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review 2017-12-30 02:01
16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 16 - New Year’s Eve / St. Sylvester’s Day: A Miraculous "Sky Stone"
The Sacred Stone - Karen Maitland,Bernard Knight,Simon Beaufort,Ian Morson,The Medieval Murderers,Susanna Gregory,Philip Gooden
The Sacred Stone - The Medieval Murderers

Book themes for Hogmanay / New Year’s Eve / Watch Night / St. Sylvester’s Day: a book about starting over, rebuilding, new beginnings, etc. –OR– Read anything set in medieval times. –OR– A book about the papacy –OR– where miracles of any sort are performed (the unexplainable - but good - kind).


Well, go figure, this book took me by surprise.  I've read enough of the Medieval Murderers round robins at this point to be thoroughly familiar with both the format and the recurring characters -- and I've seen enough of the participating authors' writing styles to know exactly what to expect, and to have developed my preferences ... or so I thought.  So far, while I've liked the series well enough to go back to it again and again, my rating of the individual books has always been a solid 3 1/2 stars -- while there were individual sections in each book that I loved (or at least liked a great deal), there was always at least one that I didn't particularly care for; and more often than not, by the same author -- Bernard Knight.  Not so here: In fact, Knight's entry was one of my favorites. There had been one other Medieval Murderers book -- King Arthur's Bones --  where I'd already noticed that as soon as Knight ditches his very medieval-style macho main series characters I care decidedly more for his writing, particularly if and to the extent that he puts women at the center of his plots and writes from their perspective, as is very much the case here.  But up until now, I'd considered his chapter in King Arthur's Bones a one-off, because pretty much every other Medieval Murderers entry I've seen from him was centered around his main men, with plenty of gruff voices, growling, and repetitive vocabulary.  So Mr. Knight, might I suggest you continue to write about women ... or at least, allow that female touch to brush off on your writing about medieval men of the law, too?  It seems to be doing them (and you) a world of good!


The other thing I really liked about this book was the way in which it -- consistently throughout all the different authors' sections -- treated the superstitions associated with the meteorite or "sky stone" which it follows from its first appearance in 11th century Greenland to the present day.  Given the magical powers historically associated with meteorites in popular belief, there would have been occasion aplenty to either take the individual chapters down a route blurring and even trespassing beyond the edges of reality (looking at you in particular, Ms. Maitland), or to talk down to the charactes for their adherence to such beliefs; but (again, as in King Arthur's Bones) the authors thankfully show themselves both too solid historians and too emphatic writers to be tempted into doing either.  As with their entry centering on the Arthurian legend (where the principal question, of course, is whether you believe in Arthur's historical existence in the first place), in The Sacred Stone there is the repeated suggestion that the "sky stone" might have miraculous / unexplained healing powers and be a force for good -- but it is always counterbalanced by the whole series's central premise; namely, that a malign object's path is being traced throughout the centuries, from the Middle Ages to the present day -- an object that inspires and fosters violence, murder, treachery, and all-out evil; and here, in fact, it is precisely the belief in the stone's alleged benign powers that brings about the evil acts at the center of each of the book's individual sections.


I was sorry not to see Michael Jecks as a co-author of this particular installment of the Medieval Murderers series, but, as I said above, there was not a single chapter I would have wanted to do without; my favorites probably being the prologue and epilogue (there are, for once, no author attributions, but even without those I'm fairly confident that both of these were written by Susanna Gregory), as well as the chapter authored by Bernard Knight (easily enough identifiable because a very much aged version of one of his series characters does make an appearance, even though he's not the central character), and the sections written by two of my longstanding favorite Medieval Murderers participants, Ian Morson and Philip Gooden (in both their cases easily enough identifiable because their sections were written from the point of view of their main series characters). -- As an aside, I was also glad to have read an earlier entry in the series, House of Shadows, fairly recently, because it (inter alia) lays the groundwork for a plot line that I am happy to see Morson went on to incorporate into his main series (the Falconer mysteries, set in 13th century Oxford) and which he continues to spin in his entry for this particular book as well.


