The Pack – Jason Starr

October 2, 2013 § 1 Comment

Now, before I tell you what I thought of this book, we need to get something out of the way. Jason Starr is not – I repeat, not – a feminist author. The Pack is a novel indisputably aimed at men. In fact, I find it very unlikely that the author ever intended for a female reader to pick his book up.

The Pack, Jason Starr

The Pack, Jason Starr

Simon Burns has been fired from his job (for reasons that are never truly made clear), and he’s disgruntled about it. Enormously unimpressed. One might even go so far as to say he’s downright irritated! But Starr presents this as passionate fury that drives Simon to unintentionally murder his former boss.
Then there’s Michael, the leader of The Pack itself. He’s direct, to the point of irreverent bluntness. As in, he tells his pack members, “you will have steak”, and this is considered his invitation to an exclusive night of manly bonding. The other two members of The Pack, Charlie and Ramon, lap up Michael’s domineering instructions, but Simon resists the temptation to be bound to the pack rules.   Before being bitten, Simon is turned into a “temporary wolf”.  After a wild night out at Michael’s family brewery, he wakes up in a different city, naked, disoriented and really freaked out. Turns out, the concoction that begins the transformation from human to wolf was…wait for it…in the beer. How manly is that?
Simon begins to notice physical changes. Suddenly, he’s full of boundless energy, has an insatiable sexual appetite and has gone from having a near-vegetarian diet to an exclusively carnivorous one. His wife doesn’t understand what’s happened and frankly, neither does Simon. He feels better in so many ways, but he doesn’t understand why. Unbeknownst to him (but quite apparent to the reader), he has begun the painful transition from human to lycanthrope.

I won’t lie to you, readers. Starr’s women are utterly pathetic. When Simon loses his high-flying advertising job, his wife proposes that he become a stay-at-home dad. She’s happy to be the sole breadwinner of the household, she tells him, with gritted teeth and a vein pulsing in her forehead. Well, that’s how it seemed to me. So Alison’s making all the money and being very modern-woman, but she hates it. She resents Simon for being their son’s primary parent, and she punishes him via constant passive-aggression. At one point, they find their marriage has taken a major turn for the better. Unconvinced that her husband is really and truly making an effort to improve, Alison decides there’s only one explanation for his actions – he must be cheating. Sure, that makes sense, right? Your husband starts actually doing what you’ve been bugging him to do, so he must be cheating? Right…
Simon and Alison seem to oscillate between two states – icy conflict, always initiated by Alison (Simon always tells her he’s sorry, and she’s right, and she still doesn’t relent), or animalistic sex. And there’s a lot of that, by the way.

The awesome cover art from my edition of The Pack.

The awesome cover art from my edition of The Pack.

The other significant female character in the novel is Olivia. Chosen as Michael’s “mate”, she spends the entire novel in a state of arousal. Of course, she has no capacity to resist Michael’s wolfish (ha) charms. I can’t really think of a scene in which she appears where she is not angling for sex. It’s pretty cringe-worthy. Olivia’s best friend, Diane, is the only female character in the book with anything resembling a backbone, but by the beginning of The Craving, the sequel to The Pack, she’s retreated to her parents’ home, a quivering mess of paranoia.

Okay, so obviously I found some elements of The Pack a bit silly. I feel like I need to stop right here and say that I actually really liked this book. Now, before the feminists start preparing to lynch me, let me say this: I picked up The Pack with the expectation that it would be a testosterone-fuelled foray into urban lycanthropy (which, clearly, it was). Therefore, I was not disappointed (in fact, I was gleefully smug) when it lived up to this expectation. Of course I don’t support the pathetic way that Jason Starr depicted every single one of his female characters. However, if I’d expected to see a strong woman kicking butt, I would have simply read another book.

Lookin' suave, Mr Starr.

Lookin’ suave, Mr Starr.

