Top 10 Book Boyfriends

I have a confession to make, Dear Readers. It is this: I am a serial cheat.

I have a boyfriend, it is true. A real-life, living and breathing boyfriend whom I love very deeply. He is all I could ever ask for — and more. He makes me very happy indeed.

But there are Others.

Yes, Mark, my dear, the truth is, I’ve been having it off with ten other people behind your back. Some of them I was even seeing before I started dating you. Unfortunately for me — but very fortunately for you — none of them actually exist. They are not real. They are fictional.

They are my Book Boyfriends.

So, in the spirit of my writing partner K.F. Goodacre’s Top Ten Tuesdays, I have compiled a list of 10 men (mostly) from the world of literature who have captured my heart in various ways. Here they are in no particular order:


Rhysand from A Court Of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas


img_5538ETA September 2017: For the first time since writing this post, I have actually had to move a Book Boyfriend off the list (see below… way below) in order to make room for a new one…

If you’d have told me back in July/August 2017 when I was still reading A Court Of Thorns and Roses (Book One in the eponymous trilogy by Sarah J. Maas) that Rhysand — feared and reviled High Lord of the Night Court — would feature on my list of Book Boyfriends, I’d have laughed in your face. He who sent severed heads to the Spring Court as a mere taunt. He who plied the protagonist with faerie wine, dressed her in cobwebs and forced her to dance upon his lap. He who forced her lover to kneel before him and beg him to spare her life. Who forced the protagonist into a bargain marked upon her flesh that would require her to spend one week of every month with him for the rest of her life, like some twisted bat-winged Hades.

“I don’t get why everyone loves Rhysand,” I remember texting K.F. Goodacre as I was nearing the end of A Court of Thorns and Roses. “Literally do not get it. He’s not just awful. He’s vile.”

Au contraire! Along comes Book Two: A Court Of Mist and Fury, and it turns out there’s a second-meaning behind literally everything Rhysand does. He: respects women; encourages independent thought; is not controlling or abusive (seriously, I can say this with full sincerity even after the reprehensible actions I describe above); does not withhold information; really cares about his people; campaigns for equality; lives by what he preaches; takes responsibility for his mistakes; doesn’t stick his head in the sand about matters of life threatening importance; utterly self-sacrificing in every respect; super intelligent; really quite sarcastic and funny; good looking; sexy as hell; filthy in bed.

He is literally perfect. He has no flaws. None. And that is why he has catapulted himself to the top of my list of Book Boyfriends and why bat wings are a huge turn-on for me now.

“Rhysand is the most handsome High Lord.
Rhysand is the most delightful High Lord.
Rhysand is the most cunning High Lord…”


Jamie Fraser from Outlander by Diana Gabaldon


Jamie Fraser

Jamie Fraser’s inclusion on this list will come as a surprise to precisely no one who has read Diana Gabaldon’s time-travelling epic historical romance novel, Outlander (published under its original title of Cross Stitch in the UK and Australia). A Scottish warrior from 1743, Jamie Fraser is the husband of the book’s protagonist, Claire Randall (née Beauchamp) — a combat nurse from 1945. I know it sounds mad, but trust me, it works.

Essentially written to be the perfect man, Jamie is passionate, headstrong and incredibly brave. He will not hesitate to put himself in mortal peril to protect his family and the woman he loves, and can take more punishment than a Nokia 3310. Wickedly funny and hilariously stubborn, reading Jamie bash heads with the comparatively modern sensibilities of his wife is so much fun to read. To top it all off, he swears like a sailor, looks good naked and is extremely generous between the sheets. What’s not to love?

If you cannot be bothered to read the book, I strongly recommend Starz excellent TV adaption of Outlander where Jamie is played to absolute perfection by the very talented Sam Heughan (pictured above).


Captain Kennit from The Liveship Traders by Robin Hobb


Captain KennitOh, Kennit. Ours has been a… rocky relationship to say the least. You are by far the most controversial character to feature on this list, and considering it also includes two skeletons — literally — that is really saying something.

