One of the best books of 2017, and all time

I read it like it was a library book due yesterday.

A year ago.

It has taken me that long to assimilate and absorb the impact of all the glorious stories. I had greatly anticipated this novel, from my discovery 7 years ago of this 20 year series. A chance view of a cover lured me to Fool’s Assassin, the first of this trilogy. Then I read ALL of her previous novels. I still shudder when I think about what I might have missed. At the end of this novel, I completely reread the entire series, 16 books. For the third time? If there was ever a time to immerse yourself in fantasy this is it and these are tremendous. I have only read Tolkien more. Patrick Rothfuss is perhaps the only other author/series I will continue to reread (and also can’t wait for the next installment). I have to say that slower reading revealed many hidden gems, within the writing and the story.

And wait for it. I was in a library bookstore and NINE (9) of her books came in as paperbacks, in pristine condition. I purchased them all, for copies to share. The Friends of the Rochester Public Library is one of the best bookstores around, I urge you to peruse the shop today! (And every week as the stock is always changing!)

Title: Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb

Publisher: Del Ray May 2017 962 pp

Genre: fantasy, science fiction, coming of age, action and adventure, literature and fiction

5+ stars highly recommended

Author:

Robin Hobbs is the second pen name of American author Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogdon (b 1952). She also writes under Megan Lindholm. Her books number over 25 with numerous short stories. If you are still waiting for the next installment of Game ofThrones, pick up Hobbs.

This is another wonderful book in the Realm of the Elderlings, begun in 1995 with the first of the Farseer Trilogy Assassin’s Apprentice, which led directly into the Fitz and the Fool Trilogy. This book in particular combines many of her other series; there are something of the order of 15 books that are referenced here. Don’t miss any of them (Farseer chronicles, Tawny man, Rain wild chronicles, Liveship traders). I’ve told you to start reading this author! I love books that build on previous stories, develop in different directions, shed new light on previous events and reverse roles. These are brilliant, clever, utterly absorbing stories.

Her writing is absolutely brilliant, extraordinary in her detailed storytelling. World building is taken to new heights. Every story is “unputdownable” you cant wait to finish the book, and life is out on hold while you are mesmerized in another magical realm. Her characters resonate in real life. Be warned, while it’s been an amazing journey, the beautiful ending is bittersweet.

Story:

To fully appreciate this book you MUST read the previous 8 featuring Fitz and the Fool in the Farseer world. But really there are 16 in the Realm of the Elderlings that altogether complete the intricate, complex story. That includes the Liveship Traders and the Rainwild Chronicles. Why not read them in order?!

Assassin’s Fate seamlessly picks up right after Fools Quest (yes, my last review complained of the abrupt ending). Fitz and the Fool are on their way to Clerres to rescue their daughter Bee, although they believe they are avenging her death. Her struggle is exceedingly painful ala graphic GRRMartin. Narration is shared between Fitz and Bee, with all my favourite characters present including nighteyes, the Fool, Paragon, Icefyre. Fitz is again introspective, but there is such depth to his struggle. It makes the ending even harder. Bee, like the Fool, is very much of the future, and both are game changers. Yes, there are endings, sorrow we neither expect nor want. But they always provide hope on a narrow horizon or in a darkened world. Changes are opportunities, not necessarily easily obtained but always worth striving for. There are many life lessons. I’m hopeful the story/world continues with Bee.

NB there have been some exceptional interviews with Hobbs this last year, which shed light on her writing and these books. Look for them. I’m ever hopeful that movies could be made, now that we have Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones.

Read on : this is perfect for summer reads, for any tween, teenager interested in fantasy. Adults will truly enjoy this magic. Typical read time is 19hours!

For fans of Patrick Rothfuss, GRR Martin, Terry Goodkind, Sarah Maas, Robert Jordan

Quotes

So I fled, knowing I could not escape but too frightened to let them reclaim me.

Death is better than the sort of captivity they plan for you.

It’s only a dream scarcely applies to what a dragon can do to one’s sleeping mind.

Sixty was not thirty, regardless of how I might appear.

Received as an ARC from Netgalley. Purchased my own copy to complete my set.

Travel Books

img_3979February is book lovers month

Travel always brings extra reading with plane time, airport delays, bookshop perusal and friends recommendations.

