The Iron Legends by Julie Kagawa

9 Oct

 

I absolutely love The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa. Which is my lack of excitement at the release of The Iron Legends was perplexing to me.

The Iron Legends consists of three novellas and a guide to the Nevernever. Two of them, Winters Passage and Summers Crossing, were released as eBooks and the third, Irons Prophecy, is new to the collection and will be released as a standalone eBook in September.

I thought: So what’s the point? I’ve already read the other two novellas; the guide to the Nevernerver included at the end of The Iron Knight and could wait until Iron’s Prophecy is released as an eBook. However, because I’m a completest with my books and have all the other Iron Fey novels in paperback and eBook, I decided to get The Iron Legends in paperback as well.

Am I ever glad I did.

Here’s the thing: Yes, Winters Passage and Summers Crossing were both released in eBook format, but this is the first time that they have been released in print. Before I delved into Iron’s Prophecy, I read Winters Passage and Summers Crossing again. I enjoyed them even more in print than I did in eBook format. There’s just something about The Iron Fey series that cries out to be read in paperback, to hold such a tangible object in your hands when the world it contains is anything but tangible.

Reading those two novellas again helped me to remember everything I loved about the series as a whole and, since Winters Passage comes between The Iron King and The Iron Daughter and Summers Crossing comes between The Iron Queen and The Iron Knight, I wanted to go back and experience the whole series all over again.

To top it off, Iron’s Prophecy and the new expanded Guide to the Nevernever are worth the price of the book alone. Irons Prophecy takes place after the events of The Iron Knight and is the last story with Meaghan and Ash as the protagonists. It was thrilling to be with them again as their lives take a turn for the worse that threatens their happily ever after.

Here’s a bit about the novellas in brief:

In Winters Passage, Ash is taking Meaghan back to the Winter Court so that she can uphold a bargain she made with the Winter Prince. What she didn’t count on was falling deeper in love with him.

In Summers Crossing, Puck owes Leansidhe a favour and she’s come to collect. Unfortunately, Puck will need Ash’s help in order to complete his task and discover the means to what Ash wants: a soul so that he can remain with Meaghan in the Iron Realm.

In Iron’s Prophecy, Meaghan and Ash are going to their first Elyssium with Meaghan as the Queen of the Iron Fey. Only, things don’t go so well. The Oracle appears and makes a deadly prophecy that might change the fates of all the Fey if it were to come true.

Iron’s Prophecy is the longest of the three novellas and the best by far as it works as a bridge book to the first novel in the new Iron Fey series Call of the Forgotten: The Lost Prince. That series features Meaghan’s brother Ethan and the prophecies of the Oracle might affect him.

As if all that awesomeness isn’t enough, the new expanded Guide to the Nevernever is huge and takes up almost a quarter of the anthology. It is THE reference for all things Iron Fey and any fan of the series. It contains information on all the locales, characters and back stories of the series as well as a glossary. To compare, the Guide to the Nevernever at the back of The Iron Knight was only about five or six pages. This new expanded Guide is around thirty or forty pages, packed full with all kinds of information to make any fan of the Iron Fey series happy for months!

Even cooler, interspersed between the three novellas are Julie Kagawa’s chibi illustrations of Ash, Puck and Grimalkin. And if that isn’t awesome, I don’t know what is.

My lack of excitement was most certainly unfounded. The Iron Legends is an essential must have for any fan of the series as its full of the characters we have grown to love and then some. One small word of caution though: if you haven’t read any books in the Iron Fey series, you’re going to be lost. Read the books in order and you’ll be fine.

Ultimately, The Iron Legends feels like a gift from Julie Kagawa to the fans of the series. And I for one couldn’t be happier to have opened it.