From the very first chapter of Ship of Magic — the first book in Robin Hobb’s stunning The Liveship Traders trilogy — I fell in love with her beloved pirate captain. Charismatic, handsome and impressive to all who meet him, Kennit’s only ambition is to possess a liveship and become King of the Pirate Isles and woe betide anyone who stands in his way. Though Kennit’s actions are outwardly benevolent and his knack for cultivating the affections of others unrivalled, his manner is relentlessly cold and utterly devoid of empathy. With a horrifying past that is only revealed to the reader in gradual snippets, he is driven to commit an act so repulsively abhorrent that anyone ‘in the know’ is likely screaming at me right now, demanding to know why I put him on this list.

The truth is, I cannot help it. I loved being inside Kennit’s head. I loved reading about him, loved wondering what the hell he was going to do next, how he was going to get out of this scrape or that, how he was going to keep up his web of lies. I fell in love with him for the same reasons Etta, Wintrow and the rest of his crew did; I was manipulated to do so. Damn you, Robin Hobb…

As a side-note, Kennit is by far the most compelling and complex villain I have ever, ever read. Not only that, but he remains to this day my favourite ever fictional character.


Kell Maresh from Shades of Magic by V.E. Schwab


Kell MareshEveryone’s favourite Black-Eyed Prince, Kell is the most recent addition to my list of Book Boyfriends. In fact, at the time of writing, I still haven’t read the final book in V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic trilogy (A Conjuring Of Light), but nevertheless, Kell still features because he’s just that attractive. I absolutely adore him.

Kell is what is known as an Antari, or Traveller; a two-of-a-kind magician with a rare ability to travel between parallel worlds connected by the city of London. Magic surges so strongly in an Antari that they are marked with one completely black eye devoid of iris or sclera. Disliking the admiring looks he gets from some and the fearful reactions he gets from others, Kell chooses to hide his mark behind a fringe of red hair. Raised as a prince in his home world of Red London, he also serves as an interdimensional messenger between the monarchs and practises a bit of smuggling on the side. It is this latter practise that lands him in trouble with potentially world-breaking consequences.

Kell’s appeal lies in his overwhelming desire to do the Right Thing, regardless of the enormous personal cost. He is fiercely protective of his little brother, the Crown Prince Rhy, as well as highly intelligent, endearingly strong-willed and an exceptionally snappy dresser. He also has a serious knack for triggering ‘Florence Nightingale’ syndrome in me by being unfairly treated by his step-father King Maxim on a regular basis and routinely taking a few life-threatening knocks. Come here, Kell. I’ll turn that perpetual frown of yours upside down…


Aragorn from Lord Of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein


Aragorn StriderConfession time: Aragorn probably wouldn’t feature on this list if it wasn’t for Viggo Mortensen’s jaw-dropping (and rather attractive) performance in Peter Jackson’s cinematic adaption of Lord Of The Rings (2001-2003). I have tried to read Tolkein’s book no less than three times and it was only on the third attempt that I finally managed to struggle through to the end. The character of Aragorn — or “Strider” as he is more commonly referred to by the hobbit protagonists — was one of the highlights of my reading.

Aragorn’s appeal comes from the contrast between his outwardly scruffy appearance and his high birth (“All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost…”). He is a fearsome warrior who protects the hobbits to the very best of his ability, as Frodo-and-Friends’ mission to cast the Ring into the fires of Mount Doom conveniently coincides with his own mission to a) take his place as the rightful King of Gondor and b) win the hand of his elf love Arwen, whose father has refused permission for him to marry unless he fulfils the latter. Tolkein wrote Aragorn to be a hero in the truest sense. As such, he is essentially flawless.

Here is an extract from my reviewof The Fellowship of the Ring, which tells you all you need to know about my feelings for Aragorn:

But then Strider happened at the Prancing Pony. And there were Ring Wraiths. And daring escapes and near-death experiences. And Rivendell. And Strider. Did I mention Strider? Seriously. Strider. Strider, Strider, Strider.