The Pack is a fast-paced thriller that takes unexpected twists and turns. The fact that the men in this book are werewolves is almost secondary to the main plot, which is finding out what happened to Simon’s boss. I imagine that this is the author’s background in crime fiction coming into play, and I actually found it a very enjoyable part of this book. In the interest of transparency, I did think that there was too much of a focus on Simon and Alison’s marital problems. Almost the first half of the book was dedicated to their constant bickering, which only ever seemed to be resolved with sex. It gets old pretty quick, and I have a limited tolerance for romance at the best of times. However, there was an undercurrent of suspicion and danger that compelled me to finish the book, even despite being a bit irritated by it. The second half of the novel flew by without me even noticing, and suddenly, I had finished it and needed its sequel!

After The Pack, I went on a bit of a werewolf jaunt. I’m currently halfway through Glen Duncan’s The Last Werewolf, and even considering a reread of Martin Millar’s Lonely Werewolf Girl. Admittedly, when I sat down with The Craving, The Pack’s sequel, I couldn’t take much more of the gender issues, so I put it aside for now. I might still come back to it, but it won’t be for a while.

So what do you guys think? Will you be picking up a copy of The Pack? You can do so here, or as ever, request an order from Pulp Fiction Booksellers in Brisbane if you’re in town.

Got a craving for more werewolves? Check out my review of Red Moon by Benjamin Percy – my favourite werewolf book!


Old Man’s War by John Scalzi – A Further Venture into Science Fiction

September 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

While I’m only too happy to venture into the never-ending realm of fantasy, I’ve always steered clear of science fiction. I suppose you could say that I’ve dabbled in the genre, in a very broad sense, but my tastes veer more toward futuristic dystopia than sci-fi its purest sense. Something about science fiction intimidates me. I feel as though I don’t have the scientific brain to understand it. But then, what exactly is the true definition of science fiction? And what does it take to enjoy it?

Although I don't read much SF, I do love The X Files...the truth is out there.

Although I don’t read much SF, I do love The X Files. Does that count?

Well, clearly, I am a novice here. So I’ll defer to one of the masters of science fiction to explain the parameters of the genre:

I define science fiction as the art of the possible. Fantasy is the art of the impossible. Science fiction, again, is the history of ideas, and they’re always ideas that work themselves out and become real and happen in the world.
– Ray Bradbury

I really like this definition because it is enormously broad. It encompasses the potential of science fiction, but also provides a fairly clear parameter – the possible. If there is simply no derivative potential for a concept to eventuate, then it crosses over into fantasy. If there is a real, factual basis for development, even in a fictional context, then it can be classified as science fiction. Of course, as this io9 article showcases, definitions of science fiction are as endless as its subject matter. Being quite new to science fiction, I’ve got a dizzying amount of authors, sub-genres and series to select from. I have read Ender’s Game (which I loved), Dune (which blew my mind), the obligatory Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and an interesting novel called Counting Heads, but in all honesty, I have no idea where to start with sci-fi. So I asked a trusted source for a recommendation of something that could be considered “introductory sci-fi”, and ended up with John Scalzi’s first novel, Old Man’s War.

Old Man’s War is the light-hearted story of John Perry, who signs up to the intergalactic military at the  prescribed age of seventy-five . At once funny and unsettling, this book shattered my expectations of sci-fi.

John Scalzi's Old Man's War

John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War

John Perry joins the Colonial Defence Forces because there’s not much left for him on Earth. His son is grown and has his own family, and his beloved wife died a decade ago. When he reaches his seventy-fifth birthday, John ascends to the heavens with his fellow septuagenarians, all of whom are now contractually bound to defend human colonies on planets all over the universe. As they settle into life in outer space, the question on everyone’s mind is how the CDF is going to transform ailing senior citizens into elite soldiers. After proving his capability, John’s consciousness is transferred to an all-new body. His body is now built for fighting, equipped with healing capabilities and a chlorophyll-based immune system. Not to mention the intelligent chip implanted in John’s brain, which he affectionately refers to as Asshole.

Now accustomed to his new body, John is assigned to a platoon and sent out to different planets to fight for humanity’s right to colonise. At first, he’s raring to go, and establishes himself as a superior soldier. But after a while, John finds that the constant destruction he leaves in his wake is getting to him. He starts to question the virtue in conquering the universe at the expense of other intelligent life.

