Book Review: The Young Elites by Marie Lu

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20821111The Young Elites by Marie Lu

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: 2014 by Penguin (first published 2014)

Pages: 335

Star Rating: 4/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

 

The Young Elites is the first novel by Marie Lu I have read. I’d heard a lot of good things about her books so I had high hopes. What I loved about it is that it’s much darker than other YA fantasy I have read, and it isn’t about black and white good versus evil. To be honest, I wasn’t really sure who to root for because there didn’t seem to be ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’, there were positives and negatives about both ‘sides’. This made the story so much more interesting. I do like a good vs. evil story, but it was nice to read something that blurred the lines for a change. The actions and ideals of many characters was questionable, so none of them really seemed ‘good’, which was far more realistic than having two opposing ends of the spectrum in conflict.

The main character, Adelina, is by no means a ‘hero’. She has a troubled past and is filled with darkness. She feeds off fear and is driven by power and ambition. The novel follows her perspective closely, so I felt I really understood all her feelings and motivations. She’s a really interesting main character and her internal conflict is written very well.

Unfortunately, most of the other characters were neglected. This novel is very short for fantasy, which I didn’t mind, except I think it perhaps needed to be a little longer to give more time to developing other characters. While Adelina’s characterisation is brilliant, very few other characters were given enough attention and development by Lu. Teren, Raffaele and Violetta were depicted well; I felt I knew their characters well enough. However Lucent, Dante, Gemma and Michel were very vaguely sketched. By the end I didn’t know them at all. No time was given to them at all so they were just like shadows in the background rather than proper characters. Even Enzo was a little too mysterious. Most of the characters just weren’t fleshed out enough.

The plot was good and the storytelling kept me engaged. Lu had me hooked and I wanted to keep reading. Just when I thought I knew what was going to happen, the story managed to surprise me. Its unpredictability made it gripping.

I can’t wait to see where the next two books head, and I hope the series continues to surprise me. The first book ended far from how I would have expected (in a good twist kind of way), and I’m excited to see how Adelina’s character develops (and hopefully there will be more development for other characters in the next one…).

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Book Review: Lies by Michael Grant

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61c1539c28b0c6b76a92c02b9c88c34eLies by Michael Grant  

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Publishing Info: 2011 by Egmont Books (first published 2010)

Pages: 472

Star Rating: 4/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

66 Hours, 52 Minutes

Suddenly, it’s a world without adults and normal has crashed and burned. When life as you know it ends at 15, everything changes.

Tensions are growing in the FAYZ. The mutants are under attack. Food is scarce. Sam’s gone AWOL.

At night, a solitary figure roams the streets– the ghost of a boy with a whip hand, haunting the dreams of those he has tormented.

Then the town is deliberately set on fire… And through the flames, Sam sees the figure he dreads most–Drake. But that’s impossible: Drake is dead.

 

Lies is the third book in Michael Grant’s Gone series. I really wouldn’t recommend leaving big gaps between reading the books in this series. I read the first book in 2014 and the second book, Hunger, in 2015, so it’s been three years since I read it. There are so many characters and their individual storylines and arcs to keep track of, that it was hard to dip back in after so long away from the series. I read a summary of the first two books online which was helpful, but not quite the same as when you can remember more of the detail. So if you read this series, don’t leave it too long between reading each book like I have!

This is one of the grimmest YA series I have read. It really proves YA isn’t just about clichés and love triangles. It can be gritty, dark and meaningful. It’s so interesting watching how things play out in the FAYZ over the course of the series (it really is like a modern Lord of the Flies, with superpowers). It digs deep into how people would react in that kind of situation, how desperate they could become, and how ‘normal’ just collapses and becomes something totally different, something that’s more about survival than living. In this book, Astrid is still trying to get rules and laws into place to give the FAYZ more order, so life isn’t just about survival.

The book is a little chaotic. There are lots of characters and no real main story arc/plot line. That would be bad for most books, but it somehow works in this series. Maybe because the situation the characters have landed in is one of chaos. Things came together more at the end, and it became clearer where things had been heading.

I looked back at my review of the first book to remind myself of my reaction to the series initially. I was doubtful about how Grant would stretch the plot out for six books, but having read the first three now, I don’t have those same doubts. Maybe it will drag to the end, maybe not. There are a lot of characters and plot threads, it’s quite complicated in many ways, so I can see it sustaining my interest until the end.