Final comment: I was tempted to use a different book for the New Year's Eve / St. Sylvester's Day square and attribute this one to the Dies Natalis Solis Invicti holiday book joker, as the Sol Invictus cult actually makes a recurring appearance in this book.  (And trust me, I almost fell off my chair when it was first mentioned and I realized it was going to be a theme in one of the sections -- and even more so, when it even showed up again in yet another section.) However, none of the book's sections are set even remotely on this particular deity's birthday or make reference to that particular day (and there is only the vaguest hint, if even that much, at the connection between Dies Natalis Solis Invicti and Christmas), so "Middle Ages", "miracles" and Square 16 it is, after all.  (The book would also work for the Hanukkah square, however: It features several main characters who are Jewish -- in fact, one entire section is set in the Jewish community of medieval Norwich -- and the miracle of light plays a role in more than one section as well.)


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review 2017-11-18 05:18
Great Horror novel, could have been a little shorter.
The Ritual - Adam Nevill

So you know when  you’re watching a horror movie and there’s an unseen being involved and you only catch little glimpses here and there throughout the film, and when you do actually see it you think (or more likely, scream out) WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?


Yeah that’s basically what you get throughout the book. It could be similar horror elements like Blair Witch Project, only you do find out what it is towards the latter part of the story. (And it’s still pretty creepy to figure out and picture).


I really do enjoy the horror aspects in this book and the feelings it invokes. You can really feel the desperation, frustration, and anguish felt within the characters. Tempers flare and understandably fights happen from within the group. You feel Luke’s anger and his highs and lows as you follow him throughout this horror journey.


There’s not many twists or blindside moments in this book it’s pretty much standard that you would see in horror books but the setting is very well done. A remote forest in Scandinavia while there’s something big and bad out there provides great atmosphere for the dark and scary.


It does drag out through the last third of the novel where you just have to feel for Luke and you wonder how much the human spirit can take. The ending really should have ended about 50 pages ago and there is repetition through the novel that some may find a trial to go through when reading. It’s manageable most of the time but I was close to losing my interest towards the end of the novel but powered through. It was still an enjoyable read, and recommended for those that want a good solid horror.


I’ll be reading more of his books for sure. I enjoyed the thrill and can only imagine what his other books will be like.


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text 2017-06-16 13:30
Summer books you can't miss!


Summer is coming.


Now, after I've made that trying- to-be ASoIaF reference, it's time to talk about books! This time of the year is all about light. easy, enjoyable read no matter if you are somewhere on the beach with salt in your hair or lying in your aparment under the air conditioner.

I loved and utterly enjoyed every book listed below and highly recommend you read them!

1) Always and Forever, Lara Jean - Jenny Han




 Lara Jean’s letter-writing days aren’t over in this surprise follow-up to the New York Times bestselling To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You.

Lara Jean is having the best senior year a girl could ever hope for. She is head over heels in love with her boyfriend, Peter; her dad’s finally getting remarried to their next door neighbor, Ms. Rothschild; and Margot’s coming home for the summer just in time for the wedding.

But change is looming on the horizon. And while Lara Jean is having fun and keeping busy helping plan her father’s wedding, she can’t ignore the big life decisions she has to make. Most pressingly, where she wants to go to college and what that means for her relationship with Peter. She watched her sister Margot go through these growing pains. Now Lara Jean’s the one who’ll be graduating high school and leaving for college and leaving her family—and possibly the boy she loves—behind.

When your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?



2) Everything, Everything - Nicola Yoon




My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.


3) 1000 Days of Spring - Tomislav Perko





A true story of a young successful stockbroker going broke, and lifting his thumb in search for his true self, by traveling the world.

After almost five years of traveling on five different continents, Tomislav laid down in a hammock in one village on the coast of Ecuador, and started writing a book. 

