general attitude fairly well. However, as a teenager fearful of authority, it was also basically my motto when I was in school, so I understand. Hermione would have been tedious if she had not been given those minor flaws and streaks of relatability. Was she a bit over the top? Sure, along with every other character in that series who didn’t have the initial H.P. But those flaws were what made her interesting, and let’s face it: she would have been a better protagonist than Harry.

Margot_TenebaumMargot Tenenbaum, from The Royal Tenenbaums: Margot is beautiful and talented, but she’s also secretive to a fault, and she lies to her family about her habits, simply, it seems, to prove that she can. She’s unfaithful to her husband and in love with her brother (she’s adopted). There’s a lot about Margot that should make her thoroughly despicable. And yet the film portrays her sympathetically, as someone whose flaws exist largely because of the difficulties of growing up with a father like Royal Tenenbaum. Margot is one of my favorite characters of all time. I love the beautiful complexity of her personality, and the way she slowly changes over the course of the film.

Mindy Lahiri, from The Mindy Project: Mindy is a great everygirl character. She’s a bit neurotic, a bit lazy when it comes to exercise, and a bit too focused on men. She’s also overly in love with romantic comedies, like, to a fault. However, she’s a fantastic, caring OB-GYN (and better still, we get to see her work: in the first episode, she delivers a baby with skill and aplomb). Mindy is a wonderful example of a character who is good at her job but perhaps a bit flawed in her personal life—except the show allows her to be much more than that, too.

Nancy-Botwin-CarNancy Botwin, from Weeds: Nancy is a suburban mom who starts selling marijuana after her husband dies so that she won’t have to give up her wealthy lifestyle—or uproot her kids more than she has to. In many ways Nancy is the quintessential female flawed character for me. She makes some pretty terrible decision throughout the run of the show, and she can be selfish, naive, and rash. But at the same time, her actions often come down to a desire to protect her family, and she learns and grows from her mistakes. As with so many of the ladies on this list, she’s a beautifully complex, fully-realized character.

Gloria Pritchett, from Modern Family: Gloria is the sexy, vivacious wife of an older man on a sitcom. This scenario doesn’t normally lend itself to complexity of character. And yet Gloria is given depth and flaws that round her personality beyond Stunning Eye Candy. She’s prideful and won’t back down from her opinions even when the evidence contradicts her, and she can be a bit grudgy (although not too much). She also has a terrible singing voice, although that doesn’t stop her from enjoying her karaoke machine.

Guest post by Cassandra Rose Clarke

cassandra rose clarkeCassandra Rose Clarke grew up in south Texas and currently lives in a suburb of Houston, where she writes and teaches composition at a local college. She graduated in 2006 from The University of St. Thomas with a B.A. in English, and two years later she completed her master’s degree in creative writing at The University of Texas at Austin. In 2010 she attended the Clarion West Writer’s Workshop in Seattle, where she was a recipient of the Susan C. Petrey Clarion Scholarship Fund.
Cassandra’s first adult novel, The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, was a finalist for the 2013 Philip K. Dick Award, and her YA novel, The Assassin’s Curse, was nominated for YALSA’s 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults. Her short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons and Daily Science Fiction.

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Stolen Songbird

Danielle L. Jensen

stolen songbirdFor five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the ruins of Forsaken Mountain. Time enough for their dark and nefarious magic to fade from human memory and into myth. But a prophesy has been spoken of a union with the power to set the trolls free, and when Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she learns there is far more to the myth of the trolls than she could have imagined.
Cécile has only one thing on her mind after she is brought to Trollus: escape. Only the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time, wait for the perfect opportunity.
But something unexpected happens while she’s waiting – she begins to fall for the enigmatic troll prince to whom she has been bonded and married. She begins to make friends. And she begins to see that she may be the only hope for the half-bloods – part troll, part human creatures who are slaves to the full-blooded trolls. There is a rebellion brewing. And her prince, Tristan, the future king, is its secret leader.
As Cécile becomes involved in the intricate political games of Trollus, she becomes more than a farmer’s daughter. She becomes a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch with magic powerful enough to change Trollus forever.

What is it that first attracts you to a book? For me it can be an eye catching cover, a favorite authors latest release, or the recommendation of bloggers I trust, and at other times, as was the case with Stolen Songbird, it is a synopsis which promises something unique, which sparks my curiosity and heightens my anticipation, causing me to re arrange my TBR pile, abandon my plans for a goodnights sleep and dive straight in.

Even better when that attention is not just caught, but is wrestled in to submission and then, meeting my expectations, holds me captive for the duration of the book. Before I had reached the end of the first chapter of Stolen Songbird, I knew that I had found something special and, despite the rather precarious situation our heroine had found herself in, I couldn’t help a big goofy grin.

Cecile was a fantastic protagonist. Yes, she was a talented singer who had been foretold as the breaker of a centuries old curse (wait until you read how well that turns out!) and yet there is something quintessentially normal about her. She is prideful, strong headed and inquisitive- but with good reason- She empowers herself through the acquisition of knowledge. She recognized that things must change, and that she has a role to play, but doesn’t jump in without some trepidation and consideration.