Looking at my review of book two, I also had some problems with that one, namely plot holes and characters. Perhaps Grant got more stuck into this series as he went along, because I didn’t have those same problems with this book. There was more character development than in the second book. Sam is haunted by memories of Drake, Astrid is struggling to bring peace to the FAYZ and the problems that come with being head of the council, while Caine and Diana struggle with lack of food and what that does to them psychologically. Mary also developed in an interesting way in this book.

As with the first two books in the series, I was glued to Lies. It’s so unpredictable and I just wanted to keep reading. I will be reading the next book soon…

Film Review: Tomb Raider

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tomb-raider-poster-alicia-vikanderFilm Review: Tomb Raider

Release date: 15th March 2018

Director: Roar Uthaug

Starring: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Daniel Wu, Walton Goggins

Runtime: 120 minutes

Genre: Action, Adventure

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 3/5 stars

 

Tomb Raider is a reboot of the film franchise, loosely based on the reboot of the video game. This vision of Tomb Raider is a little different from the Angelina Jolie films you may be familiar with. Alicia Vikander portrays a young Lara Croft, unable to accept her father’s death, and living away from Croft Manor. In search of her father, she journeys to a remote island off the coast of Japan where he had been looking for the tomb of Himiko. Alicia Vikander does a great job playing Lara, but there are few other substantial performances to make the film come alive.

Those who have played the 2013 game will recognise some similarities here, but the film is quite loosely inspired by the game rather than being an adaptation of it. Some things are familiar like Lara’s bow and arrow, the climbing axe and some of the action sequences, for example when she is washed down the river. Otherwise, the film takes quite a different story to the game.

The action is exciting and kept me fairly gripped, but the plot line is nothing new. Lara having to stop a bad guy from getting the tomb is the usual plot and isn’t bad. This could be done well in a way that has twists and turns, but this film fell into the trap of doing nothing different with the well-trodden plot. Without giving anything away, what they find in the tomb felt quite clichéd and made me roll my eyes. Surely they could have come up with something that actually made a good twist.

More could also have been done with visuals. The island was very bland. There was no vibrancy or dynamics in the setting, which could have brought more life to the film. The tomb itself was also lacking. It was dark and mysterious but more could have done to heighten this effect and so increase the tension.

While I enjoyed the film, it was fairly predictable with few surprises or diversions from the expected formula to make it really stand out. The end sets it up for a sequel, but I wonder if this one will be successful enough for them to make another one.

Top 5 Wednesday: Favourite Science Fiction & Fantasy in Other Media

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It’s hard to only name five because SFF is my favourite genre! There are so many films I could name. If I was listing all my favourites, this would be a really long list. Such tough decisions, but here are the ones I have picked (in no particular order, because please don’t ask me to rank them too!). T5W is a group hosted on Goodreads, if you’d like to participate check it out here.

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Star Wars (films)

There are varying opinions on all the Star Wars films. Some have received a lot of hatred (the prequels in particular) but I’ve loved all of them to varying degrees and for different reasons. Yes, some of the dialogue is pretty lame and there have been some strange plot/character decisions at times, but I can’t help but love these films.

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The Expanse (TV show)

I haven’t read the books this TV show is based on. Having watched the first two series I’m really invested in the story and characters. Visually it’s great, but there’s a really intriguing plot and cast of characters too.

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The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit (films)

Well, how could these not make the list? The Lord of the Rings is so spectacularly filmed and the music is spot on. I was super excited when they decided to adapt The Hobbit too and was not disappointed (although maybe it was stretched out a little).

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Stardust (film)

I love the light-hearted humour in this film. It’s been one of my favourites for years and always manages to put a smile on my face.

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Once Upon a Time (TV show)

It dipped a bit in the later series, but I devoured this show when I first started watching it. It has its faults, but it’s really creative and I like how they manage to tie together so many characters and tales.

