Oct 242014
 

Piatkus Halloween banner

This Halloween, follow five amazing authors through five fabulous book blogs for the chance to win a grand prize with Piatkus.

Christopher RiceKate EllisTim O’RourkeKristen Callihan and Darynda Jones have joined forces to write a spooky story. Every day from 27th to 31st October, each author’s section of the story will feature on a different blog. Each section of the story will contain a single highlighted letter. Follow the story through the blogs, collecting the highlighted letters as you go and on 31st October you will have enough letters to spell a single word!

The creepy blog crawl starts here (you don’t need to collect a letter from this section of the story):

You wake up at the end of a long, dark corridor. Someone slams and locks the door behind you. There’s no way to go but forwards. At the end of the corridor is a heavy wooden door.

In front of you is an envelope with your name on it. You open it with trembling hands. It says, ‘You have been brought here for a reason. Prove that you are worth saving. Work out the five clues if you want to live.’

You stand up, clutching the letter, and run for the end of the corridor. On the door is a keypad, containing all 26 letters of the alphabet. Knowing, deep down, that it won’t help, you try desperately to open the door. It’s firmly locked. Turning round, you see five doors in the side of the corridor. Three to the left and two to the right. Five doors, five clues. You know what you have to do.

Day 1, 27th October: Head on over to Chicks That Read to read the first installment of the story from Christopher Rice and to collect your first letter!

Day 2, 28th October: Go to Bookthing to read the second installment of the story from Kate Ellis and to collect your second letter!

Day 3, 29th October: Click through to Book Mood Reviews to read the third installment of the story from Tim O’Rourke and to collect your third letter!

Day 4th, 30th October: Head on over to Opinionated Cupcakes  to read the fourth installment of the story from Kristen Callihan and to collect your fourth letter!

Day 5th, 31st October: And finally go to Fiction Fascination to read the fifth installment of the story from Darynda Jones and to collect your fifth and final letter!

Visit http://www.piatkusbooks.net/halloween-blog-tour/, submit that word and you’ll be entered into our competition to win a bundle of Piatkus books and special Halloween sweets.

Good luck!

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Oct 202014
 

His Makeshift Wife (Mills & Boon Historical) IS HE A RAKE TO TRUST?

Spirited Briony Winters can’t believe her ears! Her beloved godmother’s will pushes her into marriage – with notorious rake Luke Kingsley. But when her wickedly handsome husband-to-be promises not to claim his rights, Briony takes a deep breath and says, ‘I do…’ Luke is used to having secrets, and he’s keeping his true reasons for marrying Briony hidden.

Let her believe him merely another spoilt, indebted rakehell. Yet it’s increasingly hard to hide his real self from his ever more inquisitive wife…

A Mills & Boon regency romance involving a marriage of convenience in name only while both parties have their reasons for agreeing to it things never turn out quite as planned.

Romance, deception and intrigue all perfect elements of a regency romance along with  a spirited heroine and a super sexy male counterpart. One thing noticeably absent from this book is sex, the protagonists don’t even touch each other until the end and even then that is behind closed doors. Not really a problem though, it  just allows you to leave it up to your imagination but I do like a bit of romantic tension build up though and that was lacking a bit in this one.

I really enjoy reading Mills and Boon romances, regency ones in particular. You know how it will end, it is the getting there that is unknown and this one does not disappoint. I am just a sappy romantic at heart.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Anne Ashley
  • Format: Kindle
  • Publisher: Mills & Boon
  • Genre: Regency Romance
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

 

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Oct 162014
 

MandyBaggotYes you can believe your eyes, we are bringing back our Irreverent Questions!  Mandy Baggot, in the midst of her blog tour was kind enough to answer our questions.  She is a particular favourite of Tracey’s and if you haven’t read anything by her yet, what are you waiting for – go get Made in Nashville now!

Mandy Baggot is an award-winning romantic fiction author, writing hot heroes and emotional reads.

Represented by Kate Nash of the Kate Nash Literary Agency she is also a contributor to writing blogs, magazines and short story anthologies and regularly takes part in fiction festivals and literary events.

Mandy loves mashed potato, white wine, country music, Corfu, shoes and handbags. She has appeared on ITV1′s Who Dares Sings and auditioned for The X-Factor.

Mandy is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and lives near Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK with her husband, two daughters and cats, Kravitz and Springsteen.

And now, on with the irreverence!

How did you celebrate when your first book was published?
I always celebrate the same way whenever I bring out a new book. I always have a party on Facebook throughout the day and try and mix it up with hot men and competitions. I like to give things away and just enjoy chatting and celebrating the launch with my friends.

Then, in the evening, it’s opening white fizzy wine (champagne if I’m really lucky) and eating Chinese food. Last time, when Made in Nashville was released, I got flowers from my husband, Mr Big too!

Do you get fully dressed to write?
Not all the time! If it’s a normal day then it’s up and dressed to do the school run. In the holidays I have been known to still be in my PJs at lunchtime writing at my desk. There was also one crazy day when I had about 20 people posting clues to a James Bond competition for the launch of my novel, Security. I don’t think I got dressed at all that day. Scheduling tweets takes a while and tweeting is important you know!