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The Lost Prince by Julie Kagawa

9 Oct

 

Ethan Chase is sick of the Fey. He knows the first rule of dealing with the Fey: Don’t look at Them. Never let Them know you can see Them. The only problem is, They can see Ethan…

Years ago, when he was four, he was kidnapped and brought into the Nevernever in order to lure his sister Meaghan, half daughter of Oberon, into the world of the Fey. Now the Iron Queen, Ethan hasn’t seen his sister in years and, at seventeen years old, hates the Fey even more.

The only problem is that, once you can see the Fey, they won’t leave you alone.

Trying to avoid them, he puts on a tough guy persona and keeps everyone away from him. He already lost his sister to the world of the Fey and he doesn’t want to endanger anyone else by bringing them into contact with the Fey who can either be malicious or cruel.

Things don’t always go as planned, however.

When Ethan meets Todd, a half human, half Phouka, at school, he warns Todd to stay away from him. But Todd is in danger, more danger than he knows. A new breed of Fey, ghostly white and almost transparent, kidnap Todd and kill a pixie. The ghost Fey warn Ethan to stay out of matters that don’t concern him. However, Ethan can’t stop thinking about Todd and knows that it’s up to him to rescue the half Phouka.

After a brutal attack from the ghost Fey, Ethan and high school reporter Mackenzie St. James are dragged right into the Nevernever. Ethan knows that he has to warn his sister, Queen of the Iron Realm, and the Summer and Winter courts as well, before more exiles and half breeds go missing. Their world is at stake and it’s up to Ethan and Mac

But this is the world of the Fey and things are never what they seem to be.

I was incredibly saddened when The Iron Knight came out. It was the last book in The Iron Fey series and I really didn’t want to let that world go. The whole Iron Fey series (composing six books in all) is one of my favourite series of all time. So imagine how thrilled I was to hear of a new spin off series titled The Iron Fey: Call of the Forgotten.

I wasn’t sure how Ethan Chase, all grown up now, would work as a narrator. All the other books had been told from Meghan’s point of view. Would a new series, with a new narrator, work just as well? Thankfully the answer is a genuine and resounding yes!

Ethan is a beautifully flawed character. He’s lonely but frightened of letting anyone else get close to him. He loves his sister but hates the fact that her role as the Iron Queen has taken her away from their family. He hates the Fey and what they have done to his life, but takes on the responsibility of entering their world when he has no other choice. He is also a born fighter and, despite his bad boy persona, has a well balanced heart.

I also loved Mackenzie. She’s the perfect love interest for Ethan, a girl with secrets of her own and a past she tries to hide. However, whereas Ethan’s tough as nail’s personality is all an act, Mackenzie is a girl who can hold her own in any battle and the chemistry between her and Ethan crackles off the page.

What’s great about The Lost Prince: Call of the Forgotten is that it doesn’t feel like an extension of the original series. Yes, we see Puck, Ash, Grimalkin and Meghan within its pages, but Ethan is a man now and must make his own decisions. This is his book through and through. It might be the same world but the danger is real and the stakes are higher than ever before.

Can it be read on its own for those who are unfamiliar with the world of the Iron Fey? Yes it can, as Kagawa does a brilliant job of filling her readers in as much as possible. However, those not familiar with the previous six books will be missing the depth the secondary characters have. But if you wanted to pick up The Lost Prince and jump right in, you’re pretty much good to go.

Kagawa’s world building is amazing and her characters live and breathe on the page. Her trademark humour is here in spades, but this is a much darker novel than the previous series. Ethan has more issues he must deal with if he is to become a true Prince of the Iron Realm.

An incredible, lightning paced, thrilling read, The Lost Prince is everything you could want and then some. It’s Kagawa’s best book to date and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

 

The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling

9 Oct

 

Welcome to Pagford.

It is a picture perfect little town: rolling hills, ancient abbey, cobbled streets, charming houses and colourful inhabitants. However, like everything that looks perfect, secrets run rampant through Pagford’s streets, waiting for the moment to be set free.

That moment arrives in the death of Barry Fairbrother. After suffering an aneurism on the night of his wedding anniversary, the town of Pagford becomes torn. With Barry’s death, a Casual Vacancy arises, a seat left vacant on the Parish Council due to death.