Alternate cover for John Scalzi's Old Man's War

Alternate cover for John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War

John suffers a nervous breakdown as the might of the CDF begins to overwhelm him. When he is sent with his platoon to defend one of the human colonies, John is prepared for combat. The enemy that he encounters when he arrives, though, is not fearsome foe he had expected. Rather, he is fighting a Lilliputian colony, whose soldiers are little more than an inch tall. The CDF succeeds in defeating this race – by stepping on them.
Alright, it’s not a subtle metaphor. But that’s kind of the point – it’s a bit tongue-in-cheek. It takes literally crushing an enemy beneath his boot for John to realise that perhaps humanity has too much power.

Scalzi has a brilliant sense of humour. Nothing about Old Man’s War is taken too seriously, and it’s all the more enjoyable because of it. He has a way with his characters – affectionate and gently mocking. John Perry is a likeable hero – he is loyal to his friends, brave on the battlefield and sensitive to the suffering of others. He’s also quite funny, and the fact that his persistent attempts at humour tend to fall on deaf ears only adds to his charm.

One of my pet hates about speculative fiction of any kind is the dreaded info-dump. When an author deposits enormous chunks of world-building information in the midst of an otherwise compelling narrative, it sets my eye a-twitching. Scalzi, however, delivers relevant scientific information to his characters, rather than directly to his readers. When he introduces a new concept, it’s not only new to us as readers, but to the protagonist as a character. So John seems to bump into other people in the story who are able to explain these things to him. The reader learns along with the character, and so becomes more immersed in the story. While this is a clever device, I will admit that Scalzi does sometimes deploy it a little heavy-handedly, but it’s much better than sitting through awkwardly placed info-dumps.

Overall, Old Man’s War was a really fun read. I finished it over the course of a weekend, and I eagerly purchased its sequel, The Ghost Brigades. It’s got everything – humour, tragedy, old people, toilet humour (an unfortunate weakness of mine), and even a bit of romance. And all of this in space! Who knew sci-fi could incorporate so much. I think it was the perfect introduction to the variety that science fiction can offer, and it’s got me looking forward to my next venture into the unknown.

You can find John Scalzi’s popular blog here.
You can buy Old Man’s War (and you should) here.
If you’re in Brisbane, pay a visit to Pulp Fiction Booksellers, and see what they might recommend for you.

The Bone Season: Expectations v Reality

September 16, 2013 § Leave a comment

The Bone Season is the story of Paige, who is a clairvoyant. In Paige’s world, there are countless kinds of voyants, each with their own specialised ability. Paige, a dreamwalker, can control the minds of others. She is one of the rarest and most powerful voyants in the known world, and an invaluable member of the Seven Dials syndicate. On the flipside, those who can read the Tarot cards (cartomancers), or those who can see part-way into the future are regarded as petty and superfluous. Within voyant society, there exists a caste system of sorts, with the rarer and more powerful voyants occupying the higher ranks.

Bone Season Cover

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

Paige lives in an alternate history London, which is controlled by an oppressive government called Scion. In the futuristic landscape of Sci-Lo (Scion-London), voyants like Paige are policed with Orwellian ferocity. Paige is a part of a syndicate, an outlawed group of psychics who work together in the underground voyant crime scene. When she accidentally kills a civilian, Paige is abducted by the law-enforcement agency she believes is acting on Scion’s behalf and taken to The Tower. There, Paige meets other prisoners, some of whom have been imprisoned for up to nine years, and all of whom are voyants.

Smash cut to Sheol, where the rest of the book takes place. Forget the futuristic realm of Sci-Lo, we’ve just been catapulted into a vaudevillian underground world that was once known as the lost city of Oxford. Sheol is run by the mysterious Rephaim, ancient beings that have been holding court in Sheol for centuries. Apparently, the Rephaim have also been the driving force behind the oppressive rule of Scion. The law enforcement of Scion work for the Rephaim, and they regularly capture powerful voyants for the Rephaim’s army. As part of the army, these voyants will be conscripted to protect their oppressors from supernatural beasts called Emim, who squeeze through inter-dimensional cracks and invade our realm.