How do you deal with negative comments?
I think I spilled the beans and answered this question at the Festival of Romance in September. I read ALL the reviews for my books on Amazon and Goodreads. There are some that make me cry with joy and there are others that irk, BUT I appreciate every review I get, even the stinky ones. If someone has, not only taken the time to read my book, but taken time to review it too, I am thankful for that. I often tweet the best of the one star reviews because that’s someone’s valid opinion and as authors we can’t please everyone. And it’s good to laugh, especially if someone’s called your work horseshit! I really need to make t-shirts.

It’s movie night, the credits are just about to roll, Happy Ever After, Everyone Dies, Or…?
Ooo that’s a tough one. My favourite films of all time are Dirty Dancing and Die Hard. Die Hard is part of a Christmas Eve ritual. We watch, we eat Chinese food – are you noticing a take-out theme in these questions? I like the hero and heroine to be happy in the end – the good guys beating the bad guys, but there has to be drama and conflict all the way through or I get bored. Who wouldn’t want to be swept up by Patrick Swayze and Bruce Willis?

Do you have any phobias?
Astronauts. They bust into Elliott’s home in ET and it frightened the life out of me when I was a child. Luckily, in my line of work, I don’t have to encounter them very often. Yes, I know it’s a person in a suit but…they give me the creeps!

Many thanks to Mandy Baggot for taking the time to answer our questions, and if you want to know more about the author, visit her Website, Twitter, Goodreads or on Facebook!

Pictures provided by and used with permission of Mandy Baggot


Made in NashvilleMandy’s latest book is Made in Nashville (you can read Tracey’s 5 star review here)

An on-stage attack left Honor Blackwood with more scars than just the one on her face. It’s been ten years since she left her spot as Nashville’s brightest country music star. Is now the time to return? And is she brave enough to do it?

Country rebel and rock star, Jared ‘Jed’ Marshall is hot property on the Tennessee music scene in more ways than one. He’s wild, he’s sexy and everybody wants a piece of him. But when he sets his sights on Honor, is it pure attraction or just distraction on his mind?

Honor’s record label sign the ex-boyfriend that dumped her and suddenly going back to her old life is harder than she thought. And when a secret from the past becomes public knowledge it’s no longer just about the music. Are all the people in her life lying to her to get what they want?

Join the country scene to find out!

Made in Nashville – where the off-stage action’s as hot as the music!


Irreverent Questions is BookThing‘s fun, irregular feature where we ask a series of random questions that popped into our curious heads. If you are an author and would like to take part, please get in touch!

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Oct 152014
 

The Eye Of The World: Book 1 of the Wheel of Time The first book in the Wheel of Time (The Eye of the World) was published in 1990, the 14th and last book (A Memory of Light) was published in 2013.  Close to a full 23 years between the two books (it was 22 years, 11 months and 24 days).  If you include the short story / prequel ‘New Spring’, then there are 15 books, totalling 4.4 million words, and almost 12,000 paperback pages (all data from Wikipedia).

I can’t really remember when I read the first book.  I guess I might be able to find out if I dredged enough Internet history or e-mail, but if I had to take a stab, it would likely be between 1993 and 1995.  That feels right, and puts me around Fires of Heaven or Lord of Chaos as the last one published at the time I was reading them.  I probably had to wait therefore for either A Crown of Swords or The Path of Daggers, maybe both.

Waiting for new books isn’t anything new, and anyone who’s read a ‘live’ series will know the experience.  Waiting for a Wheel of Time book though, became a lottery.  It killed a lot of fans, because the ‘middle’ books were so slow, and made so little progress.  Some people didn’t mind, and obviously, it didn’t kill the series, but many, many people were put off and couldn’t go on.

I was one of them.

Waiting a few years to find out what your favourite characters were up to, only to find out they weren’t in the book because there wasn’t room, despite the 300,000 words, and you had to wait another two years was hard.  Finding out the main plot didn’t advance, but new characters and threads and complexity turned up, was hard.  Finding out that you didn’t find anything out was hard.  So I stopped reading them.  My wife still bought them, but even she gave up in the end.  I read some on-line summaries for one or two of the books and then put them out of my mind.

Sadly, Robert Jordan fell ill and passed away in 2007.  At that stage, I pretty much gave up hope of finding out how the story ended, which against the loss of another person’s life is a tiny inconvenience.

Eventually, news started to circulate that Robert and his wife Harriet had picked someone to continue and in fact complete the series after he passed away – Brandon Sanderson.  I’d never read anything of his, and I wondered honestly, how much of my problem with The Wheel of Time was Jordan and how much was just the source material.

Then more news – the single book was going to be three, the first one due in 2009 and the last one, well, sometime after that.  I refused to end up waiting to read another Wheel of Time book and I pretty much forgot all about them (or pretended to).

I made the occasional blog post, threatening to go back and read them all, and be ready for the new ones, or go back and read them all when the new ones were out, but I wasn’t reading fantasy really.  Or much at all.  So those plans never came to fruition.

