The Immortal City by Amy Kuivalainen (ARC Review)

The Immortal City by Amy Kuivalainen

About the author

Amy Kuivalainen is a Finnish-Australian writer that is obsessed with magical wardrobes, doors, auroras and burial mounds that might offer her a way into another realm. Until then, she will write about fairy tales, monsters, magic and mythology because that’s the next best thing. She is the author of The Firebird Fairytales Trilogy and The Blood Lake Chronicles series that mash up traditional tales and mythology in new and interesting ways.

Blurb

In the heart of Venice, a woman is sacrificed to a forgotten god, sparking a mystery lost for thousands of years.

Dr. Penelope Bryne is ridiculed by the academic community for her quest to find the remnants of Atlantis, but when an ancient and mysterious script is found at a murder site, she flies to Venice determined to help the police before the killer strikes again.

Penelope has spent her entire life trying to ignore the unexplainable and magical history of Atlantis, but when she meets the enigmatic Alexis Donato, everything she believes will be challenged. Little does she know, Alexis has spent the last three years doing his best to sabotage Penelope’s career so doesn’t learn the truth—Atlantis had seven magicians who survived, and who he has a duty to protect.

As Alexis draws her into the darkly, seductive world of magic and history, Penelope will have to use her heart as well as her head if she is to find the answers she seeks. 

With the new MOSE system due to come online, and Carnivale exploding around them, Penelope and Alexis will have to work together to stop the killer and prevent dark magic from pulling Venice into the sea.

Review

Thank you to NetGalley and BHC Press for granting me an advanced copy of this book for an honest review.

I was so happy that my request on NetGalley was granted for this book and a couple of days ago I started the book and to be honest finished it in a matter of hours, I simply could not put it down. Even though the book has not been published yet I am desperate for the sequel to be published.

I found the story to immediately hook me in and wanted to keep reading, the idea of a forgotten language and god suddenly arising after thousands of years was fascinating. I also thoroughly enjoyed the idea of magicians existing in the world for thousands of years hidden from mankind but one human has managed to get through to them and that person is Dr Penelope Bryne.

Penelope has always loved the mystery of Atlantis and even though people make fun of her she never gives up trying to find it and prove that it exists. I loved her drive and passion in the book, she is a massively strong character but also has her weaknesses but she knows how to control this using her yoga and meditation practises. I have never had much time for yoga but reading this book has made me want to try it again.

The setting of the book was beautifully chosen, what better place to choose than Venice? I would love to visit Venice because it always strikes me as a magical place especially when Carnivale is taking place. I hope in the next books Venice will feature heavily and we get to see more of the catacombs and hidden parts of Venice.

The seven magicians were brilliant as they all have their own individual characters which comes through their magic. So each magician engages their magic differently depending on how their magic is formed and created. They all reminded me of Greek Gods and by their descriptions they look like Greek Gods as well. Although they also seem like teenagers when left unattended by a responsible person for too long. All in all it seems like a fun place to be when they are all playing around.

I loved this book so much I have actually pre-ordered the hardback of the book to read again and hopefully one day will have a hardback sequel to add to the collection. I highly recommend this book to fantasy and history lovers. I give this book a massive 5 out of 5 Dragons and cannot wait to read it again.

To Purchase
Amazon
Waterstones

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The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon (Review)

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

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About the author

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Samantha Shannon studied English Language and Literature at St. Anne’s College, Oxford. She is the New York Times and Sunday Times bestselling author of The Bone Season series. She currently lives in London.

Blurb

The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction–but assassins are getting closer to her door.

Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.

Across the dark sea, Tané has trained all her life to be a dragonrider, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.

Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.

Review

I got very excited about this book and dragged my husband out to Waterstones to buy it for me (he is very good at feeding my book addiction) on the day it came out. I had the last copy in the store. Needless to say I went straight home and started reading it. However due to a heavy work load and falling asleep instead of reading it has taken longer than expected to finish.

I loved this book and at times I could not put it down. I loved the idea of good dragons and bad dragons and that the two dragons are very different from each other. The history and religion in this book are fantastic and very well thought out by Shannon, she gave a thorough background of both, where no holes were visible. I adored the world Shannon created and did not want to leave it.

Ead was such a strong powerful character who you couldn’t help but support and love. I did find Queen Sabran a little bit trying at times and to be honest that is when I had to put the book down for a while and also why the book got 4 dragons instead of 5 but I suppose all monarchs can be trying at times.

The other element I found enchanting was Tané and her relationship with her dragon. I was so worried for both of them and found myself tense with worry and anticipation. It reminded me of the love a human has with their dog or horse, as a dog or horse are fiercely loyal to their owner and will generally do anything to help and protect them. I could not get enough of dear Tané.

