Thursday, 30 October 2014

Friday Memes and Zipes' Magic Spell

GFC
I can't believe another week has already passed! Although I got some bad news this week, I also managed to get two of my applications out and get a head-start on my assessments, so overall I'd say it was a pretty good week! So, let's focus on some memes! Follow Friday is hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee. This week's question comes from Take Me Away... and is:


What books would you give to newbies in your favourite genre? (Ex. I'm a newbie to high fantasy and EVERYONE said to ease into it with the Throne of Glass series!)

Oh God, I'm a high fantasy fan and I still haven't read the Throne of Glass series! So yes, I'm not the best person to go to for recommendations because there will be a lot of books thrown at you, not all of which are actually in the  genre you requested. Most of my recommendations would be classics because I personally love finding out what the roots of traditions are. So if the genre is Gothic I'd give you Dracula or Frankenstein, whereas if you're looking for Romance I might go for North and South (although I still haven't read that one actually). When it comes to "newer" genres such as Urban Fantasy I might actually give you some Otherworld books, although I myself have only read one!

So yes, please don't ever ask me for specific recommendations because there are so many books.

Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Billy over at Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. We're still on the Halloween theme because, thank God, October isn't over yet. I'm going to savour this last day of October because for me the start of November means the end of the year. So, this week's question is:

Halloween Edition: You can go trick or treating with any fictional character (book or film). Who would you go with?

I am loving these questions. Last week's was amazing because I loved imagining myself hunting ghouls with my team of female ghost busters. But this one might be even better!! I haven't really ever gone trick or treating, I don't think it's that much of a tradition in the Netherlands. However, the idea of it is great. So, who would I want to go with? There are different criteria here to consider. I mean, it has to be someone who can not complain about the cold, who can appreciate dressing up in terrible costumes, who'll be fun to hang out with all night... I think I'm going to have to go with Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter books. She is absolutely awesome and we'd have a lot of fun!

Book Beginnings and Friday 56 are hosted, respectively, over at Rose City Reader and Freda's Voice. This week I'm using a book which I took out of the library after really enjoying Marina Warner's Once Upon A Time. I am really starting to develop an interest in fairy tales and the scholarly work behind them, so Jack Zipes was naturally the place to go to. So these teasers are from Breaking the Magic Spell.

BB:
'One of the more recent books about folk and fairy tales has declared that fairy tales are fantastically 'in'. Everywhere one turns today fairy tales and fairy-tale motifs pop up like magic. Bookshops are flooded with fairy tales by Tolkien, Hesse, the Grimm Brothers, Andersen, C.S. Lewis, and scores of sumptuously illustrated fantasy works.' p.1
The book actually starts with an anecdote about Einstein recommending fairy tales as a way of nurturing your child into a genius. It was a bit too long to share, so I went with what came straight afterwards. He is so right, fairy tales are everywhere!

F56:
'The topos of the golden age had a socio-psychological significance for them which was intended both to affirm their radical visions and critiques and to compensate for the voids in their everyday lives.' p.56
I picked this sentence on purpose just to share my pain with you. Academic writing can be impossible to read unless you sit there for 10 minutes reading it out slowly, one word at a time. I bet it makes more sense when you've actually read the chapter this line is in, but at this point there is just too many concepts to really deal with.

So, how is your Friday looking? Who do you want to take trick or treating and which books would you recommend from your favourite genre?

Harry Potter Moment of the Week - Spying like Snape

Thursday means Harry Potter and with all of Daniel Radcliffe's amazing statements about sexualisation in the media, his mad skills at rapping and let's not ever forget Emma Watson's great work on promoting feminism. So, let's get back to the memes. Harry Potter Moments of the Week is hosted by Leah over at Uncorked Thoughts and today we're deciding:

Could you ever double as a spy like Snape?


I think, if I had to, I could. This is very easy to say when you don't have to, but I definitely think that if circumstances forced me to that I would. I mean, although Snape's motives are still quite questionable and I'm still not quite sure how I really feel about him, I do think it took a large amount of courage to do what he did.


Just imagine having to live day in, day out, knowing more than you're supposed to know. Everyone around you living on the assumption you are on their side, fighting with them. And in the meantime you are actually pretending to side with the enemy. And how do you know which side to pick, how do you not become convinced the other side is actually the better choice?

I guess in the end my answer is no. I don't think I could. I feel like I have to choose a side and stand for it because I couldn't pretend to not show exactly how I feel.

Ok, I went on a small rant there but there's just so many questions here!

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Review: 'Spring's Fall' by Harambee Grey-Sun


I requested this book from Netgalley because I was quite intrigued by its premise. I wondered how Harambee Grey-Sun would combine different poems together to create the story of a man. Unfortunately I have come to the conclusion that Spring's Fall wasn't for me.
This book is a freak. Possibly a mistake from its very conception. A long story comprised of forty-six short-shorts, all of them in verse. A concept album in musical words. A postmodern musical on the page. This is an experiment. A frankenpoem. A HyperVerse. A collection very much out of step with most of its contemporaries.
Spring’s Fall is the story of one young man crossing the burning bridge between innocence and experience, a coming-of-age epic about fitting in and falling out, finding oneself and losing oneself, and discovering the meanings of life, love, and identity. Readers will follow Sevin as he ambles around his hometown one last time, reminiscing about the moments that made him into the young man he’s become. He reimagines, not only his own thoughts and feelings, actions and words, but also those of the girls and women who made a significant mark on him. 
Rejecting the “rules” of what contemporary poetry should be, Spring’s Fall is unapologetically unfashionable, written in the spirit of the complex-but-imperfect music many of us hear and sing to our insecure selves in adolescence. 
Not an easy read, but it’s not nearly as challenging as growing up.
I personally always preferred old-school poetry with strict rules regarding rhyme and alliteration, but Maya Angelou and Emily Dickinson showed me the beautiful things that can be done when one bends the rules or maybe even completely ignores them. In the synopsis, they state that Spring's Fall doesn't follow 'the "rules" of what contemporary poetry should be', even rejects these rules. I found that Spring's Fall is relatively in line with contemporary poetry rules and is, in that sense, nothing extraordinary the way the synopsis presents it to be. This book of poetry suffers, I think, from the wrong marketing, In the three paragraphs above, Spring's Fall is praised into the sky as the deepest, strangest, absurdest and yet realest book of poetry you could ever discover. Perfect for those among us who feel like they are the only one who feels this way and will never be understood. However, many of the things Grey-Sun describes are quite relatable and as a consequence you're unfairly left wondering what the big deal is. Had the synopsis been different I probably wouldn't have been as dissatisfied with Spring's Fall as I now am.

