Lazy Saturday Review: The Ice Dragon by George R.R. Martin #MiniReview

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I started doing ‘lazy Saturday reviews’ as a way of getting reviews done in just 30 mins, and they proved to be quite popular. They are quick and snappy, and concentrate less on the plot (or content) and writing and more on my overall feelings about said book. They generally end up being a bit of a rant. My fave!

icedragonTitle: The Ice Dragon
Author: George RR Martin
Series: N/A
Format: Hardback, 128 pages
Publication Details: December 4th 2014 by Harper Voyager
Genre(s): Children’s; Fantasy
Disclosure? Nope, I bought it!

Goodreads 

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From ancient times the ice dragon was a creature of legend and fear, for no man had ever tamed one. When it flew overhead, it left in its wake desolate cold and frozen land. But Adara was not afraid. For Adara was a winter child, born during the worst freeze that anyone, even the Old Ones, could remember.

Adara could not remember the first time she had seen the ice dragon. It seemed that it had always been in her life, glimpsed from afar as she played in the frigid snow long after the other children had fled the cold. In her fourth year she touched it, and in her fifth year she rode upon its broad, chilled back for the first time. Then, in her seventh year, on a calm summer day, fiery dragons from the North swooped down upon the peaceful farm that was Adara’s home. And only a winter child — and the ice dragon who loved her — could save her world from utter destruction. 

Review

This is a beautifully illustrated book (Luis Royo) from the Game of Thrones author. It’s a charming, short tale suitable for children and adults alike. I enjoyed it a lot.

Protagonist Adara was both adorable and strong and I loved that she was a sort of Winter princess, and the only one who can help defeat the dragons destroying the land. Full of rich mythology and folklore, this a much more accessible George RR Martin for those like me who are intimidated about starting the GoT books.

The illustrations are what really make this book special, and I think it would make a lovely gift. Especially for Christmas, with its celebration of Winter. Worth a read for sure.

unicorn rating 4

 

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Lazy Saturday Review: The Winter Place by Alexander Yates #BookReview

I started doing ‘lazy Saturday reviews’ as a way of getting reviews done in just 30 mins, and they proved to be quite popular. They are quick and snappy, and concentrate less on the plot and writing and more on my general feelings about said book. They generally end up being a bit of a rant. My fave!

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Title: The Winter Place
Author: Alexander Yates
Series: N/A
Format: Digital, 448 pages
Publication Details: October 22nd 2015 by Simon & Schuster Children’s UK
Genre(s): Childrens/YA
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads // Purchase
When a mysterious stranger and his brown bear show up on the same day that Axel and Tess’s father dies in an accident, Axel fears he might be going crazy, especially as only he can see them. However, the strange duo are quickly forgotten when Axel and Tess are shipped off to Finland to stay with grandparents that they’ve never met. But when they arrive in Finland, Axel is stunned when the stranger and his bear reappear. More incredibly, the stranger tells him that his parents are lost and need help.

Desperate to see his father again, and actually meet his mother, Axel follows the man and his bear, disappearing deep into the frozen wilds of northern Finland. When Tess realises that her brother has vanished she’s distraught. And so begins the frantic search across snow and ice into the dark forest. But as the hours creep by and with no sign of Axel, Tess begins to wonder if her brother has ventured onto a path that she cannot follow.

Delving into the timeless, fantastical world of Nordic mysticism, set against the harsh beauty of a frozen landscape, The Winter Place is an imaginative, beautiful story of loss, love and hope, a story of family, and of a brother and sister who find each other again.

Review

I thought I’d be describing this book as magical, beautiful, emotional, but instead I find myself thinking bizarre, odd, and quirky. That’s not to say that those things are bad, but I was certainly thrown by it.

It is quite a cute story about Axel, who has muscular dystrophy (this is only touched upon and doesn’t define him as a character-which I loved btw) and his older sister Tess. The story is steeped in Scandinavian mythology and based around the Hiisi folklore, something I knew nothing of but enjoyed finding out about.

As I was reading this story, I really enjoyed it, but I felt like I was always waiting for more to happen. I loved the relationship between the two siblings, and seeing how they kept hope and joy alive in the most horrible of circumstances. I loved the mystery of the bear, and the wheelchair that follows Axel around, and not knowing for a long time whether it was supposed to be real or all in his imagination.