As quick ebook reads I started the Iris and Roy Johansen’s Kendra Michaels series. Kendra had her sight restored through stem cell technology as a young woman and now uses all her senses to help the FBI solve difficult murder cases. Today I discovered there is a new one in the series! The suspense kept me occupied for a day of flight delays. I love the ease of downloading Library ebooks. At any one time I have 5-7books waiting to be read, as well as a long hold list or current and popular titles.

An absolutely fantastic charming read was recommended by an RPL librarian. The Unexpected Inheritance Of Inspector Chopra, written by Vaseem Khan is the Alexander McCall Smith of India. It is also the first of three novels published (so far) and I have to find the other two. You are in for the funny, poignant, insightful tale of Chopra retiring from the police force but determined to solve one last case. I can’t wait to find out what happens with the baby elephant, a most unusual retirement gift.

Three Queens in Erin by Douglas Nicholas. RPL has this fantasy series, where few do; it it is one of the best! Read on if you like Patrick Rothfuss, Dave Duncan or GRRMartin. I was delighted to find the latest and last installment by this award winning poet. Magic exists but all the stories are based on actual British history. There are several plot lines that develop through the series, coming of age of Hob (to Robert the Englishman), good vs evil with magical shape shifting or witchcraft, clan allegiance and reestablishing matriarch lineage in medieval times. They must be read in order for full appreciation of the trials of Queen Maeve and the historical perspective. I loved every novel and the satisfactory sense of completion at the end of Three Queens.

Flavia is back!! I love all the Flavia deLuce books in Alan Bradley’s charming YA series. The Grave is a Fine and Private Place is the 10th installment in the award winning author’s preteen English sleuth. She has had so many maturing changes, but is back in Buckshaw in familiar territory: there’s another body, her trusted friends surround her and the celebrated wit and observations are to the fore. It’s not the best book in the series, I’d read them in order to appreciate this more. But it is a delightful read nonetheless.

Austenesque?

Title: The Ill-Kept Oath by CC AunePublisher: Wise Ink Creative Publishers (Sept 2016) 416pp

Genre: mystery, paranormal, YA, historical fantasy, Victorian, fiction, 

3.5 stars

Author: From Amazon’s author page: ” Aune’s ramblings have led her through 49 states—nine of which she has called home—plus a fair number of countries. She has been a journalist and a contributor for the companion book to PBS’s 2000 series In Search of Our Ancestors. Currently, she directs the blog One Year of Letters, which explores the internal landscape of writers. The Ill-Kept Oath is her debut novel. This is the first of a planned series, with the second Talisman Keepers installment in rewrite.”

Story line: I received an advance copy but after a few chapters found it didn’t meet my expectations. It was less paranormal/ fantasy and more scattered romance. I put it aside for more compelling reads, until rainy, snowy weather held me housebound. Then, grasping the central characters, and melodramatic teen writing, it was a quick read. The two heroines Josephine and Prudence, write to each other from their respective abodes, Stanistead House, a country estate, and London during the Marriage Mart Season. Both are interested in obtaining husbands, both have received an inheritance of Talismans, and both find themselves involved in intrigue. Prudence Fairweather and her brother Edward were taken in by Lord Middlemere, who has a daughter of similar age Josephine Weston. All three were raised in ignorance of their blood legacy, as per the Oath. Prudence,18, has limited options because she is poor, but she is pursued by Underwood (dull but wealthy) while she is interested in the unreliable William MacNeal. There is of course an evil socialite. Lady Josephine, 16, is interested in Robert Quimby, a young military man who is socially beneath her. Meanwhile, there are trolls rampaging in the countryside and magic escaping in candlelit ballrooms.

There is some interesting historical detail (the costume and waltzes) with dark magic being slowly revealed. Good character development bodes well for the continuation of this series. I would have preferred to read the series together as I felt much was unexplained in volume one, lose ends abound, and we still don’t know what kind of magic to expect. The story feels incomplete. Also, who is the target audience?

Quotes:

Normally, Prudence would never challenge authority, but her guardian, having conjured this evocative subject, might as well have touched a spark to gunpowder. Curiosity gave way to burgeoning wonder.

“They possessed a rare set of talents called the Inheritance.”

She’d spent six weeks in London undergoing this transformation. Gone was the country girl who climbed trees and rode bareback; gone forever her girlhood spent in the idyllic hills of the west. Until now, she had directed no thought toward her future. Love might have found her in Wiltshire…

“Shall we rely on social calls to open the right doors? My heart may not be so sanguine with the purposes of a Season, but I have accepted it as a necessary rite of my passage. I’ve been in London already one quarter of a year but not one event have I attended.”