Sound confusing? That’s because it is.

Author Samantha Shannon, 21 years old.

Author Samantha Shannon, 21 years old.

The jumps between Scion and Sheol, between Oxford and Seven Dials are frequent and difficult to follow. The murky caste system of the voyant society is imaginative, but seemingly arbitrary. As a result, it’s very difficult to remember which type of voyant does what, and where they might rank in terms of their value to Sheol society. Paige is taken in by one of Sheol’s elite, known to her as Warden. Initially frosty and cruel, Warden (predictably) warms up to Paige, and the beginnings of a romance are established. Of all the things Shannon rushed in this novel, the development of Warden and Paige’s trust in one another was painfully slow. This messed with the timing of the novel, and the story becomes jerky and out-of-sync. On top of this frenzied world-building, The Bone Season is a non-linear narrative. So the reader not only has to contend with multiple worlds and complex social systems, but shifting times as well!  I believe that the events of The Bone Season could have been spread out across several volumes, and this might have improved both the plot and the structure of the book. As it stands, the world-building is a dysfunctional mass of layers. It’s all too much, Samantha! All too much!

Before The Bone Season was published, Samantha Shannon was tentatively identified as The Next J K Rowling. Aside from the fact that both authors were picked up by Bloomsbury, I don’t really see any similarities between them.  Rowling’s world-building is clean, precise and air-tight, where Shannon’s is messy, tangled and time-confused. Where Rowling’s characters are both individual and colourful, Shannon’s feel two-dimensional at best. Romance was not even on Rowling’s radar, but it seems to be a major focus for Shannon (although, admittedly, her protagonist is a lot older than Harry).

Can there really BE another J. K. Rowling?

Can there really BE another J. K. Rowling?

Shannon herself has identified that she finds this comparison stressful, and I don’t blame her. As a breakout author, being compared to the most successful fantasy author in the last fifty years sets some pretty damn high expectations. Ultimately, I think that this comparison is the reason I was so disappointed with The Bone Season. I expected this book to be special, and I read it with the bar set unreasonably high. I was puzzled when, by about a quarter of the way through it, I just didn’t love it. So I feel that I owe the author an apology. I didn’t enjoy this book, but it’s only because it wasn’t Harry Potter. My assumption that it would be on par with my favourite series in the world was unfair, and I shouldn’t have brought that to this young writer’s debut novel.

I’m a conscientious supporter of debut authors, particularly young ones. I love reading female protagonists. I am a huge fan of dystopia. I am so intrigued by the concept of the post-apocalyptic world that I think I’d probably be excited if I found out there was an impending zombie plague.  I’ve always been mystified by the concept of the supernatural, both in and out of the context of literature.  I have a bizarre fixation with angels. Having grown up in a British family, I love grungy, British culture and I also love anything steampunk-y. And more than anything, perhaps, I love a good rebellion.  So I should have loved The Bone Season. And maybe I will, once the next book comes out. I am not going to write off an entire series because I was disappointed by the first book. Although the technical side of things was messy, Shannon clearly has the imagination to bring Sheol and Scion to life, and I hope to see her do so in the series’ next novel.

What did you think, readers? Have you read The Bone Season? Did you enjoy it?

Patrick Ness Messes With My Head

September 8, 2013 § 3 Comments

Please note: this post may contain some unavoidable, implicit spoilers for Patrick Ness’ new release, More Than This. If you are particularly spoiler-sensitive, do not read ahead. You have been warned.  

On the topic of The Matrix: I was nine when The Matrix came out, and I was too preoccupied with ponies and Goosebumps novels to have the slightest interest in seeing it. Somehow, I didn’t get around to watching it until I was twenty one, twelve years after its release. Although the suspended-motion action scenes were much less impressive in 2011 than they must have been in 1999, I, a twenty one year old living in the age of information, was deeply disturbed by the concept that we might legitimately be living within the Matrix. While most of the movie-going public had struggled with this in the year 2000, I had to wrestle with the philosophical implications of an artificial online existence long, long after the bandwagon had departed. I still think about this from time to time, and the concept makes my head spin. It’s awesome, in the literal sense of the word.