Special mentions: Harry Potter/Fantastic Beasts (love these, but thought they were rather an obvious choice!), X-Men (X2 and First Class are my favourites), Hunger Games, new Planet of the Apes trilogy, Inception, I could go on…

Book Review: Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

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33154647Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Publishing Info: April 2017 by Hot Key Books (first published 2017)

Pages: 425

Star Rating: 4/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

Noemi is a young and fearless soldier of Genesis, a colony planet of a dying Earth. But the citizens of Genesis are rising up – they know that Earth’s settlers will only destroy this planet the way they destroyed their own. And so a terrible war has begun.

When Noemi meets Abel, one of Earth’s robotic mech warriors, she realizes that Abel himself may provide the key to Genesis’ salvation. Abel is bound by his programming to obey her – even though her plan could result in his destruction. But Abel is no ordinary mech. He’s a unique prototype, one with greater intelligence, skill and strength than any other. More than that, he has begun to develop emotions, a personality and even dreams. Noemi begins to realise that if Abel is less than human, he is more than a machine. If she destroys him, is it murder? And can a cold-blooded murder be redeemed by the protection of a world?

Stranded together in space, they go on a whirlwind adventure through Earth’s various colony worlds, alongside the countless Vagabonds who have given up planetary life altogether and sail forever between the stars. Each step brings them closer – both to each other and to the terrible decision Noemi will have to make about her world’s fate, and Abel’s.

 

When I received this book as a gift, I was really excited to read it. I love science fiction, but somehow have managed to only really read dystopian or apocalyptic sub-genre sci-fi. This is coincidental rather than deliberate, as I love space operas such as Star Wars and The Expanse on film and TV. So this book, although in one of my favourite genres, looked quite different to other sci-fi I’d read before.

Thank goodness I received it as a gift, because if I’d picked it up in a bookshop, it might have ended up back on the shelf. It’s important to note here that I absolutely loved this book. However, the opening chapters are definitely the weakest point for me. Therefore, if I’d picked it up in the bookshop and read the first few pages, or however much time I had to read, I might not have bought it. And that would have been a travesty because then I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy this amazing novel.

The problems I had with the opening chapters could partly be down to getting used to the writing style – the novel is told in chapters that alternate between the point of view of Noemi and Abel. However, I don’t think that’s totally the case with this one. Once the problematic first few chapters were out of the way, I instantly got into the way it was written, so I don’t think that’s what the issue was. There were two main issues.

Firstly, the novel opened with an action-packed space battle. Sounds exciting, right? Except when the author starts giving you random bits of back story in the middle of it. I’m glad she didn’t do a total info dump, it was sprinkled in nicely, and some of the information was important to understand what was happening. But most of it the reader didn’t need to know right at that moment, in the middle of what should have been an exciting few chapters. Stepping out of the intensity and tension of the fight to give the reader little bits of information just totally sucked the suspense out of the opening chapters. It really is a shame because I loved the rest of the book.

Issue two with the opening chapters – repetition. I liked that there was some overlap in the chapters because it was interesting to see how the two characters reacted to those moments differently. However for some reason in the opening chapters (and this seemed to be a particular issue with Abel’s point of view chapters) it would, for example, be Abel’s point of view, switch to Noemi, and then when it switched back to Abel, repeat some of the information or thoughts from Abel’s previous point of view chapter. I found this incredible irritating and it prevented me from getting into parts of those exciting few chapters because I was being told something I’d only just been told a few pages before, which really wasn’t necessary. This isn’t even something that carries on in the rest of the book. It’s only a problem in these first few chapters. And that is what is so frustrating. These problems I have discussed are literally only a problem in the first few chapters. The rest of the book is brilliant. If not for the weak opening chapters it may even have got five stars from me, which is pretty rare.

Now we’ve got those frustrating issues out of the way, onto what I loved about this novel. The central characters – Noemi and Abel – are really great. What was so good was how Gray showed the differences in their perspectives – one a human, one a mech, and from warring planets – and how their views of each other and the society they live in changes as the book progresses. The question of what it is to be human and what it is to have a soul is central to this novel and Gray portrays it excellently. The conflict Abel has between his programming and his new thoughts is written very well.

On the subject of conflict, there is so much inner conflict and external tension in this novel that really drives it and keeps the momentum going. Abel is from Earth and therefore Noemi’s enemy, but she is forced to work with him. Noemi is from Genesis and therefore Abel’s enemy essentially, and he wants to get back to his creator, but his programming means she becomes his new commander and has to obey her. There is just so much tension right from the beginning between the characters, but this also then means that there is lots of room for them to grow. Both main characters have really strong arcs. We see them change, develop, alter their world views as they go to different planets and both for the first time actually see what the world outside their front door is actually like.