There is something about the initial poems which is quite entrancing. Without wanting to seem base, it is quite comparable to how reality tv etc. can draw you in and refuse to let you go. As the reader you want to know more, see more, etc. And because the synopsis promises such revelations as have never been read before you're constantly left wanting more. The poem also grows quite self-indulgent, which the introduction also makes plenty clear. To often I find poetry to be very forced. It feels as if the poet sits down and wonders how he can make a normal experience as abstract and lofty as possible in order to sound deep and intelligent. The reason I love Dickinson and Angelou is because they keep their poetry so close to home, close to the heart. Grey-Sun seems to want to fly without having the wings to do it and it's a real shame because there are parts of Spring's Fall which over some real promise. A down-point was the author's prose "explanations" of his poetry. Whether he was trying to be helpful or thought that he needed to explain his poetry to us, I don't know. But poetry should be able to speak for itself.

Personally, I also found the idea of him re-imagining the thoughts of the women he dates very off-putting. Although I'm not offended by any of it, the attitude of seeing one-self as the centre of everyone's universe is just not quite palatable to me. Especially because the main character doesn't necessarily come across as the best kind of guy. However, I don't want to be too negative about Spring's Fall. There are some really beautiful passages which really lift the poems up. It shows that Grey-Sun feels quite deeply about his story and that is always a good thing. If Spring's Fall had been subject to less up-front praise, I might have been less disappointed.

I give this collection...

2 Universes!

Spring's Fall's poetry is modernist and might fit well as a YA read. Grey-Sun's style is at times very abstract and this means that quite often you tend to lose empathy. The poetry doesn't completely sweep you away, however it can make for a nice read. Just ignore the raving praise the synopsis bestows on it, because it will only create expectations which aren't met.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Tuesday Intros & Teaser Tuesday - 'Tarkin' by James Luceno

Tarkin (Star Wars)I am feeling like work is slowly but surely starting to drown me, but land is in sight so it can't be too bad. I am awaiting potentially bad news regarding an application for a PhD in America so the whole day will be murder for my nerves, but I guess that's part of it as well! So let's get onto these memes and distract ourselves from everything else that is not a book! I'm using one book for both of these this week, which I have been wanting to start for ages. Be ready for the sci-fi to come your way! Tuesday Intros is hosted by Diane over at Bibliophile by the Sea and Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB over at Should Be Reading.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. . . .
Bestselling Star Wars veteran James Luceno gives Grand Moff Tarkin the Star Wars: Darth Plagueis treatment, bringing a legendary character from A New Hope to full, fascinating life.
He’s the scion of an honorable and revered family. A dedicated soldier and distinguished legislator. Loyal proponent of the Republic and trusted ally of the Jedi Order. Groomed by the ruthless politician and Sith Lord who would be Emperor, Governor Wilhuff Tarkin rises through the Imperial ranks, enforcing his authority ever more mercilessly . . . and zealously pursuing his destiny as the architect of absolute dominion.
Rule through the fear of force rather than force itself, he advises his Emperor. Under Tarkin’s guidance, an ultimate weapon of unparalleled destruction moves ever closer to becoming a terrifying reality. When the so-called Death Star is completed, Tarkin is confident that the galaxy’s lingering pockets of Separatist rebellion will be brought to heel—by intimidation . . . or annihilation.
Until then, however, insurgency remains a genuine threat. Escalating guerrilla attacks by resistance forces and newfound evidence of a growing Separatist conspiracy are an immediate danger the Empire must meet with swift and brutal action. And to bring down a band of elusive freedom fighters, the Emperor turns to his most formidable agents: Darth Vader, the fearsome new Sith enforcer as remorseless as he is mysterious; and Tarkin—whose tactical cunning and cold-blooded efficiency will pave the way for the Empire’s supremacy . . . and its enemies’ extinction.
Intro:
'A saying emerged during the  early years of the Empire: Better to be spaced than based on Belderone. Some commentators traced the origin to the last of the original Kamino-grown soldiers who had served alongside the Jedi in the Clone Wars; others to the first crop of cadets graduated from the Imperial academies.' p.1
See, to me all of the references here make sense so I am immediately drawn into what is happening here. However, I can imagine that if you don't watch Star Wars or now its rough chronology then this would just be confusing.


TeaserTuesdays2014eTeaser:
'"Your point?""Only that we face a hopeless task in trying to establish a rendezvous while the pursuit is in progress."Sidious swiveled the chair slightly.' 53%
I doubt this is a spoiler so I decided to pick it because I quite like the second sentence. I can just imagine the completely done expression on the face of the person saying it. Also, Sidious swiveling in his imperial chair is always a good thing!

I'm really excited to start reading this one because I need more Star Wars in my life. It has a soothing effect and is just awesome. Also, a great text for some inspiration.

So, how about you? What are you introducing, what are you teasing?

Monday, 27 October 2014

Review: 'Once Upon A Time: A Short History of Fairy Tale' by Marina Warner

A few weeks ago, I reviewed Children Into Swans, a book by Jan Beveridge in which he explored many of the roots and shared traditions of Northern-European folklore and legends. My main criticism of the book was that I felt that its limitations to Northern-Europe meant a lot of valuable insights were lost. Warner here writes a similar book for fairy tales but also includes Southern European, Asian and Russian examples.
From wicked queens, beautiful princesses, elves, monsters, and goblins to giants, glass slippers, poisoned apples, magic keys, and mirrors, the characters and images of fairy tales have cast a spell over readers and audiences, both adults and children, for centuries. These fantastic stories have travelled across cultural borders, and been passed down from generation to generation, ever-changing, renewed with each re-telling. Few forms of literature have greater power to enchant us and rekindle our imagination than a fairy tale. 
But what is a fairy tale? Where do they come from and what do they mean? What do they try and communicate to us about morality, sexuality, and society? The range of fairy tales stretches across great distances and time; their history is entangled with folklore and myth, and their inspiration draws on ideas about nature and the supernatural, imagination and fantasy, psychoanalysis, and feminism. 
Marina Warner has loved fairy tales over her long writing career, and she explores here a multitude of tales through the ages, their different manifestations on the page, the stage, and the screen. From the phenomenal rise of Victorian and Edwardian literature to contemporary children's stories, Warner unfolds a glittering array of examples, from classics such as Red Riding HoodCinderella, and The Sleeping Beauty, the Grimm Brothers' Hansel and Gretel, and Hans Andersen's The Little Mermaid, to modern-day realizations including Walt Disney's Snow White and gothic interpretations such as Pan's Labyrinth
In ten succinct chapters, Marina Warner digs into a rich collection of fairy tales in their brilliant and fantastical variations, in order to define a genre and evaluate a literary form that keeps shifting through time and history. She makes a persuasive case for fairy tale as a crucial repository of human understanding and culture.
Fairy tales are, as some of my more frequent readers may know, a favourite of mine. I loved reading fairy tales as a child and the fascination never quite wore off. In many ways I think it also informs my choice of study. However, they are a contentious subject, especially considering the influence they have been given in children's lives. I really enjoyed the way Warner handled the pedagogic aspects of fairy tales and how the traditions within fairy tales and especially fairy tale adaptations work and were changed over time. I think Warner manages to strike a tone that is educative without being pedantic. We all know those books that treat the reader like they're stupid. Everyone knows fairy tales, but only few have a good oversight of how the Grimm's brothers actually crucially changed aspects of them.