Strider ♥

Fun fact! Aragorn and I share a personality type: INFJ. Clearly we were meant to be…


Skulduggery Pleasant from Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy


Skulduggery PleasantHere he is; the first skeleton on my list. And you thought I was joking…

Skulduggery Pleasant is the “skeleton detective” dual-protagonist of Derek Landy’s nine-book series, Skulduggery Pleasant. Skulduggery became a skeleton when the evil sorcerer Nefarian Serpine killed his wife and child in front of him, tortured then killed him… only he didn’t do it properly. Somehow Skulduggery was able to pull himself back together and has been terrorising bad guys in Ireland ever since.

In his own words — for I am sure that is how he would most like to be described — Skulduggery is “sophisticated, suave and debonair” as well as a wise-cracking element-wielding sorcerer and flamboyant egotist. Though he has no body, is borderline insane and y’know… dead… Skulduggery’s dogged determination, strategic brilliance and laugh-out-loud one-liners make my heart soar. Plus if you can’t sleep for fear of being shunted into an alternate dimension where everyone wants to kill you, he’ll stay by your bedside and sing you to sleep with that lovely velvet voice of his. Be still my heart ♥


Mark Blackthorn from The Dark Artifaces by Cassandra Clare


Mark BlackthornYou can keep your Herondales, your Carstairses and your Lightwoods. Me? I favour a Blackthorn; Mark Blackthorn to be precise. “First the flame and then the flood…”

The only non-straight character appearing on my list (unless you count the dangerously-repressed Captain Kennit which I absolutely do), Mark Blackthorn is half faerie, half Shadowhunter — a secret race of humans descended from angels who hunt demons. Following events in City of Heavenly Fire (Book 6 in The Mortal Instruments series), Mark is stolen away from his Shadowhunting family, the Blackthorns, and given over to the Fair Folk to become a prisoner of the Wild Hunt*. In Lady Midnight (Book 1 of The Dark Artifaces) the Fair Folk spit Mark back out again in exchange for the Blackthorns’ help in defeating a common enemy. Although perhaps Mark has been with the Wild Hunt for too long…

Mark is a prime example of a great character in a bad book. Lady Midnight was so poorly written that reading it made my head hurt, but Mark’s presence — in addition to all the Edgar Allan Poe references — was what made me grin and bear it. Pretty and puckish with a sarcasm detector that could rival that of Drax the Destroyer for ineffectiveness, Mark “[speaks] like a poem and [walks] like a dance”. Torn between his love for his family and that of the faerie prince Kieran of the Unseelie Court, Mark’s struggle to find his place in the Shadow world is palpable and just makes me want to give him a cuddle (yep, ‘Florence Nightingale Syndrome’ again, I’m a sucker for it). Plus, the delivery of one particular line of dialogue — the infamous “Why lie?” — made me positively squirm with sordid glee. I am looking forward to seeing how that panned out when the sequel Lord of Shadows is released later this month.

*K.F. Goodacre has a series surrounding the Wild Hunt called The Wild Hunt Chronicles. I’d tell you to check them out but she hasn’t written them yet, so instead I will tell you to watch this space…


Death from Discworld by Terry Pratchett


DeathHere we are then at skeleton no. 2, and not just any skeleton but the Grim Reaper himself. Death is one of the main characters in Terry Pratchett’s fantabulous Discworld series and appears in pretty much every single Discworld book with the exception of The Wee Free Men and Snuff. This is unsurprising given his job, which is of course to usher souls from one world into the next. There is quite a bit of death on the Discworld, so for the most part he’s kept pretty busy.

Death has an irrepressible fascination with humans that often lands him in trouble, usually with the Auditors of Reality — spectral beings that like to mess with The Rules, such as stopping time so that they can catch up with their paperwork. In attempting to understand human behaviour, Death often tries to emulate it — something else the Auditors can’t stand– but almost always misses the mark to endearingly hilarious effect. Despite being largely devoid of any emotion, Death is very passionate about certain things with a deeply ingrained sense of morality and duty. He has had to save the day multiple times just to keep the Discworld ticking along, making do with little to no thanks for the trouble. A true hero.