This isn’t just an exciting sci-fi action story. It has complexity and explores its characters thoughts and changing perspectives so well, as well as exploring the issue of the way we treat our planet, and other sociological issues.

I could ramble on for ages about how much I liked this book. After those first few chapters, it really kept me gripped all the way through. I wanted to know what would happen. I cared about the characters. Importantly I want to know what will happen next, so I can’t wait for the next book to come out!

Author Interview: Sam Waterhouse

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Today, Sam Waterhouse joins me as part of the Of Legend and Lore blog tour. This collection of fairy tale retellings by members of the Just-Us League takes a fresh look at both well-known and lesser known tales.

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Sam Waterhouse is a part-time writer with a full-time imagination from Hobart, Tasmania. ‘Wishes Between Worlds’ is his second published story, a futuristic retelling of ‘The Enchanted Quill’ fairy tale. He enjoys writing unusual characters, so a trickster, genie-esque crow was an opportunity too good to pass on.

Sam also contributed to the previous Just-Us League anthology Between Heroes and Villains with ‘Like You’, an original story where superpowers are treated as a disease to be eradicated.

You can follow Sam on Twitter (@SW_Wordologist).

What inspired your retelling?

I chose to retell ‘The Enchanted Quill’ partly because I like a good anthropomorphic character and partly because of how it portrays the power of the written word. I took a few liberties in the retelling – such as changing the setting to a spaceship during a multi-generational interstellar voyage and having Corvo play the part of trickster – but those were the two qualities I liked most about this particular fairy tale.

What was the hardest part of writing it?

Ensuring that the retelling kept true to the heart of the original fairy tale. I found myself checking back regularly with the original to make sure that I didn’t go off on tangents.

Tell me about the story you wrote for the previous Just-Us League anthology.

I wrote a short story for Between Heroes and Villains, an anthology about being with super powers. ‘Like You’ is the opening story for this anthology. I was inspired by Brandon Sanderson’s Reckoners series where the people with super powers are considered the ‘bad guys’. The protagonist is part of the taskforce that hunts down these ‘Unnaturals’.

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That sounds interesting! How did this experience differ from writing ‘Like You’?

I knew what to expect this time, in terms of editing and finalising the story. My previous JLA story was my first ever published story and the whole experience was new and exciting. This time around I knew how long I needed to tinker with the plot and characters.

What other fairy tale would you like to rewrite?

I almost decided to rewrite ‘The Death of Koschei the Deathless’, a Russian fairy tale. It is a morbid story, but translating an old Russian story to a futuristic setting would have been a fun challenge.

Are you a fan of the Happily Ever After?

I don’t mind ending a story on a happy note but I like them to emphasize that the story is just one event in the life of the characters. Those characters could have lives after the tale is done. Basically, if it makes a reader wonder ‘what happens next?’ then I’m all for it.

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How do you combat writer’s block?

By not writing. What I mean is that if I can’t actually write anything, not even something that’s terrible, I should give it a couple of days break. I have never been able to beat writer’s block into submission. Everyday life grants enough inspiration that eventually I’m able to get back into it.

Are you a “pantser” or “plotter”?

Definitely a pantser.

Favourite original fairy tale?

Red Riding Hood. It’s dark, gritty and has a big monster.

Ooh dark choice! What about your favourite adapted fairy tale?

Fables comic book series. It’s not so much an adaption of one, but an adaption of all fairy tales and myths.

If you could meet one author, alive or dead, who would it be?

It would have to be either J.R.R Tolkien or C.S Lewis. Not only did they write hugely popular series that are amongst the bestsellers today, but their non-fiction works show them to be wise and intellectual men.

What is your non-writer alter-ego (aka day job)?

Father (non-paying) and data researcher (paying).

What is your spirit animal?

I’ve never thought about this, but would probably be something like a bunyip.

Who is the biggest supporter of your writing?

My daughter. She is always asking me ‘what doing?’ though she doesn’t appear that interested in my answer.

What is the biggest obstacle to your writing?

