Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic, is a gripping read full of magic and mystery.

There are four distinct worlds, some full of magic, some almost devoid of it – and the only thing these worlds have in common is London. Once upon a time, travel between the four worlds was possible and frequent. These days, only the Antari – a rare people born with magic in their blood – can travel between the worlds and serve as liaisons and messengers for the rulers of the four Londons.

The world-building in this novel is extraordinary. At first glance the idea seems simple, four versions of the city of London stacked on top of each other. But each comes with its own culture, customs, names for landmarks and language, which makes the set up really quite complex.

Black London was the most powerful of all, brimming with magic until it turned destructive and its portals were closed off. White London has barely any resources left, including magic, making its sibling rulers brutal and power-hungry in a cold world. Grey London is mundane and its magic is scarce. It is also the most recognisable London for its resemblance of the real London in our world. And then there is Red London, a warm place in which magic is still abundant and which is home to an Antari named Kell, who moves between the worlds in his official capacity as royal messenger – as well as for his side-business as a smuggler of other-worldly trinkets.

Until he unknowingly takes a token across the worlds that contains a magic not seen in centuries and which could destroy everything he has ever known. His troubles really start, however, when the street-smart Grey London thief Delilah Bard decides to pick the wrong pocket.

Lila is a delightful character. She’s savvy and fierce, stubborn, adventurous, longing for freedom, and doesn’t mind giving the men-folk hell. So tagging along with a traveller like Kell is her ticket to the world. Lila’s perspective proves ideal for the reader, as Lila is just as wide-eyed and experiencing new worlds that are just as unknown to her as they are to the audience. The characters of Kell and Lila are incredibly layered and polar opposites of each other. Combined with the amazing magical worlds they inhabit, they make for a very compelling and intriguing story.

A Darker Shade of Magic is a story that draws you in immediately and keeps you under its spell.

 

“I’d rather die on an adventure than live standing still.” – Delilah Bard

 

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Title: A Darker Shade of Magic
Author: V.E. Schwab
Publisher: Titan Books
Release Date: February 24, 2015
Pages: 400
ISBN:  978-1783295401

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Review: Ajax Penumbra 1969 by Robin Sloan

There has always been a little obscure bookstore hidden amidst the hustle and bustle of San Francisco. Ajax Penumbra 1969 tells the story of recent college graduate Ajax Penumbra, who is working to acquire rare and occult books, and how he discovered the shop that would one day become Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.

In this short novella, Ajax Penumbra is sent to California to try and find a mysterious book. Local, historic tidbits, engaging characters and a literary mystery add flavour to the story and keep readers turning the pages. For bibliophiles, the story includes many nods to the San Francisco literary scene, name-dropping bookshops like City Lights and its associated beatnik authors.

But the little bookstore Ajax stumbles in one night quite by chance is different from any he has seen. A popular hangout with local hippies at all hours of the day or night, it appears to be a normal, small, contemporary bookshop. But owner Mo and his clerk Corvina seem to know a lot more about rare books than they let on, and bit by bit, Penumbra gets drawn into the history of the store, the members-only books, and the secrets held on the high book stacks in the back of the shop.

The story finds the balance between literature and the emerging super-computers of the 1960s. Penumbra’s former college roommate is a big player in the world of computers and their friendship lets both of them see that rare, occult tomes and modern technology are not at odds at all.

Ajax Penumbra 1969 gives valuable insight into the character of Penumbra, especially if you are already familiar with Robin Sloan’s novel. Even as a standalone it is an intriguing read, albeit seemingly too short if you ignore the continuation in Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.

Penumbra, just like the little hidden-away bookstore, will keep you coming back for more to get to the bottom of the mysteries held within the depths and heights of the store’s book stacks.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Title: Ajax Penumbra 1969
Author: Robin Sloan
Publisher: Atlantic Books
Release Date: June 5, 2014
Pages: 99
ISBN:  978-1782395171

Doctor Who: Sleepers in the Dust by Darren Jones (Audiobook) #60Books

Read as part of my 60 Books Challenge: A book based on a TV show.

Doctor Who: Sleepers in the Dust is an audiobook written by Darren Jones, and narrated by Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams).

The story is told from Rory Williams’ point of view. The 11th Doctor and the Ponds land on the planet Nadurniss, which is under quarantine. The planet had been deserted years ago, but a Nadurni-Human expedition recently returned – only to get infected with age-old bacteria that had been waiting in the dust.

With Amy in danger, it’s up to her Boys, Rory and the Doctor, to figure out what is going on.

The story itself works on a fairly basic premise, and as it’s Doctor Who, there’s a lot of timey-wimey stuff going on. What really makes this audiobook worth listening to is Arthur Darvill. While his Scottish impression of Amy needs a bit more work, his impression of Matt Smith’s Doctor is spot-on. Rory is his usual reluctant hero self, bumbling along as the voice of reason.