Overall, this wasn’t the magical, winter tale I was expecting, but it was a really interesting delve into nordic mysticism, and I’m sure that plucky Axel will stay with me for a long time.

unicorn rating 3

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

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Title: The Darkest Part of the Forest
Author: Holly Black
Series: N/A
Edition: Digital ARC, 336 pages
Publication Details: January 13th 2015 by Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre(s): YA; Fantasy
Disclosure? Yep! I received a copy from the author/publisher in exchange for an HONEST review.

Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?

Review

YES! This is what I’ve been waiting for by Holly Black.

Since absolutely loving The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, I knew I needed to read more by her. I had planned on reading her back catalogue but you know how it is…so little time. Therefore, I was pretty thrilled when I got approved for an advanced copy of this one. And rightly so!

The Darkest Part of the Forest is a fairy book with bite. It reads like a deliciously dark classic fairy tale, but it’s thoroughly modern too.

In the small town of Fairfold, humans go about their days like any average community, but there’s just one difference, faeries also exist. On the whole, faeries have come to be accepted and their magic is seen as harmless. However, many people in Fairfold continue to abide by certain rules and superstitions in order to make them immune to their magic, making you raise an eyebrow as to whether they are as harmless as everyone thinks they are.

The town has an interesting history to say the least. And at the centre of it all, is the horned boy who sleeps in the glass coffin in the middle of the forest. He’s been there for as long as anyone remembers and he never wakes up, or ages.

Protagonists Hazel and Ben have fawned over the horned boy since they were little, naming him their Prince, they both dream of kissing him and they long for him to wake up.

But then he does…. and Hazel and Ben’s lives soon start to unravel. Can they protect themselves and save their Prince, or will their secrets come between them and destroy everything ?

To show your regard, you give each other other lovely bouquets of lies.”

I’m finding it so hard to review this book, which is always a sign that I loved it! There are just so many things I liked about it, it’s hard to put into words.

For starters, I found the writing style beautiful. It’s one of those books where I just wanted to highlight passage after passage. It was honest and heartbreaking, and magical all at once.

Hazel never cried. She was forged from iron, she never broke. No one was tougher than his sister. The worst part was how quietly she wept, as if she’d taught herself how, as if she was so used to doing it that it had just become the way she cried.”

Hazel and Ben really stand out as great protagonists for me. I loved how close they were but that they had so many secrets from each other which twisted and tainted their lives. I loved that they were both in love with the horned boy, and that there was never any hoohaah about Ben being a young gay character – which is exactly how it should be – but you still rarely get gay characters in stories without their sexuality being a big issue, or the driving force of the plot.

I was blown away by how Holly Black built this world of fae but made it so modern. It felt like such a perfect juxtaposition, something I haven’t seen pulled off so well before. For example, she uses age-old folklore such as the residents of Fairfold filling their pockets with iron and oats to protect them from faery magic and in the same breath, the horned boy attracts tourists wanting to take selfies with him.

I loved that Hazel was a Knight. I loved that the kids of Fairfold seemed so normal despite living amongst faeries. I mean, they get wasted  and dance around (and on top) of the the horned boy’s coffin… so much to love.

I can’t even get started on the romances. Seriously. I’ll just stop now.

The only reason I’ve given it 4 unicorns instead of 5 is because it took me quite a few chapters to get into it. But that’s the only tiny grumble I have.

unicorn rating 4Available now in hardback!

Once Upon a Time: Join the Quest!

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Yesterday I came across a new challenge on the lovely Lynn’s blog, and while I have done pretty rubbish in the challenges I set myself at the start of the year, I’m signing up.

But it’s OK, because Once Upon a Time uses the term ‘challenge’ pretty loosely and you can sign up just for ‘The Journey’….

Once Upon a Time is brought to us by Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings, and is in its 8th year. It’s ‘a reading and viewing event that encompasses four broad categories: Fairy Tale, Folklore, Fantasy and Mythology, including the seemingly countless sub-genres and blending of genres that fall within this spectrum.’ It runs from March 21st to June 21st and you can sign up for minimal participation (1 book) in ‘The Journey’ or five other quests. Check out the original post on Stainless Steel Droppings for more info or to sign up.