What if...this is it?

What if…this is it?

More Than This was my introduction to Patrick Ness. Although I’ve been meaning to read the Chaos Walking trilogy for ages, I sort of just never got around to it. I picked up a copy of More Than This simply because it was beautifully presented and the blurb was intriguing. I started reading that night, and thirty six hours later, I was finished.

Seth died.And then he woke up.

He’s alone, in the English suburbs where he grew up, and he has no idea why. Is this hell? Is he having a comatose hallucination? Or something else entirely? Struggling with his very real feelings of starvation and dehydration, Seth begins to explore his new state of existence. While he’s searching for edible food and trying to avoid a malignant presence that seems to dog him, he’s plagued by excruciating flashbacks of the life he abandoned when he walked into the sea. He recalls his relationship, kept secret from everyone around him, and its painful conclusion. He is forced to think about the horrible incident that brain-damaged his little brother.  He contemplates the cold manner in which is parents treat him, as though he were secondary to all else.  As he walks the empty world, this becomes his afterlife.
  After what feels like an eternity of solitude, Seth is astounded to find that he’s not alone in this bleak, empty world. A small, sarcastic Polish boy named Tomasz and a fierce black girl, Regine, emerge from the background of his personal hell, and they form a unit. Slowly, so as not to shock him, Tommy and Regine reveal to Seth the way in which they came to be in the world they now inhabit. Together, the three begin to unravel the series of events that led to this vacant landscape of their post-death.

Patrick Ness' More Than This Cover

Patrick Ness’ More Than This Cover

Told in the bleak afterlife where Seth materialises after his death, and in a series of flashbacks which gradually reveal the tender joys and shocking betrayals of his suburban life, More Than This requires a fair bit of effort to get through. It explores some disturbing concepts, and I was surprised to find that it took a lot out of me to process it once I’d finished. There is a clear fascination with death, and in particular, the way a person died and what this means for them in the afterlife. Ness addresses the concepts of guilt, accountability and forgiveness in the adolescent world, and manages to do so without sounding either preachy or unrealistic. For me, the most disturbing aspect of More Than This was the suggestion that people, as individuals, contributed to an eventual “tipping point” which constituted a world-wide apocalypse.

Encapsulating elements of The Matrix and The Lovely Bones, More Than This is truly heart-wrenching. It simultaneously explores life after death and a bleak, post-apocalyptic future from the perspective of a vulnerable and mistreated young man.

Once I finished this book, I was emotionally exhausted. The book explores some disturbing concepts, including death, and it took a lot out of me to process the narrative through the prism of such in-depth philosophy.  One could say that it is a kind of reverse-Matrix, which, as you can imagine, just about did my head in. I loved it.

More Than This is an example of the true potential of both the young adult and post-apocalyptic genres. Patrick Ness has made use of his teenage protagonist and the trials and tribulations of navigating a post-apocalyptic wasteland to explore the fabric of reality in a brutally modern fashion. Present-tense narration and shifting time periods make it a jumpy read, but Ness uses this to his advantage. The end result is a turbulent, addictive read which had me reeling, both emotionally and mentally.

More Than This is one of those books that puts all other reading material to shame for just a little while. Once you finish it, it’s hard to remember why you ever read a book that wasn’t as good as this one, and why you ever would again. It doesn’t matter what kind of books you like, or if you even like books at all. Just read it. You’ll be glad you did.

As an added bonus, here’s Peter Gabriel singing More Than This, the song that inspired the novel’s title.

What we’re looking forward to in September!

September 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

We’ve decided to put together this series of posts to keep you all updated with what’s going on in our little corner of the blogosphere, any bookish news and life generally. Going up on the first of every month (Australian time), keep your calendars handy, people!


