New Read: Queen of Hearts, Volume 3: War of the Cards

I really can’t believe that it was back in 2014 that I read the fantastic Volume 1: The Crown and Volume 2: The Wonder of Colleen Oakes’ twisted YA Wonderland re-imagining, Queen of Hearts. Finally, three years, a new publisher and republications of the earlier two volumes later, we have the concluding part, Volume 3: War of the Cards! (Warning: this will probably contain spoilers for the earlier volumes).

In this final volume, we re-join Dinah, the exiled princess of Wonderland, as she marches her fractious army of Spades and Yurkei warriors on to the palace of Wonderland. Where her father, the cruel King of Hearts, and his deadly army of Hearts await for a final, bloody showdown. Although gripped by fear and doubt, Dinah is propelled on by a burning rage that seeks revenge for the brutal murder of her beloved brother Charles and to claim the throne which is rightfully hers. But an inner battle rages within Dinah too – with such all-consuming love and fury can she be the ruler the kingdom needs? Or will her tumultuous nature bring Wonderland to its knees?

Through-out this trilogy, I have been fascinated to watch our young, head-strong and rebellious protagonist grow and survive through so many harsh trials and tribulations. Now she is a strong, brave woman with such high expectations on her shoulders to be a strong, wise and victorious leader. I couldn’t help but to continue to pity her in this book. However Dinah is an imperfect character. In particular, in this conclusion, there is one absolutely horrific incident, which, while I could sympathise with how she came to feel so hurt and angry, I could never condone her terrible reaction. If only she could hear me shouting stop!

Although if Dinah didn’t have a darker side to her, she wouldn’t be a very convincing Queen of Hearts now would she! And I do have to praise Oakes’ better fleshed out and more realistic take on the quintessential characters of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, such as Cheshire, the royal advisor; the Caterpillar, a Yurkei witch-doctor and Charles, the Mad Hatter. Also I loved Oakes’ clever twists on the classic elements of the cards, magical food and the Jabberwocky. Even though I went into this knowing what should become of Dinah, Oakes was still able to generate tension, throw me some real curve balls and leave me with a hopeful note.

All in all, I thought War of the Cards was a fitting and very satisfying ending to this clever and refreshing re-imagining of Wonderland. It was worth the wait! After enjoying this and her Wendy Darling series, I am interested to see what Oakes will do next. Great read.

Thank you to the publishers for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or any other re-imaginings of classic tales?

I am also including this book towards my What’s in a Name 2018 reading challenge, as a title with a shape in it. (1/5)

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Re-Read: The Subtle Knife

This month, I indulged in a comforting re-read of The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman, the second book in Pullman’s ever popular trilogy: His Dark Materials. (There is a chance of spoilers so if you are unfamiliar with this series I recommend you read my thoughts on the first book: Northern Lights).

After following her father over the bridge he created, Lyra finds herself alone in a new world, where the adults have disappeared; soul-eating Specters stalk the streets and witches share the skies with troops of angels. There she meets Will, a boy on the run from his world, and together they go searching: Lyra for the meaning of Dust and Will for his missing father, but what they find instead is a deadly secret, a knife of untold power. From then on their lives, their loves, and their destinies are to become irrevocably intertwined.

Again it was another complete joy to re-immerse myself back into this second magical adventure with the headstrong Lyra and her new ally Will. While I love Lyra she can be a wild, spontaneous and selfish character, so the addition of the practical, kind and selfless Will brings a nice balance. At first they very reluctantly work together as the only strangers in this new, strange world, but they do go on to form a true friendship as they travel between this new world and Will’s world, which is very similar to our own world with no daemons or Magisterium.

However The Magisterium is not completely forgotten as Mrs Coulter has also found a way to travel between worlds and has some new, deadly allies too. For this reason the religious element is smaller and more subtle in this book, although you can see it building again as the angels are flying north to Lord Asriel, who is recruiting from many different worlds a large army to fight ‘The Authority’. There are not only baddies though, Lyra’s friends the witch queen Serafina Pekkala and the aeronaut Lee Scoresby come to her and Will’s aid. Even though this was a re-read, there was a lot of this detail that I’d forgotten – it was lovely to get re-acquainted with it all.