Then, a few months into 2014, a friend on Facebook mentioned having just finishing listening to the series on audio-book and that the boring stretches weren’t as bad as he remembered.  Either audio book made them better, or the pain had eased with time.  I resolved then to re-read the whole series.  The final book was out, it had come out in 2013, so there was nothing stopping me reading them end-to-end and finally getting some answers.

It started out okay, like greeting old friends.  The Jordanisms weren’t too bad, and the first three books were enjoyable.  Then the rot set in.  Oh, not straight away, there are still some good moments after book 3, and in fact, some very good books by Jordan after book 3.  Knife of Dreams, the last he completed on his own is excellent in fact.  Sadly though, many of the middle books are dire in parts or their totality.

This is obviously my personal opinion, and different people will have different views about the books.  For me however, Jordan was too interested in telling us how the world looked, smelled, sounded and felt, and not interested enough in telling us what was going on and making progress.  Major plot threads stalled and vanished for entire books, we spent a lot of time being told what people were wearing and why it was or wasn’t appropriate, how men and women just couldn’t get along, with all men being stupid selfish children and all women being bitchy hags at heart.

It grated and it dragged.

But I knew there was some light ahead, because I knew no matter what happened, there would be a final battle and the good guys would win.  As I said in the review for A Memory of Light, the truth of epic fantasy is that the good guys always win, the only question is the cost.  So I knew Rand would beat the Dark One, somehow, and that the Wheel would continue to turn.  What I wanted to learn along the way, were the answers to questions Jordan had posed early on, and the cost of that victory.

All I had to do, was to keep reading.

Then something odd happened.  Book eleven, Knife of Dreams, was really quite good.  Jordan had recaptured the magic.  He drove the story forward, he wrote emotional character pieces.  He answered some questions, sure he posed a bunch more, as normal, but he actually answered a few.  I really enjoyed Knife of Dreams, and that made me even more angry.  Robert Jordan can write superb fantasy.  He can put down complex and detailed plot threads, weave lots of ideas together, deliver complex political and military situations, and make us feel like we know people through limited PoV writing.

He proved it in book eleven.  So where the hell was he in book 10, or the other dire books?

Anyway, with book eleven behind me, I read the first of the Brandon Sanderson books, and it was also excellent.  Book thirteen was good, and the finale, book fourteen, A Memory of Light is as good as you can expect given the constraints.

Books 12 and 14 were particularly emotional in parts.  Book 13 slightly less so for me, due to the nature of what is going on, but none-the-less it was very enjoyable.

I’d done it, in just over a month I managed to read all fourteen books, I’d pushed through the hard times and got my reward at the end.

Was it worth it?  Is it worth it?  I’ve you’ve tried before, or never read them, should you pick them up from book one and give them a shot?

My answer is, maybe.

A Memory Of Light: Book 14 of the Wheel of Time They’re very long books.  They’re very, very slow in places, even the good ones, and they have a lot of characters.  Despite his best efforts, Sanderson can’t close down every thread properly, and some are left hanging.  There’s no grand epilogue telling you how everything works out at the end (something I felt I might have enjoyed), and so you’re going to need to fill in some blanks if you get there.  Some of the characters are irritating beyond recognition, your gender may affect which you find more irritating.

Sometimes the characters are stupid.  Sometimes you wish they’d just sit down and tell each other what they were thinking or doing and everything would be a lot easier.  Sometimes you wish they would just jump off a cliff and let the Dark One win.

But.

You can’t deny the genius of Jordan at times.  The complexity of some of the plot threads, the groundwork laid down in early books come to fruition in later ones.  The complexity of the world, the colour, the depth of vision, and the varying political landscapes.  Despite their annoyances, the characters are often engaging and interesting.  Some are just superb, Lan for example.  It’s fantasy on a truly epic scale.  Sure, it draws on a lot of sources, but it blends them into a unique and ultimately engaging story.

I’m happier for having finished them, and if I had never read them at all, I’d be poorer for it.

The Wheel of Time is epic fantasy like no other.  It divides opinion, and it’s hugely variable in quality as the series progresses.  It is though, one of the great pieces of art of our generation and it would be a shame not to at least give it a shot.  There is an end in sight, you just have to keep your head above the water during the choppy bits and keep going.  I did it, you can too.


My reviews of the books (reviews are spoiler free, but the sections below the reviews are not, reviews for later books may spoil books before them).

  1. The Eye of the World
  2. The Great Hunt
  3. The Dragon Reborn
  4. The Shadow Rising
  5. The Fires of Heaven
  6. Lord of Chaos
  7. A Crown of Swords
  8. The Path of Daggers
  9. Winter’s Heart
  10. Crossroads of Twilight
  11. Knife of Dreams
  12. The Gathering Storm
  13. Towers of Midnight
  14. A Memory of Light
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Oct 142014
 

Only Enchanting (Survivors' Club) Flavian, Viscount Ponsenby, was devastated by his fiancee’s desertion after his return home. Now the woman who broke his heart is back- and everyone is eager that they revive their engagement. Except Flavian, who in a panic, runs straight into the arms of the nearest young woman.

Agnes Keeping has never been in love and never wishes to be. But then she meets the charismatic Flavian, and suddenly Agnes falls so foolishly and so deeply that she agrees to his impetuous proposal of marriage.