I’m also a big fan of Death’s aesthetic; as well as tapping into my fondness for morbidness and skulls, he wears a black cowl, carries a scythe, SPEAKS LIKE THIS, enjoys curries and absolutely adores cats. See? We’d get along splendidly.


Valkyrie Cain from Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy


Valkryie CainLook, Top 10 Book Partners doesn’t have the same ring to it as Top 10 Book Boyfriends, all right? And Valkyrie is most definitely in my Top 10, so on the list she goes. Deal.

Valkyrie Cain (real name Stephanie Edgely), like Skulduggery, is the dual-protagonist in Derek Landy’s aforementioned Skulduggery Pleasant series. Although she is just twelve years old in the first book (bear with me), she blossoms across nine books into a 21-year-old fireball throwing, shadow-wielding, lightning-charged badass. With a wit to rival Skulduggery’s and a fiery temper to boot, I fell in love with Valkyrie’s headstrong personality and no-nonsense attitude. Though she doesn’t suffer fools gladly and has a tendency to get bored with her romances very quickly, she is supremely loyal to her friends and family and there’s nothing she won’t do to help them.

You might get a wild, passionate fling with Valkyrie if you can bring yourself to see past the aloof gothic ice-queen she presents herself as. Sadly however it’s Skulduggery who holds her heart in all the ways that matter, so you’ll probably just be left out in the cold.

We can but dream.


Knightshade Valerian from The Seelie Court by K.F. Goodacre


Knightshade Valerian
Images provided to me by K.F. Goodacre to give you guys a ‘feel’ for the character. I know. I’d like to feel him too.

The last Book Boyfriend I have to tell you about is a bit different from the others. He doesn’t exist yet!

His name is Knightshade Valerian and he is a character in my writing partner’s upcoming middle grade fantasy novel, The Elder Throne, the first book in The Equinox Trilogy and The Seelie Court series.

Being born to both a Seelie and an Unseelie parent — the latter of whom betrayed her army by defecting to the other side —  Knightshade has suffered prejudice all his life. He has had to work ten times as hard to earn his position as Commander of the Seelie army (what with his mother being a known traitor and all) and despite all the bullying and routine humiliation he suffers even as an adult, he is nothing short of brave, honest, kind and good. Though a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield, he never raises his voice or starts a fight. He also has an hilariously misplaced sense of morality when it comes to women, mostly because he doesn’t know how to talk to them. I find his fusty awkwardness incredibly endearing.

Like I said, Knightshade technically doesn’t exist because K.F. Goodacre is currently in the final editing stages of her book, but I am very confident you will meet him soon and I sincerely hope you love him as much as I do. He’s very much the type of man you want to take home to meet your mother, although to be honest, you probably don’t want to meet his…


Dumped Book Boyfriends:

No relationship is set in stone. Here are some Book Boyfriends that I’ve mentioned in the past, but have since moved on from to make way for new ones. Alas, alack etc.


Andevai Diarisso Haranwy from Spiritwalker by Kate Elliott


AndevaiI can barely remember anything that happened in Kate Elliott’s historical-fantasy steampunk mash-up beyond the fact that I loved Mr Dar– sorry, I mean Andevai. From what I remember, the protagonist Cat Barahal is forced to marry Andevai in order to uphold some kind of bargain between her family and his. How romantic…

Except that it is, because what follows is a truly wonderful “hatemance” filled with catty remarks, fierce rebuttals and witty repartees. Initially cold and exceedingly arrogant, Andevai eventually softens as his love for Cat grows, if a little too quickly for my liking. The chemistry he and Cat have when they fight is nothing short of spectacular and my heart skipped a beat every time he appeared on the scene. Plus he built her a bed to take her virginity on. A bed, People. He built her a frikkin’ bed.

My writing partner read the first book in the trilogy, Cold Magic, and absolutely hated it. But she does remember really liking Andevai, so there you go. Such is the level of his sex appeal.