Overall, I loved my re-read of The Subtle Knife and I look forward to finishing the trilogy with The Amber Spyglass soon. Great read.

Have you read this? Or anything else by Philip Pullman?

What’s in a Name 2017 – 5/6 (a title with an item/s of cutlery)

New Read: Resthaven

At the end of September, I decided to continue my Autumn themed reading for the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XII event with the young adult thriller Resthaven by Erik Therme; which had been on my Kindle for too long!

As the new kid in town, Kaylee feels isolated and awkward, so the last thing she wants to do is go to a sleepover with girls she barely knows, let alone likes. Things only get worse when it turns out the queen bee Jamie has arranged a scavenger hunt inside the old abandoned retirement home, Resthaven, which sits right on the edge of town. After an explosive argument the girls all split off separately around the dark empty building…but Kaylee soon discovers that they’re not alone and to top it off the front doors have been mysterious padlocked from the outside! Now Kaylee must find everyone and try to find another way out before it’s too late.

Our narrator Kaylee is joined on this disastrous scavenger hunt by the sensitive Anna, who invited her, the silent Wren, the ditzy Sidney and the bullying Jamie. The problem was I didn’t really like any of them! As stereotypical teenage girls they were all hormonal and seemed to take it in turns to be selfish, thoughtless, insensitive and downright hurtful to each other, including our heroine Kaylee. So sadly I can’t say I found myself rooting for any of them!

Fortunately, Therme has written a tight story with pacey action scenes, twists and turns, and an element of surprise or two. Therefore I certainly wasn’t left bored and I was drawn to keep reading to find out more. As we read on we also learn more of the back stories of each girl, which does help to explain their current behaviour and attitudes, even if it doesn’t completely justify them. Plus of course there is the other person/s in the locked building with them that adds tension, mystery and a real sense of danger.

So overall, shame about the characters but otherwise I thought Resthaven was an easy-to-read, fast paced, young adult thriller which I just zipped through. It was also a very good fit for the R.I.P event. Okay read.

Thank you to the author for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or anything else for the R.I.P event?

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XII – 2/4

Re-Read: Northern Lights

Back in July, I re-read Northern Lights by Philip Pullman, after deciding this would be the year I would finally re-read Pullman’s ever popular trilogy: His Dark Materials. Scarily I believe it has to be more than ten years since I first read this wonderful series!

Among the scholars of Oxford’s Jordan College, the young orphan Lyra Belacqua has grown up wild and spirited. With her daemon Pan and best friend Roger, Lyra explores Jordan’s ancient buildings, scampers across the roofs, battles Gyptian kids and generally causes havoc around town; while all the time dodging lessons and wash time! However Lyra’s small world is to be blown apart by the imprisonment of her enigmatic Uncle Asriel, the kidnap of Roger by the feared “Gobblers” and the arrival of the beautiful Mrs Coulter. To rescue her uncle and friend, Lyra sets forth for the dangerous far North, with a rare truth-telling instrument, an alethiometer, as her guide.

It was a sheer joy to re-immerse myself back into this magical adventure with the headstrong Lyra; who is much braver than I would have been at her age! While at first this world may seem very similar to our own there are some significant differences. The most significant being that each human is joined with a sentient spirit, known as a daemon, which takes the form of an animal. As Lyra is still a child her daemon Pan can change form – at different times offering comfort as a snow ermine, lookout as a brown moth and protection as a wildcat. Also as we journey north, more fantastical elements emerge, including: witches and panserbjørne (armoured bears)!

The over-arching baddie to the piece is not a singular person but instead an institution: The Magisterium (more commonly known as ‘the Church’). The Magisterium is a zealously religious institution that wields immense power and influence over the land. Who can and will move swiftly to squash any person or idea that they deem to be heretical. This is the element of these books that shows Pullman’s Atheist views. I am a Christian but thankfully in this first instalment, I don’t find Pullman’s views in any way offensive or too overbearing. In fact, I can slightly sympathise with the negativity against an organised religion which is more interested in human-made rules rather than God.