She was doomed to be perceived as an immature child, and the keepsakes seemed to make matters worse. Edward’s point about her reputation had been perfectly valid, however cruelly stated, but the dangers were worse than he could possibly imagine.

Middlemere squeezed the bridge of his nose. Two decades ago, he had postulated that Talismans could, even without ritual, awaken a Keeper’s instincts.

With a crescendo of chords, Middlemere ended the concerto. Everyone applauded, whether they’d been listening or not.

“No one expected the Talismans to exert a force of their own. We called ourselves Talisman Keepers, but our power relied on more than mere objects. Most Keepers formed partnerships that made them still stronger. In the early days, they offered their services in exchange for titles and land and became much coveted by the nobility.

They would descend on our Family and examine everyone for the Trait, identifying you and perhaps Edward before drawing Mr. MacNeal into the net. What would happen to Us then is uncertain, but the Exorcist’s description still burns in my head: a magical Voiding of one’s Memory with the potential to produce unexpected Results.

“Not at all. Think of the quarrels he and I shall have. I’m far too opinionated to be a good marchioness.”

She advanced to the sideboard and poured them all a strong drink, which Prudence and MacNeal accepted with a good deal more alacrity than was strictly necessary.

Do you have any idea what the average man thinks about?” Prudence shuddered and turned bright red.

“I have learned enough to make me proud of my heritage, but if the price of happiness is never to learn another thing about the Inheritance, then gladly will I pay.” 

Read on:

If you like Gail Carriger, Alan Bradley, Seth Graham Smith Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Received as an ARC ebook from Netgalley. 

Enchanting Summer Read

Take advantage of extra daylight hours to read longer
Title: Uprooted by Naomi Novik 4.5 stars****

Publisher: Del Rey. 449 pp

Genre: YA, Science fantasy, fantasy

  Author:
Naomi Novik is an award winning author of the acclaimed series His Majesty’s Dragons (think Napoleonic wars with an air force of dragons). She has an English Literature degree from Brown University as well as a Computer Science degree from Columbia. I find her to be a master storyteller, creating original tales with beautiful, atmospheric, evocative writing. I have read all her books, awaiting them eagerly. (I’m still waiting for Peter Jackson to film Temeraire!) I loved that Rachel Hartman (Shadow Scale) rated it 5 stars in her ARC.

Story Line:

The heroine/ narrator is Agniezska, a peasant girl from the small Eastern European village of Dvernik. This town is at the edge of the Woods, where evil lurks, and is only kept at bay by a Wizard. Her best friend was always the expected sacrifice: every ten years he selects a girl of 17 who will stay with him for 10 years. But this time, it is obvious to the Dragon (as the Wiz is known, also Sarkan) that Agnes (as I thought her, Nieshka is also used) has magic and must be trained. Only it’s magic he doesn’t understand. I loved that her magic was so different from his, and not learned in a book. That while she is young (he’s a youthful 150), she is capable and adaptable. Agniezska struggles to learn and can’t find her answers in his masculine magic. But she understands friendship and loyalty and right/good and finds answers within herself. 

She may become the most powerful witch in history. And that promise requires another book!

This is an intricate, layered story of friendship, politics, romance and magic. It is much more like the original Grimm’s fairy tales and less like the sanitized Disney versions. It has a strong female lead and original storyline suitable for older teens. I enjoyed the story where the right thing was done, for the right reasons. It also has quite a strong environmental message. I thought it ironic that Agnes’s father was a woodcutter especially as we untangle the Woods’ story. She saves the people by saving the Wood, which provides life/fruit/biodiversity. Novik based some of the story on Polish fairytale of the witch Baba Yaga, itself worth a read.

While this is a stand alone novel, complete in itself, the ending felt rushed and left me hopeful that she would revisit these characters. The epilogue isn’t enough. The world building and character development begs another tale. 

This fascinating story is part fantasy, part fairytale and all magic.

Uprooted has been already film optioned by Warner Bros.

Read On:

Appropriate for older teens, with complex plot, characters and evil.

For YA tales: Robin McKinley, Kristin Cashore, Diana Wynne Jones,

For adult fairytale twists: Gregory Maguire, Neil Gaiman

For Wood tales: Mythago Wood series by Robert Holdstock

Quotes:

Opening line: Our dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes…

No one went into the Wood and came out again, at least not whole and themselves.

Don’t waste my time you outrageous idiot.

