Monday, 27 November 2017

BOOK REVIEW - I Am Right Behind You

Title: I Am Right Behind you
Author: John Ajvide Lindqvist

Published by: Riverrun
Publication date: September 7th 2017
Format: Kindle
Source: ARC (Netgalley)

I have no idea what happened here.
I spent the entire book either confused, disgusted, disturbed or anxious.
And I enjoyed it.
I think I really enjoyed it actually.
But I'm not sure.

It confused me utterly, but I don't think I mind.
You'd have to read it to understand this.

The story follows four very different families as they wake up in their caravans one morning and are not where they should be.
In fact, they're not even sure they're still in the same world.
This new world is a strange one.
Where the grass goes on forever, worryingly familiar figures can be seen in the distance, and a dark ominous cloud lurks on the horizon. 
Each person has been brought here for a reason.
And the journey to understand why is a disturbing one.

I loved learning about all the characters and how vastly different all of their lives and experiences were.
They were all so interesting, with wildly different and fascinating personalities. They were loveable, hateable, brave, weak, innocent, and evil.
It was a wonderful and intriguing mix of people.

The story itself was incredibly interesting, as well as disturbing and very odd.
I'm not too sure what happened in the end or what it was actually all about, but I really enjoyed the journey through this strange world, and how the story was written.
It kept me gripped right until the very end.

This is a story about human nature and how we act when everything we know is taken away.
And it is truly terrifying.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

BOOK REVIEW - Godsgrave

Title: Godsgrave
Author: Jay Kristoff

Published by: Harper Voyager UK
Publication date: 
September 7th 2017
Format: Kindle
Source: ARC (Netgalley)

"The heavens grant us only one life, but through books, we live a thousand."
I never thought anything could compare to my fierce love of Nevernight.
I have been proven wrong.
Very, very wrong.

This book was everything I hoped it would be and so much more!

It was brutal, beautiful, bloody, and brilliant!
There was so much more suspense, lashings more danger, mountains of violence, and whole bucket loads of sass and sarcasm!

Be prepared for blood, fights, betrayal, mystery, passion, death and darkness!

I was so sure that nothing would ever beat the setting of the first in this series; a dangerous school for assassins where nothing is as it seems.
Thankfully I was proven wrong again and this time around we get to follow Mia as she sells herself into slavery in order to compete in vicious battles to the death as a Gladiatti.

Throughout this book Mia manages to become an even more fascinating character (if that is even possible?)
She grows so much, having her strength of character, bravery and resolve tested constantly.
Mia has even more Darkin mysteries thrown at her in this installment, and even more questions about who and what she really is.
The other characters we meet along the way are all equally as fantastic.
We get to make friends, enemies and maybe even a lover or two?

The writing was just as stunningly beautiful as in Nevernight, though maybe with slightly less flounce and over-the-top descriptions.
There were definitely no weird and strange metaphors this time around, and the book is so much better because of this.

Just as in the first book, the pace of this book was pounding and perfect!
I literally could not stop reading as I was so desperate to find out what was going to happen next.
There were twists and turns on every page, keeping you hooked and immersed right until the very brutal end.

And that ending gentlefriends! 


All you need to know about that is - oh my god!

"That's the power of words: twenty-six little letters can paint a whole universe."

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

BOOK REVIEW - Odd & True

Title: Odd & TrueAuthor: Cat WintersPublished by: AbramsPublication date: September 12th 2017Format: KindleSource: ARC (Netgalley)

I wasn't expecting to enjoy this one quite as much as I did.But it was actually quite wonderful!

It's a tale about family bonds , myths & legends, the everyday struggles of life, and magic.

The story follows two very close sisters and each chapter alternates between each of their points of view. The chapters by Tru happen in the present and take us on an adventure across America where well face dangers, hunt monsters, and uncover family secrets.Od's chapters tell us about the past; how the two sisters grew up, the real truth about their family history and what happened to Od when she was sent away from home and her sister.

I was expecting more magic, myths and monsters in this book if I'm honest, but I'm actually not mad about how it turned out.There was just enough enchantment, folklore and mythical creatures to keep me interested, but the story was mainly about family, the love the two sisters share, overcoming adversity and being brave enough to carry on when life throws everything it has at you.

I really enjoyed learning about the girls' family history and the truth behind Od's tall tales.I loved both of the sisters fiercely! They were both so vastly different from each other, but equally strong and brave in their own way.

Tru suffered from Polio as a child and, as a result, one of her legs has withered and is unusable. She gets around with the help of a cane or wheelchair, but doesn't let this stop her from living her life and having adventures! She is delicate, quiet, smart, strong and brave.