I tend to run out of creative steam as I’m heading into the middle of the story. I would have created the narrative in my head and know where it’s going, but it is sometimes hard to actually find the words to describe the story I want to tell. This has lead to several stories being left half finished.

I have to remind myself frequently to make a habit of getting words on the page, even if I don’t think they are any good. Better to have something there than nothing at all.

What other projects are you working on?

I am currently working on a followup to the short story published in Between Heroes and Villains, returning to a world where powered individuals are considered enemies of the state.

Oxford comma, yes or no?

Honestly, I think it looks a bit weird, but happy to go along with it to keep the people happy.

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If this has piqued your interest, check out the anthology, available to purchase now from Amazon worldwide!

Blog Tour Schedule

To meet other authors in Of Legend and Lore, follow the blog tour:

Allie May hosts Matthew Dewar — 8th February

J.E. Klimov hosts Kelsie Engen — 13th February

Louise Ross hosts M.T. Wilson — 16th February

Heather Hayden hosts Allie May– 19th February

Kelsie Engen hosts Renee Frey — 20th February

RELEASE DAY — 26th February

Kristen Kooistra hosts Louise Ross — 2nd March

M.T. Wilson hosts Sam Waterhouse — 3rd March

Elise Edmonds hosts J.E. Klimov — 7th March

J.E. Klimov hosts Heather Hayden — 9th March

Allie May hosts Elise Edmonds — 12th March

February Book Haul!

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I had a good haul of books last month!

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The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

Having read The Wrath and the Dawn, I wasn’t desperate to read the sequel, but invested enough to want to. So when I saw the Kindle edition discounted, I went for it. I’m curious to see where the story goes.

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The Young Elites, The Rose Society, The Midnight Star (Young Elites trilogy) by Mary Lu

I saw these books as a pack of three for less than the price of one – I’ve never been one to resist a book bargain. The series I was originally interested in by Lu was Legend, but having read the back cover of The Young Elites I thought I would give this series a go.

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The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic by Leigh Bardugo

I have seen this book so many times in book shops and just fell in love with the beauty of it. It’s a lush hardcover with thick pages that are beautifully illustrated in colour. I loved Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm (I have yet to read the final book in the trilogy!). This book is a collection of short stories that are fairy tales from the Grishaverse.

Top 10 Tuesday: Books I Could Re-Read Forever

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Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but as of January has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.

Now this isn’t just a list of my favourite books. Some books you just can’t keep re-reading as it isn’t the same. I don’t often re-read books actually as there are so many new ones out there that I want to read! So here are some either I have re-read before or want to in future.

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1) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I re-read the whole trilogy last year and was amazed how much I loved it yet again. Even though I have seen the film loads of times so the general plot is ingrained in my brain, I was still totally gripped even though I knew what was going to happen!

2) Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

This was my favourite of the trilogy when I first read them. It’s never the same as reading it for the first time, as there are so many twists in this book, but I still really enjoyed re-reading it. I can imagine reading it again and again and still loving it.

3) Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Despite the final film being split into two, they still missed out a lot from this book, so I found it interesting to re-read and remind myself of all the things I had forgotten about. For example Katniss and Joanna having to do lots of tough training in District 13 to be allowed to fight, or the treatment of Flavius, Octavia and Venia.

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4) Ombria in Shadow by Patricia McKillip

This story is so rich in beautiful descriptions. I’ve read it twice but I really want to re-read it again as it’s my favourite novel.

5) The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding

It’s been a while since I last read this, but I have re-read it several times. The story is really imaginative and totally gripping. It’s quite scary and spooky in an edge-of-your-seat you don’t know what’s coming round the corner kind of way.

6) Blood Red Road by Moira Young

I have only read this once but it was so action-packed and exciting that I can imagine re-reading it over and over.

7) The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

I don’t want to keep re-reading this because I loved it. I only gave it 3 stars. My reason why is a massive twist so I won’t specify as it would totally ruin the book if you haven’t read it yet. I would re-read it to look for clues that suggest it was the person they think committed the murder. I’d also see if I could figure out if it really was that person, or if it the murderer was a different character as theorists have speculated.

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8) The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

There is so much detail in these books that I feel like I want to keep reading them because there is so much that I can’t remember from the first time I read them. I have only re-read The Fellowship of the Ring once. They are so long that I am unlikely to re-read them lots of times, but I would like to.