Having now refreshed my memory with this re-read, the weaknesses of the 2007 film adaptation, The Golden Compass, are now more apparent to me. Which is a shame because after I got over my annoyance that they changed the title (it’s not a compass!!) I actually rather enjoyed the film. I thought it beautifully visualised the world and creatures, with great casting of Dakota Blue Richards as Lyra and Ian McKellan as the voice of Iorek Byrnison. Sadly though I was disappointed by the ending and now I can see even more clearly how the mystifying decision to stop a chapter short of the book’s ending took so much of the surprise, drama and power out of it. Such a shame.

In conclusion, I thoroughly enjoyed my re-read of Northern Lights and I look forward to re-reading the rest of the trilogy. Next up: The Subtle Knife. Great read.

Have you read this? Or watched the film adaptation?

10 Books of Summer 2017 – 8/10

New Read: Wendy Darling, Volume 3: Shadow

After devouring Volume 1, last year, and Volume 2, earlier this year, I was very keen to get my hands on this: the third and final volume in Colleen Oakes’ young adult Wendy Darling series, inspired by J M Barrie’s Peter Pan. (If you are unfamiliar with this author or series you may instead want to check out my thoughts on the first book: Wendy Darling, Volume 1: Stars).

At the beginning of this series, Wendy and her brothers were whisked away by the wild, magical Peter Pan to Neverland; a fantastical land of turquoise seas, glimmering beaches, mermaids, pirates and freedom. However, Wendy soon discovered all was not as it seemed and she was forced to take shelter with the dreaded Captain Hook. Together they have hatched a dangerous plan to bring down the blood-crazed Peter for good, but it will involve Wendy returning to Pan Island and the clutches of Peter. The fate of her brothers, her beloved Booth and the whole of Neverland is in her hands.

It was wonderful to see this interesting re-imagining from the point-of-view of Wendy, and she was again joined by a host of colourful characters, including: the adorable Michael; the thoroughly dislikeable John; the big-hearted Smith (Smee!) and, my personal favourite, the infamous Captain Hook. While I haven’t always ‘liked’ Colleen Oakes’ re-imagined characters I do think they are realistic and much better fleshed out than in J M Barrie’s original tale. I also loved being able to delve deeper into the settings too, which Oakes’ brought vividly to life through her beautiful descriptions.

Sadly I did have a small issue with some of the language used in this final instalment – considering the main protagonists are meant to be from Edwardian London. There was the more harmless use of the Americanised ‘toy store’ instead of toy shop, but then there was the far more dubious use of ‘f*nny’ … Now, I believe in America this is slang for ‘ass’ or ‘bottom’. Here in the UK though, it means a much more intimate part of a lady! Fortunately, Oakes weaved such a wonderful tale of adventure, danger, magic and love with so many twists and turns, that the small slips in language didn’t majorly affect my overall enjoyment. Plus what an ending – I didn’t see that coming!

Overall, I thought Wendy Darling, Volume 3: Shadow was another enjoyable fantasy adventure and a satisfying end to this interesting re-imagining of Peter Pan. Previously I have read and loved another of Colleen Oakes’ series, Queen of Hearts, and I really, really hope the final instalment of this comes out soon! Good read.

Thank you to the publishers for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or any other books inspired by Peter Pan?

10 Books of Summer 2017 – 5/10

(Coincidentally, Wendy Darling, Volume 1 was also my 5th read for last year’s 10 Books of Summer!)

New Read: Faith and Moonlight

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Last year, I read and enjoyed four of Mark Gelineau’s & Joe King’s novellas from two threads of their fantasy series, Echo of the Ascended. So much so I didn’t wait long into this year to continue my reading with Faith and Moonlight; the first novella in a third thread of their epic series.