There are a few hopefuls vying for the coveted seat: Howard Mollison wants his son Miles to take the seat so that Miles can help Howard rid Pagford of The Fields, a rundown part of town home to a methadone clinic. Howard is thrilled at Barry’s death as Howard may finally rid Pagford of an eyesore. Miles’ wife Samantha, however, is less than thrilled and begins to fantasize about much younger boys.

Collin Wall, Deputy Head minister of the local high school, also wants to run for the vacant seat. As Barry’s former best friend, Collin thinks Barry would have wanted him to carry on his work, bringing The Fields and Pagford together, instead of tearing them apart.

Tessa Wall, who is the school guidance counselor, is more concerned over the antics of their son Stuart “Fats” and his association with Krystal Weedon and the mental state of her husband if he actually wins the seat; Collin hides a secret that could ruin him if exposed.

Simon Price also wants to run, despite having isolated himself from the community. His wife, Ruth, approves of him running because she is used to agreeing. It is the only way to keep him from getting angry. Often abusive to his two sons, Andrew “Arf” and Paul, taking in stolen goods and stealing from his place of work, Andrew wonders what would happen to his father if his secrets got out.

Even those not hoping to fill the casual vacancy are affected by Barry Fairbrother’s death: Parminder, who harbors secret feelings of her own, lavishes attention on one daughter while degrading her other daughter Sukhvinder who cuts herself to release the pain. Kay, a social worker who has just been assigned to help Terri Weedon and her children Krystal and Robbie as their mother struggles with heroin addiction.

There’s also Gaia, Kay’s daughter, who is bereft at leaving London because her mother followed her noncommittal boyfriend Gavin Wall to Pagford. Gavin, who knows he never should have let his relationship with Kay go so far is only concerned with ending the relationship and the love he holds close for another woman. Let’s not forget Shirley Mollison, Howard’s wife, who has her own secret agenda or Maureen, Howard’s business partner, who does whatever Howard says; Or what about Mary Fairbrother who had grown to dislike her husband and his growing attachment to Krystal Weedon?

Pagford is a picture perfect little town. Like anything that looks perfect, there is shadow underneath. What would happen if that shadow were exposed? What if the secrets of those in town were exposed, out in public? Would Pagford hold itself together, or would cracks begin to appear in its postcard image?

Before the Casual Vacancy is filled, the town of Pagford will find out and no one will be the same…

I wasn’t expecting to like The Casual Vacancy, much less love it. This has nothing to do with the fact that it’s not the next Harry Potter book. I knew going into The Casual Vacancy to have no expectations because it was decidedly not Harry Potter. Rowling’s first book for adults couldn’t be more different than that other fictional world she created, but a small town political novel just didn’t sound thrilling to me.

There was also the fact that, from the first page, I knew that The Casual Vacancy wasn’t going to be a quick read. The tone of the writing is completely different and I knew it would not feature the wicked fast plot of the Harry Potter novels. However, I read on anyways, knowing that Rowling is a good writer and hoping for a good story.

Well, I was wrong. J K Rowling is an incredible writer and in The Casual Vacancy she had penned an amazing novel with an amazing story. The Casual Vacancy actually has very little to do with the politics surrounding the title. Instead, it is really a study of the people who live in Pagford and the whims of human nature.

I suspect that the title of J K Rowling’s new novel is really a play on words. A Casual Vacancy is a situation in which a political assembly’s seat is declared vacant through resignation, disqualification or death. However, due to the nature of all of Pagford being involved and the possibility of an election that has split the town and those that want the vacant seat for their own ends, there is nothing casual about this vacancy.

As I read, I was reminded of many different authors. If I had to compare it to anything (although Rowling has written it so well that The Casual Vacancy is really incomparable), I would say it’s a mix of Charles Dickens, Maeve Binchy, Minette Walters and Meg Rosoff. The Casual Vacancy is bleak, gut wrenching, horrifying, frightening but also joyful and surprisingly funny. It’s a book that defies genres and boundaries.