Od, on the other hand, is a bit of a wild-child. She loves adventures, stomping around the woods following monster tracks, and looking after her sister. She suffers through quite a lot as she grows up, but her vivid imagination and thirst for magic always stays strong.

This is a fantastical adventure into dark family secrets, impossible stories and the unbreakable bond between sisters.

Could the magic actually be real after all?!

Friday, 4 August 2017

BOOK REVIEW - The Girl In The Tower

Title: The Girl In The Tower
Author: Katherine Arden
Published by: Del Rey
Publication date:  January 9th 2018
Format: Kindle

Source: ARC (Netgalley)

Sequel to The Bear And The Nightingale 

This sequel to The Bear And The Nightingale does not disappoint!

Though different in a few ways, this charming, magical story still holds the same enchantment as the first in the series.
In this installment, however, we get more adventure, more action, more daring, and much more bravery!

This time we get to follow Vasya as she leaves all that she knows behind and travels across the deadly frozen landscape of Russia. Running from the memory of her dead father and a village accusing her of being a witch, Vasya finds hope in her dream of freedom.
Refusing to be confined by marriage or a convent Vasya disguises herself as a boy and rides her horse off into the woods and towards adventure!

And there was so much adventure in this book!

We get to brave snowstorms, fight bandits, race horses, encounter even more spirits, meet The Grand Prince of Moscow, be reunited with lost family, and attempt to save the Kingdom from danger.

And of course there's plenty more of Morozko the winter demon/God too!

This is less of a cosy tale of family, snow and folklore such as The Bear And The Nightingale, and more of a grand, daring, frosty adventure.
It still contains plenty of magic, but has a healthy dose of danger too!

If you enjoyed the first book in this series then I think you'll be more than thrilled with The Girl In The Tower!
Get ready for magic, folklore, adventure, and lots of snow!

Friday, 16 June 2017

BOOK REVIEW - Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance

Title: Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance
Author: Ruth Emmie Lang
Published by: St. Martin's Press
Publication date:  November 7th 2017
Format: Kindle

Source: ARC (Netgalley)

Magical realism that I actually enjoyed?

Surely not???
Though this gem of a book does feature far more of the 'magic' than the 'realism', so that's probably why it was a winner for me!

During this tale we follow the life of Weylyn Grey through the memories and stories of the people that knew him.Weylyn isn't like other people.
He has lived with wolves, can stop storms, owns a horned pig, collects light in jars, and is under the impression that his very presence puts the people he loves in danger.

We get to visit dense woodland, travel through thick snow, and enter a house covered in spiders webs.

This book is such a magical, fantastical, touching story.

I really connected to every character we met along the way and was facinated with the life of Weylyn.
I couldn''t wait to turn the page and find out what was going to happen next!

I really enjoyed the way the story was told - from the POV of different characters and their views of the things that happened around Weylyn.It was lovely to see how Weylyn had touched peoples lives and how they each coped with having to change their views about reality and how the world worked.

We also get to see how Weylyn himself deals with being different, his struggle with the fact that he possibly puts the people he loves in danger, and how he ultimately copes with that fact.
I loved his character so much and just wanted to give him a big hug!

It was magical, funny, touching, and at times quite sad.

It was perfect.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

M is for... Mouse, Bird, Sausage

Once upon a time, in a little cottage in the woods, there lived a mouse, a bird and and sausage. They lived together for many years in harmony and friendship, all helping each other and sharing the daily chores.

The bird flew out into the woods every day to fetch wood. The mouse would set the fire, collect water and set the table for meals. The sausage would cook all the meals.

One day, while out collecting wood, the bird came across an old friend who laughed at him for working so hard when his friends did so little. The bird thought about this and became quite mad, so he flew home and insisted that they all swap jobs the very next day. The mouse and the sausage argued against the change, but the bird would not back down, so eventually they all agreed.

The next morning the sausage headed out to collect wood from the forest but he did not return. Fearing something may have happened to his friend, the bird flew out to see if he could find him. He eventually found the sausage in the mouth of a dog. The bird begged the dog to let his friend go, but the dog claimed that the sausage had been carrying forged papers and so would have to die.

Filled with grief and sorrow, the bird flew back home again to tell the mouse what had happened. However, when he got inside he found that while trying to cook a meal the mouse had accidentally fallen into the pot and boiled to death.

The bird was devastated and flew about the house in a rage. In his carelessness he scattered the wood from the fire around the house and soon the little cottage was engulfed in flames. The bird quickly rushed to get some water to douse the flames, but he fell down the well along with the bucket and drowned.