For me one of the most interesting things about this book was the amount of attention Warner paid to how different centuries responded differently to fairy tales. Whereas the Victorians tried to soften them up as much as possible to be accessible to children without potentially teaching them something, the trend nowadays in to find the darker sides of fairy tales and explore them. Similarly to how many movies are currently focusing on the dark and the bad, we do the same with fairy tales and find plenty of material. It even bleeds into music, if one wants to think of the interesting choice of 'I've Got No Strings' as the trailer soundtrack for the new Avengers trailer.

I have seen a few reviews online which complain about the fact that Once Upon A Time is not actually a fairy tale but, as the cover says, a short history of fairy tales. I can't really tell what they were expecting, but personally I feel the book did exactly what it said on the cover. By this point I have read quite a lot on fairy tales, folk lore and myth & legends, so many of Warner's ideas weren't ground-breaking to me. However, as an introduction and a general summary of the tradition of fairy tales and the study of fairy tales it serves very well. One of the best things about books like these are often the bibliographies. The authors do a whole mountain of research for their books and then present the reader with succinct summaries with the possibility of branching out.

I give this book...

4 Universes.

I definitely recommend this book to people who are interested in reading something about fairy tales. If you're looking for fairy tales themselves, pick up a copy of the Grimm's fairy tales at the library. Warner's writing style is informative without making the reader feel inadequate and Once Upon A Time is bound to wet your appetite for more about fairy tales.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Friday Fun - 'The Song of Achilles' by Madeline Miller

GFC
I am a bit late with this post, so I'll be scrambling through all the posts over the weekend, hopefully! I was terribly behind with university work this week because I spent last weekend in Germany with my mother for her birthday. But the next two days are going to change everything! I will be so prepared! But for now I'm going to focus on blogging.



Follow Friday is hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee and this week's question was submitted by Howling for Books:
Characters, sometimes our favourites, die during books. If you'd get to choose, who'd you bring back?

My mind immediately went to the Harry Potter books and then I got stuck because who, out of all the people who died, would I want to bring back? I first thought of Remus Lupin, then, of course, Fred, then I wanted to bring Lilly back. So I'm stuck and I might just have to move to a different book.

I would really like to bring Boromir from The Fellowship of the Ring back.

He, as a character, just had so much potential and I want to see him be able to redeem himself. He always had a heavy burden on his shoulders, which you don't really find out about in the first book, and he was trying to do what was best. I think he could have been an invaluable ally during the rescue of Merry and Pippin, Helms Deep and the Battle of Pelennor. Also, his death is absolutely horrid although it is also heroic. He just deserves to live, dammit!

Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Billy over at Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. This week is Halloween Edition and I am loving this week's question:
Book Blogger HopYou accidentally unleashed ghouls from a novel and they are now running amok. What fictional hero (book or film) would you like to help you defeat the ghouls?


First of all, releasing ghouls from a novel really does sound like something that would happen to me.I would love to set up a female ghoul-hunting squad a le Ghost Busters, comprising of me, Hermione from the Harry Potter books , Leia from Star Wars and Jessica Lange in whichever character she prefers from American Horror Story. Admittedly in my mind this is taking on the look of a film noir and we spend a lot of time planning and scheming in seedy jazz bars, drinking gin and being elegant while also murderous. I fear those ghouls would be out there for a very long time...

I'm using a book I bought around two weeks ago and still haven't opened although I keep being pestered by people to read it and cry over it. This book is The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. Apparently this is one sad book, but I'm scared to begin because although I love Greek mythology I am very antsy about adaptations. I just love the traditional myths too much! Book Beginnings is hosted by Gilion over at Rose City Reader and Friday 56 is hosted by Freda over at Freda's Voice.

BB:
'My father was a king and the son of kings. He was a short man, as most of us were, and built like a bull, all shoulders. He married my mother when she was fourteen and sworn byt he priestess to be fruitful. It was a good match: she was an only child, and her father's fortune would go to her husband.He did not find out until the wedding that she was simple.' p.1
I decided to include the first couple of sentences, because I liked the revelation that came at the beginning oft he second paragraph. It's a good way of setting the reader up on the wrong foot, but I also quite like Miller's factional tone. So far so good!


F56:
'And I? I was shy and silent with all but Achilles; I could scarcely speak to the other boys, let alone a girl.' p.56
I think we can all see quite clearly where this book is heading. Having translated the original Greek, I do know there are, let's call them undertones, and I have no problem with those. I just hope Miller works them out properly rather than clunking them into the story. But judging by all the tears that are being shed about this book online, I have a feeling she does it very well.


So, those are my answers. I am now actually quite excited about reading The Song of Achilles! What character do you want to bring back from the dead? And who's in your ghoul-busting squad?