He was determined to put down everything he knows about traveling, and with that, answer the questions that many people ask him for years: 
- How is it possible to travel with almost no money? 
- Is his way of traveling safe enough? 
- What are the worst, and the best moments on the road? 
- How can you earn money while traveling? 
- Where to look for sponsors? 
- How did his parents and friends react? 
- Why is he traveling in the first place? 

Since it was impossible to give a simple and short answers to those questions, he started answering them in the only way possible - by telling his life story. 

Tomislav wrote about his student days, about the days when he had a well paid job as a stockbroker, about going bankrupt, about turning his life around, about first ventures on the road with a backpack on his back, and about finding a way that he will follow in the years to come - by traveling. 

Tomislav wrote about hitchhiking in numerous countries, sleeping in homes of strangers, camping on the side of the road, eating in supermarkets and drinking beer in parks, volunteering, many anecdotes that he encountered on the road, natural beauties that left him breathless, and about the beautiful people that he met on the way. 

Tomislav wrote about love.



4) The Storyteller - Andrea Tomić





Terrible things can happen when a storyteller falls in love.

There are thousands of stories of forbidden loves, many of them including a princess and a slave. When you live in a world of nine kingdoms and each has its own rulers and legends, the chances of not hearing a story like that are minimal.

Ever since her father, the king of the Third kingdom, passed away, princess Rachelle has been entertained by her servant Daniel. He would tell her his own stories or the ones she had already heard. None of this would be a problem if he hadn't fallen in love in with her over the years.
Now not only does he need to spend every day near his loved one knowing she could never love him back, but he has to hide every glimpse of his feelings. Because if he doesn't, he might get killed.
But when the princess starts feeling the same way, their fairy tale begins. 
However, unlike every other story he had ever told, this one might not have a happy ending. This time the Storyteller became a character and lost his possibility of creating happy endings. 



5) World Whisperer - Rachel Devenish Ford




Seven years ago, Isika’s mother walked out of the desert with three children in tow, leading the priest of the Worker village to marry her and take in her children. In all those years, fourteen-year-old Isika has never been able to fit in as a Worker or live up to her role as the priest's daughter, and worse, she has been helpless against the tragedies that have fallen on her family.

But now the four goddesses they serve want another sacrifice, and Isika's stepfather has chosen the next child to be sent out to sea: the little brother who Isika loves more than anything.

This time Isika will not be powerless.

Together, she and her two remaining siblings leave the walls of the Worker village to save their brother, traveling into unknown lands and magic they never could have imagined.



6) Confessions of a Queen B* - Crista McHugh



Alexis Wyndham is the other type of Queen B—the Queen Bitch. 

After years of being the subject of ridicule, she revels in her ability to make the in-crowd cower via the exposés on her blog, The Eastline Spy. Now that she's carved out her place in the high school hierarchy, she uses her position to help the unpopular kids walking the hallways. 

Saving a freshman from bullies? Check. 
Swapping insults with the head cheerleader? Check. 
Falling for the star quarterback? So not a part of her plan. 

But when Brett offers to help her solve the mystery of who’s posting X-rated videos from the girls’ locker room, she’ll have to swallow her pride and learn to see past the high school stereotypes she’s never questioned—until now.



7) Chasing a Croatian Grl: A Survivor's Tale - Cody McClain Brown




This is the lighthearted story of American Cody McClain Brown’s adjustments to life in Croatia. After falling in love with an enigmatic, beautiful Croatian girl (whom he knows is from Croatia but assumes that means Russia), Cody eventually woos her and the two move to Split, Croatia. There, he encounters a world of deadly drafts, endless coffees, and the forceful will of his matriarchal mother-in-law. Chasing a Croatian Girl moves past the beautiful pictures of Croatia and humorously discovers the beauty of Croatia’s people and culture.