This strange tale was collected by the brothers Grimm and included in their published collection 'Kinderind Hausmärchen' in 1812. 
It went on to be featured in all seven editions.

Friday, 14 April 2017

L is for... Leshii

The Leshii is the sprit of the forest in Slavic folklore.

Every forest has its own Leshii who lives deep within the trees with his wife and children. The Leshii normally takes the form of a man with hair and beard of leaves, grass and vines, but he can also take on the shape of any animal or plant - from a tall tree, to a single blade of grass.

The Leshii is the guardian of the forest and protects all the animals living there. He is thought to be an evil spirit by some but is, in fact, more like a tricksy fairy in nature. 
He does enjoy misguiding travellers and leaving them lost within the woods, but if he is befriended, however, he will pass on his vast knowledge of magic.

If there is more than one Leshii in a single forest then they will fight violently to claim the territory as their own, leaving a trail of fallen trees and scared animals. 

When travelling through the forest it is sensible to take a gift of bread for the Leshii to ward off his troublesome nature.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

K is for... Kodama

Kodama (木霊) are small forest spirits from the folklore of Japan.
They are thought to inhabit trees and make strange echoing sounds. If you hear the sound of a falling tree at night, this is also thought to be the sound of a Kodama. 

They are said to take on the appearance of atmospheric ghost lights, beasts, and sometimes they can even take on human form.
Some believe that Kodama look just like real trees and are rooted to the ground.

Kodama are beilieved to have magical powers and if someone tries to cut down a tree in which one of these little spirits lives they will be badly cursed.

However, if a Kodama is treated well it will be kind and protect houses and villages.

In some areas of Japan small shrines are created at the bases of trees to honour the Kodama. These shrines are still worshipped at today by some people - showing that a belief in the little tree spirits still exists in some places.

In Hachijo-jima, in a village called Mitsune, they still celebrate the "Kodama-san" with an annual festival where they give thanks and show their respect. During this festival they ask for forgiveness and the Kodamas blessing when they cut down trees.

Kodama also appear in the anime movie Princess Mononoke which was written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki.
In this movie they are shown as cute little bobbled-headed creatures who run around in the forest. (as shown above)
All of Miyazaki's movies are really beautiful with wonderful storylines and characters, with Princess Mononoke being one of his very best! So definitely check it out if you haven't already seen it.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

J is for... Japanese monsters

For the letter J we're heading back to Japanese Yōkai!

These interesting illustrations come from the book Yōkai Daizukai by manga artist Shigeru Mizuki, and they show cross sections from 85 'Yōkai' - the traditional monsters and demons from Japanese folklore.

The illustrations show each of the monsters internal organs and gives information about their functions and about the creatures themselves. 
I only wish that I was able to read Japanese so that I could buy myself the book, and read all of these fascinating entries!

Here are a few translated exerts for you to enjoy:

The Hyōsube, a child-sized river monster (a relative of the kappa) from Kyushu that lives in underwater caves, ventures onto land at night to eat rice plants. The monster has a relatively small brain, a nervous system specialized in detecting the presence of humans, thick rubbery skin, sharp claws, two small stomachs (one for rice grains and one for fish), a large sac for storing surplus food, and two large oxygen sacs for emergency use. A pair of rotating bone coils produce an illness-inducing bacteria that the monster sprinkles on unsuspecting humans.

The Mannen-dake ("10,000-year bamboo") is a bamboo-like monster that feeds on the souls of lost travelers camping in the woods. Anatomical features include a series of tubes that produce air that causes travelers to lose their way, syringe-like fingers the monster inserts into victims to suck out their souls, and a sac that holds the stolen souls.

The Kuro-kamikiri ("black hair cutter") is a large, black-haired creature that sneaks up on women in the street at night and surreptitiously cuts off their hair. Anatomical features include a brain wired for stealth and trickery, razor-sharp claws, a long, coiling tongue covered in tiny hair-grabbing spines, and a sac for storing sleeping powder used to knock out victims. The digestive system includes an organ that produces a hair-dissolving fluid, as well as an organ with finger-like projections that thump the sides of the intestines to aid digestion.

The Kijimunaa is a playful forest sprite inhabiting the tops of Okinawan banyan trees. Anatomical features include eye sockets equipped with ball bearings that enable the eyeballs to spin freely, strong teeth for devouring crabs and ripping out the eyeballs of fish (a favorite snack), a coat of fur made from tree fibers, and a nervous system adapted for carrying out pranks. The Kijimunaa's brain contains vivid memories of being captured by an octopus - the only thing it fears and hates.