I desperately wanted to know more about the history of the trees and magic in this world and I really hope that Shannon does decide to do another book instead of keeping this book as a stand alone. I WANT TO KNOW MORE! Shannon in my opinion has been clever with the ending as she could easily do a sequel. I gave this book 4 out of 5 Dragons because I did love it and have recommended it to friends and family. The reason it didn’t get the full 5 Dragons was because of Queen Sabran and the fact in the middle I found it dragged slightly, but overall an amazing book.

Purchase

Waterstones

Kindle

Amazon

 

Lady Book Dragon.

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The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy by Tim Burton (Review)

The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories by Tim Burton

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About the author

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Tim Burton was born in August 1958 and is an American filmmaker, artist, writer and animator. He is famous for his dark, gothic and eccentric horror and fantasy films. He often works with Johnny Depp and Danny Elfman.

Blurb

Twenty-three illustrated gothic tales from the dark corridors of the imagination of Tim Burton. Burton – the creative genius behind Batman, Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow and Nightmare Before Christmas, among others – now gives birth to a cast of gruesomely sympathetic children: misunderstood outcasts who struggle to find love and belonging in their cruel, cruel worlds. His lovingly lurid illustrations evoke both the sweetness and tragedy of these hopeful, yet hapless beings.

Review

When I saw this book in the bookshop a few days ago I grabbed it and immediately had to buy it. I love all the work of Tim Burton but I did not know he had done a book. I was so happy to find this book and very excited to read it. Yesterday I finally had time to sit down with a mug of tea and read it.

This book is a collection of short tales illustrated by Tim Burton himself, what is not to like? All the tales feel like children’s stories with the short little paragraphs and illustrations, however this is far too gothic and gruesome in places for children so Young Adults and upwards is a must.

The book is depressing, gruesome, gothic but most of all hilarious but naughty hilarious because you feel like you should not be laughing at these tales. I found The Melancholy Death of the Oyster Boy to be very depressing, I felt very sad about the fate of the Oyster Boy and I was rather shocked about how he died.

Another element that surprised me was how many tales contained parents who hate their children. It made me wonder what Burton feels about his own children to be honest. I am not complaining though as it made for good reading.

Nearly all the tales are my favourites but a few are my absolute favourites. Stain Boy is one because this reminds me of some of my nephews who no matter what get dirt everywhere and clean clothes do not stay clean for long. Sue was another favourite, the idea of someone walking around with a tissue attached to their face made me giggle.

I loved everything about this book, the illustrations, the stories everything is just brilliant. The book took less than half an hour to read, I found I wanted it to last longer. I definitely plan on re-reading this on halloween. This book has a massive 5 out 5 Dragons.

Purchase this book from Waterstones

Amazon Paperback

Lady Book Dragon.

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Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (Review)

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

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About the author

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Robert Louis Stevenson was born in Edinburgh in 1850. He studied law at Edinburgh University. Stevenson was against the Presbyterianism of both Edinburgh’s professional classes and his devout parents, but the influence of Calvinism started his fascination with evil. After much travelling Stevenson eventually settled in Samoa with his wife, he passed away at the age of 44.

Blurb

Published as ‘shilling shocker’ in 1886, Robert Louis Stevenson’s dark psychological fantasy gave birth to the popular idea of the split personality. Set in a hellish, fog-bound London, the story of outwardly respectable Dr Jekyll, who unleashes his deepest cruelties and most murderous instincts when he transformed into sinister Edward Hyde, is a Gothic masterpiece and a chilling exploration of humanity’s basest capacity for evil.

This edition also includes Stevenson’s sinister story ‘The Bottle Imp’.

Review

This is another book I am ashamed to say I have never read and just recently I bought a lovely little edition from Waterstones and it has been sat on my TBR pile ever since. I decided it would be a good book to discover Robert Louis Stevenson’s work as I have never read any of his work before.

The first and main story is Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and I went into it with high hopes, however it quickly started to disappoint. Mr Utterson the lawyer and good friend of Dr Jekyll is a perfect gentleman and shows the reader that you would be blessed to consider him your friend. Mr Utterson in fact was my favourite character and he was probably the only reason I kept reading. Mr Hyde was also a good character, he was bad to the bone and showed a man with no morals to guide him or conscience, he was happy with his actions, showed no remorse and was dangerous to all around him.

Dr Jekyll is the character which I disliked greatly! He was weak and pathetic he had bad desires within him and a perverted mind that lay hidden because of his status in society and his title. We have no idea what horrors he performed in his past but they are hinted at, now due to getting older the desires are still there but he can not act upon them without losing everything or facing the gallows. Then Mr Hyde comes along, Mr Hyde is Jekyll’s answer to everything, Hyde does all the horrors and faces the gallows and Jekyll remains the good Dr. In my opinion Jekyll is evil, he just does not show it.

