Wednesday, 20 April 2016

The Assassin's Blade - S. J. Maas

The beauty of this collection of Novellas is that you don't need to have read Throne of Glass, or Crown of Midnight to have an inkling of what on earth is going as is often needed with companion/prequel novellas, usually because the author assumes some level of pre existing knowledge on behalf the reader.

This book however could easily stand as the first book in the series and has all the flair, wit and panache of the main series. Its also a master piece in character devolution. Going back to a Celaena before Endovier we are introduced to an arrogant, stroppy teenager with the world at her feet and an indestructibility complex.
Over the course of the 5 stories we see her evolve and develop a conscience, admittedly one that can still justify killing for money, but grow into the young woman whose shards we see at start of TOG in Endovier.

I got my hands on these shortly after posting the first post about this amazing series. It's taken me this long to recover from the end of this, the realisation of just HOW Celaena ended up in Endovier, to write this review.

Blade's novella's introduce us to The Assasin's Guild, we finally meet the much referenced Arobynn Hamel, Sam Cortland and even meet some characters that I suspect will return and be instrumental in the chaos and undoubted carnage that will occur in the next three books as Celaena realises her destiny and rattles the stars as Nehemia always said she would.

The novellas themselves are rip-roaring yarns of pirates, ninjas, treachery, backstabbing, love and betrayal.

Oddly though my favourite is the one not told from Celaena's perspective but rather from one of the character's that I'm very convinced we'll seen again. (Update: in the time since I wrote this, Queen of Shadows came out, if we don't see this character in Empire of Storms I will be VERY surprised.) It's a quiet but determined story and it's a nice interlude from the brutality, both physical and upon the reader's emotions, of the main storyline.

Personally, in terms of when to read this, I agree with the publisher's decision of putting it out between Crown of Midnight and Heir of Fire. Reading this book first would tear a lot of the heart and and a lot of the mystery of the first two books (Update: it's almost essential to have read it to understand things that happen in Queen of Shadows.)

Overall The Assassin's blade is an excellent addition to Celaena's world and gives us a chance to see more of Erilea, and gives us tantalising hints of things to come, adversaries in the making and takes us behind the curtain, giving us an understanding of Sardothien's fury.

This Celaena before Aelin, this is Adarlan's assassin at her very best, this is the genesis of the character that blew you away in Throne of Glass and an must read for any fan of the series.


Heir of Fire: a blazing follow up.

Hello blog fans! I found this post oddly unpublished so I have decided to post it now because it's all still relevant.

You may remember my raptures about the first 2 books in the Throne of Glass series. Well I have the 3rd book now. And I met the author, and some lovely, similarly hooked Ladies who made the wait see seem like no time at all, and similarly understood my bookish foibles. It was a very exciting occasion even if my phone nearly ruined it by being glitchy. Although Sarah loved it because it has an R2-D2 case on and she's as big a Star Wars nerd as I.

Once again I was sucked back into Celaena's world totally. With the new book comes new characters. 
Notably Manon Blackbeak and Rowan Whitethorn. Both of them very interesting characters. The new book sees Celaena away from her native Erilea, and on the continent of Wendlyn, the land of her Fae ancestors, and she's given up all hope. Naturally she changes her mind but not after a lot of persuasion. 
Back on Erilea in Ardarlan, tension mounts as Dorian struggles with his power and Chaol with his feelings, whilst newcomer Aedion adds plenty of twists and double bluffs of his own. 
Despite pulling back the curtains on most of the mystery surrounding Celaena's past, there's still plenty of mysteries, questions and heartbreaking cliffhangers. 

Trying to review these books objectively is very difficult. It isn't often that you get so drawn into a world that you find yourself so fully immersed that you actually find yourself wanting to be the main character. Not least of all so that you can have her boyfriend...  

Anyway... the narrative naturally is split into two strands this time because of the characters' geographical locations. I.E Not near each other.
Just as with the previous two books some little more of the King's plan is revealed, and this time we find out just how deep the doodoo is. 

Once again Maas produces a spell binding read with twists, turns, much stabbing in the heart for certain "shippers" in the fandom, and an ending that caused me to immediately message my new friend Becky and share my book hangover. In fact we both agree that a year is just far too long to wait for TOG4 (Queen of Shadows). 

I have issues with certain aspects of the book, but that is mainly to do with my own "shipping" preferences rather than any true writing issue, although I and several others did struggle to buy into certain aspects of Dorian's personal storyline.

Despite this is another top effort from Sarah Maas!


Tuesday, 19 August 2014



Sorry we've been away. We've been really busy first with exams and heavy celebrating, then came the hunt for jobs and working over the summer to pay off "the book debt". Unfortunately these jobs have left us too knackered to even contemplate looking at our bookshelves and then talk about them.

Although on a day off last week Beth did reorganise her shelves a bit...