Which Yōkai is your favourite?

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

BOOK REVIEW: The Girl of Ink & Stars

Title: The Girl of Ink & Stars
Author: Kiran Millweed Hargrave
Published by: 
Chicken House
Publication date: May 5th 2016
Format: Paperback

Source: Own copy (Amazon)

I was so excited to read this one. 
I was hoping for magic and adventure, myths and legends, friendship and bravery. 
And while a did get all of that (ish), there just wasn't enough of it. 

Not enough magic by far. 

I understand that this was kind of a magical-realism novel, but apparently that genre is just not for me. 
They always leave me wanting so much more. 

The plot was intriguing but ended up being a bit dull unfortunately.
We follow Isabella as she embarks on a dangerous journey to find her friend. 
She travels through unknown territories, getting attacked by strange creatures and eventually finds out that the whole island is in danger of being destroyed. 
I LOVED the idea of an ancient fire demon living under the island and how the stories and myths that Isabella loved so much seemed to be coming true. 

But it fell flat. 
(I hate the 'realism' part of magical-realism!)

I did enjoy the friendship between Isabella and Lupe though. 
I thought it was sweet and fierce and they were just so lovely together!
And I'm glad there wasn't any romance featured in this story. I panicked that it would be for a second there, but it's all clear! *phew*

I also really enjoyed the cartography - the information given about it, the stories that were told, the design of the pages which featured beautiful cartography illustrations throughout, and both of the maps at the beginning and end of the book.
This book really is very pretty.
Cartography has always facinated me, so it was nice to see it featured in a book.

Unfortunately, I just felt like this book was lacking that special something. 
It didn't ever grab me.
Some parts dragged. 
It shouldn't have been as dull as it was. 

I wanted more!

I is for... Invunche

The Invunche are legendary creatures from the folklore of Chile in South America. They guard and protect the entrances to witches caves.

Legend says that an Invunche is a child who was kidnapped by a witch and hideously transformed into a deformed hairy monster. 

To make an Invunche the witch would brake one of the child's legs and twist it over his back, apply a cream all over his body which would cause a thick hair to grow, and split his tongue to give it a snake-like appearance. 

They would first feed their new Invunche on milk from a black cat and eventually on the flesh from an adult human which is stolen from fresh graves.

The Invunche can only communicate by howling and grunting, and walks awkwardly on its hands and one good leg. 

To gain access to the witches cave the beast must either be killed or kissed on its ass.

Which method would you choose?

Monday, 10 April 2017

H is for... Hans My Hedgehog

Illustration by Maurice Sendak
Once upon a time there was a childless merchant who wished so hard to have his own child that he said he would even be happy with a hedgehog.

When the man got home he found that his wife had unexpectedly given birth to a baby boy. However, the child had the body of a hedgehog from the waist up. The couple decided to call their child 'Hans My Hedgehog'.

Poor Hans was far too prickly to hold, so he had to sleep behind the stove on a bed of straw. He was loved very much by his mother, but his father was deeply ashamed to call Hans his son.

When Hans was 8 years old he asked his father to saddle up a rooster so that he could leave home and seek his fortune. So Hans headed off into the woods astride his rooster.

A few years later a lost King finds Hans playing the bagpipes in the woods. Hans makes a deal with the king, saying that he will help him find his way home as long as the King promises to give Hans whatever greets him when he first arrives home. The King agrees to the deal, as he is sure that Hans cannot read. He writes an order saying that Hans is to receive nothing and then Hans gives the King directions home. Upon his arrival the King's daughter runs out to greet him and the King tells her about his deal with Hans and how he tricked him. The daughter was glad, saying she would never go away with a hedgehog who rides a rooster.

A little while later a second lost King comes across Hans in the forest and agrees to his deal. Hans gives him directions home and the King's daughter comes running out to greet him when he arrives. The second King tells his daughter about his deal with Hans and the daughter happily agrees to go away with him for the sake of her father.

After a year has passed Hans goes to the first kingdom to claim his reward and is attacked by guards at the gate. He flies over them on his rooster and demands that the king send out his daughter. The king reluctantly agrees and sends out his daughter. Hans forces her to remove all of her clothes and pierces her all over with his quills. He then sends her back to the King in disgrace.

Hans then travels to the second kingdom to claim his reward. When he arrives the second King sends out his daughter right away and she marries Hans the same day. 

On their wedding night Hans asks the King to build a big fire. He quickly removes his hedgehog skin and has the guards throw it into the fire where it is burnt to ash. Hans' new skin appears black, as if he had been burnt, but once he is cleaned he is shown to be a very handsome young gentleman.