Jekyll tries to reform himself but this soon fails and Hyde starts to take over. Hyde was always going to take over because Jekyll is weak but also enjoys what Hyde does, if he was truly horrified and repulsed by Hyde’s actions he would have beaten Hyde and got his life back. Jekyll did not deserve the life he had or the dedicated friends like Mr Utterson in my opinion because he was as guilty as Mr Hyde.

This story annoyed me greatly because Dr Jekyll is shown in a light where the reader should feel sorry for him but I disagree with that. Dr Jekyll was weak and evil and in my opinion worse than Mr Hyde because he had the power to stop Hyde but did not. This story on its own would have only got 2 Dragons from me.

The second story in this book is The Bottle Imp and that was my favourite out of the two. This story is about a magical imp that lives in a bottle and can grant you any wishes, however it comes with conditions that could leave the owner going to hell.

The story contains many topics greed, love, hopelessness, despair, faith, courage and much more. I really enjoyed how Stevenson came up with the story and the morals behind it. Keawe is not a greedy man he does not ask for millions off the imp he asks for enough for his dream house that he can live in for the rest of his life and enjoy it. Kokua is the woman that Keawe falls in love with and risks everything for and she in turn risks everything for him. Their love is so strong they will do anything for each other. Others in this story do not show such selflessness and greed is the dominant trait in their characters. These two people are not greedy they just want to live happily together for the rest of their lives, but can they?

A real love story that was beautiful to read and not too long. I gave this one 4 out of 5 Dragons, so overall balancing the results I gave the book 3 out of 5 Dragons.

Lady Book Dragon

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The Nutcracker by E. T. A. Hoffmann (Review)

The Nutcracker by E. T. A. Hoffmann, illustrated by Robert Ingpen, translated by Anthea Bell

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About the author

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Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann was born in 1776 in Konigsbarg, Prussia (which is now Kaliningrad, Russia). His educational background was law, but his real love was music. As a young man he moved to Germany hoping to begin a musical career, he went on to become a composer, director and conductor. As a way to help his income he took up writing in his thirties. He wrote four novels and approximately fifty stories and novellas and was possibly one of the most influential writers of his time. He passed away in 1822.

About the illustrator

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Robert Ingpen was born in 1936 in Geelong, Australia. He studied illustration art and book design at The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. In 1986 he was awarded the Hans Christian Anderson Medal for his contributions to children’s literature and he has been honoured with Membership of the Order of Australia.

About the translator

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Anthea Bell was born in 1936 and was an English translator of literary works, her speciality was children’s literature. She translated French, German and Danish into English. She is best known for translating the Astrix comics into English. She past away on the 18th October 2018.

Blurb

The Nutcracker is well-loved by many, and is perhaps best known as the inspiration for Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet, performed as a favourite Christmas spectacle the world over. The ballet was based on a French retelling of the story, and Hoffmann’s German original is rarely translated in its entirety. This version includes the familiar tale of the gentle young girl and her love for the enchanted Nutcracker – a Christmas gift from her enigmatic Godfather Drosselmeier – who leads the toy soldiers in a dramatic battle against the sinister Mouse King, and whisks her away to the Kingdom of Toys. But it also retains the original ‘story within the story’, told to Marie by Drosselmeier when she is ill in bed: The Tale of the Hard Nut, about the cursed Princess Pirlipat, which explains the background of how the poor Nutcracker came to be.

Review

I do love reading Christmas stories on the run up to Christmas as amongst the chaos of preparing for Christmas they provide some calm. Very sorry this review is rather late. I actually forgot to do this review with the chaos of Christmas and New Year and it was only when I started sorting and tidying up books that I realised I had not written the review.

Anyway back to The Nutcracker by E.T.A Hoffmann and translated by Anthea Bell with the wonderful illustrations by Robert Ingpen. I love the story of the Nutcracker and have previously read the translated versions by Alexander Dumas and Joachim Neugroschel. However I found Dumas’ translation very difficult to follow as it lacked fluency and did not have the story within a story. I believe the ballet is based on Dumas’ translation. Bell’s translation however flows beautifully and made the book a joy to read, including The Tale of the Hard Nut also helps the story make sense and helps the reader understand how the Nutcracker came to be.

The Nutcracker is a wonderful fairytale story for all ages young and old with some very subtle morals hidden in there. I loved Marie’s young innocence and Godfather Drosselmeir’s kindness with a hidden layer of something sinister. Fritz, Marie’s brother however is a little trying for me and is clearly just a spoilt child, who probably due to being the only son has been allowed to get away with a lot more than his older and younger sisters. Luise the older sister I feel for, as she is not mentioned much and her character is not greatly expanded and she seems to be rather ignored by her siblings and parents.