But what will happen when she discovers the real reason he married her?

This is the next instalment of the fabulous “Survivors Club” by Mary Balogh and this offering does not disappoint. Flavian, with his stutter and gaps in his memory, is definitely an easy man to fall in love with and I would happily have taken him home myself! His memories are locked away, what he does remember doesn’t make sense but with Agnes he feels safe and that is exactly what he said to her when proposing “because I want to be safe with you.”

Agnes is a widow who suddenly finds herself dealing with feelings she never knew existed with a man she does not fully understand. At sixes and sevens, she gets more confused when they go to London but that is where the fun begins. It soon becomes clear that Agnes is not going to go down quietly. I love her and her compassion, as well as the fact she refuses to be cowed by society.

A large part of the story takes part during the annual survivors club gathering so we were able to catch up with previous characters – always something I love. As with the other stories in this series the writing is very powerful and emotive, and I feel Mary Balogh’s writing really captures how I would imagine the characters to be feeling, so it is very easy to get pulled into the story.

I love romance and this book has it in spades, do not think it is all flowery language and no substance though, it is a fantastic book and I cannot recommend it enough – the best of the series so far. You do not need to read the others in the set first but I am sure once you read this one you will want to.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Book Information
  • Author: Mary Balogh
  • Series: Survivors Club (4)
  • Format: Paperback
  • Publisher: Piatkus
  • Genre: Historical Romance
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

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Oct 132014
 

While I was reading the series, I made this blog post.  I made some kind of promise to go back and update it, which I didn’t really do.  I did post some questions that I hoped got answered.  There are major spoilers coming up for the series if you’ve not read it, so beware!


Here are the things I wanted answered, and whether we got them.

  • Does Moiraine survive, who rescues her if she does (does she rescue herself)?
    Answered.  Mat, Thom and Jain rescue her from the Snakes and Foxes.
  • What did Moiraine see in Rhuidean, and how much of that is ever revealed to us?
    Partially answered.  Not revealed to us in great detail, other than she saw her own rescue, and her fight with Lanfear.
  • Mat – just everything about Mat.  What does he end up doing, does he end up using the Horn? Does his death mean he’s no longer linked to it? Does anyone else realise that?
    Answered.  He died due to the balefire ‘incident’ and was brought back to life, and so is no longer linked to the horn.  Olver blows it.
  • Who is Olver, and is he Gaidal Cain?
    Strongly implied but never answered.
  • What is the taint on Saidin?  Does it ever get explained?
    Not really answered.
  • Just exactly what is going on with the seals?
    Not really answered, although there are implications.  Dark Ones touch, not quite in exactly the right place, etc.
  • How important was Herid Fel and which of the Forsaken did him in?
    Not really answered.  Min takes up Herid’s research.  We don’t really know who killed him.
  • What is going on with Lews Therin inside Rand’s head.  Are they really talking to each other?  Does Lews hear Rand in his own timeline?
    Answered.  Rand is Lews, Lews is Rand.  It’s a long story, but it works out beautifully.
  • What happens in general to the Aiel after it’s all done.
    Implied but not really answered.
  • Do the Tinkers ever find the song?
    Not answered.  Jordan said in interviews that they never will though.
  • Do the Tinkers and the Aiel ever forgive each other?
    Not answered.
  • Do Moiraine and Thom end up together?
    Answered.  Yes.
  • Does Elayne ever work out Mat’s fox-head medallion and does that play any role later?
    Answered.  Partially and yes, very much so.
  • Do they ever relearn the art of healing without having to use energy from the patient (i.e. can they heal with just the One Power, like in the Age of Legends)?
    Answered.  This is what Nynaeve has learned to do.
  • Just what the hell is Verin really up to?  Who is she, how old is she, and how long has she known about the events leading up to where we are in the books?
    Answered.  She’s accidentally Black Ajah.  It’s a long story.
  • Does Elayne ever work out how to make angreal and sa’angreal?
    Not answered.  However, Rand gives her an angreal seed, so she may be able to use that to learn.
  • Does someone, anyone, finally realise that if you don’t just talk openly and honestly with your allies, you don’t get anywhere?
    No.
  • Does someone, anyone, finally realise men and women must work together and trust each other to succeed both in the battle and in life afterwards?
    Partially answered.  Although I asked this in jest, there’s a clear implication that the cross Ashaman / Aes Sedai bonding that’s going on will lead to some kind of reconciliation at some stage.
  • What happens with Lan’s heritage, and does it play any role?
    Answered.  Yes, gloriously so.  Ahh Lan.
  • Do the Ways ever get cleansed?
    Not answered.  Implied that they don’t.
  • Does the taint get removed from Saidin (I’m cheating, I know the answer to this one already, one of the few things I remember from later books)?
    Answered.  Yes, Rand cleanses it with the help of Nynaeve.
  • What’s going on with Moridin (again, cheating, I’m not sure he’s been introduced yet)?
    Answered.  It’s Ishy innit.
  • Are some of the characters meant to be stupid for a reason?
    Not answered.
  • Is it ever explained that the ability to channel is genetic and hence killing male channellers before they have kids is the reason why fewer people in general can use the One Power, or is it only ever alluded to?
    Not answered.
  • Does someone chop Nynaeve’s braid off to save us all from ourselves?
    Answered.  No.
  • Does Elayne ever take up the Throne of Andor?
    Answered.  Yes.
  • Does Rand end up with all three girls or does that dream ever get abandoned / explained?
    Answered.  Yes, he gets the girls.
  • Does Perrin hold out and remain human?
    Answered.  Yes but it’s more complex than that, and his story is one of the best.
  • Does the Tower become whole? Do they stop using the Oath Rod? Is that ever fully explained?
    Answered.  Yes, and no, they continue to use it, even though they understand it’s side effects now.
  • Padan Fain – what happens to him?
    Answered.  Sanderson ran out of space, but Fain gets an ending.
  • Who does and doesn’t survive the last battle (people, nations, structures, cities, etc.)
    Kind of answered.  It’s a bloody mess by the end.
  • Does Rand fully seal the prison, so that it looks like the bore never existed, is this the age in which that happens, or is it just another patch?
    Answered.  Sealed, no patch.
  • Once again, who’s Moridin?
    Answered.  Still Ishy.
  • Who’s in the second mindtrap?
    Answered.  Moghedian and Lanfear.
  • What was going on with Liah in Shadar Logoth?  How did she survive so long?
    Not answered.
  • Do we ever know what happened when the two balefire beams touch?
    Not answered.  Implication that it brings Moridin and Rand somehow ‘closer together’ so that they can affect each other’s bodies or feel each other’s pain.