Have a good weekend everyone :)

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Review: 'A Storm of Witchcraft' by Emerson W. Baker



I really enjoy reading non-fictional historical books. I think one of the main "tasks" of books and literature is to educate and therefore there is nothing more important than well-written books on history and culture. Witchcraft is also a major interest of mine because I think it is absolutely fascinating, especially how it interacts with history.
Beginning in January 1692, Salem Village in colonial Massachusetts witnessed the largest and most lethal outbreak of witchcraft in early America. Villagers--mainly young women--suffered from unseen torments that caused them to writhe, shriek, and contort their bodies, complaining of pins stuck into their flesh and of being haunted by specters. Believing that they suffered from assaults by an invisible spirit, the community began a hunt to track down those responsible for the demonic work. The resulting Salem Witch Trials, culminating in the execution of 19 villagers, persists as one of the most mysterious and fascinating events in American history. 
Historians have speculated on a web of possible causes for the witchcraft that stated in Salem and spread across the region-religious crisis, ergot poisoning, an encephalitis outbreak, frontier war hysteria--but most agree that there was no single factor. Rather, as Emerson Baker illustrates in this seminal new work, Salem was "a perfect storm": a unique convergence of conditions and events that produced something extraordinary throughout New England in 1692 and the following years, and which has haunted us ever since.
Baker shows how a range of factors in the Bay colony in the 1690s, including a new charter and government, a lethal frontier war, and religious and political conflicts, set the stage for the dramatic events in Salem. Engaging a range of perspectives, he looks at the key players in the outbreak--the accused witches and the people they allegedly bewitched, as well as the judges and government officials who prosecuted them--and wrestles with questions about why the Salem tragedy unfolded as it did, and why it has become an enduring legacy.
Salem in 1692 was a critical moment for the fading Puritan government of Massachusetts Bay, whose attempts to suppress the story of the trials and erase them from memory only fueled the popular imagination. Baker argues that the trials marked a turning point in colonial history from Puritan communalism to Yankee independence, from faith in collective conscience to skepticism toward moral governance. A brilliantly told tale, A Storm of Witchcraft also puts Salem's storm into its broader context as a part of the ongoing narrative of American history and the history of the Atlantic World.
Salem and its witch trials are a major part of not only our entertainment but also of our history without us really being aware of it. As a European, Salem isn't part of "my history" perse and it has never really been taught in my schools. The closest I have come to learning about it was when I read The Crucible. However, witch trials and the persecution of witches was a major issue in Europe during the Middle Ages and it has always fascinated me how something as "unreal" as witchcraft could be a palpable threat to enlightened people. Baker really astutely remarks that for 17th century people witches were as real as bakers or butchers. Although we might take this with a grain of salt, it is still important to realize the differences in thinking that exist between their and our time. A Storm of Witchcraft is full of these little gems of sudden insight which Baker carefully works towards. It makes it a very interesting and engaging read.

Unfortunately Baker sometimes seems to lose himself in the details. There is so much information that he has collected that at times chapters get clogged up and lose their thread. Although he always manages to pick it back up, some chapters can be a hard read. Especially when it comes to the people involved, the endless names become quite confusing. Although Baker does well in showing the scope of those afflicted by the witch trials, it can be very hard to follow and at some points you just give up on trying to remember exactly who is being discussed. But as I said, Baker usually picks the thread back up after the information dump and brings the chapter to a clear resolution. What the multitude of "characters" are good for is precisely for showing how widely these witch trials impacted not just Massachusetts but all of America.

As the synopsis says, Baker argues for the coming together of a whole range of events that led to the eventual witch trials. As such, it is one of the most convincing and interesting theories I have read so far. I am in agreement with Baker than big historical events are always a product of their time and therefore of the surrounding factors all coming together at once. The history of the town of Salem itself was also something completely new to me. Baker's insights into Puritanism, the conflict between the Native Americans and the Americans and the tense relationship with England were all really interesting and formed the highlights of the book for me. A Storm of Witchcraft is definitely a fascinating insight into the complexity of something now usually referred to simply as temporary madness. I also really enjoyed his analysis of how the legacy of Salem changed throughout the years and how, in some ways, Salem came to stand for exactly that which the Puritans most feared into 1692.

I give this book...

3 Universes.

I would definitely recommend this book to those of you who are interested in knowing more about Salem and the witch trials. If you are just interested in something a bit sensational and a bit educational at the same time, Baker's book isn't for you. It asks for a lot of attention and patience, but those virtues are rewarded by very rewarding insights. Overall, this book kept me interested throughout and I am very glad with my extra knowledge.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Review: 'Property Of' by Alice Hoffman

Alice Hoffman is perhaps best known for her novel Practical Magic, which was turned into an highly entertaining movie. This year also saw her publishing The Museum of Extraordinary Things which I myself immensely enjoyed. However, Hoffman has been writing for years and it is her first novel that is up for discussion now. And what a way to make an entrance into the literary world!

The mesmerizing debut of a major American writer
On the Night of the Wolf, the Orphans drive south on the Avenue, hunting their rival gang, the Pack. In the lead is McKay, their brooding, courageous President. Left waiting at the clubhouse is the Property of the Orphans, tough girls in mascara and leather who have declared their allegiance to the crew. Tonight, a new girl has joined their ranks. She waits only for McKay.
Drag races, dope, knife fights in the street. To the seventeen-year-old heroine of Alice Hoffman’s stunning first novel, the gritty world of the Avenue is beautiful and enthralling. But her love for McKay is an addiction—one that is never satisfied and is impossible to kick. Deeper and deeper she falls, until the winter’s day when she decides to break the spell once and for all.
A strikingly original story about the razor-thin line between love and loss, Property Of showcases the vivid imagery, lyricism, and emotional complexity that are the hallmarks of Alice Hoffman’s extraordinary career.
This would be one hell of an introduction to Hoffman. Having seen or read Practical Magic, you might think you know what she is all about, but Property Of is unlike any book I have read and I have to be quite honest and say that I am slightly in love with it the way out protagonist is in love with McKay. It wasn't enough and yet it was just right. 'Mesmerizing', 'original' and 'vivid' are all words that fit this novel to the tee. When I read the synopsis I was intrigued and then worried. Was I going to be reading another 'I can fix him with my love'-story? Would it be as cliche as I know a lot of novels to be? And yet from the very first page Hoffman cast all of my doubts aside and had me following her trail. In Property Of she manages to show things that would otherwise have enraged me. Women aren't property and shouldn't ever be thought of as such, and yet Hoffman nails it when she describes the feeling of longing to belong, may it be to a group or to one other person. Humans are pack-animals and we crave to be close to others. We also crave excitement, danger, honour and other things that aren't good for us. Hoffman describes many of these things without judgement, without a morality-lesson and thereby allows her reader an insight into a life most of us won't know. It makes excellent food for thought, something every book should strive to be.

Hoffman has an incredible authorial presence that is never too intrusive. She herself doesn't "enter" the narrative but the protagonist often takes a moment out to address the reader. Although this usually breaks up the narrative for me, leading to frustration, here it really helps. Not once do you find out what her name is or where she actually comes from but because the book is so closely entwined with the main character those details would feel unnecessary. You will know her better than you know yourself at the end of the book. I found myself in love when she was, disgusted, terrified when she was and sometimes even angry at her, without ever thinking of putting the book down. Through her use of language, which makes the base and banal lyrical, the novel lures you into this world of gangs and violence, where the concept of honour among thieves still seem to exist and yet reality never fails to intervene, and makes you want to be a part of it. Will I be joining a gang tomorrow? No, Property Of has definitely convinced me it's not my kind of place, but that doesn't mean that the images drawn by Hoffman aren't enticing and spectacular. In many ways, Hoffman has done exactly what I wish all books did. She has taken me on a journey, shown me places I would otherwise never have seen, all from my own room.