It’s definitely an enjoyable story for Doctor Who fans, made even better by Arthur Darvill’s narration.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Title: Doctor Who: Sleepers in the Dust
Author: Darren Jones
Publisher: BBC / AudioGo
Release Date: November 1, 2012
ISBN:  978-1445891736

Books To Review

So this weekend I sat down and made a list of all the book reviews I still need to catch up on this year. I’ve read a lot so far, but writing the reviews took a backseat because of my studies. I am working my way through them, though.

So here’s the list. Yup, it’s a long one:

Books and theatre productions to review 2016 © Literati Girl

Books and theatre productions to review 2016 © Literati Girl

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Braving It: a father, a daughter, and an unforgettable journey into the Alaskan Wild by James Campbell #FirstToRead

James Campbell’s father-daughter adventure Braving It is perfect for everybody looking to escape a city and trade it for the open wild.

James and his 15-year-old daughter Aidan Campbell’s story starts one summer with James’ cousin Heimo asking them to help build a cabin in the interior of the Alaskan Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Aidan embraces the wild North. Together with her relatives, she hauls logs and builds a cabin, yes, but she also becomes more confident and at home so far away from civilisation.

This book is marvellous at invoking wanderlust and a sense of adventure. Together with Heimo’s Yupik Eskimo wife, Aidan learns how to track, trap and hunt, and meets caribou, moose. She even returns North with her father in the winter after their initial trip, to help her relatives work the traplines and learn more about surviving in Alaska’s Wild. Together, they encounter everything such a remote place has to offer. Freezing-cold rivers, wolves, snow, grizzlies and remoteness.

Their third and final Alaskan adventure sees the father-daughter team head back North in the autumn for a rite-of-passage for the both of them. According to Eskimo tradition, some women may go through the same rites as young men if they are deemed worthy. And after Aidan had previously demonstrated how at home she is in the woods up there, they decide to undertake an ambitious trip together. Armed only with what they can carry on their backs, the two set out to cross Alaska’s Brooks Range on foot until they reach the Hulahula river, before they assemble a canoe to take them all the way to the Arctic Ocean. Along the way, father and daughter have time to bond, and have an adventure like no other.

Braving It is a striking story about a father, a daughter, and the beautiful power of the Alaskan wilderness.

My Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Title: Braving It: A father, a daughter, and an unforgettable journey into the Alaskan Wild
Author: James Campbell
Publisher: Crown
Release Date: May 10, 2016
Pages: 384
ISBN: 978-0307461247

 

Braving It by James Campbell was provided to me as an
Advance Review Copy in eBook format by
Penguin Random House’s FirstToRead

Leave This Song Behind – Teen Ink Poetry Collection

Poetry is not just for grown-ups or those trying to woo a lover. The Leave This Song Behind collection of teen poetry by Teen Ink is proof that poetry can be found everywhere in life.

The collection features some of the best teen poetry of today. Reflecting teen culture, many of the poems adhere to a more free-verse style as is evident in modern slams.

This collection contains some real gems of poetry, like Bluebells, Dear Michaelangelo, Don’t Fall In Love, and A Letter To The Past, Present, and Future Selves.

What really becomes evident is that this generation deals with some real and uly problems, deeply human flaws and raw emotions – and sometimes the best way to express all of these feelings is through poetry. With a collection of poems by several different authors, it is only natural that not all poems are to a reader’s individual tastes.

Because while there are some really beautiful and touching works in this collection, there are also a few which come across as overly pretentious. One run-on sentence in a weird format – like every wors in a new line – does not necessarily make a poem. And even though many of the poems deal with depression, selfworth issues, and unrequited love, the teen angst seems to be a red thread throughout the whole book.

It is a nicely edited book. The poems are split into different sections, which makes it easy to find a poem you are in the mood for. There are even notes by the poets, but unfortunately, these are at the very end of the book. Personally, I would have prefered to have the notes close to the poems they relate to, as the flipping back and forth does get tiresome. Another issue is that the best poems are towards the middle of the book, and the beginning of the collection is not as powerful as it should by rights be in order to draw the reader in.

Leave This Song Behind is a nice poetry collection which gives a unique insight into the problems teenagers of today have to deal with, but it could have made even more of an impact than it does.

 

Leave This Song Behind  was provided to me as an
Advance Review Copy in eBook format by NetGalley

My Rating: ♥♥♥

Title: Leave This Song Behind
Author: Stephanie & John Meyer (Editors)
Publisher: HCI Books
Release Date: April 26, 2016
Pages: 216
ISBN:  978-0757318962

Last Tango in Buenos Aires by David Marsh

Last Tango in Buenos Aires – Sketches from the Argentine by David Marsh is a raw and honest account of one man’s travel through small-town Argentina. From the very north of the country, the author travels by foot, bus and train to the End of the World

From the very north of the country, the author travels by foot, bus and train to the End of the World and meets the local residents along the way.