He built her a bed


And that’s everyone! I hope you enjoyed reading about my Book Boyfriends. Who knows, perhaps we unwittingly share a few? Do please tell. I love a bit of gossip…

Take care,

S.E. Berrow


Be sure to check out all the authors mentioned above by visiting the following websites:

http://www.dianagabaldon.com/
http://www.robinhobb.com/
http://www.veschwab.com/
http://www.tolkien.co.uk/
http://www.skulduggerypleasant.co.uk/
http://www.kateelliott.com/
http://cassandraclare.com/
https://www.terrypratchettbooks.com/
https://kfgoodacre.com/

None of the images contained in this post are mine. Where possible, I have provided a source (click the image to view). If you own any of these images and are not comfortable with me sharing them here, please do not hesitate to contact me and I will endeavour to find a substitute!

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Legacy by Michelle Lowe: Book Review

LegacyVeteran indie author Michelle Lowe gave me a free eBook copy of her seventh book Legacy — the first in a seven-part Steampunk series — in exchange for an honest review. Not wanting to let the author down (and I must apologise to Michelle for taking so long to get around to reading it as well; I generally don’t do well reading books off of computer screens), I was really delighted when Legacy turned out to be a well-written, fast-paced adventure that takes place across both sides of the English Channel. It features a whole host of well-illustrated characters that I couldn’t help but love.

Archie Norwich, son of the nobleman Tarquin Norwich, is sent out by his father to find the notorious Pierce Landcross — a wanted fugitive and a thief. Tarquin wishes to interrogate Landcross on the location of the mysterious toymaker Indigo Peachtree and his even more mysterious journal which contains the key to world domination. Accompanying Archie, Pierce and Tarquin in their race for the journal are Archie’s plucky and resourceful sister Clover, his troubled alcoholic brother Ivor, Pierce’s possessed brother Joaquin, an airship manned by Apache slave-liberators, gypsy travellers, vampires and more.

Without a doubt, Michelle’s beloved anti-hero steals the show. Pierce Landcross is the absolute highlight of this book with his debonair wit, glittering cleverness and inconvenient moral compass that gets him both into and out of scrapes with reckless abandon. He played well off of the staunchly uptight, feckless Archie, whom I wanted to strangle several times, and both he and Archie had a really endearing relationship with Archie’s little sister Clover. Michelle is really good at “show don’t tell” when it comes to her writing, and she isn’t afraid to knock her characters about a bit either. Characterisation is definitely her greatest strength.

Michelle LoweFor me personally the plot was a little bit all over the place. Whilst being fun and really quite complex with a lot of twists and turns to keep me guessing, we did end up travelling great distances across the country from one place to another without any major inconveniences. Everyone seemed to know straight away where their targets were (this is discounting Mother of Craft’s supernatural hints to Tarquin) and were able to find each other just a little too easily despite being miles apart. There were also a couple of points that threw me out of the story completely, such as the baffling Prologue (we never hear from Jack Pack and Thooranu again) and the mysterious Mother Of Craft, although her role will most likely play out in later books. World-building was also regrettably thin on the ground, the Steampunk elements in particular being quite downplayed; the Apache airship was the only real tell that I was able to pick up on and I think Michelle can definitely afford to up the ante in later books.

Overall I really enjoyed Legacy and feel it sets up the series very well. I really loved all the characters and thought Michelle’s writing was tight and nicely paced, completely devoid of purple prose and overly long sentences that notoriously bog down the fantasy genre. I recommend it for anyone looking for well-written, fast and rollicking adventure. I am really looking forward to Book 2, and I hope to actually buy a copy this time!

Verdict: 3/5

S.E. Berrow


For more information on Michelle Lowe and the world of Legacy, please visit the below links:

http://www.michellelowe.net/
http://www.nordlandpublishing.com/titles/legacy/

Michelle also has a really lovely little .PDF where you can meet all of her characters! Totally stealing this idea for my own website at some point. Watch this space…

 

Sorceresses, Fools, White Rabbits and Jules: World Book Day Shenanigans

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, on Thursday evening a few friends and I met up for a book-swapping party in honour of World Book Day. In addition to book-swapping, we also dressed up as our favourite literary characters just like hundreds of children across the country were doing for school, because we felt like revisiting our youth.