I’m going for Quest the Third because I’ve been wanting to reread some Shakespeare for some time, and this is the perfect encouragement.

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Fulfill the requirements for The Journey or Quest the First or Quest the Second AND top it off with a June reading of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream OR a viewing of one of the many theatrical versions of the play.

So I’ll be doing The Journey (1 book min.) – even though I have quite a few books that would fall into these categories on my TBR list – because I just don’t want to commit to more given my bad start to the year where other challenges are concerned, and reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream in June. Fun!

Be one of us…

Friday Feature: 5 Reasons Why Vampire Show Moonlight Was Ahead of its Time.

Before there was Twilight, True Blood and The Vampire Diaries, CBS delivered a short-lived Paranormal Romance series called Moonlight. Anyone remember it? Nah, thought not.

I don’t know what the reception of the show was like in the US but over here in the UK Moonlight was a bit of a non-starter. I’m pretty sure we just got it as a bit of an afterthought to fill a slot on one of the lesser-known Sky channels. I don’t even remember what it was on, or how I discovered it. But I loved it. Sorry, LOVE it.

Moonlight follows private investigator Mick St. John (Alex O’Loughlin), who was turned into a vampire by his bride Coraline (Shannyn Sossamon) on the couple’s wedding night fifty-five years earlier. In the present day, he struggles with his attraction to a mortal woman, Beth Turner (Sophia Myles), his friendship with Josef Kostan (Jason Dohring), and his dealings with other vampires in Los Angeles.

A few weekends ago I had a proper Moonlight binge and watched the whole series. Every time I get to the last episode it makes me sad…it was totally cut off in its prime, managing only 16 episodes before it was cancelled. Which led me to wonder why it never took off…..

Obviously, it was just ahead of its time! Here’s why:

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1. Moonlight arrived in 2007 which was just two years after Twilight was published. It was a year before Meyer’s novel was adapted which was really the catalyst in rejuvenating the Vampire genre, and paranormal romance (on screen) on the whole. If Moonlight had been released after the tween world went crazy for hot immortals then who knows what could have happened.

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2. Alex O’Loughlin was relatively unknown when the series began. He’s since gained fame and acclaim for his role in the reboot of Hawaii 5-0. Having a big name in the lead role could have worked wonders. Not that I’d change it, Alex O’Loughlin is awesome. And by awesome, I mean hot.

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3. Original storylines are hard to come by, especially when it comes to Vampire or paranormal shows. Ideas are lifted from both myth and literature, using them and re-using them to create all of those cliches we are so used to these days. So it’s no surprise that some of the themes seen in Moonlight have cropped up again in newer, more popular series. The use of Vampire blood as a euphoric drug for one. In Moonlight, a case leads Mick and Beth to Lola (guest star Holly Valance), a night-club owner and vampire who is killing her own for blood which she harvests into a drug called Black Crystal to sell to humans, making them feel powerful and sexy. This idea has cropped up recently and most substantially in True Blood* (2008) where Vamp Blood (V) is heavily used as a metaphor for drug abuse.

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4. In another episode, Beth hires Mick to protect the survivor of serial killer ‘Shepherd’ who gets the death penalty. In a Manson family type storyline the killer’s loyal cult following is blamed for carrying on the killings, when in fact Shepherd turns out to be a vampire. Sound a bit familiar, minus the vampires? Recent hit The Following starring Kevin Bacon perhaps? See, waaaaaaaaay ahead of its time.

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5. And lastly, Doppelganger folklore has been showing up more frequently in paranormal literature and TV shows in the last few years. In Moonlight, Mick’s ex-wife Coraline who he killed decades before returns in the shape of Shannyn Sossamon (A Knights Tale, 40 Days and 40 Nights) and he believes her to be a doppleganger. A few years later The Vampire Diaries*, premiered in 2009 centered around the story of Elena, the doppleganger of her soon-to-be vampire boyfriend’s ex. Got that?

*Yes I know L.J Smith’s Vampire diaries series and Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse books were released before Moonlight, but we’re talking about TV shows here people. Keep up!