–          Brisbane Writer’s Festival – The Brisbane Writers Festival runs for four days, and is a collection of lectures, workshops and panels featuring prominent writers who will discuss areas of their particular expertise and I am so unbelievably excited to be attending my first BWF!!! I will be breathing the same air as Garth Nix; excuse me while I quietly fangirl in a corner. I’m also very excited to have a more or less willing Kalystia attend the Jane Austen presentation with me (I shall convert her eventually – resistance is futile).

Brisbane Writers Festival 2013

Some of the 2013 BWF art! (Check the Mockingjay – Kalystia)

–          Australian Federal Election – I know, not book related, but I am also a political science major and elections make me feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. I shall celebrate election eve by FINALLY finishing Downfall by Aaron Patrick. See, now its book related! You can buy it here for Kindle  or here in paperback.

–          Start the 30 Day Challenge – I’m hoping that this fantastic challenge might spark a bit of friendly debate among you, lovely readers. It is aptly named as a challenge; I’ve read over the questions and I am really struggling to find answers for some (and to be honest, not answer everything with Stardust!).

–          One of my best friends has promised me a book date at a fantastic second hand bookstore in the city and I can’t wait to take him up on it! It may even result in a post series Kalystia and I have been pondering for a while, so watch this space!

–          Start reading some of the Netgalley books on our shelf.  Short, sweet and NEEEEEEW!

–          Picking and starting the next book for itsnotnatalie does neil. Choices, choices.

–          Getting back on track with my reading list.  Even though there is no accountability whatsoever with my reading list, having put it out into cyberspace, I feel a bit slack for having only read HALF of one of the entries. Having said that, I freely acknowledge I will probably be distracted by the first shiny, new book I see in Dymocks. I have no shame.

Book Hoarder

And this is why neither of us can keep on track with our reading lists.


In September, I’m looking forward to some exciting new releases. I’ve preordered them, and anxiously await their arrival in the mail!

–          The Returned, Jason Mott: I’ve mentioned this one before, and although it’s been posted, I STILL haven’t received it. Can’t wait to read it, though!

–          Steelheart, Brandon Sanderson:  Any new Brandon Sanderson would be enough for me to be bouncing off the walls in anticipation, but a kind of dystopian venture? CANNOT WAIT. September 24, it’s here.

–          Vicious, Victoria Schwab: Everything I’ve read about this seems to indicate that it will be some kind of hybrid of X-men, Flatliners and Lev Grossman’s The Magicians. Yes, I’m probably going to love it. Coming from Tor on Sep 24th!

–          More than This, Patrick Ness: Although I’ve been meaning to, I’ve never got around to the Chaos Walking Trilogy. But I picked up the most beautiful hardback edition of this book the day it was released, and I’m itching to start it. It looks like philosophical post-apoc. Yes, please!

More Than This, Patrick Ness

I’m excited about my introduction to Patrick Ness!

–          The Rook, Daniel O’Malley: An unexpected find from Pulp Fiction. I actually don’t really know what to expect of this, but the recommendations in the front few pages are astronomical. It’s shot to the top of my to-read pile.

 I also have the capacity to get excited about things that are not books. It’s a small capacity, but exists nonetheless. Here are a few other things I’m looking forward to in September:

–          The dystopia lecture at BWF, featuring Scott Westerfield as a panellist

–          Planning a trip to Melbourne in October with my boyfriend. I’m somewhat of a shopaholic, and I’ve never been before, so this is very exciting! Any Melbournites with tips on the best book stores, leave me a comment below!

–          On the topic of the Melbourne trip, I’m already excited to visit the Melbourne zoo and see the gorillas there. I’ve never seen one in real life, and it’s something I’ve always wanted. I’ll probably cry. I can’t wait.

–          I’m also looking forward to reviewing some of the books I’ve read lately, particularly The Bone Season. So many mixed emotions, readers, and I’m looking forward to getting them out of my head and onto the page.

–          Seeing Elysium! I still haven’t seen it, and I’ve been looking forward to it since its teaser trailer.

–          Oh, and I’ve finished The Book Thief. I’ll be needing to discuss this soon. Need to share the feels.