(I say this like it’s something I used to do as a child, but my school was incredibly boring and never hosted dress-up events on World Book Day. Thus I was super excited to be doing it for the first time!)

My character of choice was Valkyrie Cain from Derek Landy’s excellent Skulduggery Pleasant middle-grade series; a kickass young goth-sorceress who hangs around with a skeleton detective. Below is a picture of what she looks like. Being a kickass young goth-sorceress myself, I think it’s pretty easy to see why I chose her!

Here is what I managed to put together:

To create my Valkyrie look I used a fabulous real-feel synthetic black wig by YOPO Cosplay Wigs for Valkyrie’s signature long black locks. Makeup-wise I painted my entire face –including my lips — with Kat Von D’s Lock It Foundation (Light 42 Neutral) and used no blusher or face contour to get a pale, not-quite-human look. I also used Lipcote lipstick sealer for good measure to make sure the lips stayed pale and weren’t affected by any food or drink I consumed that night. For the eyes, I figured that as a young teenage girl Valkyrie might be more concerned with fighting bad guys than doing her makeup, so I kept it light with contouring shades from Kat Von D’s Shade & Light eye palette in Smoke and just a very sparing application of Buxom Lash Mascara on my upper eyelashes only. Lastly I used the ‘Define’ shade from the Kat Von D palette to darken my eyebrows to match my hair. Then I whacked on a pair of black jeans, black boots, a blood-red T-shirt and a black leather jacket, used a black hair-tie to make Valkyrie’s necromancer ring, grabbed one of my (many) decorative skulls for Skulduggery’s head and off I went!

Here is my book haul for the evening:

img_2533-2

Of the above, I’m most looking forward to reading V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic which I’ve heard such good things about. I was even more excited after I read the blurb to learn that some of it is set in the 18th century, the same time period that The Mayor is set in. My ‘TBR’ shelf grows ever heavier…

Check out some of the other characters my friends dressed up as below!

mad-fool-cain-julian
From left to right: Maria is the White Rabbit from Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland; Kim is the Fool from Robin Hobb’s The Farseer Trilogy; I am Valkyrie Cain from Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant series; Cassie is Julian from L.J. Smith’s The Forbidden Game trilogy.

Did you do anything fun for World Book Day?

S.E. Berrow

 

Happy World Book Day!

world-book-day-20

Are you guys doing anything fun to commemorate World Book Day? My friends and I are having a book-swapping party round K.F. Goodacre‘s house and dressing up as book characters like we used to do in school (well, like everyone else used to do in school; my school was boring and never did this). I’m going as Valkyrie Cain from Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant series. Pictures and book haul to follow, I am sure!

S.E. Berrow

Nod by Adrian Barnes: Book Review

nod-adrian-barnes“In theory it was, around now, Literature. Susan hated Literature. She’d much prefer to read a good book.” – Susan Sto-Helit, Soul Music (1994)

This nugget of wisdom from the late Sir Terry Pratchett is the first thing that came to mind once I’d turned the final page of Adrian Barnes’ refreshingly original take on a zombie apocalypse, Nod.

The concept is fantastic: protagonist Paul wakes up one morning to discover that the whole world, including his wife Tanya, did not sleep the night before. The very significant few who did manage to sleep, Paul included, all dreamed the same golden dream of a magnificent light. The next night comes and still no sleep. The world begins to panic. Scientists are baffled. The media is in full-blown scaremongering mode. Then comes the next night. And the next. And the next. Gradually over the course of approximately one month, those who cannot sleep fall victim to the side-effects of absolute sleep-deprivation: lank hair; poor hygiene; irritability; decreased motor skills, hallucinations; psychosis; and eventually, death. Society breaks down, and those who lived on the fringes of the old world step up to herald in the new.