The "above the bed" shelfie. Her other bookcase is too messy to contemplate showing you. That and the piles and boxes of books around the room wouldn't be great either as they're currently drowning in clothes...

However! We are back yesterday we kicked off the Book Club, with Burial Rites which is available to buy here, here and all other good book retailers. So get reading and we look forward to your thoughts on it :)

In other news, Beth is going to meet the Author of the Throne of Glass series tomorrow, The first 2 of which she reviewed in April, you can read that here too. She's absurdly excited and has decided that she'll post a review of the collection of Prequel novellas The Assassins Blade later on today.

Hannah is still working at Carnegie Books, and was last heard being driven nuts by orthographically challenged authors. She has been doing reading for pleasure too and if you ask her very nicely may even tell you what she thought of Robert *coughJKRowlingcough* Galbraith's efforts.

That's all the news there is for now!
Lots of love,
Beth and Brown xx

Monday, 18 August 2014

Project Bookclub.

So, yeah, kinda been busy getting jobs and stuff so whilst there are like 20 odd drafts on the blog we haven't actually published anything for awhile. Whoopsie! Anyway! We're pleased to announce this months book for book club, and renew our promise to be more proactive blog wise!

So this months book is:

Burial Rites! 

Hannah Kent's debut ain't exactly what you'd term cheery but it is excellent and it makes you think! 

To quickly summarise, the story is the fictionalised account of the last days of Agnes Magnusdottír, the last woman and person in general to be executed in Iceland, way back in 1829. 

The story is her back story, the crime for which is she is to be executed and the days leading up to it. As you've probably guess it's not exactly as it appears on the surface. 

Any way, the book is available from all good retails and as an ebook. 

My (Beth's) review will be available at the end of next week. In the meantime however get reading and chatting on the Facebook page or the comments below, eventually we'll figure out how to get a forum page up on here :)

Much love for now,
Beth and Brown. X

Friday, 30 May 2014

New! Author Profile: John Green.

John Green

 Notable Works:

  • Looking for Alaska
  • An Abundance of Katherines
  • Paper Towns
  • Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with David Levithan)
  • The Fault In Our Stars.
Short Story in Let It Snow with Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle.

Other Work:

The Vlogbrothers (with brother Hank).
Crash Course (History and Lit)
The Art Assignment (with wife Sarah)

If you've been anywhere near a bookshop in the last 2 years, read the paper, watched the TV or gone anywhere near the vicinity of the internet lately chances are you've heard or encountered some mention of John Green or his massively successful The Fault In Our Stars. (both pictured above.)

With the imminent release of the film adaptation* of TFIOS (the initialism by which all fans refer to the book),I felt it was time to profile the Young Adult Lit PHENOMENON that is John Green. 
The runaway success of TFIOS still surprises Green, the book is ubitquitous and it is therefore unsurprising then that it has been adapted for film. The shock about the whole affair is something Green regularly expresses in interviews and on his videoblog, which he shares with brother Hank.
To date Green has written 5 books (pictured above, I borrowed my lovely house mate's cos all but one of mine are at my parents house), all of which have been successful but none to the level of TIFOS, a Short Story in Christmas Collection "Let It Snow" and is  always busy with his YouTube based projects supported and enjoyed by his many, many fans also known as Nerdfighters.

I was slow off the mark in coming to the John Green is awesome party. There is a weird hipsterish part of me that refuses to believe the hype, it cries that the fuss is unfounded and it will be a waste of time. It is almost invariably wrong. (Although its frequently right as well... World Cup, I'm looking at you...)

Despite this sloth, I first heard of Green around about 5 years ago, around the time Will Grayson, Will Grayson came out and my friend who shall be called only Peanut, he knows who he is, got his fanboy on so hard not a soul in college was unaware of the books publication, not least because he went round with his face stuck in it the day it came out. (Nut - you're still awesome). At the time however, I didn't understand the fuss in the least, probably because when I asked Conor for clarification he dismissed it as "something to do with an internet nerd that Dom, Laura, and Josh get their knickers in a twist over". After that I gave it no further thought.
Until 2 years later when I finally caved and watched some Vlogbrothers videos, which then became my chief procrastination material for the rest of 1st year. And yet I still held out. 

Until last year, bored stiff in Germany I wandered into the local branch of Osiander and their English Language sound and picked up Looking For Alaska, figuring if I was actually going to start reading them I should at least start at the beginning. I left the store feeling robbed by a store with the cheek to charge VAT on books, toddled home to the rear end of the middle of nowhere and started to read. 
I didn't stop until I'd finished. 