You’re proving to be a remarkable paragon of incompetence.

He looked grander than the King’s ballroom, and perfectly improbable.

Read as an ARC from Netgalley

The Rochester Library has both hardcover and Ebook copies.
 

Soaring fantasy

Title: Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman
Publisher: Random House March 2015
587pp with glossary and list of characters, maps
Genre: YA, Science fantasy, science fiction, fantasy, sequel
5 Stars *****
Author: Rachel Hartman won several awards for her debut novel Seraphina, including the William C Morris YA Debut Award, and Cybils Award for YA Fantasy. Seraphina quickly became a best seller, indie favourite and had many starred reviews. Her world building is fantastic, her plots clever, her story intricate and the characters unique and fascinating. Her love of music shines.
Story line: this is the sequel to Seraphina, and it must be read first. Seraphina, half dragon half human, searches for other of her ilk who can help end the war in the kingdom of Goredd. After reading the concise lovely prologue which introduced the previous story, I reread it anyway, remembering her magical prose and vivid descriptions. How dragons can seem real / normal is fabulous. Nothing about this story disappointed me. I wasn’t expecting where it went, rereading and savoring just amplified my enjoyment. Once to inhale, once to savor 🙂
While Seraphina was about finding herself, Shadow Scale is about the journey, finding her place in the world, understanding herself and comprehending the choices we all make. Seraphina interacts with many people, the larger complex cast is colourful and complicates the story.
I loved the foreshadowing in both the first book and the history prologue. I liked that this wasn’t a conventional romance, but that was also not unexpected given the ending of the first book. Their relationships are more private/subtle and much appreciated. Life isn’t full of answers, perhaps we don’t even have the right questions. We don’t always have to live by the rules of others.
A wfew months have lapsed between books, although we have been granted an historical overview (read prologue carefully). I also like that this is a sequel and isn’t spawning a dozen more to anticipate. The author is returning to this fantastically created world with another pair of books, and I hope it is with some of the other notable characters. Although any story with an older Seraphina (and her Uncle) would be most welcome.
There are excellent themes on how relationships work; the greater good, motivation and choices; exploration of cultures and peoples; how maturing affects our perceptions. I enjoyed her exploration of a saint based religion, and how secret books create ignorant society.
I loved the ending. This is a brilliant captivating tale: Well told with rich settings and heartbreaking characters. I won’t forget them.
Read on:
Kirsten Cashore Graceling, Bitterblue etc
Anne McCaffrey Dragonsong
Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series, but also new Uprooted.
And look for her next books in Goredd.

Opening sentence
:
I returned to myself.
I rubbed by eyes, forgetting that the left was bruised and the pain snapped the world into focus.
Quotes:
Lars distracted him with bagpipes.
I wasn’t thirsty, but any trace of kindness in my dragon uncle was a thing to encourage.
Lars is designing new war machines.
Mud, on the other hand, is infinite.
Herself seemed a terrible place to be; I still wished I could have saved her from it.
All the trials of a day may be endured if you know there’s such a sky at the end of it.
I saw that my assumptions had blinded me…
The thing itself plus nothing equals everything.
Never beyond repair good heart.
This was going to take all my courage, and I needed a little more music to get there.

I confess I started my Netgalley copy, reverted to hardback Seraphina, discovered I had purchased an Ebook as I couldn’t wait for this (before I was approved by Netgalley), and didn’t know if I would be at a bookstore. AND actually read it as a hardback personal copy when it was placed on the shelf in Barnes and Noble a day before publication. So, I didn’t highlight many quotes, as I never mark first editions. Random pages always found a memorable quotable sentence.

Read as an ARC from NetGalley

World Book Day!

Happy World Book Day!
In the UK, as the rest of the world celebrates on April 23.
(It is the first Thursday in March in Scotland, England and Ireland, and not the 23rd April as that is that national saint day of England, St George. April 23 is the death date of many important authors including Shakespeare and Cervantes.)