This novel is one that exists almost solely for itself. It sounds very abstract or pretentious maybe, but Property Of feels like a book that wasn't written to top the best-seller lists and bring in money, but to allow the author to stretch her abilities to the brink and over it. Originally published in 1977, it is was released as e-book in September of this year and although this may be me growing sentimental over a time in which I never lived, Property Of smacks of a time when "literature" was a lot freer, less constrained by the need to make profit or to fit in with a trend. Being a debut novel, it is naturally also meant to showcase Hoffman's abilities at their best but nothing in this book feels manufactured or fake. She writes matter-of-factly about violence, love, drugs and many more things

I give this novel...
5 Universes.

I don't hand out 5 Universes quickly because I keep them for books that really resonate with me or touch something that other books don't. Property Of is that kind of book. Hoffman creates a story that is addictive, that you don't want to let go. The thought of picking up another book straight after this one was out of the question. I recommend this not only to Hoffman fans but also to readers looking for a book that will suck you in and not let go.

Tuesday Intros & Teaser Tuesdays - 'Property Of' by Alice Hoffman

I'm really excited about the book I'm sharing with you guys today! I read it over the weekend and it simply won't let me go. The book I'm talking about is Property Of by Alice Hoffman. It was her debut novel and it has completely blown me away! I just posted my review as well, so if you want to read my thoughts on it hop over there! Tuesday Intros is hosted by Diane over at Bibliophile by the Sea and Teaser Tuesday is hosted over at Should Be Reading!
The mesmerizing debut of a major American writer
On the Night of the Wolf, the Orphans drive south on the Avenue, hunting their rival gang, the Pack. In the lead is McKay, their brooding, courageous President. Left waiting at the clubhouse is the Property of the Orphans, tough girls in mascara and leather who have declared their allegiance to the crew. Tonight, a new girl has joined their ranks. She waits only for McKay.
Drag races, dope, knife fights in the street. To the seventeen-year-old heroine of Alice Hoffman’s stunning first novel, the gritty world of the Avenue is beautiful and enthralling. But her love for McKay is an addiction—one that is never satisfied and is impossible to kick. Deeper and deeper she falls, until the winter’s day when she decides to break the spell once and for all.
A strikingly original story about the razor-thin line between love and loss, Property Of showcases the vivid imagery, lyricism, and emotional complexity that are the hallmarks of Alice Hoffman’s extraordinary career.
Property Of is simply absolutely fascinating and Hoffman sucks you into this gang-world and leaves you both craving more and glad you're not living it. Anyway, let's get on to the memes!

Intro:
'"Look," I said, "I'm going with you."Snow was falling and the moon was howling light onto the Avenue. It was a night for skidding tires and Orphans on the street. I waited for his answer."Get lost," said Danny the Sweet."Danny," I said, "what kind of an answer is that? That's an answer I won't accept." p.1
One of the main things I liked about this book was how the main character acted. She is never named, since it's told from her perspective, but she never not does what she wants to do. She doesn't follow commands and she is never called out on that. Despite the book being called Property Of, she mainly owns herself.
TeaserTuesdays2014e
Teaser:
'My enemy had tricked me from the very start. What I thought was alive was long dead, and there is no victory when the enemy was a corpse long long before the battle had ever begun. Even if that enemy was a word.' p.100
I chose this teaser because it's quite a good example, I think, of how Hoffman works with language and manages to make quite complicated ideas very logical. Also, in this case her "enemy" really is a word, or rather what that word stands for.

So, which book are you teasing? Is it a current read or one you just finished?

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Review: 'The Ship' by Antonia Honeywell


I wasn't sure what I would think of this novel when I started it. The Dystopian genre is one that is very hit and miss for me. Either there is not enough exposition and everything comes off as unrealistic or the author loses themselves in describing a post-apocalyptic world and abandons his plot. Thankfully, The Ship completely blew me away. 
CHILDREN OF MEN meets THE HANDMAIDEN'S TALE: a dystopian epic about love, friendship and what it means to be free. 
WELCOME TO LONDONBUT NOT AS YOU KNOW IT
Oxford Street burned for three weeksThe British Museum is squatted by ragtag survivorsThe Regent's Park camps have been bombed
THE NAZARETH ACT HAS COME INTO FORCEIF YOU CAN'T PRODUCE YOUR IDENTITY CARD, YOU'RE GOING TO BE SHOT
Lalla, 16, has grown up sheltered from the new reality by her visionary father, Michael Paul. But now the chaos has reached their doorstep. Michael has promised Lalla and her mother that they will escape. Escape is a ship big enough to save 500 people.
BUT ONLY THE WORTHY WILL BE CHOSEN 
Once on board, as day follows identical day, Lalla's unease grows. Where are they going? What does her father really want?
The books that I most enjoy are books that ask questions and don't serve you a picture-perfect answer on a silver platter. Honeywell's The Ship does exactly what I wish from a book, The synopsis may make it sounds sensational and unrealistic, but Honeywell has done her research. Her London, her world, is one of the most recognizable dystopian settings I have read. Many of the "problems" her characters encounter could be potential consequences of many of the things happening around the world as we speak. Of course she draws an extremely bleak future in which a lot of things go wrong which don't have to go wrong, but it is a human future, one in which we could end up. The idea of the Ship is, I think, derived from the Utopia-tradition, the concept that there is such a thing as a perfect society. Although I myself am a skeptic, I really enjoyed the way Honeywell created the Ship and managed to show its different sides. I don't want to give away too much, but the idea that a society that is only perfect within itself is not human is one that definitely pops up in The Ship.

Honeywell really manages to capture some of the darker and lighter aspects of humanity. On the one hand there is love and friendship and trust, but humans are also selfish and desperate for survival. Lalage, or Lalla, was a great main character. There is a real development in her and from the very first page to the last one she is constantly changing and growing up. Initially I found some of her actions a bit childish, but her sheltered childhood kept her away from a lot of things, so that was to be expected. Honeywell then does really well in showing how reality seeps in and how that understanding changes a person. Some of the surrounding characters felt a bit flat, in the sense that some of their actions weren't quite as human as you would expect. However, the novel is told from Lalla's perspective, who is clearly an unreliable narrator, so the extra characters' "flaws" could be down to that. Aside from telling a good story, The Ship also uses Honeywell's thoughts about the world we live in to make some genuinely interesting points. At which point does the survival of a few outweigh the lives of most? Is culture something we need to preserve or reinvent? Do you have to give up on answers if giving in is easier?

