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The Frozen Sea

Books to the ceiling, books to the sky, my pile of books is a mile high. How I love them! How I need them! I'll have a long beard by the time I read them!

The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M Harris

I really enjoyed the Gospel of Loki. I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting when I started this book - I loved Joanne M. Harris' Chocolat books, but I guess I thought the prose would be similar in nature, with a kind of dreamy, mystical feel.


This book was nothing like that.



Basically, it was a first-person retelling of Norse mythology, revolving around Loki and his point of view. Therefore, we only see what Loki was present for, or what had been told to him by Odin or the other gods. The prose is rather matter-of-fact, despite the fantastic nature of the events that occur, and the story stays true to the original mythology. Joanne M. Harris doesn't really stray at all from those original stories you may already be familiar with, so don't expect any artistic liberty to be taken. 


I've always had a fascination with Norse mythology and the Vikings in particular, so this book was right up my alley. I enjoyed each adventure and felt angry at the way Loki was treated by the Aesir, despite the fact that he was often the instigator. He was definitely likeable, and I enjoyed his voice. 

The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James

Overall, I would definitely say I enjoyed this book. I loved the small English country village setting, and the haunting. The mystery itself was really quite obvious, but I don't think it detracted at all from the story, as the real mystery revolved around how Sarah would go about freeing Maddy from her ghostly existence.




I have to say though that I didn't enjoy the romance at all. I never liked Matthew. Usually when you have gruff men in historical/paranormal romances, they have a heart of gold underneath or at least some kind of redeeming quality. Matthew didn't have that. He basically used her physically, spent the rest of the time glaring at her, and basically acted like a right prat. I didn't understand why Sarah loved him. I did like the character of Alistair, though - I felt like he was pretty much the most likeable character in the novel.

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

This book was absolutely wonderful. I'm becoming such a fan of Juliet Marillier - her novels are like fables. They're interwoven with magic, beautiful prose, and incredibly heartbreaking situations. I love how she can take a well-known fairytale (in this case, the Wild Swans or the 6 Swans) and twist it into something new and amazing, and yet it feels so ancient, like it should have always have been told that way.


I think I may be gushing a little bit, but I would really like to read that again.

The Gift by Alison Croggon

This book was incredible - at the time, I'd been itching for something to keep the Obernewtyn pangs at bay while I waited for the next book, and this fit perfectly. It has all of the same elements that together made Obernewtyn one of my favourite epic series ever, and I look forward to reading the rest of this series eagerly.



I have read a couple of reviews where people complained about the pace, but I thought it was brilliantly done. I think the build up of fear, anxiety and boredom in Maerad was perfect, and very believable. I loved the mythology behind the world that Alison Croggon has created, and I'm very excited to discover yet another awesome Australian fantasy author.

Slains by Susanna Kearsley

The Winter Sea (Slains #1) Four Stars. 


Utterly spellbinding and completely unputdownable. Susanna Kearsley has long been one of my favourite authors, with her ability to weave past and present, romance and history, and have it all come together seamlessly. This one is up there with the Rose Garden and Firebird, in my book.


The plot revolves around an author who settles in to a cottage in the shadow of Slains castle to write a bestseller, based on one of her own ancestors. It weaves the events of the present with a mystery 300 years old, and small, subtle aspects of the supernatural. 

The Firebird (Slains #2) Five stars. 



I loved this book. I love how Susanna Kearsley is able to weave elements of fantasy and the supernatural into what is essentially a historical novel with romantic aspects. The Jacobite and Russian historical stories told along side a modern day search for the truth was brilliantly done.


In this novel, Nicola Marter is a woman born with the ability to touch an object and see glimpses of the people who have owned that object in the past. It has made her somewhat successful in her career, working for a Russian art dealer. Through her job, a woman shows her a carving that was supposedly owned by an Empress of Russia, and from there, Nicola is drawn into a mystery hundreds of years old. She travels to Scotland to seek help from an old flame, whom she still loves, and who's psychic ability far exceeds her own. I think this one has overtaken the Rose Garden as my favourite book of hers.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

What a wonderful, beautifully written novel. And so original - the dragons in this world may have difficulties with emotions but they are by no means two-dimensional characters.