And there you have it.

 

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Oct 102014
 

Death of an Avid Reader: A Kate Shackleton Mystery (Kate Shackleton Mysteries) A lady with a secret!

A mysterious killing in the library’s basement!

The most puzzling case in Kate’s sleuthing history yet!

This is the sixth book in the Kate Shackleton detective series and the first one I have read. I enjoyed it but think in hindsight I would have liked to read the previous ones first. Whilst this is a standalone story, I felt like I did not know enough about Kate and her circumstances to fully appreciate her. As it is written in the first person you also do not get other people’s impressions of her and as such I did find it difficult initially to gauge her age or looks. I am still not sure I gauged it right!

The story itself was good, twists and turns enough to be interesting and keep me guessing. I liked the gentler pace of murder mystery and liked the fact that Kate was tenacious but also remained constrained by the era (the 1920′s) where women had some freedom but were still not seen as equals with men. Kate is very much the main character in this book, there is no male hero which is very different from the books I usually read, but I still enjoyed it enough to go back and read the other books in the series.

I believe this genre is called ‘cosy crime’ and they are the ideal words to describe this, you won’t get blood, guts and gore, swearing or sex but you will get a believable crime story with realistic characters.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Frances Brody
  • Series: Kate Shackleton Mysteries (6)
  • Format: Paperback
  • Publisher: Piatkus
  • Genre: Cosy Crime
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

 

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Oct 092014
 

A Memory Of Light: Book 14 of the Wheel of Time The Rambling Introduction

The final book of The Wheel of Time.  Can’t believe I made it.  Epic in so many ways, not least, the four million odd words it includes.

The Review

A Memory of Light is the final book in the epic 14 book Wheel of Time series.  A combination of work from Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, it’s the fourth longest of the books, and the longest of the three that Sanderson wrote.

The plot is pretty straight forward, with the early part of the book dedicated to the final steps in preparing for the Final Battle, and then pretty much two-thirds of the book dedicated to that battle.  There are some early twists and surprises, and some prophecy-filling moments, and then it’s an epic, in all sense of the word, battle for survival.

Everyone gets a mention, old names, new names, bad folk, good folk, armies you’ve barely heard of, people you met 10 books ago, it’s all here.  It’s not going to be easy to review without giving a lot away, but I’ll try.

The prologue and the first part of the book cover the preparation, where Rand reveals his plans to various factions, both for the war and for what is to come after.  He and a number of people have very strong words about those plans, and ultimately someone has to smooth things over.  I felt this section of the story was handled really well, and although I didn’t ‘like’ the positions taken by some people, they made sense within the context of the world, and it’s testament to Jordan’s groundwork again, that it all made sense.

Jordan, and Sanderson, have spent thirteen books putting together massive armies.  Mat’s Band, Perrin’s army, the Aiel, the Borderlanders, the Seanchan, and all the rest.  It was obvious there was going to be some kind of epic engagement, and A Memory of Light doesn’t let us down in that regard.  Without giving too much of the structure away, the are smaller battles which build towards a massive, complex last stand of the armies of light.  The army engagements are complex, moving, and riveting.  They cover most of the last half of the book, and they make good use of the space they occupy.  If I have one complaint, it’s that the Aiel are under described.  They’re used, but Sanderson doesn’t seem to get under their skin as well as Jordan did, and the battle felt like it was lacking their energy at times.

In contrast to the massive staged battles, there are a number of very personal fights going on.  Perrin fights with Slayer, and Rand battles the Dark One.  In order to prevent Rand’s fight being over in a few pages, Sanderson spreads it throughout the staged battles, which take place over many weeks.  This is achieved by explaining that time around the bore is warped, and so while Rand’s battle takes place in many minutes, the other armies observe many weeks passing.  This works quite well, allowing two very differently paced battles to run alongside each other.