IMG_1884

Title: Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton
Publisher Delacorte Press, Random Huse
450 pp
Genre: YA, fantasy, science fiction, modern medieval, series
3.5 to 4(-) Stars ****
Author:
Dayton is the author of Sovereign’s Hold and Resurrection (Amazon best sellers). It was in my TBR pile, requested from Netgalley as it looked fascinating (great cover), is a genre I like (YA, strong female fantasy, while I am waiting for more Cashore or Hartman) and features Scotland! Then I saw the NYTimes advert and advanced it.
Story line:
Teen (distant) cousins Quin Kincaid and Shinobu MacBain, with friend (love interest) John Hart, are undergoing Seeker training in remote Scotland to follow their ancestors in the battle against evil, tales of glory and honor, death to tyranny and the search for truth. (Just a tad melodramatic, perhaps not for older/ teen audience). John fails his test, but Quin and Shinobu are severely traumatized and disillusioned by their first mission. They recognized their fathers as ruthless, rigid Seekers but aren’t prepared for life as an assassin. It will be interesting to see if their world is a better place with that job.
Chapters focus on different characters, with an overall narrator, which gives this story many nuanced layers. There is substantial character growth within this novel. But also bad choices (drugs, guilt). There are sword play/ training (proper Claymores) and prophecy and television. The story, while satisfactory, is incomplete, foreshadowing the next book. I look forword to Maud’s increasing role, the young Dread who is something of a guardian to the Seekers.
The action of this book is focused primarily on remote Scotland, Hong Kong, and London, via time travel, portals using ancient tool the athame (a stone dagger that takes the individual to specific coordinates). To complicate things John wants the athame that was stolen and dishonored his family; he seeks revenge.
This has relevant themes for YA: choices, life in many guises (love, joy, family, deception, tragedy, work), sense of discovery, good role models, confidence, and growing up with all its associated confusion, hormones, polarity. There are also elements of survivalism. I would call this well written (for teens), but it is NOT fast paced fantasy – more of there is a journey that will have adventures and heartbreak, discovery, greed, betrayal, and love, with knowns and unknowns. The slower pace gives some credence to the enormity and complexity of life. There is so much going on, so much unanswered throughout the book. Pay attention to detail. I expect revelations in future books, but even more questions; wait if you need instant gratification. (This is where there might be some valid comparison with GoT. The sequel, Traveler, is expected out Spring 2016.) There are elements of steam punk, fantasy, science fiction, romance and and historical mystery. There are interesting subplots and well developed secondary characters. For research Dayton traveled to ruins and castles in Scotland for a very recognizable feel, and Hong Kong, which contrasts to a futuristic feel.
I am glad I missed the hype on this novel, compared to the Hunger Games and Divergent series. If I had read some of the reviews I might not have started this book, and wonder if we read the same one! (I was surprised my library doesn’t have this author.)
Read on:
Kristin Cashore series, Rachel Hartman Seraphina (soon to be released Shadow Scale!), Samantha Shannon, Bone Season and The Mime Order (older YA)
Laini Taylor Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Quotes:
A “live” fight was no easy task. But if she did well, she was minutes away from her father’s approval, from joining her ancestors in the noble duties of a Seeker.
There was only the fight; consequences didn’t exist.
I want you to be the John I knew before. The one who wanted to do honorable things. To help people.
He was about to tell her things she didn’t want to hear.
We believe the athame ends up with whom it belongs. Do we not?
Great minds are not what’s wanted, only good hearts. Good hearts choose wisely.
You’ve sunk as far low as you can go when a healer wants you gone
.

Read as an ARC from NetGalley

Flavia Strikes Again!

Alan Bradley As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust
Publisher: Random House /Bartam Dell (January 6, 2015)
418 pp
4 stars
Genre: YA series, science fantasy, Sherlock Holmes fans
Sequel to The Dead in their Vaulted Arches
Read in one sitting, as all previous books were, often late into the night.

Author:
Alan Bradley was born in Toronto, Canada and grew up in the lakeside town of Cobourg, Ont. After a career in television broadcasting, he retired from the University of Saskatchewan to write full-time. He publications include children’s stories, lifestyle and arts columns in Canadian newspapers and screenplays. His adult stories have been broadcast on CBC radio and published in various literary journals. He was the recipient of the first Saskatchewan Writers Guild Award for Children’s Literature.

The first in the series, “The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie” won the 2007 Debut Dagger Award of the Crime Writers Association in the UK; the 2009 Agatha Award for Best First Novel; the 2010 Dilys, awarded by the International Mystery Booksellers Association; the Spotted Owl Award, given by the Friends of Mystery, and the 2010 Arthur Ellis Award, given by the Crime Writers of Canada for Best First Novel. It was also nominated for an Anthony Award, a Barry Award, and a Macavity Award. Sweetness made numerous lists and awards including the New York Times, as a Favorite Mystery of 2009, an American Library Association nominee as Best Book For Young Adults; a Barnes and Noble Bestseller. The audiobook version of “The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie” was voted Best AudioBook by iTunes. The books are all NYTimes best sellers. Don’t miss the audio books narrated by Jayne Entwistle- she is absolutely perfect, and recently (11/14) won Outstanding Audiobook Narration for The Dead in their Vaulted Arches.
Academy Award-winning producer/director Sam Mendes, of “Skyfall” and “American Beauty” fame has optioned for Flavia for television movies (2012).