In Nod, the apocalypse comes not in the form of a cataclysmic event, but something far more sinister. In this sense I was reminded strongly of one of my favourite books, John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids, which also depicts the end of the world in the form of gradual starvation and decay (oh, and killer plants, but they’re mostly an afterthought). Suffering myself from a severe lack of sleep whilst reading Nod on my arduous daily commute, I found myself getting a headache, so easily was I able to put myself in the characters’ positions. Like The Day of the Triffids, there is something so creepy and unsettling about the end of the world coming along in such an understated, chillingly relatable way.

But — and this is a big But — despite a great concept and being so fantastically well-written e.g.

Life’s a scab, and it’s our nature to pick at it until it bleeds.

Nod had one fatal flaw: it was boring.

etymology
Sounds like a fun game…

After civil order breaks down and Paul well and truly finds himself in the land of Nod, it soon becomes clear to the reader that there isn’t much of a plot. Paul embodies the ultimate ‘hood ornament’ character archetype as he is driven around from one crazed group of Awakened to another, presumably so that Barnes can showcase as much of his apocalyptic landscape as possible. The etymology theme that permeates, nay dominates the novel, whilst objectively interesting, seems a bit tacked on and doesn’t really fit or help explain anything. Lastly, if you’re expecting some kind of payoff or answers to any of your questions, prepare to be disappointed. Paul is possibly one of the least inquisitive characters I’ve ever read and seems to feel no desire to learn how Nod happened, why, or even how to resolve it.

Nod‘s author, Adrian Barnes has spoken of how he wished to explore the fragility of civil order versus disobedience in Nod. For me personally, I think he failed; this was not clear enough. I interpreted Nod to be more an exploration of the use and history of words that just happened to be set in the midst of a rather bizarre and surreal zombie apocalypse. Whilst I cannot stress enough how beautifully this book is written, I just can’t help but feel disappointed that such an original concept was seemingly wasted on trying to be too ‘literary’. The end result is a disjointed, meandering novel that I found really quite unsatisfying to read. I am thrilled to be moving on to something else.

Verdict: 2/5 stars

S.E. Berrow


For more information on Adrian Barnes and Nod, please visit his (short!) blog:

https://theauthorabout.wordpress.com/

There’s a really interesting video where he talks about the role the city of Vancouver played in Nod and offers a bit more background on some of the locations.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer: Book Review

CinderThis one had been on my ‘to read’ list for a while, largely due to its futuristic concept of a cyborg Cinderella. Instead of the dainty little ash girl we are so familiar with, the Cinderella of this story (Linh Cinder) is a strong-minded and intelligent mechanic. She is also the ward of a jealous and neglectful stepmother who, along with her daughters, is dependent on Cinder to make cash. Cinder also happens to be a cyborg – a human with mechanically enhanced limbs and brain interface – and is thus seen as a second-class citizen by most inhabitants of New Beijing.

When delving into faerietale retellings, I expect to read something completely different and unique whilst still maintaining a sense of the familiarity and spirit of the original. In this sense, Cinder succeeds. Unfortunately, a few of the ideas are not developed enough. Why, for example, are cyborgs seen as second-class citizens when they’re effectively just humans who have been injured and patched up by science? This is never explained. How have the Lunars come to be so powerful and why do they want to go to war with Earth? Also, despite being set in China (where the earliest known version of the tale originates), there is very little evidence of Chinese culture and customs here; it all seems very westernised, in a manner that doesn’t seem realistic despite being set a significant way into the future. The plot is also incredibly predictable, to the point that you can guess the ending within about ten pages (and I’m not talking about the traditional storyline here).

Nevertheless I’m really intrigued by the concept and considering that this is very obviously part of a series (entitled The Lunar Chronicles), the world and ideas contained herein may yet be developed further in future books. I fully intend to read the follow-up, Scarlet, when I eventually manage to get my hands on it.