The pacing for me worked very well, and I never felt as though things weren’t progressing.  I did feel the book reached a natural crescendo before the end of the final battles however, and that perhaps some of that timing could he been changed a little.  It’s hard to say more without spoilers.

Overall, Brandon worked well with the characters he had.  His interpretations of Mat, Perrin and Rand were excellent, and I think he’s smoothed over some of the most frustrating elements of Elayne and Egwene.  Sadly, I felt Nynaeve and Min were totally underused in the book, and while Moiraine played a part, again, I would have loved to have seen more of her.  In some ways, parts of the story was rushed, despite the insane length and the promise from Jordan to put all of the last three books worth of material into one volume.  Sanderson has admitted there were some parts he wanted to expand upon, but just didn’t have room.

For me, that’s the biggest disappointment with the book, there are some threads which don’t really get a resolution and some which just get shut down because they needed shutting down.  Overall, many of the closures and endings are well done, and gratifying, but some just felt like it could have done with another volume.

Of course, the reality there is that there were so many threads, Sanderson could probably have written another 5 books, but at some stage, it would have just needed Rand to sit around for months while everyone else had a conclusion to their story.

All that said, there were some exceptionally emotional sections in A Memory of Light, some terrible, some joyous and some very funny.  Mat’s story in particular was utterly engaging, and Egwene was brilliant.  Annoying, Aes Sedai-like, infuriating, spoilt brat central, but brilliant none-the-less.

Ultimately, epic fantasy has a great flaw.  When good fights evil, we all know good is going to prevail.  There aren’t many books where the bad guys win.  Especially when we know in The Wheel of Time the cost of losing is the utter end of everything.  The skill of authors like Jordan and Sanderson is to ensure that, while we know the good guys will win, we’re never sure of the price.

They have to make us love the characters so much, that we come to dread the cost of victory.  With this series, there are so many characters, that it isn’t easy to make us love them all.  So many of them are irritating and infuriating that loving them is even harder.  I think, however, that Sanderson’s injection of pace and trimming of the fat means that by the time the army of the light starts paying the butcher’s bill, every death strikes hard.

At some stage, I realised that every time a chapter or paragraph started with a character name I started fearing their death, or worse.  Jordan and Sanderson make sure the price of victory is no less than the price of failure deserves.

Sadly, the final battle between The Dragon and the Dark One is anti-climactic, despite being clever.  It’s unavoidable though, given the nature of the world and the nature of epic fantasy.  I was expecting it in many ways.  To balance it, Brandon pulls out all the stops with the armies and their battle, and it works I’m pleased to say.

As I said, with epic fantasy it’s rarely a question of whether they’ll win, and much more often a question of that the cost will be.  A Memory of Light is a fitting, but not perfect, end to The Wheel of Time.  It delivers plenty of emotional and compelling scenes, weaved throughout a complex and thrilling battle.  It closes the story with most threads brought to an end, but leaves enough questions and openings for people to keep the world alive in their own heads.

Farewell, Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene, Nynaeve, Elayne, and Aviendha, it’s been, well, it’s been a blast.

The No Longer A Retrospective

No spoilers that I’m aware of for this book, but spoilers for the previous ones for definite.

Brandon Sanderson had an unenviable job.  Jordan apparently wrote the final scene of the book, and left plenty of notes, but Brandon had to move the story all the way to that final scene without being able to change it, while still making sense.

I’m not sure I liked the final scene overall (more in the next section), but given he had no choice, Sanderson did a good job.  Was the book what I was expecting?  Yes and no.  There were some exceptionally emotional parts for me (anything with Lan, Tam or Moiraine), some surprises, some shock deaths, and some parts where I felt it was rushed.

But overall, I think it’s a fitting conclusion to the series, and I’m not sure he could have done much better without being able to change the end or write another book.  I’m sad there aren’t going to be any more Sanderson-paced Wheel of Time books, because frankly, his pacing and Jordan’s world were an exceptional combination.

The Angry Spoilers

Major spoilers here.  Be warned.  I’m absolutely serious.  This section will ruin the book and the series for you if you keep reading.

No where near enough Min in this book, although the parts with her in were superb.  I wanted to see much more of her supporting Rand.  No where near enough action for Nynaeve or Moiraine.  Totally wasted and under-used.  That alone makes me super sad because Nynaeve had so much potential.  Yes, she helped cleanse saidin and she can cure the madness for the remaining male channellers, but still, Sanderson could have written them into Rand’s struggle with the Dark One, surely?

I felt Egwene’s death was justified and timely.  Who better to destroy the head of the Black Tower than the head of the White Tower?  I think one of the reasons why it felt a little out of place is that Sanderson didn’t make Taim feel dangerous enough.  Perhaps if Taim had done more of the fighting rather than Demandred, it would have been more obvious what the only solution was.  Still, I felt it was fitting.

The whole Lanfear thing annoyed me – where did that compulsion come from and her story ending so suddenly smacks of just not having enough space.  Rushed and fumbled.