Rowling’s strength as a writer has never been more noticeable than with The Casual Vacancy. Her characters are so well drawn that you identify with each and every one of them and the further you read, the more you become involved in their lives. Multiple storylines criss cross and meet up with each other and it takes a writer of the highest caliber to keep all of the intersecting characters and storylines straight and still tell an amazing story.

Surprisingly, the young adult characters in this novel (Andrew, Stuart, Gaia, Shukvinder, Krystal) play a larger role than I thought possible in a “political novel”. Rowling’s adult characters are just as well drawn and as you watch all of their lives intersect, you wonder how Rowling can possibly tie everything together in the end. Thankfully, she does it with grace and style and an ending I never, ever saw coming.

Make no mistake, though, this is an adult novel. In the pages of The Casual Vacancy, you’ll find drugs and drug use, sex, racism, prejudice, rape, theft, poverty, cutting and self-abuse. However, you will also find laughter, humour, joy, determination and hope. It is a novel less about politics than it is about the people who make up a community.

The Casual Vacancy is beautifully written and incredibly told. It is not a novel for the faint of heart, but is also a novel so full of heart that the characters within it will stay with me for the rest of my life. It made me laugh out loud, made me cry in public, had me rooting for some characters and loving to hate others.

It is a book you do not merely read; instead, you live inside of it until the last turn of the page and beyond.

 

Above His Station by Darren Craske

9 Jul

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The Station Guard of Regal Street is running away from his past.

With his wife gone and his children having lives of their own, he lives at home in a bungalow, filled with memories of his late wife. Wanting to escape his past and the memory of Molly where ever he goes, he accepts a new post.

The only thing is, he can’t tell anyone where the new post is, what the station is for or for whom he is working. This suits him fine as all he wants to do is hide from himself and enjoy his life underground.

The problems begin when the Station Guard hears a voice belonging to someone he can’t see tells him that he’s in trouble and that the tiger has scented him. The Station Guard looks around but is told to look down.

Looking down, the Station Guard takes in the presence of a rather foul mouthed talking rat. As if that weren’t enough, the rat tells the station guard that something has happened above ground, something to which he is oblivious to, being so far below ground.

The Station Guard knows that he must head above his station, but the rat reminds him of the tiger, the tiger that has scented him and is coming for the Station Guard, with no hope of escape in sight.

Well, that’s not strictly true. The problems really begin when the Station Guard tries to get above ground and has to confront a pack of wild wolves, flamingo car drivers, armadillo and tree frog policeman, a musical number with back up singers and a whole host of other problems.

Least of which is a musical number, a trip out of this world and the fate of humanity hanging in the balance. Now would be a good time for a chocolate digestive biscuit if you have any…

My meager plot summary does not really cover the whole plot of Above His Station. It only really scratches the surface. Why is that? Well, that’s because Above His Station is one of those rare gems, one of those lovely, incredible books that you can no way summarize without giving everything away.

Instead, it is meant to be delved into, head first, until you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I read Above His Station twice in three days. I finished it in a day and a half and enjoyed it so much that I immediately went back to page one and started all over again.

I love Darren Craske’s work quite a lot but with Above His Station he has outdone himself not only in characters (at which he excels) but also with plot (at which he is also ace). What sets Above His Station apart is that it is unlike anything you will ever read or will ever read again.

During the first chapter, I thought I was in for a right treat of a mystery of sorts…until I got to the talking rat. Then things went woky, went more wonky still and by that point, I was having a grand old time. I laughed out loud on the bus, laughed out loud in public and just kept flipping pages madly, engrossed completely in the world that Craske has created.

Though books of this sort normally require a huge suspension of disbelief, Craske eased me into the world so slowly that I didn’t really notice things had gone completely crazy until it was too late. Or not late enough. Either way, I haven’t enjoyed a book this much in years. The only other book I have read twice in a row is Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone. That ought to tell you something.