There are a lot of twists and turns in this novel which constantly kept me on the edge of my seat. Because you experience and find out things alongside Lalla you start off very unknowing. It's a real pleasure to not be able to anticipate the plot twists because too often dystopian novels are very predictable. Honeywell's writing style is also really evocative, managing to both describe quite brutal scenes and also portray a budding romance in a way I found both endearing and fascinating. The writing evolves alongside the characters and manages to really build up to the climax of the novel, at which point all you want is to know. As I said at the beginning of this review, I enjoy novels that make me think and I had to think throughout this novel.

I give this novel...

5 Universes!

I read this book within a day and that is not something I do often. Although I had plenty of other things to do I kept reading because I had to finish it. Honeywell keeps you engaged throughout and you really come to care about the characters. Apart from that, The Ship is also incredibly clever and interesting. You will definitely be thinking about this one for a while after finishing and I recommend it to everyone.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Review: 'Gracefully Grayson' by Ami Polonsky

Gracefully GraysonI try to read a varied amount of books about a whole range of topics because I think it is through reading or experiencing someone else's life that we really learn. When I saw the synopsis for this book I knew that it was one I simply had to pick up and read, not only because it is an important issue, but also because it sounded heart-breaking.

Alone at home, twelve-year-old Grayson Sender glows, immersed in beautiful thoughts and dreams. But at school, Grayson grasps at shadows, determined to fly under the radar. Because Grayson has been holding onto a secret for what seems like forever: “he” is a girl on the inside, stuck in the wrong gender’s body.
The weight of this secret is crushing, but leaving it behind would mean facing ridicule, scorn, and rejection. Despite these dangers, Grayson’s true self itches to break free. Strengthened by an unexpected friendship and a caring teacher who gives her a chance to step into the spotlight, Grayson might finally have the tools to let her inner light shine.
Debut author Ami Polonsky’s moving, beautifully-written novel shines with the strength of a young person’s spirit and the enduring power of acceptance
Polonsky deals her subject matter and her characters with unending tenderness. She doesn't give complicated terms for things that are so simple to a twelve-year old. What I appreciated was her refusal to clearly and directly make some people antagonistic. For adults with a child's best interest at heart it can be hard to figure out what to do and how to respond. This doesn't make them evil but simply realistic. Polonsky creates a broad spectrum of characters, all of which are given the time and space to respond to Grayson in their own way and although the reader might agree with one rather than the other, no one is vilified.

I think that gender dysphoria and transgender identity are topics which should be much more openly discussed because if there isn't an open and safe space for these topics then people such as Grayson will have to struggle much more to express themselves. Literature is a great place to start and especially a book such as Gracefully Grayson which is accessible to people from a very early age on. Polonsky's writing is simple, direct and without unnecessary frills. That doesn't mean that the book isn't beautiful. Polonsky pays a lot of attention to what she says and how and it really shows in how loved the book feels. Especially the choice of the play performed was very interesting and also shows Polonsky stretching her writing-skills, successfully I'd like to add.

The high-school environment as described by Polonsky is one of the most realistic I have ever read. Authors too easily slip into writing intrigues and relationships that, in my experience, are way too complicated and grown-up for high-school. Rather than dramatize, Polonsky sticks to Grayson and how he feels. There is a distinct difference between something being a certain way or someone thinking about  something a certain way. This may seem obvious but I've read a lot of books in which this difference wasn't appreciated. Who is friendly, who is antagonistic, who is plotting, who is simply chatting, we'll never know because we can only hear our own thoughts and Gracefully Grayson goes out of its way to stay with Grayson and not get carried away by the dramatic potential of the setting.

What may come as a surprise is that this book isn't all about a boy who is transgender. Yes, Grayson knows he's a girl, not a boy. But that's not all there is to his life. There is friendship, family, school and the process of growing-up. By incorporating Grayson's identity as a transgender along with the rest of his life Polonsky subtly tells the message that it isn't something life-halting or shocking but just one part of a person. It also means that the book is enjoyable, despite its heavy topic. There are funny moments, sad moments and even inspiring ones.

I give this novel...

4 Universes.

I really recommend this book to, well, everyone. Polonsky deals with the issue very kindly and makes it accessible to readers from all ages. Although I think there is a "deeper" way of dealing with the topic and exploring it more, this is a great starting point, especially for teenagers. Polonsky's writing is great and the book flies by while giving the reader a taste of a whole range of emotions.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Tuesday Intros & Teaser Tuesdays

It's Tuesday, it's raining, it's gloomy...I need a pick-me-up! And there's nothing better than seeing what everyone's reading and becoming insanely jealous at all of your amazing books! Tuesday Intros is hosted by Diane over at Bibliophile by the Sea. Teaser Tuesday is hosted over at Should Be Reading!
TeaserTuesdays2014e

This week I'm using two different books: Mr. Bones: Twenty Stories by Paul Theroux for Tuesday Intros.
A dark and bitingly humorous collection of short stories from the “brilliantly evocative” (Time) Paul Theroux A family watches in horror as their patriarch transforms into the singing, wise-cracking lead of an old-timey minstrel show. A renowned art collector relishes publicly destroying his most valuable pieces. Two boys stand by helplessly as their father stages an all-consuming war on the raccoons living in the woods around their house. A young artist devotes himself to a wealthy, malicious gossip, knowing that it’s just a matter of time before she turns on him. 
In this new collection of short stories, acclaimed author Paul Theroux explores the tenuous leadership of the elite and the surprising revenge of the overlooked. He shows us humanity possessed, consumed by its own desire and compulsion, always with his carefully honed eye for detail and the subtle idiosyncrasies that bring his characters to life. Searing, dark, and sure to unsettle, Mr. Bones is a stunning new display of Paul Theroux’s “fluent, faintly sinister powers of vision and imagination” (John Updike, The New Yorker).
Intro from Mr. Bones:
'Minor Watt, the real estate developer and art collector, was seated at the Jacobean dining table with the fat baluster legs that serves as his desk, waiting for his wife - soon to be ex-wife - to arrive. He had been thinking of himself, but the graceful Chinese vase with a tall flared neck, resting on the antique table, made him reflect that, as with so many things he owned - perhaps all of them - we was able to discern its inner meaning in its subtle underglaze, the circumstances of his acquiring it, its price of course, its provenance, all the hands that had touched it and yet left it undamaged, its relation ot his own life, its secret history, its human dimension, almost as though his pale porcelain with the tracery of red peony scroll was human flesh. And then after this flicker of distraction he thought of himself again.' p.9
 I love the apparent nonchalance of Theroux's writing style. He manages to go from simple to incredibly detailed with ease and then slips back without a problem. So far what I've read has been great!
I'm using Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky for Teaser Tuesday.