Throne of Glass: A Killer Read (Pun Intended)

August 24, 2013 § 1 Comment

Celaena Sardothien

Throne of Glass cover art – can you see why I had to have this?

As our regular readers will know, I am at the mercy of publishers who advertise new fiction to me. I have no filter when it comes to critically evaluating the purchase of a novel that calls to me, freshly printed and cleverly designed, from the shelves of my favourite bookstores.  Our followers will also be aware that I am a loyal Hunger Games fan. So it will come as no surprise when I say that I purchased Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas because it had a sticker on it declaring that it was “hotter than The Hunger Games.”

Throne of Glass also had some pretty damn cool cover art. Icy woman, walking determinedly barefoot toward the reader, two massive swords held at her sides? She was insistent that I take her home with me. So I did.

For some reason, I thought that Throne of Glass would be trashy. I even felt appropriately guilty about buying it, knowing I should be trying to broaden my reading tastes. But you know what? It was awesome, and I was not even ashamed of immediately pre-ordering its sequel (which I now have in my possession!).

Throne of Glass revolves around Celaena, formerly known as Ardalan’s Assassin. A highly capable killer, Celaena was caught and thrown into the salt mines of Endovier to labour away her debt to society. And then one day, the Crown Prince Dorian shows up at Endovier with the Captain of the Guard, Chaol. They offer something she thought was long ago lost to her – a chance for her freedom. Of course, it comes with a condition: Celaena must win a tournament, earning her the title of the King’s Assassin.

She agrees, and is ensconced in life in the palace. She makes new connections, both personal and political, and finds herself gradually falling for the Prince Dorian while Chaol looks warily on. She soon emerges as one of the frontrunners of the tournament, and things seem to be going relatively well. That is, until the other competitors are horribly killed. Celaena, pragmatically single-minded, tries to ignore it and simply focus on her own goals. Unfortunately for her, though, the powers that be have other ideas.

The best thing about this fun fantasy is, without doubt, Celaena Sardothien.

Celaena is a refreshing change from fantasy’s usual stock of worldly women. She is cavalier, flippant and sarcastic in conversation, giving the impression that she is little more than an air-headed adolescent. But she’s also dangerously intelligent, and unexpectedly observant. She’s strong without being callousShe’s flirty without being vapid. She’s a tough physical opponent, and she never even thinks twice about the fact that her foes are burly males. She’s fiercely beautiful and doesn’t pretend she’s not. She is confident in herself and her abilities, and she is also realistic about her flaws.

I can’t decide if I want to be her, or if I want to be her best friend.

Ardalan's Assassin

Crown of Midnight – with cover art that is just as awesome as the first.

There is a romantic subplot, but I liked that it wasn’t too OTT. Celaena is one point of the inevitable love triangle, but all in all, it wasn’t too cliché. I appreciated that it was a slow burn, compared to some, and that there’s no obvious front-runner. Without an obvious preference, it means that the romantic element is exciting to read, rather than simply painful. Prince Dorian was initially presented as the shiny, pretty thing who Celeana is happy to mess around with, but it soon becomes clear that he has developed serious feelings for her. Chaol, on the other hand, is withdrawn and brooding – he is the darker Angel to Dorian’s Riley, for those who appreciate the occasional Buffy reference.

Overall, Throne of Glass wasn’t earth-shatteringly amazing, but it was a really fun read. I wasn’t entirely addicted to it, but I was looking forward to picking it up on my breaks at work. It’s a little bit like Eragon, in that it’s nothing new or particularly special, but it’s quite well done. I would have liked a little more character development and a tad more back story, but I’m hoping that this will emerge as the rest of the trilogy is published. I picked up my copy of Crown of Midnight this week, and I’m looking forward to hanging out with Celaena a little bit more!

What do you guys think? Will you be giving this one a go?