The beautiful illustrations in the book are stunning and really aid your imagination in visualising the story. And of course the main lesson that you learn from Marie at the end is a lovely ending to the story. It really is a timeless story that can not help bring a smile to your face and make you look forward to Christmas.

I highly recommend this book and translation and look forward to reading it again on a future Christmas. I have given this book a very fiery 5 Dragons out of 5 Dragons.

Lady Book Dragon.

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Review 22: Letters from Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien

Letters from Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien, illustrated by J. R. R. Tolkien

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About the author and illustrator

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John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on the 3rd January 1892 in Bloemfontein. He moved to England when he was three years old and was home schooled with his younger brother and taught by his mother. Tolkien served in the First World War and after the war he established a distinguished academic career and was recognised as one of the finest philologists in the world. He is best known as the creator of Middle Earth and the author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He was awarded a CBE and an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Oxford University in 1972. He died on 2nd September 1973 at the age of 81.

Blurb

Every December an envelope bearing a stamp from the North Pole would arrive for J. R. R. Tolkien’s children. Inside would be a letter in a strange spidery handwriting and a beautiful colour drawing. They were from Father Christmas, telling wonderful tales of life at the North Pole.

  • How all the reindeer got loose and scattered presents all over the place.
  • How the accident-prone Polar Bear climbed the North Pole climbed the North Pole and fell through the roof of father Christmas’s house into the dining-room.
  • How he broke the Moon into four pieces and made age Man in it fall into the back garden.
  • How there were wars with the troublesome horse of goblins who lived in the caves beneath the house!

Sometimes the Polar Bear would scrawl a note, and sometimes Ilbereth the Elf would write in his elegant flowing script, adding yet more life and humour to the stories.

Review

I got this book off my best friend for my birthday as she knows I love all things Tolkien and she knew I had not got this book. I am so pleased I saved this book for Christmas as it really put me in a Festive mood and made me smile from ear to ear.

The first letter in the book is sent in 1920 to John, Tolkien’s oldest child and we meet Father Christmas, the letter is only short but there is a beautiful drawing of Father Christmas that could easily be made into a Christmas card. There is then a gap and the next letter is in 1923, then basically from then on there is a letter until 1943 when Tolkien’s children are all too old for Father Christmas.

The first letters are sent to just John and then Michael and Christopher are added and finally Priscilla, although as each child reaches a certain age and they stop writing to Father Christmas they are dropped off the letters. Although good old Father Christmas always asks after the older children and pets in the house, so they are not forgotten.

Some letters are very short if Father Christmas is busy that year and some are very long, especially if Father Christmas has a tale to tell the children. Father Christmas has a helper called Polar Bear who is in fact a Polar Bear, a very special bear who does not age and is very strong but also rather clumsy and causes poor Father Christmas a great deal of extra work. Eventually Father Christmas also gets some Elves to help him get everything ready for Christmas.

The effort Tolkien put into the letters is amazing, the handwriting is unique to Father Christmas and is shaky like a very old man is writing and the illustrations are stunning. I loved reading all the letters and I can imagine how Tolkien’s children must have been so excited when the letters arrived each year. It really is like magic, Tolkien made sure his children believed in the wonder of magic and fairytales, the things all children should believe in and let their imaginations run wild.

This edition of the book is beautiful, it has all the pictures of the original letters so we can see all the handwriting Tolkien created and opposite is a typed up version so the reader can read the text with ease. Then there are also all the illustrations in colour with the letters. The fact that the book is also printed on excellent quality shiny paper is perfect for showing off Tolkien’s work.

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I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars because of the magic and beauty it had but it did not get the full 5 stars because it made me sad at the end when the children were too old for letters off Father Christmas. In my opinion you are never too old for Father Christmas and believing in the magic.

Lady Book Dragon.

The Nutcracker

It’s nearly Christmas!!!

Last night I finally started The Nutcracker. I must admit I usually start this a lot earlier in December but due to being ill for a week and catching up with work and Christmas decorating, my reading has fallen a big behind but I hope I will be back on track soon.

Yesterday I had a lovely day spent with my husband and parents. It began with my husband and I performing a recital for a Christmas Tree Festival at the church my husband plays organ at. Then we came home for a quick breather, I even managed to do a bit of reading. I finished one book and read another very short book. Then we picked my parents up and went to see the new Mary Poppins film, followed by dinner out. The film was fantastic and it was wonderful to spend time with my husband and parents and not be having to rush off somewhere. It was a chance to relax, smile and share a laugh.

I have two reviews waiting to be written but I promise they will be up soon. I decided to watch Father Ted last night instead of writing reviews. Apologies but it was the first ever episode and I had never seen it before.

I hope you all have a wonderful day and are all ready for Christmas.

Lady Book Dragon.