8) Slip - David Estes




As sea levels rise and livable landmasses shrink, the Reorganized United States of America has instituted population control measures to ensure there are sufficient resources and food to sustain the growing population. Birth authorization must be paid for and obtained prior to having a child. Someone must die before another can be born, keeping the country in a population neutral position at what experts consider to be the optimal population. The new laws are enforced by a ruthless government organization known as Pop Con, responsible for terminating any children resulting from unauthorized births, and any illegals who manage to survive past their second birthday, at which point they are designated a national security threat and given the name Slip.

But what if one child slipped through the cracks? What if someone knew all the loopholes and how to exploit them? Would it change anything? Would the delicate resource balance be thrown into a tailspin, threatening the lives of everyone?

And how far would the government go to find and terminate the Slip?

In a gripping story of a family torn apart by a single choice, Slip is a reminder of the sanctity of a single life and the value of the lives we so often take for granted.



9) Luna Tree: The Baby Project - Maya Berger




Maya is kicking up her heels, living the fabulous and mostly carefree life of a twenty-something young woman. However, in the back of her mind continuous longing for a good marriage and family lingers. How do you find the right man, the one who sticks through thick and thin? Will he provide you with the things you find essential in a relationship? Maya kissed a few frogs before finding her Prince Charming, but what followed was of higher importance. She started feeling chronic pain in her lower back, the pain that wouldn't let her neither sit nor stand. Thus Maya began her relentless quest for diagnosis and healing, which she ends after discovering Energy healing. She travels the globe to receive and raise her own stored Energy, the one that changes everything. Her ultimate desires come true.



10) Anna and the French Kiss - Stephanie Perkins




Can Anna find love in the City of Light?

Anna is happy in Atlanta. She has a loyal best friend and a crush on her coworker at the movie theater, who is just starting to return her affection. So she's less than thrilled when her father decides to send her to a boarding school in Paris for her senior year.

But despite not speaking a word of French, Anna meets some cool new people, including the handsome Étienne St. Clair, who quickly becomes her best friend. Unfortunately, he's taken —and Anna might be, too. Will a year of romantic near misses end with the French kiss she's waiting for?


 11) Once and for All - Sarah Dessen



As bubbly as champagne and delectable as wedding cake, Once and for All, Sarah Dessen's thirteenth novel, is set in the world of wedding planning, where crises are routine.

Louna, daughter of famed wedding planner Natalie Barrett, has seen every sort of wedding: on the beach, at historic mansions, in fancy hotels and clubs. Perhaps that's why she's cynical about happily-ever-after endings, especially since her own first love ended tragically. When Louna meets charming, happy-go-lucky serial dater Ambrose, she holds him at arm's length. But Ambrose isn't about to be discouraged, now that he's met the one girl he really wants.

Sarah Dessen’s many, many fans will adore her latest, a richly satisfying, enormously entertaining story that has everything—humor, romance, and an ending both happy and imperfect, just like life itself.


12) Everwind - Barbara Mišković



Deep in the dark and dreary Scandinavian forest there lies an ancient fortress of Stormgard. It is an orphanage for talented children who posses the priceless gift of magic. Unfortunately, after the dreadful war that nearly devastated Stormgard it became difficult for the Archmage to find new teachers for his apprentices. A beautiful, fire-haired woman from Great Britain applies for the job of an enchantress but Torval is unsure if she's really cut out for the job. Little does he know that their new enchantress has a secret. A secret so great that it could change everything!


13) Republic of Stone - Tanja Radman




After decades of dictatorship of the tyrant Rector, a resistance awakens alongside the truth withheld from the young heroes, who suddenly face tasks beyond their understanding. Learning about their magical origin, as well as the powers they gained in a rather bloody way, five young sorcerers are preparing for another war - one which might change everything, or even worse, nothing at all.