Top 5 Books We Can’t Wait to Read

August 13, 2013 § 2 Comments

1. Kalystia: The Bone Season – Samantha Shannon

Bone Season Cover

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

I have to admit, I’m a sucker for literary marketing. When it comes to books, my defences are down and I’ll buy anything that publishers tell me to. Because of this unfortunate tendency of mine, I have wasted money on absolute trash, simply because it’s been hyped up online with a powerful marketing campaign (most recently, The Fifth Wave, which I hated). On the flip-side, though, sometimes a viral campaign will grab me, and I’ll pick up a book worth every word of praise. Angelfall, relentlessly pushed by Goodreads, was one such novel. The Bone Season has been doing the rounds in online campaigning, and the series is touted to rival The Hunger Games, Twilight and even Harry Potter.
So, naturally, I want it.

The Bone Season is about clairvoyants practising outside the law. In a contract mirroring that of J. K. Rowling, young author Samantha Shannon has been signed for a seven book deal with Bloomsbury, with the first three to come out fairly soon. And that is pretty much all I know about this book. It’s on its way to me from England now, so more to come soon!

If you’re as intrigued as I am, watch the surprisingly well-done book trailer here!

2. Itsnotnatalie: Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card


Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Oddly, for a committed Whovian, to the best of my knowledge, I have never, EVER, read a sci-fi book. So for me, Ender’s Game represents the opportunity to dip my toe into the endless sea of this new (to me, at least) genre. I am really excited by the two-fold challenge Ender’s Game presents; first, having to step outside my reading comfort zone and second, I am looking forward to facing the questions that the sci-fi genre will invariably pose for me. 

Side note from Kalystia: I love Ender’s Game, and have high hopes for the upcoming film adaptation! I think Asa will do an excellent job of portraying Ender.

3. Kalystia: The Returned – Jason Mott

This cover reminds me of The Lovely Bones. Hm...

This cover reminds me of The Lovely Bones. Hm…

The Returned opens with the premise that those who have definitely, permanently died have one day simply returned to their families. The Returned show up on their loved ones’ doorsteps, the same age that they were when they died. When I first read about this, I did not hesitate to pre-order. I’ve tried to stop myself from reading anything about it…but I ended up having a few sneaky peeks at some reviews. The Returned is being praised for its moving story, its haunting subject matter and its stark language. This tends to put me in mind of The Road, but I believe The Returned has a more familiar setting than that.
And that’s about all I know about The Returned. It already has me hooked, and I haven’t read a word of it.

4. Itsnotnatalie: The Other Typist – Suzanne Rindell

After the intellectual workout I’m expecting Ender’s to put me through, I think I’ll need a change of pace! I stumbled across The Other Typist in our favourite bookstore, and ever since I have been itching to read it.  Somehow or another, though, other books just keep getting in the way. So this is it, no ifs or buts, it is being read! I have also heard that Keira Knightley has signed on for a film adaptation, my interest is even more piqued.

Kiera Knightley rocking those cheekbones!

Kiera Knightley rocking those cheekbones!

5. The Novelettes want to read The Book Thief – Marcus Zusak

: I don’t actually know too much about this book. My main attraction to it has been off the back of the movie stills I saw; the casting of Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson (two of my favourite actors) had me bouncing in my chair! Plus, there is the added bonus that The Book Thief is set during World War 2 – and as anyone who knows me can attest, I cannot resist any movie, TV show, book, ANYTHING set in this time. I am particularly excited about the special plan Kalystia and I have planned for this book, so watch this space!

Kalystia: I’ve always felt a bit bad for not having read The Book Thief. I often see this book picked as one of the best books written in recent times, and I know I should have read it long before now. There’s a lot about it that means I will very likely fall in love with it – a snowy, war-time setting, a highly interesting narrator (Death) and a girl who adores reading. It’s a recipe for a book bound for my favourites shelf. With a film adaptation set to hit the screens later this year, I think it’s time I read The Book Thief.

Itsnotnatalie has also had this book on her to-read list for quite some time. So, we’ve decided to do something a little bit special to celebrate the fact that we’ve finally decided to read this book. Stay tuned to see what have in store.

One of the few still released from the upcoming film adaptation of The Book Thief

One of the few still released from the upcoming film adaptation of The Book Thief

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