The final scenes are pretty annoying.  I don’t mind Rand surviving, although I wouldn’t have been unhappy if he’d died, but the method of it makes no sense.  Pure Jordan – I’m the author and I can do what I want and you can just pretend there’s a reason for it.  No hint at how some of the elements are achieved, and no hint of remorse for the dead in Rand.  I get that he had to ‘let go’ to win the final battle, but it’s not in his nature to be jolly and happy when people have given their lives.  He should have been relieved, optimistic, but at some level solemn.

Also, I don’t buy that he didn’t let Moiraine and Nynaeve know.  They among anyone should know the truth, since he trusted them with the world at the end.

Despite all that it’s a good book, a good story, and a fitting enough end given the restrictions.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Brandon Sanderson, Robert Jordan
  • Series: The Wheel of Time (14)
  • Format: Paperback
  • Publisher: Orbit
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

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Oct 082014
 

Otherworld Nights I always have a feeling of sadness when a much loved series comes to a close – especially one that has run across quite a few books.  I always want to know more, even if it’s in glimpses or character histories via short stories and novellas.  I was really happy to find out about three anthologies from the Otherworld series (also known as Women of the Otherworld) – not only to have the stories I had read in one place but also for the rare, hard to find ones and of course, new material.

The first of these is Otherworld Nights!

The focus of this one is love in its various forms such as family, friends or a loved one.

First up is Demonology – This was an online story and is the story of how Adam’s mother discovers what he is.  I originally read it online and it was an interesting look at the young Adam and how far Talia was willing to go to help him.

The second novella is Twilight – This appeared in Many Bloody Returns and is about Cassandra’s (re)birthday and the lack of enthusiasm she is experiencing at continuing on with her life.  It’s a good piece in its own right and Cassandra is an enigma for me in the Otherworld, so it was nice to have a story from her point of view.

Third is a Clay and Elena story and is called Stalked – I just can’t get enough of this pair and this is about their honeymoon.  It originally appeared in My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon and was one story I missed, so it was great to have it here.  Obviously things can’t run smoothly for them and it also has quite an amusing conclusion.

Fourth is Chivalrous, a story that appeared in Tales of Dark Fantasy 2 – It’s Reese’s back-story and I found it very emotional and tugged right at me.  It gives you so much more of an insight into the Australian Wolf and it is a really good story.

The fifth story is Lucifer’s Daughter and is about Hope and Karl – I originally read it in blood Lite 2 and this is probably the story I rate the least here.  While I like Hope and Karl, they just don’t grab me as characters the way most of the rest of the cast do, so for me, it’s enjoyable but not hugely exciting.

Hidden is the sixth story and is a long novella released in 2012.  Elena, Clay and the twins at Christmas time – just awesome.  Not only just for the characters but the plot of this is quite serious and on par with the novels.  There is a serious twist in the tale and a bit of a shocker.  This story is my favourite of the set but I may be biased!

The penultimate offering is From Russia, With Love and this Elena story was included as a bonus with some versions of 13.  Elena has grown so much over the series, and I just love her.  I feel like this was a brilliant point for her and something she has been working towards, even though she didn’t know it.  I don’t want to spoil it but it was a surprise to me and made me a bit emotional.

Finally we have the new novella – Vanishing Act.  this is about Savannah and Adam and is set after the events in 13 so there may be spoilers for you!  It’s really well written and gives you a look at ‘what comes after’ but I can’t say more than that.

All in all, this is a great collection and a bonus having the new material.  I would have bought it just to have the stories in one place, even the ones I have read.  If you haven’t read any of them yet then it’s highly recommended.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: Kelley Armstrong
  • Series: Otherworld
  • Format: Paperback
  • Publisher: Orbit
  • Genre: Paranormal Romance
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

 

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Oct 072014
 

Towers Of Midnight: Book 13 of the Wheel of Time The Rambling Introduction

The penultimate book.  I started this journey at the beginning of August 2014.  Well, technically, I started this journey in the mid-90′s, but I started this new journey at the start of August.  It’s now the middle of September 2014, and I’m writing this after having finished the Towers of Midnight, the 13th book of The Wheel of Time, and the second of the Brandon Sanderson volumes.

If I’ve had any free time in the last 6 weeks, I’ve read.  I’ve read in my lunch break, I’ve read in the evenings, and I’ve read at weekends.  I’ve watched almost no TV, and played virtually no computer games since the start of this re-read.  If I’m not reading the books, I’m reviewing them.  Has it been worth it?  It didn’t feel like it, during the middle books, when the Jordanisms were so strong my will to live was sapped by every word, but beyond the horizon I could see the bright light of hope in the three books written by Brandon Sanderson.

On the way, I was surprised by the last Jordan-only book, better than I had hoped, and then the first of the Sanderson volumes was blessed relief.  Like a cooling anti-inflammatory rub on your feet after a hard and painful walk.  I don’t think Towers of Midnight is quite as good as The Gathering Storm, but it’s a hundred times (not actually 100 times) better than the middle Jordan books.  So here we at, near the end of all things, one book to go.  Dare I continue?  How can I not?

The Review

Towers of Midnight is the calm before the storm; the deep breath before the plunge; the moment of reflection before inevitable and unstoppable battle.