Verdict: 2/5

S.E. Berrow


For more information on Marissa Meyer, Cinder and The Lunar Chronicles please check out the author’s website:

http://www.marissameyer.com/

A Series of Mini-Book Reviews

As some of my readers may have noticed, I’ve fallen rather behind with my book reviews. Essentially I had a few problems collating my thoughts for one or two of them, and then the next thing I knew, I’d read six more. As of today I am 10 books behind, so I think you’ll agree it’s got to a point where I’ve no hope of catching up. I have therefore chosen to write a series of mini-reviews to bring myself up to speed and talk about all the great – and not so great – books I’ve read since my last review (Under The Skin by Michel Faber).  Then we should be back to business as usual.

So, here it goes:


Life And DeathLife And Death: Twilight Reimagined by Stephanie Meyer

Originally written as bonus material for the 10th Anniversary of Stephenie Meyer’s bestselling Twilight saga, Life And Death quickly expanded into a full-length novel in which the sexes of all the characters are swapped over. Instead of the human Bella, we have Beaufort (or Beau, as he understandably prefers to be called), and instead of the vampire Edward, we have Edythe, and so on. Stephenie Meyer said that she wrote the book in response to criticism that Bella is too much of a Mary-Sue, damsel-in-distress-type character, and her belief that if the sexes were swapped it would make no difference to the love story. It’s an interesting point, but falls flat, given that Edward/Edythe’s aggressive, controlling treatment of Bella/Beau is still as unhealthy as it ever was. Stephenie Meyer also relished the opportunity to change words and scenes that had bothered her since publication, and to add in a few extra conversations that she wished she had written in the first place. These were not needed, and bogged down an already bloated book.

Verdict: 1/5


GreyGrey by E.L. James

Sadly there is very little, indeed nothing to be praised about E.L. James’s rehash of the eponymous first book in her Fifty Shades trilogy: Grey is essentially the same story as Fifty Shades of Grey but told from Christian’s point of view. For those of you who have been living in a cave for the last four years, Christian Grey is the multi-millionaire dominant who introduces protagonist Anastasia Steele to the dark and seductive world of Bondage, Discipline and Sadomasochism (BDSM). Clunky, overwrought and just plain badly written – a quick Google search will direct you to any number of cringe-worthy examples usually involving an overly ‘agreeable’ part of the male anatomy – Grey offers a disturbing insight into the sociopathic, deranged car crash that is Christian Grey’s brain. It is an insight that apparently many fans ‘asked and asked and asked’ for, but most certainly didn’t need.

I hated this book so much that I was forced to abandon it halfway through. It is so badly written, so angry, so vile, violent, un-erotic and unoriginal (even the very idea of a retelling from the perspective of the male love interest was nicked from its source material – Stephenie Meyer’s unpublished Midnight Sun) that it is going to be the first book that I have ever had to rate…

Verdict: 0/5


H Is For HawkH Is For Hawk by Helen Macdonald

As voracious a reader as I am, non-fiction is generally not something I read for leisure; Helen Macdonald’s beautifully written, touching memoir H Is For Hawk is most definitely the exception to the rule. I found that I simply had to read it after witnessing the majesty and deadly grace of the hawks, owls and falcons during a trip to Leeds Castle with my boyfriend over Christmas. A gorgeously written introspection on grief, the retreat into nature and the predatory ‘otherness’ of birds, H Is For Hawk is also a sensitive biography about T.H. White – the tortured genius famous for penning The Once And Future King – whose lesser known work The Goshawk the author finds she identifies with strongly, despite its terrible advice on hawking. I absolutely adored this book; I recommend it especially to those who generally dislike non-fiction as much as I do, but wish to foray into it.

Verdict: 5/5


 

That’s all I have the energy for right now. More mini-book reviews to come!

Take care,
S.E. Berrow


If, despite my negative reviews, you would like more information on Stephenie Meyer and E.L. James, please visit the below links:

http://stepheniemeyer.com/
http://www.eljamesauthor.com/

Helen Macdonald doesn’t have a website, but she is on Twitter often and is really fun to follow; she posts such beautiful hawking pictures:

https://twitter.com/helenjmacdonald/

For example, here is one of her with Mabel, the titular hawk in H Is For Hawk:

Helen and Mabel
So much cute in one picture ♥