This book goes beyond a simple travelogue – it brings the South American country to life. With added facts about Argentinian history and how those periods affected and continue to affect the population, the story becomes thought-provoking.

Luscious descriptions of the landscapes, and honest encounters with the people along the way, from road-side acquaintances to those he meets in city centres, make Last Tango in Buenos Aires incredibly real.

This is a book that shows Argentina from all its angles, highlights the cultural and geographical diversity of the country, and emphasises Argentina’s beauty. It’s the people David meets, however, who are the soul of the book. Their anecdotes and opinions provide a lesson in Argentinian history, politics and culture that has not been glossed over by newspaper or textbook editors, and showcases lived history and the opinions of the people instead.

Last Tango in Buenos Aires by David Marsh was provided to me as an
Advance Review Copy in eBook format by NetGalley

My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Title: Last Tango in Buenos Aires
Author: David Marsh
Publisher: Matador  / Troubador Publishing
Release Date: January 28, 2016
Pages: 192
ISBN:  978-1784625221

Doctor Who: The Angel’s Kiss by Justin Richards & “Melody Malone” (Audiobook) #60Books

Read as part of my 60 Books Challenge: A sci-fi novel.

Doctor Who – The Angel’s Kiss was written by Justin Richards, but – to tie in with the show – Melody Malone is listed as the author.

Contrary to popular belief, this is NOT the same book as the one River Song reads from in the episode The Angels Take Manhattan.

The story follows Melody Malone, private detective. She gets a visit from a film star called Rock Railton, who believes he is to be killed. Melody gets on the case after he mentions “the kiss of an angel,” and puts herself in danger during her investigations.

Even though this is a Doctor Who tie-in story, the Doctor does not feature in this story. This is one of Melody’s cases, told from Melody’s point of view.

It’s a nice enough story, and the audiobook version read by Alex Kingston – who plays River Song aka Melody Malone on the show – is very intriguing. Alex Kingston uses her sultry River Song voice with a bit of an American twang – the story is set in the US after all – and it fits very well with that old-time Hollywood period and charm the story is based in. That being said, this is NOT a story featuring River Song – this story is all about Melody Malone, the female no-nonsense private detective with killer heels and drop-dead gorgeous red lipstick.

It’s a cool detective story as a standalone. It’s got girl power, 1930’s charm, and a supernatural mystery (the only thing that really ties it into the show). Unfortunately though, the supposedly bad-ass protagonist is limited by 1930’s gender roles and perceptions. It’s a good story, but could have been better.

My Rating: ♥♥♥

Title: Doctor Who: The Angel’s Kiss
Author: Justin Richards & “Melody Malone”
Publisher: BBC
Release Date: February 7, 2013
Pages: 80 (eBook version)
ISBN:  978-1471324055

Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig #AtoZ

This post is part of the 2016 April A to Z Challenge.

Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance embodies that 70’s spirit of road trips and the search for enlightenment.

The story follows the narrator and his son on a motorcycle trip across the North-Western USA. It’s a very personal and moving account, which is not only testament to their father and son bond, but also feels incredibly raw and real.

Along the way, the father and son duo have many philosophical discussions which they call Chautauquas, ranging from ethical emotivism to the philosophy of science. Unfortunately, the son, Chris, does not often get a word in edgeways. His father, or Phaedrus as he refers to his past self, has a lot to say. And while his teachings are solid, they are a mere introduction to philosophy and touch on the great philosophers who should be explored more after reading the book.

Despite the name, there is not as much Zen Buddhism, or motorcycle maintenance come to think of it, as one would expect. That being said, the explanation of the scientific method and how we as a society and as individuals go about discovering the truth, and the analogy of working on a motorcycle is beautifully written.

Road trips have this habit of serving as time for contemplation and finding oneself. The open road can do that to you. And discussing philosophical aspects and teachings with a fellow traveller is a valid past-time. Towards the end of the book, Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance really tips over into preaching, though. It’s no longer a discussion or an anecdote seen for its philosophical value. And that’s when the reading turns from being fun into being tedious. The search for enlightenment has turned into a lesson.

As a road trip story between father and son, during which the father wants to share some life advice, this would be great! But the author apparently could not resist temptation to turn absolutely everything into a philosophy lesson, which takes away from the story at the heart of this novel.

 

My Rating: ♥♥♥

Title: Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Author: Robert M. Pirsig
Publisher: Vintage Classics
Release Date: June 6, 1991 (originally published September 1974)
Pages: 416
ISBN:  978-0099786405