Craske has really outdone himself with Above His Station. His Cornelius Quaint Series is amazing, his novel The Lantern Menace incredible, but I feel as if all of his writing, all his work, has been leading up to this book, Above His Station.

It is quite simply the best time I have had reading a novel in years. To read Above His Station is to let yourself be taken on an incredible journey.

The problem is, you might not want to come back. An awesome read from start to finish and back again, Above His Station is required reading for anyone who loves a good book, period. 

11/22/63 by Stephen King

8 Jul

 

 

 

 

I was truly surprised by King’s new novel. And I didn’t have high hopes for it.

After finishing (and greatly disliking) Under the Dome, I debated whether I was done with King. After reading the disappointing Mile 81, I was sure I was done with King. But decided to give him one more change.

Boy am I ever glad I did!

Jake Epping, an English teacher from 2011, is given the chance to go back in time. His friend Al Templeton has a supply closet in his diner that also happens to be a rabbit hole to September of 1958. Al is dying and leaves Jake with an important task: go back in time and stop the assassination of JFK.

This is easy feat. Because the past is obdurate; it moves against Jake and doesn’t want to be changed. But there are also other distractions.

One is: Did Oswald do the deed alone? Jake must determine this before he acts. The second? A woman named Sadie who Jake falls in love with. Will he risk everything, even the love of his past life, to save another?

At 850 pages, my meagre summary of the plot doesn’t come close to covering everything that happens in 11/22/63. But that’s okay. No plot summary would come close because there is so much life in this novel. The parts where Jake is living through the fifties and sixties really come to life in King’s writing and the stories contained within are ones that are at once timeless and essential.

It’s a novel that you want to live in. Rarely have I been so affected by a novel. It really wasn’t about the assassination, but about the characters and that is where King really shines. He made an 850 page novel seem like it was 300 pages; that is how good the writing is.

There are no supernatural elements to the novel, but that isn’t a downside. King has tried something different by writing what could be loosely described as historical romantic fiction. The good thing is that he succeeds on every level.

I loved this book so much that I didn’t want it to end. When I did finish it, I was left breathless, teary eyed and wanting more. That is the mark of a great book and this is Stephen King’s best work to date, hands down.

There Is No Dog by Meg Rosoff

8 Jul

The premise is a simple one: What if God were a teenage boy?

In the hands of any other author, the book would have been gimmicky, silly and slapstickish. But There Is No Dog is by the amazing, surprising and delightful Meg Rosoff, so we know that we’re in for a treat.

In There Is No Dog, God is indeed a teenage boy. He watches over Earth with the help of Mr. B, his tired and somewhat frustrated by his assistant. Mr. B. Has reason to be frustrated, for there are many things wrong with the way God has been running things.

After winning Earth in a poker game, Mona (a Goddess of some renown) hands the job of God over to her son who is insolent, spoiled and not all that brilliant. He created the earth in six days because he was too tired and lazy to take any longer with it.

Mr. B has been left to clean up the mess, one prayer at a time. But there is only so much he can do. For answering one prayer might affect the schism of things in another way. Cure one child of rabies and perhaps the stock markets crash? Help one girl’s dying mother and maybe the polar ice caps dry up? And the fact that God (whose name is Bob) created mortals in his own image is most troubling to Mr. B. How can a planet filled with insolent, greedy, intolerant boobs like Bob possibly survive?

However survive it must, even if God doesn’t want anything to do with it. He is currently obsessed with a young mortal girl named Lucy, an assistant at the zoo. He loves her. He wants to marry her. He wants to have sex with her; and preferably not in the form of a swan this time. God isn’t too sure what he was thinking when he did that.

When their courtship begins, strange things begin to happen. Driven by the lusts and feelings of a teenage boy, the weather starts to be affected by Bob’s wants and desires. Snow falls one day to be replaced by floods the next only to be replaced by sunshine. And then the rain begins to fall.