Previously I have read about Elinor a brave orphan girl who rose to be the King’s Reaper; in the A Reaper of Stone thread. Also, I have read about another orphan Alys, who is a hardened survivor of the dangerous, poverty-stricken underworld of the capital city; in the Best Left in the Shadows thread. Turns out these orphans all originally knew each other and this novella takes the reader back in time to the tragic fire at their orphanage which saw them separated and scattered across the kingdom.

In Faith and Moonlight, we are introduced to teenage orphans Roan and Kay. Who have been torn from the only home and family they’ve ever known, after a terrible fire destroyed their orphanage and killed most of it’s inhabitants. Now, Roan and Kay are journeying together to the city with hopes and dreams of entering the prestige School of Faith to train to become a legendary Razor. However, on arrival they are given just one month to prove their worth by passing the entry trial of pushing past the veil and touching the magical power within. Failure will mean an end to all their dreams and the prospect of life out in the cold, dark and dangerous world alone.

Unlike the previous novellas I have read, Roan and Kay are not grown up orphans but instead they are still young, naïve and vulnerable. This gives the reader the opportunity to watch them grow and, hopefully, follow their path to success like their fellow orphans Elinor and Alys. It also cleverly gives Gelineau’s and King’s series a young adult thread. Ronan and Kay are very close to each other and have promised to face everything together. Yet on arrival they find themselves divided, as Roan excels in his training Kay desperately struggles to keep up. I really liked them both and found myself willing them on, particularly poor Kay.

Like previous threads this new one gave me a view of another area/side to the kingdom of Aedaron. First, I was taken out onto the wild Marshlands; then I was taken to the dark, seedy Lowside; while this took me to the beautiful and serene School of Faith – a place of peace, education, power and history, with its marble buildings and lush green grass, where there is the opportunity for fame and glory if Roan and Kay are allowed to stay! I enjoyed having this pleasant and safe setting however don’t get thinking this means there is nothing scary. Just outside the gates the bustling, dangerous world threatens and Kay is terrified of going back there.

Overall, I thought Faith and Moonlight was another highly enjoyable young adult thread to this epic fantasy series and I look forward to reading Faith and Moonlight 2 soon! Good read.

Thank you to the authors for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or any of the other Echo of the Ascended novellas?

Top Ten Tuesday: Less Love Triangles Please!

blog-top-ten-tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. If you love books and making lists, this is the meme for you! This week’s topic is:

Top Ten Books I Wish Had (More/Less) X In Them

I would like less love triangles in books please! Don’t get me wrong there are some great literary love triangles, such as: Rebecca, Max and the new Mrs De Winter in Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, also Aragorn, Arwen and Eowyn in The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. However for me there are now too many love triangles particularly in modern, young adult fiction, including:

~ 1 ~

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

~ 2 ~

City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

~ 3 ~

City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare

I read and enjoyed all of the six books in The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. Due to the typical love triangle between Clary, her best friend Simon and newcomer Jace though, I made a slow start to this series. Fortunately the relationships do develop which meant I got to know and like the characters better, so this series is just about forgiven.

~ 4 ~

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

~ 5 ~

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

~ 6 ~

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

I have to admit I love this trilogy however I am still left with the niggling question of whether the love triangle between Katniss, her best friend Gale and fellow tribute Peeta is really needed? Especially when I think there is no competition…it is Peeta all the way for me 😀

~ 7 ~

New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

~ 8 ~

Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer

~ 9 ~

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

Things started so well for me in the Twilight and even New Moon was passable, but from Eclipse onwards the twisting and complicated love triangle between Bella, her best friend Jacob and the mysterious Edward all became too much for me.

~ 10 ~

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

I actually enjoyed and much preferred this science fiction drama to Meyer’s Twilight Saga, yet couldn’t help be a little annoyed that the only other book I have read by her has another complicated love triangle in it! Fortunately there is a big twist to this one so I can just about forgive it.

What’s your opinion on love triangles? Also, please link in the comments if you have taken part in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic too.