Story line:
This is book 7 in what I hope is a long series of sleuthing for our intrepid youngster Flavia De Luce. Please read these in order as there is a good progression of character, friendships, sleuthing techniques and ‘in jokes’. My favourites are volumes 1,6 and now 7. If you love the Flavia stories you will definitely enjoy this installment although it is not set in England.
Flavia has been banished from her Beloved Buckshaw, transported to the wilds of Canada (Toronto, 1951). Flavia is to study at Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy, her mother’s alma mater, and take part in a secret society NIDE. (Now run by her Aunt Felicity, and which we suspect Flavia will excel in). This is a boarding school with a secret mission, but also a mystery as there is always a body for Flavia to inspect. She has become more than a precocious preteen; while she has her trademark sarcastic wit and refreshing observations, she is growing up, becoming more analytical and thoughtful. She was terribly homesick, but felt the excitement and discovery of new places. She was grieving for her mother (whose body was just returned home), missing Dogger and scones, but successfully dealing with new girls (not her sisters) and making adjustments. She remains a very strong, original female lead and roll model.
I loved the literary quotes. I loved her anticipation and recognition of the science lab, her exposure to new, interesting adult teachers. The mystery was a minor component for me in comparison to her experiences in the new environment. While it is a satisfactory clever conclusion, it was rather sudden, although predictable, there are a number of interesting questions/themes remaining for several more books. I thought the emotional swings and roundabouts were realistic and help ground the character development of Flavia. There is a pitch perfect description of the convent and many academics. I hope and suspect we will see more of them.
I would have liked more information on the school and Harriet when she was a student here. And more on the teachers, especially as Flavia was all too suddenly whisked away. I suspect Bradley knows we are reading this series for Flavia and that we will see more adventures, in time and place as she grows up.
Meanwhile, Buckshaw looms on the horizon.
And I must find Bradley’s memoir The Shoebox Bible.

Read on:
If you like Harriet the Spy or Lemony Snickett’s Violet Baudeleaire.
Or listen to Jayne Entwistle narrate Julie Berry’s Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place.
Also note there is a Flavia short story recently epublished “The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse”

Quotes:
First sentence:
Banished! The wind shrieked as it tore at my face.”

The maggots were nothing new: I had thought of them often while dwelling on the delights of decomposition. Daffy had even read out to me at the breakfast table — “Knowing your proclivities,” she had said, smirking — that wonderful passage from Love’s Labour’s Lost, where one of the characters says, “These summer-flies have blown me full of maggot ostentation.” It had caused Father to put aside his sausages, get up, and leave the room, but had given me a whole new appreciation of Shakespeare.

“And this must be our little Flavia!”
On paper the man was already dead.

Magic doesn’t work when you’re sad.

Desperation is capable of wonderful things.

Received as an ARC ebook through Netgalley, purchased hardback for my collection.
(Just delighted to read this early, and now impatiently waiting for the next installment)

Summer Fantasy!

Robin Hobb Fool’s Asassin
Review by Helen McIver
How did I never read Robin Hobb? Recently I fell down the Farseer rabbit hole and disappeared for several days, because once I understood this was a continuation, I had to read ALL of those books. GRR Martin recommended, and I agree.

I was thumbing through the NetGalley ARCs and was drawn to this cover. Knowing none of the prehistory I was immediately cast into this well written, thought provoking story. I often wondered what a rich and varied past led this intricate man to this point in his life. To discover there was a trilogy was like discovering Terry Pratchett for the first time. I am not sorry I started at the end, with Fitz a grown man as the early tales have a lot of teen angst and messy life choices (sometimes I think girls are just smarter!). I can’t wait to read the next two installments because yes, there are cliff hangers. She clearly loves these characters.

Robin Hobb is the second pen name for Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden (also Megan Lindholm). (If you’re in London in August she will be sharing a stage, in conversation with GRR Martin!) She has been writing tremendous, imaginative, award winning science fiction and fantasy for over twenty years. In addition to the Farseer trilogy, there are the Liveship Traders trilogy and the Rain Wilds chronicles. She has a wonderful imagination and clear, detailed writing which captures your attention. There is action, drama, torment, love, family, dragons, magic, and new worlds to explore. I have warned you that you will lose a few days reading!