9) Eragon by Christopher Paolini

I want to read this book for similar reasons to The Lord of the Rings. There are four books in the series, all of which are quite long, but I absolutely loved them when I read them the first time.

10) Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

Another fantasy series. I’ve grouped these together for a reason, because my reason for wanting to re-read them is almost the same. Fantasy series are often rather chunky and rather long. I re-read the first book in this series – Dragons of Autumn Twilight – a few years ago, and now I want to re-read the rest of the series as after all this time I can hardly remember what happens. This series was so important for me as it really solidified my love of fantasy.

What books would you re-read?

 

Release Day! Of Legend and Lore

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Today is the release day for Of Legend and Lore, an anthology of fairy tale retelling by the Just-Us League group. The collection includes my own short story, Cursed Glass, which is a retelling of a Grimm fairy tale called The Glass Coffin. It blends fantasy and science-fiction to tell a story about darkness and redepmtion.

This is the fourth anthology published by the group and the second focusing on fairy tale retellings. It was exciting to be part of this for the first time and I look forward to being included in future anthologies. You can read the interview I did as part of the blog tour here.

You can purchase the book on Amazon worldwide in Kindle and paperback! It includes a beautifully designed illustration for each story.

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New life is given to eleven old stories in this second collection of irresistible fairy tale retellings.

Royalty faces magical challenges: a prince uses his powers on a rescue mission and reveals a terrible secret about his people; a king takes drastic measures to save his daughters from a troublesome curse; and a princess befriends an unusual frog.

Mythical creatures can be friend or foe: three brothers face a depressed dragon with a legendary treasure; an ancient crow brings a child’s wishes to life; and one young girl discovers dragons aren’t always the enemy.

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes: a miser is in danger of losing everything one cold night; a struggling mirrorsmith meets an invisible recluse; a boy must relive the fairy tale based on his ancestor’s life; a child is rejected because of his love of drawing cats; and an evil witch is sealed in a glass coffin.

Be transported to new worlds and enjoy fresh twists on old favorites.

 

Film Review: The Greatest Showman

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tgs-posterFilm Review: The Greatest Showman

Release date: 26th December 2017

Director: Michael Gracey

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zac Efron, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson

Runtime: 105 minutes

Genre: Musical

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 4/5 stars

 

The Greatest Showman is inspired by the real life story of how P.T. Barnum rose from obscurity to create a circus and become a significant figure in the circus’ journey to popularity.

At first I found the pop soundtrack an odd contrast to the 19th Century setting. As I wasn’t expecting that as I hadn’t really heard the music before seeing the film, this at first was a strange collision that I wasn’t sure about (although it did remind me of We Will Rock You invading the medieval setting in A Knight’s Tale with spectacular effect). I got into it as the film went on and probably need to see it again to appreciate this aspect of it more. Once I got used to the style of music I found the soundtrack quite catchy. I can imagine some of the songs getting stuck in my head…

The cinematography and choreography was good. There were some great touches and the film really flowed through the way it was filmed. At times the choreography of the dancing was repetitive (mostly in the group songs) and they could have done more with it in some scenes to make it more dynamic and less repetitive. However I greatly enjoyed the way the duets were put together choreographically, particularly Jackman and Efron in “The Other Side” and “Rewrite the Stars” with Efron and Zendaya (although the latter was perhaps a little…cheesy…).

The film focused on Barnum’s story and although I liked seeing his development and relationship with his family, I felt that some of the other characters were not explored as much as they could have been. One of the messages of the story is that being a “freak” does not mean that you should be excluded by society and hide in the shadows. So it seems a little contradictory for the film itself to highlight Barnum’s story and leave the others in the shadows. Perhaps some of this is because Hugh Jackman steals the show a bit. Efron and Zendaya’s characters have a good storyline but none of the other “freaks” from the circus have a story. They have a group story and each have personalities, but we never know anything more about them. Although Zendaya’s character had a subplot, we still didn’t actually really know much about the trapeze artist. Obviously with so many characters they can’t all have equal screen time, but it would have been nice for one or two of the other circus characters to have been given a story of their own.

Overall I enjoyed the film, and although it was great, in some ways they could have done a lot more with the story and characters they had to work with.