Cecile’s first person account was peppered with Tristan’s ( the aforementioned troll prince) observations and thoughts. Tristan with his complicated, contradictory behavior, has his meticulous eye on the long game, the question is, which Tristan- the sarcastic, bored, egotistical prince or the garden stalking, peacekeeper, revolutionary- is the real Tristan?

I really enjoyed how Cecile and Tristan’s personalities collided and complemented each other. I loved that there wasn’t a single hint of insta love and that each increment of trust, of friendship, of affection was hard, if not amusingly, won.

While I adored our protagonists Cecile and Tristan, I was most impressed with the amount of time the author dedicated to fleshing our secondary characters. Each was allowed to express their personalities, to exist independent of our main protagonists- a very likeable male character with a tragic backstory a heart of gold who offers the hand of friendship without a hint of love triangle, a admirable female rival, a despicable villain with questionable but clear motivations. I am as excited to learn the fates of the supporting cast as I am that of the main protagonists.

I really loved the world building in Stolen Songbird. From the stunning aesthetics, the political intrigue, and complex social structure, through to how Trollus was grounded in familiar but uniquely interpreted history and mythology. All of which combined to make a really absorbing world.

I found it particularly interesting to experience the juxtaposition of the ugly cruelty and maliciousness of the Trollus society in contrast to those elements that were beautiful and commendable.

I started the book with the expectation that I would read a few chapters before bed, unfortunately the story had other ideas. I was held ransom by the beautiful story telling, the wonderful world building, the likeable, flawed characters and a slow burning relationship, which kept me on my toes.

I was unable to put the book down until I had reached the final page. Even then, despite the late (or should I say very early) hour and after more than 400 pages, the book felt far too short.

Thankfully Stolen Songbird is the first book in the Malediction trilogy, and so I know that there is plenty more to come. Has the author made it easy for me to wait out the next installment? What do you think?! Stolen Songbird is a book that ends on the kind of cliffhanger that has you madly searching for more pages. Just like that I found my self fully invested in another trilogy.

Verdict: Trolls, magic, rebellion, a hidden kingdom, a complicated Prince and an inquisitive heroine – this gorgeous grownup fairytale ticked all of my boxes.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Publication Date: April 2014
Format: eARC
Pages: 324
Genre: Fantasy
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: Debut author
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Finish It February: Week Three Roundup

FinishItFeb1
Personal Target: Finish/get up to date with four series

Books read this week: One

Total books read: Three

Series completed for challenge: Two

General feedback: So, yet another busy week in my household. I don’t know why I thought that I would get more reading done this week, considering that it is half term and I have two busy small people to entertain!

I am really not sure how successful next week will be as I have two books I need to read for Bookish Brits videos before I can return to the challenge. On the positive side, I have a week of annual leave (no night shifts, yey!), which means that I can afford a late night or two to squeeze in some more of my neglected novels.

Regardless of how successful next week is for my #FinishItFeb targets, I am really happy that I have managed to complete two fabulous series and I am really glad that I have taken the time to make (however small) a dent in my TBR pile.

The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson

bitten kingdomIn the final volume of Carson’s trilogy, the 17-year-old sorcerer-queen will travel into the unknown realm of the enemy to win back her true love, save her country, and uncover the final secrets of her destiny.
Elisa is a fugitive in her own country. Her enemies have stolen the man she loves in order to lure her to the gate of darkness. As she and her daring companions take one last quest into unknown enemy territory to save Hector, Elisa will face hardships she’s never imagined. And she will discover secrets about herself and her world that could change the course of history. She must rise up as champion – a champion to those who have hated her most.

Compared to some of the books on my shelf, five months isn’t such a long time for one of my preorders to languish on my shelf. Never the less, I am so MAD at myself for not reading this book sooner. I love this series and I have no excuses, NONE.

At over 400 pages, The Bitter Kingdom was a substantial final instalment to a wonderful fantasy series. I loved how the story was allowed to play out at a natural pace, no corners were cut, no plot line was rushed or unexplored, the world building just as detailed and sumptuous, and the relationships as messy and realistic as the previous two instalments, And yet, despite it’s size the pages just flew by and it was over far to soon.

I simply didn’t want the series to end and I finished The Bitter Kingdom with the desire to grab The Girl Of Fire And Thorns off of my shelf and read the trilogy back to back.

As with the previous two instalments, I was most impressed with the character development, particularly Elisa who continued her journey a from self conscious girl, to blossoming young woman to become a confident woman, a powerful sorceress and a commanding monarch.

The romance *sighs* the romance was everything I had hoped for since book one. I am a very happy bookworm.

Verdict: A Fitting end to a fabulous fantasy series

Publisher: Gollancz
Publication Date: September 2013
Format: Paperback
Pages: 448
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Adventure
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: Finish It February

To learn more about Finish It Friday and to join in visit our link up post here. To follow the challenge on Twitter search for #Finishitfeb

Posted by Caroline

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