I just adore that black and white cover - it's gorgeous! And I think the way the city is represented is so accurate. The novel has such an old world, European feel to it. I also really loved the characters - Seraphina was so relatable, and Kiggs was rather adorable. I also loved the mentions of the mental garden Seraphina created for herself, and the friends who joined her there. 


The way it ended has me hoping that it will be a series - I don't think I could handle that ending if it is just a singular novel!

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Neverwhere is one of my favourite novels of all time.


I discovered Neil Gaiman about 10 years ago, in my late teens. I've always loved fantasy, and adored anything quirky, and Neil's books seem like the perfect marriage of these two qualities. 



Neverwhere in my opinion is the best of Neil's bibliography. I've read so many stories about secret or concealed worlds that the protagonist stumbles across a gateway into, but the idea of a secret world coexisting beneath a city that is already layered in history is genius. I can think of maybe 5 other cities on the planet where this would work as well, but the uniquely English feel of this world is definitely part of its charm. 


I also love how sinister this world feels. It's a world of rats, sewers, doorways, keys, and tunnels, and so you expect there to be filth. You just don't expect the muddiness of the morality of so many of the characters, even ones you come to love. 


If you do read it, don't trust anyone! I'd also highly recommend listening to the 2013 audio play with James McAvoy as Richard and Benedict Cumberbatch as the Angel Islington - it's absolutely wonderful. 

The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley

A romantic and utterly enchanting novel involving time travel, grief, and love. 



I have to say that I think this is one of my favourite time travel novels. Susanna Kearsley is definitely not a science fiction writer. There's no explanation given as to why Eva is able to go back and forth between 17th century Cornwall and the modern day and no discussion as to the theoretical physics behind the affect she may have on the past. Like a lot of things in life, it remains a mystery, and in this instance, I prefer it that way.


I think it's also an interesting take on a trope used often in literature, and even in films and television - that of your soulmate having been born long before you were. A love out of time. The romance is subtle and understated and all the more powerful for it. I quite enjoyed the historical aspects of the novel - the smuggling, the support of the Jacobite rebellion, and the mentions of travelling by sea. I also enjoyed Eva's gradual realisation of where her 'home' might be, and that this might not be a place, but a time, instead. 


Overall, the novel has a definite wistful feel, and is both engaging and beautiful. If you're after something well-written but magical, give this one a go. 

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

I loved this book.

I think my favourite aspect was how the fairytales were interwoven with the narrative. I also loved how the story at first seemed slightly disjointed, given that we were jumping back and forth in time between the lives of four women, but that over time these sections became jigsaw puzzle pieces that fitted together perfectly.


The fairytales were so vital to the overall atmosphere of the story. I just loved how they enhanced the modern and historical aspects of the narrative and helped to weave the mystery throughout the story. I haven't read anything like it before. 



It was such an engrossing tale and I'm really keen to read more of Kate's novels. 

Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier

A beautifully rendered retelling of the Beauty and the Beast fairytale. The atmosphere was appropriately gloomy, and the love story is powerful, sweet, and understated. And while the mystery was quite obvious to me, I never felt in any great hurry to have the story end.


I loved the character of Anluan. His disability and upbringing have completely sapped any self confidence he may have had in himself as a leader, and yet there's a quiet dignity and strength to him. Caitrin and he complement each other brilliantly. 




In my opinion, Juliet is the best author I have read when it comes to re-told fairytales. No one else seems capable of making you feel like the story should have always been told just this way. I have yet to read a Juliet Marillier novel that I haven't fallen completely and utterly in love with, and I hope this feeling lasts

The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth

I read this book in about 4 hours - it's 5 am and I had to stay up and finish it. It broke my heart, wove it back together, and broke it all over again, so many times. I felt like I had to rush towards the end, that the ending had to be a happy one, because one person couldn't possibly suffer that much in their short life and not have some kind of happiness, right?

Even though I 'knew' the ending was a happy one because it was a work of historical fiction, I still had tears when it finally came. 



This book was painful, beautiful, terrible, and magical. Just like all of the stories the brothers Grimm wrote down and immortalised. I think I would have really liked to have met them both. 

Longbourn by Jo Baker

This book had a really interesting premise and was a quick read. I did however find myself deeply disappointed by Mr Bennet and Elizabeth - the different perspective shows them as horribly selfish people, and I suppose from a servant's point of view in Regency England they would have been.




I also found the swapping from Sarah to James to Mrs Hill's viewpoints rather disjointed. The romance was sweet, although the ending was a bit unsatisfying. Definitely not the lovely escapism that Pride and Prejudice was, but interesting nonetheless.

Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

This book was beautiful, amazing, wonderful, and I'm running out of superlatives.



Just look at this amazing cover - it's metallic and glittery, like easter egg paper, and ties in beautifully with the story.




It reads like a cross between Pride and Prejudice, the Princess and the Frog, and several other fairytales. I was quite enthralled the entire way through, and found myself wishing I had a secret doorway to another world as a child so I could escape.


It is beautifully written and full of flowing, lyrical prose that draws you in. I'm really looking forward to reading the second book in the series, Cybele's Secret. 

The Witch of Little Italy by Suzanne Palmieri

I think the unbelievable nature of some of the circumstances in this book took away from my enjoyment of it. Not the magical aspects - I loved the idea that all of the Amore women had the ability to see into the future, or grow plants and make potions that could take away memories or hurts, or even heal, and I liked that these women often made stupid, flawed decisions because of them. They were magical, but they weren't infallible. There are a few concessions I'd like to make on this point though.


What I didn't like was the fact that Elly's mother encouraged her daughter to engage in a relationship with a guy who was abusive, both physically and mentally, and then kicked her out and belittled her when the inevitable happened. Elly was encouraged by everyone to forgive her mother's neglect, narcissism and emotional abuse based on the fact that Elly's grandmother ignored Elly's mother as a child, but that just doesn't sit well with me. Also, while I said that I liked the fact that these women weren't infallible, some of the decisions they made based on their gifts were beyond the pale. I'm just not sure how you could do some of those things to the people you love. I don't think there's anything that excuses or justify some of their actions.

I also couldn't connect with the idea of Elly and Anthony's insta-love. We're told that they fell in love as children, but we never see the growth of their relationship or even WHY they love each other. We're just told they do, and that they're meant to be. 

I did enjoy the interweaving of past and future, and the idea that past selves and future selves could be separate parts of a whole person, even having friendships and carrying on conversations as if they were real. I just think this novel could have worked better had there been more realistic character development.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo


I loved this novel. It was so unexpected, and I felt like I'd only just started to read it and it was over. It's quite easy to see why other people are giving this one so many stars. I found the concept of Grisha's to be terribly interesting, though I did feel like the world building could have used a bit more filling out. I'm really enjoying all the new fantasy novels that have been released lately.



(Don't you just love that cover? Much better than the rather generic UK version!)

One issue I had was that Alina was described as thin, pale and plain throughout the entire novel until the Grisha's got a hold of her, and all of a sudden she has two love interests vying for her attention. I have read so many novels where girls either think they're less attractive than they are or they know they're attractive and it doesn't matter to them, and they fight their emotions for the main love interest for idiotic reasons. I would have preferred it if Alina remained plain, thin and pale and still had people interested in her anyway. How much more interesting would it have been if she'd been interesting because of her personality?


Still, it didn't detract from my overall enjoyment of the book. I've read some fairly... discouraging reviews about the second in the trilogy so it has made me slightly apprehensive to read it, but I just have to know what happens. 

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

This book is remarkable. It's strange, and lovely, and sort of melancholy. It feels almost like a love letter to childhood and memories, and the fantasy is gritty and raw. At times you feel an uncomfortable squirmy feeling in your belly, which is almost immediately brushed away by the wonderfully written prose.




It's not a story with classic mythology or beautiful magical creatures. The monsters in this book are dark and angular, with bat-like wings and terrible sharp teeth. And yet I was utterly enthralled. Give it a go, and you'll be spellbound too.