Green writes YA because he loves "the intensity teenagers bring to not just first love but also the first time you're grappling with grief, at least as a sovereign being - the first time you're taking on why people suffer and whether there's meaning in life and whether meaning is constructed or derived. Teenagers feel what you concluded about those questions is going to matter. And they're dead right. It matters for adults tto, but we've almost taken too much power away from ourselves"1. And this shines through in his writing, he does not talk down to his mainly teenage audience but rather on a level with wit and intelligence. His writing is bitter-sweet, hilarious and insightful. From first love, and the voyage of self discovery to suicide and the meaning of life, Green's writing is varied and full of what the internet terms "the feels".

As a fan, I could gush for hours about the emotional roller-coaster that is TFIOS gave me and how it was the first evening in a long time to make me fall off my bed laughing before making me weep like a a baby; to the fact that I finished it and turned straight back to the beginning and jumped straight back in because I couldn't process everything I'd just read. The Brown called it predictable.  She has studied lit for far to long.

I could point to the irony of a man who spends most of his career writing male protagonists only to have his biggest success with a female protagonist. I could grouse about how I felt Will Grayson dragged at the beginning and that Tiny was just too camp and that both wills were kinda whiny and it felt a bit like the weak point link in the chain.
I could about the outstanding realistic rounded personalities of his characters and the touching laugh out loud, riotous energy that he deftly weaves in with the low points or quiet emotional moments that will make you think, question, hope, break your heart, and inspire you to remember the beauty of life. 
But I wont, because all my effusions are those of a highly subjective John Green fan and we can get boring. Trust me, I watch the faces of my friends glaze as I engage in a Nerdfighter love-in with another fan, I remember being that person glazed in confusion.

What I will do however is tell you that if someone asks "D'ya wanna go see The Fault In Our Stars?" Your immediate response is "Yes, but first we read the book". That is your only response. Green has crossed from the narrow and unjustly persecuted realm of YA into the realm of general fiction shelves for a reason. His writing respects no age boundaries and appeals to the teenager that lives inside all of us, by turns both cynical and in awe of the world.

Now, I'm off to chew my nails in terror as to what they've done to the book, but John likes it so hopefully I shan't be sat there ranting at Hannah in the cinema like I was in Divergent but that's another blog...

For now there are a reviews of TFIOS and  Looking for Alaska .


The Fault In Our Stars is released nationwide next Thursday (June 15th), Starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort.

Looking for Alaska is a book of mad pranks, first love and huge loss. Oh and a casual side theme of class division. Miles Halter is starting a new private school, leaving behind a lonely existence in Florida. Nothing could prepare him for Culver Creek and the hurricane that is Alaska Young. Over the course of the school year he will form proper friendships for the first time, get his first girlfriend, fall in love for the first time, and get entangled in Alaska's world filled with pranks hi-jinks and very confusing behaviour. She turns his life upside down and will leave him changed forever. It's a beautiful book full of all the behaviours indulged in by a teenager enjoying their first taste of independence. Its a tale in which teenagers come to terms and grapple with their own mortality after the tragic events around which the whole book turns. Its also wickedly funny, and you will learn more about the last words of famous people than you ever knew existed.

The Fault In Our Stars.

Hazel Grace Lancaster has cancer. She has been nothing but terminal since the day she was diagnosed a miracle drug has bought her some time but she's still going to die. She views herself as a time bomb and as such has isolated herself from the world, only going to the support group because it makes her mum happy. And then she meets Gus. Gus turns her world upside down, and helps her to live life again and to see herself not as a time bomb but as a human with as much right to love and relationships as everyone else. Over the course of the books 313 pages I laughed, I cried and I came away hopeful. This is not a book about cancer. This is a book about someone who just happens to have cancer. This is a book about living. About living life as much as you possibly can. It like every other book handles big themes like life and death and everything in between. It is beautiful simple and unadorned and unashamedly intelligent. If they muck up the movie I'll cry even more than I did at the awful twist two thirds of the way through. 

Friday, 23 May 2014

NEW! Beth & Brown's Book Club

The dark days of exams are very nearly gone and the bright days of summer shine brightly at the end of the tunnel, and to celebrate we're launching our book club!!!

The premise is simple every 2/3 weeks either Beth or Hannah will pick a book, the other will then have to review it, on the blog and we'll initiate open discussion on our Facebook.  We'll announce the book on both Facebook and Twitter  as well as posting it on here. One thing we'd love is for you guys to message/tweet/email us with suggestions on recommendations for books. That way we hope to get some wider reading done a little something for everyone.

All you have do to take part is like us on our Facebook page where the discussion will get started :D 

Although we're still swamped at the moment and we both have book stacks staring forlornly at us we're really looking at jumping in to something a little different with you guys. 

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The Wrath of Penguin!

Hello folks! This the first of my blogs about interesting titbits in the world of publishing today.
This week I'm looking at the hilariously titled (if a tad overdramatic) article 'Artist's spoof of Ladybird provokes Wrath of Penguin' from The Guardian newspaper online that I saw a few weeks ago.