The tale of Hans My Hedgehog was collected by The Brother's Grimm and published in their second edition in 1819.

This may have been a charming tale of love an acceptance when it was first in circulation, but in our time it comes across as a tale of how women can be used as currency and fathers using their own daughters as objects to trade in order to save themselves.
I'm totally on the side of the first daughter. 
No one should have to marry someone they don't want to!

It would be nice to see a re-write of this where Hans can be accepted for who he is, but no daughters have to be married off against their will.

Someone write this for me?

Saturday, 8 April 2017

G is for... Green Children of Woolpit

This strange tale takes place sometime between the years 1135 and 1154, in the village of Woolpit in Suffolk, UK.

It is said that during one harvest the villagers of Woolpit came across two children who appeared to be lost.
The children had green skin, wore strange clothing and only spoke in an unknown language.

The mystery children were taken back to one of the villagers houses where they refused all food except raw broad beans, which they gobbled down quite happily.

The children stayed in the village where they slowly started to eat a more normal diet and gradually lost their strange, green colour.

Once they had learned to speak English, they explained that they had come from a land where the sun never shone and the light was always like twilight. It is also said that everything was green in their homeland and that they said it was a place called St. Martin's Land.

The children couldn't quite explain their arrival in Woolpit, as they didn't fully understand it themselves. They were apparently herding their father's cows which they followed into a cave, where they became lost. They followed the sound of the cows bells and eventually emerged right where they had been found by the villagers.

The two children were eventually baptised, however, the boy became very sick and died soon after.

The girl went on to be employed for many years as a maid in a local house, but was often described as being '"wanton" and "impudent". 
It is thought that she eventually married a man from Kings Lynn, which was 40 miles away from Woolpit and had taken the name of 'Agnes'.

The village sign for Woolpit,dating from 1977, still stands today and depicts the two green children. 

Friday, 7 April 2017

F is for... Father Frost

The character of Father Frost appears in the tale 'The Story of King Frost'; a traditional Russian fairy tale collected by Alexander Afanasyev.

This chilly tale tells of an old woman who has two daughters. One of them is her own daughter by blood, whom shes loves very, very much. The other is her step-daughter, whom she hates passionately.
One very icy day the woman orders her husband to take her step-daughter out into the winter fields and leave her there to die.
Of course he obeys, because fathers always seem to be especially useless in fairy tales.
So the poor girl is led out into the snow, and left all alone with nothing but the very thin clothes she is wearing.
After some time has passed Father Frost (also known as Morozko) turns up and finds the girl sitting in the snow. 
She is very polite and kind to him despite being frightened and freezing cold. In return for her kindness Father Frost gives the girl a chest full of riches and some beautiful, warm clothes.

Back at home, the old woman sends her husband out again to bring back the girls dead, frozen body so that she can be buried (nice of her, huh?).
When her husband brings back her step-daughter still alive and happy, the old woman is shocked and furious. She becomes even more enraged when she sees the presents that were given to the girl by Father Frost.
Sure that if Father Frost met her own blood-daughter he would bestow even finer gifts, she orders her husband to take the other daughter out into the winter fields and leave her there.
The husband obeys yet again, because apparently he has no backbone or sense.
This time when Father Frost shows up, the second daughter is extremely rude to him. Offended, Father Frost freezes the girl to death and leaves her there.
The husband goes out again to bring back the girl and all the gifts the old woman is expecting to recieve, but instead brings back a poor, frozen dead body.
The old woman breaks down into tears.

The moral of the story?

  • Fathers are generally useless. (At least fairy tales ones anyway)
  • If you're polite people give you pretty things.
  • Never anger an ice spirit unless you want to be turned into a popsicle.

Books containing Father Frost:

Thursday, 6 April 2017

E is for... Eloko

The Eloko are people eating dwarf-like creatures from Africa who live inside hollow trees in the rain forest of central Zaire (Now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo). They are thought to be the ancestors of the people living there and legend says that they exist because they have a grudge to settle with the living.

Eloko are covered in a coat of grass which grows over their face and bodies, and they wear clothes which are made from leaves. Their eyes are said to glow like fire and although they are quite small creatures their jaws can open wide enough to devour an entire grown man.

The vicious Eloko bewitch their victims by ringing magical bells which are impossible to resist and they protect their treasures of game and rare fruits ferociously. Certain amulets can be used to avert the spell of the Eloko, but only professional hunters with magic powers can safely travel through the forest and survive.