'Republic of Stone' is a historical fantasy novel situated in the medieval times of the Republic of Ragusa (today Dubrovnik, Croatia). It is the first of the Lex Legis series, which was translated into English after the Croatian paperback version sold out in two editions. Combining real historical places, events and characters with elements of Slavic mythology and pure epic fantasy, this book will take you on a journey you will never forget. If you decide to be adventurous and visit Dubrovnik, one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, you will be able to carry this book around real locations you can still visit today and relive the amazing magic battles from the story, bow before the evil Rector’s statue and defiantly whisper the forbidden sentence only the members of the Lunarian secret society know, learn about the hidden magical life of one of the most famous Croatian medieval scientists – Marin Ghetaldus, and walk the streets where the young heroes of this book learned about their destiny…



14) Bridesmaids - Jane Costello




Four weddings, three disgruntled ex-boyfriends in the congregation, two wayward 'chicken-fillet' boob enhancers, and one gorgeous man, it's tough being a bridesmaid.
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review 2017-01-22 00:14
Who's That Knocking on Christmas Eve? by Jan Brett
Who's That Knocking on Christmas Eve? - Jan Brett

Genre:  Animals / Norway / Christmas / Folktale

Year Published: 2002

Year Read:  2010

Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons   




Alright! Lately, I have been taking a break from reading folktales from around the world, but now I am trying to get back into reading more folktales from around the world! I just stumbled upon this little gem of a book called “Who’s That Knocking on Christmas Eve?” which is a children’s book by Jan Brett that takes place in Norway and it is about how a boy from Finnmark and a young girl named Kyri tried to ward off a pack of trolls from spoiling their Christmas dinner. “Who’s That Knocking on Christmas Eve?” is a truly brilliant book for children who love Norwegian folktales and lovable bears!

On Christmas Eve, a boy from Finn mark was trekking on a northern place on his way to Oslo to show off his ice bear to the townsfolk, when he spots a cozy hut that was occupied by a little girl named Kyri, whose father had gone out to stop a group of mischievous trolls from eating their Christmas dinner. The boy from Finn mark then arrives at the hut and asks Kyri to let him inside the house and they also let the ice bear sleep under the warm stove. Suddenly, the two kids hear a loud knocking at the door and they knew immediately that the trolls were trying to get inside the house to eat the delicious Christmas dinner.

Oh my goodness! I just really adored this book and not only because it has gorgeous illustrations and an exciting story, but it is also a folktale and I love folktales! Jan Brett has certainly done a wonderful job with both the writing and the illustrations of this book as they are beautiful and inventive in every way and they are much more gorgeous in this book than in her other books! I loved the way that she illustrates the boy from Finn mark with blonde hair and wears a stylish Norwegian outfit that has a blunt grey and gold tint color with red and blue lacings over it. I also loved the images of the trolls themselves as they have spiky blond hair, long noses and big lips which truly make them look extremely mischievous and I also loved the illustrations of the northern lights detailed at the top of the main illustrations as they have images of various characters from the book in blue and white colors and are shown as northern light looking characters overlooking the situation in the main illustrations. Jan Brett has also done an excellent job at writing this story as the characters are truly inventive to read about, even though I personally wished that the boy had an actual name like the girl instead of just being called “the boy from Finn mark.” I loved the fact that both boy from Finn mark and Kyri were both resourceful in trying to outsmart the trolls as the trolls were trying to steal their food, but the kids would out think them at every turn. The trolls were truly shown as raucous characters, just as the book said and you will easily find yourself sympathizing with Kyri’s predicament as the trolls were barging into Kyri’s home without her permission and that is enough to make anyone angry!

Overall, “Who’s That Knocking on Christmas Eve?” is a fantastic book for fans of Jan Brett’s work and who love reading Norwegian folktales. I would recommend this book to children ages four and up since there is nothing inappropriate in this book.

Review is also on: Rabbit Ears Book Blog


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text 2016-12-19 01:53
So, since I went book gift shopping for my friend anyway ...

... and because my TBR clearly still has room for expansion ...


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