Fitz (FitzChivalry) is a royal bastard, former King’s assassin now living a quieter life as Tom Badgerlock, with the love of his life Molly. But Tom/Fitz has the Wit, the dangerous ability to touch minds. His previous world collides with his new life and the adventure begins anew. I was delighted with the addition of his new daughter, watching her character develop and slowly reveal secrets. She is definitely her father’s daughter. There is a rich cast with diverse characters, more so with the history of the earlier trilogy. Concepts of loyalty and honour, steadfast love and friendship bonds, good and evil provide counterpoint. Not every battle is won, but they are bravely fought (or not with wisdom). And you discover what matters in life. The story is well paced, richly detailed, multi-layered and full of developing characters. This promises to be a satisfying and unforgettable serious fantasy series.

If you like Patrick Rothfuss, Naomi Novik, Kristin Cashore, GRR Martin, Terry Goodkind: You will love this series. Her early work is especially suitable for teenagers (YA). There’s still a lot of summer reading left!

Received as a NetGalley ARC

4.5 stars

Not a full fifth star because I like stories in series that are complete in themselves. People often read slower as they get to the end of a book because they don’t want the fantastic story to end. I felt it couldn’t end. And no doubt I have to wait until the end of the trilogy. I had not read Hobb before but she is now on my favourite list.

BookScapes by Helen McIver

bookpile2
Seraphina (2012)
This is a marvelous debut YA science fiction novel by Rachel Hartman which has received numerous awards including:
Winner of the 2013 YALSA Morris Award for Best YA Debut Novel
Finalist for the 2012 Governor General’s Literary Award (Canada)
Short-listed for the Kitschies’ Golden Tentacle Award (UK)
Long-listed for the Carnegie Medal (UK)

If you thought there was nothing new to say about dragons, here is a beautiful intricately crafted new kingdom, Goredd, where humans and dragons have tentatively, coexisted for nearly 4 decades. Dragons attend court in human shape as ambassadors, and are noted for their rational, mathematical minds which also suits universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, tensions increase when a member of the royal family is murdered in suspiciously draconian fashion.
Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted court musician, she is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queens Guard, the perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they uncover a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina must protect her own secret, the reason for her musical gift. For Phina is half dragon and half human and totally unforgettable.

This heroine’s struggle, coming of age, is one readers will remember long after they’ve closed the book. The original world (new dragonlore), fun, fascinating and complex characters also demand the sequel to be written soon! I was captivated by the story, entranced by the beautiful, evocative writing. It was a pleasure to reread sections – a delight to return to highlighted passages (thank you kindle for nondestructive highlighting!)

There is a wonderul glossary of terms and a cast of characters (examples:)
Binou – breton bagpipes
Aurochs – extinct European cattle wild
Quine – 4 sheets of parchment (medieval paper)
Saarantrai – Dragons in human form
The main character is Seraphina Dombagh, often called Phina
Claude is her father
Orma is mentor and uncle and dragon
Prince Lucian Kiggs – is Princess Laurel’s bastard, and fiance to Princess Glisselda
Kiggs is also Captain of the Queen’s Guards
Viridius is the court composer

Quotes:
Most of the quotes are from the first half of the book, the pages flew and I was so absorbed in the story I didn’t interrupt it with anything. Magic quickly overtakes the reader.
Dragons have no souls and must wear a bell in human form unless they are scholars. They have silver blood, no beards, a peculiar smell not normally detected by humans. They have sulphurous breath.

The Music…was the answer to a question I had never asked, the way to fill the dread emptiness into which I had been born……My love of music eventually lured me from the safety of my father’s house, propelling me into the city and the royal court…I did not understand that I carried loneliness before me on a plate, and that music would be the light, illuminating me from behind.

Her Uncle Orma had…the scholar’s exemption from the bell, so few people ever realised he was a dragon. He had his quirks certainly: he never laughed; he had little comprehension of fashion, manners, or art; he had a taste for difficult mathematics and fabrics that didn’t itch.

It was good to see a dragon’s teeth. A dragon with his mouth closed was far more likely to be working up a flame. That seemed completely obvious…..Under the white winter sky the dragons looked rusty, a disappointing color for so fabled a species, but I soon realised their shades were subtle. The right slant of sunlight brought out an irridescent sheen in their scales; they shimmered with rich underhues, from purple to gold.