Gracefully GraysonAlone at home, twelve-year-old Grayson Sender glows, immersed in beautiful thoughts and dreams. But at school, Grayson grasps at shadows, determined to fly under the radar. Because Grayson has been holding onto a secret for what seems like forever: “he” is a girl on the inside, stuck in the wrong gender’s body.
The weight of this secret is crushing, but leaving it behind would mean facing ridicule, scorn, and rejection. Despite these dangers, Grayson’s true self itches to break free. Strengthened by an unexpected friendship and a caring teacher who gives her a chance to step into the spotlight, Grayson might finally have the tools to let her inner light shine.
Debut author Ami Polonsky’s moving, beautifully-written novel shines with the strength of a young person’s spirit and the enduring power of acceptance.
Teaser from Gracefully Grayson:
'We ride in silence, and I think about how loud the quiet is; I think about what it means. Finally, the bus slows to a stop on Randolph. I'm desperate to get off, but I can barely bring myself to move. My legs ache and I know everything is over.' 39%
This isn't too spoilerific, although you might feel like it is. Let's not forget that no matter what gender, Grayson is still a teenager. Polonsky writes this book with so much love and compassion that you can't help but become completely engrossed.

So, those two are my books this week! What are you reading?

Friday, 10 October 2014

Friday and 'Le Morte Darthur' by Malory

Alison Can Read Feature & FollowYes, it's happening! I'm finally, for my feeling, participating in the Friday memes again! Although they can be stressful in the sense of that I constantly forget to prepare this post and then have to rush to get it up, I enjoy it majorly, so now I'm back in the game! Let's start it off with Follow Friday, hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee. This week's question was suggested by Becky's Barmy Book Blog and is:


Book Merchandise - show off some of you stuff - posters, t-shirts. Whatever you got!

I actually don't think I have that much book merchandise apart from my actual books. I don't think this actually counts, but I use some of the bookflaps as decoration for my massive (it's genuinely too big, I don't have enough clothes to fill it) wardrobe.
There's also some awkward family pictures so ignore those. And the Minion drawing was done by my sister, who is a genius at many things! I actually can't think of anything else now because I always want to buy merchandise and never do. I've got some Star Wars posters, which doesn't actually count considering it's not a book. There are some Hobbit posters but I haven't put them up, no space!

Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Billy over at Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer. And it's the Halloween edition! This week's question is:
Book Blogger Hop
What is the scariest book title you have either read or heard about?

Although perhaps this book isn't the scariest around, it did give me one of my scariest book experiences! I finished reading The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon and when I went to bed that night I had the creepiest dream about being in a cave with the bad guy from the book and there was a lot of other creepy things I don't want to say in case I spoil the book. And then I woke up and thought I was still in the dream! I wasn't wearing my glasses, obviously, and all I could feel was the cold wall and somehow, in my mind, this equated to me still being in the cave! I was so scared until I practically fell out of the bed and realized I was in the room. Yes, definitely scary!

Book Beginnings and Friday 56 are hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader and Freda over at Freda's Voice. This week I'm using a book I've been studying for the last two weeks: Le Morte Darthur by Sir Thomas Malory. I'm keeping the Middle English spelling, but it shouldn't be too much of  a challenge. Read it out loud if it is, that really helped me


BB:
'It befel in the dayes of Uther Pendragon, when he was Kynge of all Englond and so regnes, that there was a myghty duke in Cornewaill that helde warre ageynst hym long tyme, and the duke was called the Duke of Tyntagil.' p.1
So, here we have Uther, father of Arthur. In the first chapter Arthur is born and becomes King and it's all very quick yet interesting.

F56:
'So whan Balyn saw the spere, he gate hit in hys honde, and turned to Kynge Pellam and felde hym and smote hym passyngly sore with that spere, that Kynge Pellam felle downe in a sowghe.' p.56
Summary, Balyn just slew King Pellam and it's quite tragic but because Balyn is the protagonist of sorts in this particular tale, we feel more sorry for him. The action is quite detailed and repetitive in Morte Darthur and at times I just have to skip certain passages because I just can't.

So, what about you? Have any cool merchandise? And what's your scariest read ever?

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Harry Potter Moment of the Week -

Witness me making my grand return to the blogosphere! Well, not exactly grand but  a Harry Potter meme is a pretty good way of getting back into things. University starting has thrown me into a whirl spin and I have been trying to do twenty things at once without sitting down and planning it etc. So I'm starting anew and afresh! Harry Potter Moment of the Week is hosted by Leah over at Uncorked Thoughts. This week we're picking:


Quibbler or Daily Prophet?

Oh, that's a difficult one. Although I am very big on following the news etc. I never actually thought about how one would go about that when part of the magical world. I would probably be so obsessed with learning how to do magic and riding hippogriffs! I think in the end I would have to go for the Quibbler.
I was absolutely disgusted by how easily the Daily Prophet was swayed and taken over and although the Quibbler might be a little bit too wacky at times, it's always good to also look at independent news sources! I love the cover above because it's just a great example of political caricature.

The fact the Quibbler is run by Luna Lovegood's dad might also be something that swayed me in its favour ;)

So, which one is your favourite and why?

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Review: 'Otherworld Nights' by Kelley Armstrong

Otherworld Nights (Otherworld Stories, #3)Kelley Armstrong and her books have been floating around in the corners of my eyes for a very long time and yet somehow I never managed to get my hands on her books and really sit down. Many thanks, therefore, to Orbit for giving me a review copy of this book.