Earth is under siege by the weather and by Gods emotions. Mr. B is desperate. As floods begin to sweep across Earth, he begins to wonder, if he doesn’t fix this mess, who will? While God is off following is pecker to prettier pastures, who will look after those that are on Earth?

Told with a deft hand and a keen eye for detail, Meg Rosoff has written her best book yet. It is also her funniest. I never thought a novel about God, religion, the fate of the human race, beliefs, creationism and love could be funny, but There Is No Dog is downright hilarious.

The joy of a Meg Rosoff novel is that you never really know what kind of story you’re going to get. In How I Live Now, three young children must survive an apocalyptic world. In Just In Case, a young boy creates a new image and changes his name from David to Justin but is deterred by Fate. What I Was, we are treated to a love story of sorts that takes place at a boys boarding school where no one and nothing is as it seems. In The Bride’s Farewell, a historical novel, Pell leaves on the day of her wedding to discover herself, only to discover that some things about herself she already knew. In Vamoose, a young girl gives birth to a moose baby and has to come to terms with her non-human child.

Rosoff never writes the same thing twice and is constantly surprising and constantly delightful. The surprises and delight are even more so in There Is No Dog. And though the novels that came before it are all gems of particular hues, There Is No Dog shines brightest for me. It’s funny, ingenious, captivating and wonderful.

What is truly captivating about the novel is how human the immortal characters are. Rosoff shows us through plight, clever word play and everyday situations that even the divine can be human. Is it a commentary on religion and spirituality? Is it a commentary on what humans do to the world, the plight of the environment and the animals that live within the world? Perhaps.

But even more so, it is about the faith that we must have in each other and the belief in miracles that keeps us whole and positively brimming with life.

Now that is something worth reading about. All I can say is: Read this book. It is beautiful, witty, funny, delightful and wonderful in every way. Read this book and believe in the possibility of miracles.

Circle of Fire by Michelle Zink

8 Jul

 

Dear Michelle,

I’m about to start your finish your Prophecy of the Sisters trilogy for the forth time.

By now, I’ve also read the new Prophecy of the Sisters trilogy and reading the original trilogy after the information of the three novellas has given the trilogy a different and incredible vibrant intensity for me.

When Circle of Fire came out in 2011 year, I bought all three ebooks. I wanted to read the first two books in the trilogy (Prophecy of the Sisters and Guardian of the Gate) first, before reading Circle of Fire.

Even though it was sitting there, inside my ebook reader, I waited to read Circle of Fire. I wanted the story fresh in my head. I’m so glad I did! The story, the world, the characters you created came alive in Circle of Fire and burned the page right up.

I really wasn’t sure how you were going to do it, end a trilogy that I have become (like so many others) so emotionally invested in. What would happen to Alice? Dear god, what would happen to Lia? How would so many plot threads resolve themselves? Would the victors be victorious?

You blew all my expectations out of the water. Circle of Fire was more than I could have hoped for in the ending of a trilogy. It was thrilling, captivating, riveting and amazing. I loved every word, even though I knew that the end would soon come.

I’ve tried to think of how to tell you how much I enjoyed your book; so I decided just to tell you. I looked at the signed Circle of Fire bookplate this evening and it reminded me just how wonderful your books are (that and the postcard, thanks so MUCH for that! I collect them!).

I have now ordered my hard cover copy of Circle of Fire (to put beside my hardcover copies of Prophecy of the Sisters and Guardian of the Gate) so that I can put my bookplate in it. I can’t wait for the order to come in so I can put Circle of Fire right next to your new novel, A Temptation of Angels, giving me a complete set of your books (eBook and Print). I can tell I’m a book geek when having the whole set excites me beyond words.

Thank you for giving me such a thrilling ride, such real characters, such an incredible adventure.

I loved every word of it.

Cheers,

Jamieson