The borderlands of madness used to have much sterner signage around them than they do now.

We were friends; he just didn’t know it yet. ….He had a nose like a compass needle; it pointed with purpose.

Viridius planned to rehearse us within an inch of our lives.

I’d had more than my share of beautiful today. Tomorrow I’d give some back, restore and replenish the world.
4.5 stars
Read as an ebook from Rochester Public Library

Read Across America Week/Children’s Author List

In honour of Dr. Seuss’ birthday on March 2nd, the National Education Association (NEA) has set aside this week to honor the birthday of one of the world’s most beloved children’s author.  The NEA’s Read Across America began in 1998 and is an annual reading motivation and awareness program celebrated to encourage reading and literacy and create lifelong readers.

This year NEA is teaming up with Renaissance Dental to deliver an important message: 2 x 2 + 20 = good oral health and literacy habits. “We’re asking children and their parents to brush for two minutes, two times per day plus read for 20 minutes each day,” said Rob Mulligan, president and CEO at Renaissance Dental. “That’s a daily total of 24 minutes focused on developing good oral health and reading skills.” American students miss over 51 million hours of school every year due to oral health problems. Students miss critical instruction time—especially in early grades where reading skills are a critical focus. This partnership will bring books and toothbrushes to kids in need on the eve of National Children’s Dental Health Month (February).

There are so many wonderful Dr. Seuss books that inspire and encourage reading, and there is nothing like reading with a child. Joy can be found not only by sharing the story, but also by sharing their reactions and discussing their thoughts.

Don’t forget to read to your adult loved ones as well. That special poem, silly rhyme, moving passage, joke that you can’t wait to share, or just the book you are reading now.

“You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read with a child.”

bookpile2

Here is a listing of some of my favourite children’s and young adult authors (that I am still reading!)

A. Chris van Allsburg (Polar Express), G.A. Aiken (What a Dragon Should Know), Louisa May Alcott (Little Women)

B. JM Barrie (Peter Pan), Frank Baum, Alan Bradley (Flavia deLuce), Thornton Burgess, Gillian Bradshaw (Arthur series)

C. Lewis Carroll (Alice), Chaucer

D. Kate DiCamillo, Roald Dahl, Daniel Defoe (Robinson Crusoe), Jeanne DuPrau (Embers)

E. Julie Andrews Edwards, Michael Ende (NeverEnding story)

F. Ian Fleming (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang), Anne Frank, Fynn (Mister God, this is Anna)

G. Neil Gaiman, Kenneth Graham, Jean Craighouse George

H. Mark Haddon (Curious Incident Dog in the Night), Rachel Hartman (Seraphina), George Haley

I. Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House on the Prairie), Washington Irving (Rip van Winkle)

J. William Joyce (Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore), Brian Jacques, W.E. Johns (Biggles)

K. Rudyard Kipling, Carolyn Keene (Nancy Drew)

L. Andrew Lang (Blue Fairy Book), Madeleine L’Engle, Munro Leaf (Story of Ferdinand), Edward Lear (Owl and Pussycat), C.S. Lewis (Narnia)

M. Walter Moers, Gregory Maguire, Andrew Motion (Silver), Brandon Mull

N. Edith Nesbit (Railway children), John Newbery, Mary Norton (Borrowers)

O. Scott O’Dell

P. Terry Pratchett (I shall wear Midnight), Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials), Gary Paulson

Q.

R. JK Rowling (Harry Potter), Arthur Ransom, Marjorie Rawlings, Rick Riordan (Perry Jackson)

S. Robert Louis Stevenson (Kidnapped), Maurice Sendak, Lane Smith, (It’s a Book), Louis Sachar, Dr Suess, Lemony Snicket, Brian Selznick (Hugo)

T. J.R.R. Tolkein, Nigel Tranter, Mark Twain, Tasha Tudor

U. Anne Ursu (Shadow Thieves), Florence Upton (golliwoggs)

V. Chris Van Allsburg (Jumanji)

W. T. H. White (Sword in the Stone), E. B. White (Charlotte’s Web), H.G. Wells

X.

Y. Laurence Yep (Golden Mountain Chronicles), Jane Yolen (Owl Moon, Wizard’s Hall)

Z. Paul Zindel (Pigman), Pamela Zagarenski (illustrator)