I'll post a link to the article below but the potted version is thus: artist Miriam Elia produced a satirical book in the style of Ladybird's classic children's books. Penguin, who own the Ladybird imprint*, don't appreciate their books being emulated as such and took action, believing that she had infringed their copyright. So, once she has earned enough to cover the costs, Elia now has to have her artwork destroyed. Ladybird has its reputation, she narrowly avoids large debts, the little guy lost out. wins, Big bucks corporation wins, creativity stifled! Really?

Well, for starters, Ladybird's 'wrath', whilst it has forced Elia to stop producing her art for financial gain, has allowed her to sell until she covers the costs, which as the article stresses, has been accepted by the artist.
 She said:
"I've been talking to them a lot and suggesting ways around the problem. And they do understand. There's no malice, but it's harsh because they can destroy the work. I just want it to be appreciated. It was supposed to be an homage to Ladybird – and a bit of a satirical comment on the art world, I suppose."
So, she's not taken it too badly. However, the fact that she is using classic Ladybird-inspired presentation as a format in which to satirize art and its relationship to consumerism shouldn't stop her from creating art, should it? Within the work, she makes reference to balloon dog sculptures by Jeff Koons, the artist synonymous with reproducing banal consumerist objects as art and copyright infringement lawsuits of his own, but as his record-breakingly expensive sculptures show, this hasn't stopped him from creating something using pre-existing images to make art. So why should this only apply to the big guns of the artistic/ creative/ literary world?

At Sixth Form college, I took part in a debate about copyright laws and within the debate we discussed its validity in a postmodern world, with the supposed democratisation of knowledge and ideas and the the changing nature of both artistic and consumer ownership, following the pervasive influence of the internet (see link below for copyright info).
I shan't bore you with the details (which is probably a good thing as I can't really remember them all), but I argued that copyrights, whilst they do, as in this case, disadvantage the smaller artist trying to express their ideas and get them out there, they do protect those that depend on these artworks to live. So, in promoting an anti-copyright, idealised world of entirely free and fair interchanges of ideas, are we actually hurting artists in all disciplines that need copyright to protect their livelihood?
Before international fame and fortune, JK Rowling was a single parent facing poverty, but she took care to copyright her books and ideas, which gave her work security in that people could not rip it off as their own creations, and in doing so was able to create the biggest selling book series in history (with movie franchise to boot.) This is one example of when copyright protected a creative source's assets, allowing them to continue their work.
Whilst it is true that Rowling, her publishers and Time Warner have since sparked legal disputes of their own, extreme opposition has claimed that the extensive steps taken to prevent anyone reading her books before release date denies enthusiasts of their 'right to read', taking this tension between creative rights and copyrights to the opposite extreme. Roland Barthes might have said that once  literary work goes public that "the author is dead, long live the reader", but to demand to read a book before it is released is murdering them a little prematurely to satisfy your book-based consumer cravings, I think!

To lead back to the article I started with, Elia also stated that:
 "It was a bit of a shock. I never really thought about copyright," she said. "Artists just respond to the world in your little room and you're not thinking about much else. You just think: 'Oh, this will be great!'"

An unfortunate case of innocence and a lack of funds to help fight Penguin's case, it would seem.
Ultimately, the perspective I've gained from this is that viewpoints like hers are at best naive and Elia has paid the creative price. We may live in postmodern world, where high and low culture are brought together and cool references to other bits of pop culture are embedded in our favourite art, music, TV and film, but ultimately consumerism still rules our engagement with art. Our concept of ownership (particularly regarding digital downloads) may have changed, but the need to exchange money still exists. Whatever your opinions on copyright may be, if you're an artist who will overtly reference or re-use another person's work, some awareness of the risks and legalities are required, something which Elia had clearly not considered, whilst clearly getting the postmodern satire down to a T.

This issue is something that also affects smaller publishing houses, record labels and artists of all kinds- without copyright to protect them, small companies like the one I currently work at would suffer financially as their work is copied, with no legal or financial recognition for the people that worked on it originally, so it's worth remembering that you're helping some little guys out there somewhere when you buy the official copyrighted version.
What do you think?

Brown xxx

*An imprint is in this case a trade name under which a publishing company produces books. Companies can have several imprints that cater to different consumer demographics (eg Ladybird is the imprint that Penguin use to publish books that are attractive to children and their parents, as well as supplying Ladybird Vintage books for retro nostalgia purposes).Check Wikipedia for definition goodness:

Essays and articles  related to my waffling:

The Death of the Author -essay by  Roland Barthes (1967)
The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction -essay by Walter Benjamin (1936) These essays are worth the read if you like this sort of debate- and want to seem edjumacated too :p

Original Guardian article:
Copyright stuff:
Jeff Koons, Wikipedia: