Ones to read in 2015 via The Writes of Woman.
There are a number of preview lists in the media at the moment. Rather than tell you what’s coming up, I’ve been reading 2015 titles since October so I can recommend books I think you should watch out for in the first half of 2015. Bar the bottom three titles – which are by three of my favourite writers and therefore, highly anticipated by me – I’ve read everything included on here; all of these books are very good and some are superb.
Full reviews will follow on the week of publication. All publication dates are UK and subject to change.
An Untamed State – Roxane Gay
On a visit to her parents in Haiti, Mireille is kidnapped in front of her husband and baby son. When her father holds out on paying the ransom, she’s subjected to brutal attacks. Her family will have to come to terms with the…
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Love to travel? 20 cool hostels in Europe via Sig Nordal, Jr.
Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.
Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.
So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, and serving her kingdom just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.
If you start Snow Like Ashes and decide to stop reading it I shall have to kill you, no seriously I will have no choice but to find, borrow, or steal Meira’s weapon, a lethal Chakram, and hurl it at you because you will undoubtedly be missing the best part of this wonderful debut novel.
It starts a bit slow, there’s a lot to take in, Sara Raasch fills us in on the details and if you’re not careful you can start to feel you’re eyes clouding over a bit. There’s an information, over-telling overload. But don’t be fooled. It is forgiveable because this is one heck of an exciting read, so stick with it. Boy, does she know how to write a strong female character, as well as interesting supporting characters and those thrilling battle scenes, well you might just find yourself wincing in parts. You can just feel super pumped high adrenalin charging through your veins!
Main character – Meira
Meira is one of eight of the surviving Winterians characterised by white skin and white hair. She lives in Primoria, a land of eight kingdoms. This orphan may be only sixteen years old but she is used to hardship and warring and sparring with warriors. This struggle will help her to understand and overcome the obstacles in her way to ensure that her defeated land Winter is once again a powerful kingdom. She learns who to trust and whom to avoid, and she discovers that freedom to choose a suitor is not always a gift that we can all have when political circumstances stand in the way.
The Seasons and The Rhythms
There’s four Season Kingdoms: Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, as well as the Rhythms, whose four seasons occur naturally in a typical cycle: Cordell, Ventralli, Yakim and Paisly. The Season of Winter is as you would expect a chilly, frozen landscape of snow and ice. The thought of this just sends my teeth chattering. In contrast, Summer is a smouldering land of eternal sunshine. Like the sound of this one. Autumn is a kingdom of fallen, crisp, autumnal leaves. Spring is a place of awakening blooms, but instead of gentle flowering, evil lurks in this one. You get the picture? It’s interesting that Sara Raasch chose Spring to be the season of evil, rather than the more typical choice of harsh, unforgiving, Winter.
Evil King Agra
Spring may sound like a nice gentle season but don’t be fooled. No, sixteen years ago, Spring’s evil king Agra, stole the magical conduit and brutally conquered Winter, destroyed their magic, and enslaved most of the Winterians in the process, all except Meira, our heroine, Sir, her guardian, Mather, the heir of Winter, and five other Winterians. The two halves of the magical conduit are useless until they can be joined together, in a magical version of yin and yang. Yes, the clue’s in the wonderful cover of the book itself, you couldn’t get more conflicted yin and yang if you try.
The Former Queen of Winter, Hannah
Meira starts dreaming of the former queen of Winter, Hannah. To begin with she can’t understand these visions. But in time these dream sequences act as a device to explain, and fill us in on details in this great world-building, magical fantasy.
Winter are Tough Cookies
Winter may be a tough old season, and its people are too. The Winterians have taken one hell of a bashing, and some of them have just about given up. Our heroine Meira along with her seven other surviving Winterians are tough cookies but can they, and Meira in particular, save and restore Winter to it’s former glory?
Mather and Theron
Mather is introduced to us as the heir to the Winter kingdom, but unfortunately The Winter Kingdom is a matriarchy, where magic is passed on through a female-blooded conduit. So Mather may be a well meaning type of guy, but he just isn’t going to be the one to save the kingdom.
But can our heroine Meira save the kingdom? She spars with the men, is as fierce as the next guy, but there are times when her female side comes to the fore. No more so when she finds herself in amongst several warriors sparring with their tops off. Ok, so this kind of hormonal brain activity brings her down to normal mortal level, rather than kick ass heroine. But is it a bad thing? Not altogether in my opinion if the ……. yes, you guessed it …… love triangle is done well, and is shirts off, entertaining! This trio of love entanglement consists of our heroine Meira, her first love Mather, and Theron the Prince of the Cordell kingdom, who she is forcibly engaged to, an alliance reluctantly arranged by Mather himself. All’s fair in love and war!
Poor Mather you can’t help but feel sorry for him particularly when it becomes apparent that Meira starts to feel a bit of a smouldering attraction to Theron. Who can blame her? In my opinion, Theron comes across better, than Mather. The love interest is undoubtedly a cute well written diversion but it didn’t inspire me or fire me up quite as much as Meira’s fierce determination, bravery, and compassion in the face of adversity. As to the battle scenes these were thrilling, I never realised I was so blood thirsty! Meira sets out to find a solution to save Winter, and well let’s just say this young lady sure fights for what she believes in.
So to sum up, great characters, wonderful world building, and magic. Just love that word, MAGIC, it just rolls of your tongue. I loved the idea of the seasons, the rhythms, oh and the decay was just fantastic too. There are a couple of unexpected twists at the end of the novel, maybe not too surprising a turn of events, but I won’t say anymore on that, no spoilers! This sits beautifully as a stand-alone novel but I do believe there is more to come. A sequel. Fantastic. Definitely looking forward to reading more from Sara Raasch.
As to the criticism that Sara Raasch shouldn’t have made the Winterian’s pale skinned, I think this is taking political correctness just a little too far, thank goodness we’re talking about a magical kingdom here, not real life slavery. Oppression is oppression whatever the colour of the person’s skin. So if it’s dudes with white skin, and white hair, being enslaved, let’s rise up against it! I’m with you Meira!
So highly recommended for readers of high fantasy, fantasy, young adult, romance.
My favourite quotes:
The descriptions of winter just make you shiver inside!
“It’s so cold that foreigners have to wrap in layers of fur to walk from building to building, while our natural Winterian blood keeps us warm even in the worst conditions. And snow is everywhere, always, so much that the grass beneath it is white from lack of sun. An entire kingdom wrapped in an orb of eternal winter.”
You just can’t help supporting Meira, she’s strong, STRONG, STRONG!!!!!
“I don’t need made-up strength. I’m strong enough on my own—me, Meira, no magic or conduit or anything.”
“No matter what happens, no matter who turns on me, no matter what pompous swine thinks he has power over me, I am still me. I will always be me.”
This is just so poignant!
“Someday we will be more than words in the dark.”
She wants to be kick ass but also wants to be a woman. GREAT!!!
“I wanted to be a soldier. Someone who would earn standing in Winter. Someone Sir would look at with pride. Someone Mather would look at and —”
“I’m at the center of this, a weird possessive feud between the Winter king and the Cordellan prince.”
These simple words are so visually compelling
“Even the strongest blizzards start with a single snowflake”
“Fear is a seed that, once planted, never stops growing.”
For those amongst us who can’t resist a bit of well-toned bare skin!
“But I just stand there, eyes narrowing to hide the fact that my initial reaction is to gape at Theron’s bare expanse of glistening skin. He’s shirtless — and it’s clear that Cordell subjects its men to rigorous chest exercises.”
“But everything I want to say dies the instant I see him. Because –mother of all that is cold– he’s shirtless too, with only the locket half dangling around his throat and his freckled skin reflecting the sheen of a good workout. “
Have you read Snow Like Ashes? Do leave a comment below I’d love to hear from you.
Bye for now,
Marje @ Kyrosmagica xx
A very Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year. Have a wonderful time. I’ll be back soon. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
Just leaving you with a few cracker jokes:
What do ghosts dance to? Soul music
What do you get if you cross a snowman and a vampire? Frostbite
What kind of pants do clouds wear? Thunderwear
What do you call someone who is afraid of Santa? A Clausterphobic
What’s the most popular Christmas wine? ‘I don’t like Brussels sprouts!’
What happened to the man who stole an Advent Calendar? He got 25 days!
Well let’s get into the Christmas spirit by celebrating man’s best friend
and our feline friends too.
So many authors love cats and dogs, and often play tribute to this friendship by creating animal characters or quoting their love of our furry friends.
“To his dog, every man is Napoleon; hence the constant popularity of dogs.”
—Aldous Huxley (author, Brave New World)
“When the Man waked up he said, ‘What is Wild Dog doing here?’ And the Woman said, ‘His name is not Wild Dog any more, but the First Friend, because he will be our friend for always and always and always.'”
—Rudyard Kipling (author, The Jungle Book)
“Once you have had a wonderful dog, a life without one, is a life diminished.”
—Dean Koontz (author, Whispers)
“A bone to the dog is not charity. Charity is the bone shared with the dog, when you are just as hungry as the dog.”
—Jack London (author, The Call of The Wild)
“I’ve seen a look in dogs’ eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that basically dogs think humans are nuts.”
—John Steinbeck (author, The Grapes of Wrath)
In fact some authors love dogs so much that they argue that they are heaven bound.
“You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us.”
—Robert Louis Stevenson (author, Treasure Island)
“Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.”
—Mark Twain (author, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)
“If I have any beliefs about immortality, it is that certain dogs I have known will go to heaven, and very, very few persons.”
—James Thurber (author, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty)
“Ever consider what our dogs must think of us? I mean, here we come back from a grocery store with the most amazing haul, chicken, pork, half a cow. They must think we’re the greatest hunters on earth!”
—Anne Tyler (author, The Accidental Tourist)
And these famous actresses adore dogs too!
“Dogs never bite me. Just humans.”
—Marilyn Monroe (actress, Some Like it Hot)
“Some of my best leading men have been dogs and horses.”
—Elizabeth Taylor (actress, Cleopatra)
Dogs and cats are different, no doubt about it, and here’s why!
Owners of dogs will have noticed that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are god. Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realize that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are gods.”
― Christopher Hitchens, The Portable Atheist: Essential readings for the Nonbeliever
Quotes about dogs on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/dogs
Dogs may be man’s best friend, but cats are a mysterious folk:
“Cats are a mysterious kind of folk. There is more passing in their minds than we are aware of.”
Sir Walter Scott.
“When I play with my cat, who knows whether she is not amusing herself with me more than I with her?”
Michel de Montaigne, French author
“Authors like cats because they are such quiet, lovable, wise creatures, and cats like authors for the same reasons.”
Robertson Davies, Playright.
“I gave my cat a bath the other day … they love it. He sat there, he enjoyed it, it was fun for me. The fur would stick on my tongue, but other than that …”
Steve Martin, Comedian
“A cat has nine lives. For three he plays, for three he strays, and for the last three he stays.”
“Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.”
― Robert A. Heinlein
“One day I was counting the cats and I absent-mindedly counted myself.”
― Bobbie Anne Mason, Shiloh and other stories
“A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.”
― Ernest Hemingway
“I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.”
― Jean Cocteau
“Yearning for love made her feel like a cat that was always twining around ankles, meowing Pet me, pet me, look at me, love me.”
― Laini Taylor, Daughter of Smoke & Bone
“That’s the great secret of creativity. You treat ideas like cats: you make them follow you.”
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing
“Holding this soft, small living creature in my lap this way, though, and seeing how it slept with complete trust in me, I felt a warm rush in my chest. I put my hand on the cat’s chest and felt his heart beating. The pulse was faint and fast, but his heart, like mine, was ticking off the time allotted to his small body with all the restless earnestness of my own.”
― Haruki Murakami, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle
On a more serious note, please remember that cats and dogs are for life, not just for Christmas:
Meet the people who give up their Christmas Day to look after cats and dogs
Article from The Mirror: “This year the RSPCA has reported an alarming increase in animals being abandoned across England and Wales – and they expect the situation to get worse over the winter months.
With nearly 2,500 cats and dogs in care this Christmas, hundreds of RSPCA volunteers spend Christmas Day with the animals, getting in extra early to make sure the cats and dogs have a special day.
And it’s lucky that they do, because the RSPCA receives 1,140 calls on Christmas Day putting immense strain on the people who choose to spend their Christmas looking after the animals.”
I just love Mogget and The Despicable Dog in Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom Trilogy. So let’s end with a bit of fun trivia:
Jasper really likes shiny metals…He loves that when the sun shines Electrons dance reflecting light. This makes him feel safe and calm, And helps him sleep at night. This fun and though-provoking rhyming storybook will delight anyone with a special interest and encourage readers to be more accepting of difference and unusual passions. The story will resonate particularly with children on the autism spectrum and their friends and family. This book is suitable for ages six and upwards.
Jasper and the Magpie: Enjoying Special Interests Together is a storybook written in rhyme for those along the autism spectrum and their caregivers, but it would be an excellent book to recommend in general to encourage acceptance of differences. I received a copy of this story book from Netgalley, published by Jessica Kingsley Publisher, in exchange for a review.
Jasper has a very strong interest in shiny metals, in fact he even resorts to taking them out of the garbage. His family aren’t happy about him collecting what they consider to be ‘dirty litter’ and they try to replace the shiny metals with other things, much to Jasper’s dismay, yet Jasper can’t explain why he is so upset.
This is definitely a good book for parents, siblings, and other children to read, to help them understand that yes Autistic children are different but we should do our best to understand and help, rather than hinder them. Possibly it would also be a useful tool, to use in primary schools, as an educational aid to reduce the instances of bullying. If we can educate our young people, in primary, then this should help them to be more understanding adults. This applies to all forms of ‘special educational needs’. I do know of an instance in our family when a family member was teased at primary school because they had some speech problems. If we can reduce the instances of these kind of issues that would be a welcome and positive development for all. With this in mind I also came across a review of The Wild Book by Margartia Eagle, on the Word by Word blog which may be of interest to families with Dyslexic children:
The illustrator of Jasper and The Magpie, Alex Merry, has done a fabulous job. I loved the page with the steps leading up to a massive head, a large pair of shoes left waiting at the bottom, with a colourful, almost jigsaw patterned head at the top.
The accompanying words are great:
“Jasper sometimes found it hard,
To understand what had been said,
To put himself in others shoes,
Or into someone else’s head.
But those that aren’t like Jasper,
Have a problem much the same:
For how can they jump into Jasper’s unique brain.”
The emphasis here is on uniqueness which I think is good.
Overall I enjoyed Jasper and the Magpie.
Dan Mayfield is a writer and a musician who has worked with people of all ages on the autistic spectrum for over 12 years.
Jessica Kingsley: https://www.jkp.com/
Bye for now,
Marje @ Kyrosmagica xx
Reblog from Sig Nordal, Jr. Had to reblog Trinity College, Jerwood Library of course!
Reblog from Sig Nordal, Jr. Public library Stuttgart.
Reblog from Sig Nordal, Jr. Downtown San Diego Public Library by ianandrewphotography.