Brandon, his publishers and Harriet aren’t silly.  They knew that the length of time between book eleven and book twelve, the change of author, and the overall impressions of book six onwards meant that book twelve (The Gathering Storm) had to be hard hitting.  Not just hard hitting, but it absolutely had to move the story forward at an impressive pace.

There’s no denying that it did exactly that.  Although it focussed on Egwene and Rand, it touched on the other characters, and it fundamentally changed our view of the Last Battle (well, it did mine, hopefully it did yours).

However, that focus and drive meant that we didn’t get as much progress with Perrin, Mat, Elayne, etc.  Brandon took the decision to write book thirteen so that the time-line happens in parallel with book twelve for about the first three quarters of the story.  Given how much negative feedback Jordan got for doing something similar earlier in the series, this was a brave move.  Sanderson had already said he enjoyed the time Jordan did it, but that’s not how many fans felt, so there must have been some nerves on his part.

Where Jordan failed though (in my view), Sanderson excels.  This is in no short measure due to his much cleaner writing.  Sanderson doesn’t dwell on things that don’t matter, doesn’t spend his time describing the same things over and over again, and so even though we know time is progressing slowly, or covering old ground, it’s much easier to accept.  I was briefly confused – Tam al’Thor is present in both time-lines, and having seen him in one place in The Gathering Storm I was momentarily confused by his presence somewhere else in Towers of Midnight.  However, once it clicked, it actually helped me work out where in the time-line we were.  Once Tam leaves, to carry out the actions we’d already seen in the previous book, it was like a marker in a calender, allowing me to synchronise the two stories in my head.

So, as alluded to at the start of what might be a very long review, Towers of Midnight is slower than The Gathering Storm.  It’s more reflective, and it’s much more geared towards moving everyone into their positions before the Final Battle.  That isn’t to say that great things don’t happen – I wept, shouted with joy, and despaired along with the cast.  Sanderson closes a number of long running threads, none of which I’ll even hint at to avoid spoiling them, and answers some critically important questions.

Not least of which – what’s actually going on with Rand al’Thor.  You are going to love the answer, I promise.

There’s a specific and incredibly touching moment, which is only possible because of the overlapping time-lines, and that scene alone justifies the decision for this approach in my view, regardless of the other excellent reasons.

Sanderson’s pace is very good, although at times, I did feel a little shunted around by some of the fast PoV changes in the chapters.  That issue aside, at least he uses the PoV changes to drive the underlying story, and the exchanges between Galad and Perrin are sublime.

The Seanchan presence in Towers of Midnight is sinister and confusing, pretty much how they appear to the characters as well.  Their almost alien approach to interacting with other people is kind of frustrating, but it sets them apart well enough that you’d never confuse who is who.  I really want that to get resolved, so that Tuon stops being ‘an idiot’, but I have to keep reminding myself she’s got a thousand years of convention to get past first.

I enjoyed both Gawyn and Galad’s stories, it’s a very clever combination of contrasts and demonstrates both the brilliance of Jordan’s planning (assuming this was all planned) and the subtlety of Sanderson’s writing.

Speaking of planning – if Jordan had many of the events in this book planned out from the start, and it appears based on certain things written that he might have, then my hat goes off to him once again.  His genius of being able to weave so many complex threads from tiny starting points and bring them together into significant conclusions is unequalled in anything I’ve read.  That is what makes the story epic.

For me, Brandon has totally subsumed the identities of Jordan’s characters into his writing now.  I can’t see where Jordan’s characters stop and Sanderson’s begin – the edges are smooth.  Nothing felt out of place or awkward at all, and despite the fears expressed by a friend of mine that Mat loses some of his humour, I found him excellent in this book, and very well represented.  The revelation is Rand, but I’ll leave that to you to discover.

There are so many little touches through the book that I just can’t give away, because reading them is so much of the joy of the book, but if you’ve persevered, then like the last book, you’ll be pleased at the pay-offs in this one.

Towers of Midnight is less explosive than The Gathering Storm, but it’s no less impressive, and it’s only marginally less enjoyable.  I felt just a little too shunted about by the rapid point of view changes to really get into a good flow, but it’s a minor quibble in an otherwise excellent read.  Where The Gathering Storm is big and bold, the Towers of Midnight is lithe, multi-faceted and cautious.

A final two words on selfless heroic sacrifice.  Lan Mandragoran.

Need you hear any more words than that?

The Decreasingly Retro Retrospective

Nothing really to reflect on here.  Haven’t read this before, hadn’t read any reviews of it before I did read it.  Brandon had an impossible job, and he’s pulled it off beyond any level of hope or expectation I held.

The Angry Spoilers

What’s to spoil?  What’s to be angry about?  It’s not a perfect book, which one is, but it’s mostly easy to read, it’s mostly pretty awesome and it’s mostly full of moments of bad-assery from all your favourite characters.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Book Information
  • Author: Brandon Sanderson, Robert Jordan
  • Series: The Wheel of Time (13)
  • Format: Paperback
  • Publisher: Orbit
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Buy on Kindle (UK)Buy from Amazon (UK)

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