This short story collection will include many brand-new tales and others only previously available on Kelley Armstrong's website. Most of the stories will feature the werewolves of the Otherworld, Elena and Clay, Jeremy, Karl and other members of the American Pack. These are some of Kelley Armstrong's best-loved and most enduring characters, from bestselling books such as BittenStolen and Frostbitten.
Armstrong is best known for her Women of the Otherworld series and it is in the name of her series that one of her main strengths is already laid bare. Armstrong writes amazing women. Having had bad experiences with books about vampires and werewolves, I decided to lay them to rest a few years ago, sadly missing out on some genuinely good books. Urban Fantasy is a genre that has slowly but surely been recognized for the fact that it gives us some of the most interesting female characters currently around. I think it is almost sad that I so much enjoyed reading a collection of short stories all about women of different age, different backgrounds and at different stages in their life. Although internal monologue can become a bit dreary at a certain point, it was really nice to see Armstrong slip into the minds of these different women. Armstrong writes them well and writes them as interesting and although not all parts of them were equally easy to identify with (they are supernatural after all) they were still great characters.

Having not read any of Armstrong's other books I may be in the best position to actually judge her short stories on their own merit rather than as companion pieces to her books. I am a big fan of short stories and anthologies, but my main peeve about them is stories that don't seem to contain themselves. I enjoyed each story in Otherworld Nights in its own right since Armstrong made sure that each was self-involved and made sense from beginning to end. Although at times I could sense that maybe I was expected to know a lot more about these characters already, Armstrong constantly explained everything that was necessary for each short story or novella. Something that her frequent readers already know but I only know discovered, was the joy of the stories interconnecting. A character mentioned in one becomes the main character in a different story or figures as a warning in the last story. For other, as yet, uninitiated Armstrong-readers I highly recommend reading her books or stories because it feels, quite dramatically, like entering a real world in which key figures are connected to each other and as such all matter to you.

Armstrong's writing hardly needs me to praise it since her position as a bestselling author would be confirmation enough. I am someone who often talks about her aversion to many supernatural/paranormal narratives because they are almost always impossible to relate to. Much of this is due to the fact that  too many authors get lost in adjectives and in trying to force upon the reader how incredibly mystical everything is. Armstrong thankfully leaves most of the adjectives out and places her characters in quite realistic scenarios and settings. Whether it's an American forest or a standard urban setting, it was never too far off the possible. Armstrong paints her character portraits through actions rather than through words, which means that while you're reading you come to know the characters to longer the stories progresses. Her descriptions can be beautiful and sometimes a bit horrifying, but Armstrong never writes what's unnecessary.

I give this book...

4 Universes!

I can definitely see myself picking up this anthology again and rereading some of its stories. Armstrong's stories are great even for those who haven't read her other books and can be enjoyed on their own, although they're bound to make you want more. The characters are interesting and the stories are captivating. Otherworld Nights has definitely managed to do one thing: get me more excited and motivated to pick up the first book in her Women of the Otherworld series, Bitten.

Otherworld Nights is available from today!

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Review: 'Dark Witch' by Nora Roberts

Dark Witch (The Cousins O'Dwyer Trilogy, #1)I got sent this book for review and I am very glad I gave it a chance. Although I was familiar with Nora Roberts I never got the chance to read any of her books. A magic-fueled book was probably the best way to get started and I now know why she is so loved.
With indifferent parents, Iona Sheehan grew up craving devotion and acceptance. From her maternal grandmother, she learned where to find both: a land of lush forests, dazzling lakes, and centuries-old legends.
Ireland.
County Mayo, to be exact. Where her ancestors’ blood and magic have flowed through generations—and where her destiny awaits.
Iona arrives in Ireland with nothing but her Nan’s directions, an unfailingly optimistic attitude, and an innate talent with horses. Not far from the luxurious castle where she is spending a week, she finds her cousins, Branna and Connor O’Dwyer. And since family is family, they invite her into their home and their lives.
When Iona lands a job at the local stables, she meets the owner, Boyle McGrath. Cowboy, pirate, wild tribal horseman, he’s three of her biggest fantasy weaknesses all in one big, bold package.
Iona realizes that here she can make a home for herself—and live her life as she wants, even if that means falling head over heels for Boyle. But nothing is as it seems. An ancient evil has wound its way around Iona’s family tree and must be defeated. Family and friends will fight with each other and for each other to keep the promise of hope—and love—alive…
Iona is a very enjoyable character. Partly this is due to the fact that the reader doesn't see her struggle to decide whether to come to Ireland or not. By starting her book with a fresh start rather than the run-up to a fresh start the reader can join Iona from the get go without the chance of getting annoyed at her interior monologue. The reader can get as curious as Iona, can discover things alongside her and be just as excited as she is. Iona, therefore, is a heroine that you can simply adore. Roberts shifts her narratorial focus around quite freely, briefly focusing on each character as a chapter, and the novel, progresses. This means the reader has a very good view of each character's thoughts and emotions while the narrative never loses suspense. Roberts leaves plenty up in the air while grounding her characters firmly, not only through words but also through actions. Although each of the characters are good on their own, I enjoyed it most when Roberts united them all. There are some great moments of friendship and family love. The only thing that was a bit off was a look at some characters in the beginning, who just seemed too perfect. Is that even a good thing to complain about?

One of my favourite things about this book is the magic. Roberts manages to create something that feels both natural and traditional. What I mean by this is that Roberts clearly has taken inspiration from the Gaelic and Celtic cultures that exist in Ireland and worked it into a very modern setting. Next to the traditional, Roberts also makes her characters draw from their internal strength and the love and friendship they surround themselves with. This was one of the main things I appreciated about the book. Iona has problems, with herself, with others, but always approaches the word in an expectant, cheerful way. Although at times she does this as a mask, it comes from the heart, and this is a really important trait for a character to have. Despite being hurt, it is important to not give up on the world. It's a great message to carry away from a book and it's one of the reasons why I would recommend Dark Witch to others!

Despite being a relative Roberts-virgin I had high expectations of her writing style and I wasn't disappointed. I read this book within a few hours, which is not something I often do. I wanted to know how it ended, badly, and the writing didn't do anything to stop me. Roberts writing style is easy to read and fluid, there doesn't seem to be a sentence that doesn't either add to the progression of the story or to giving needed background. Her descriptions of the Irish landscape are stunning and she manages to bring the experience of magic really close to the reader. Roberts doesn't clog up the narrative with unnecessary information and allows enough room for lightness when the plot gets darker. She sets up some clear storylines for the coming books and although at times I wished that perhaps there was more resolved in this book, it definitely serves to make the reader anticipate the sequel.

I give this book...

4 Universes!

I highly recommend this book to everyone who is looking for a contemporary urban fantasy read.  Not only does it have magic and romance, but above all it favours friendship as a key element in anyone's life. If you're looking for great female leads and an engaging story line, pick up Dark Witch. The next book in The Cousins O'Dwyer Trilogy came out this March and the final book, Blood Magick, will come out on the 28th of October. I'll definitely be reading these!