Moving Shop

The time has finally come for the big reveal of that Secret Blogging Project I’ve been  mentioning. I’m going to be joining a group of really lovely and talented ladies to write for a new blog – Tea in the Treetops!

TitTsquare

http://www.teainthetreetops.com

With my second bub due at Christmas I’m going to have a lot less time for reading and/or blogging, and with the other bloggers in the group also finding their lives busier than ever we’ve banded together to hopefully create a new exciting and entertaining place for reviews, the Tea in the Treetops podcast and other general book chatter!

Please stop by and check it out! You can also enter our launch giveaways for a chance to win some great books.

The Oaken Bookcase will be quiet from here on so I just wanted to say a big thankyou to all of you for your support, for reading, commenting and being generally lovely. I hope to see you in my new bloggy home :)

Review: The Scroll, K.B. Hoyle

The ScrollThe Scroll (Goodreads)
Author:   K.B. Hoyle (website)

Rating: ★★★★☆

Darcy Pennington may once have been an average teenager, but not anymore. Living each year twice, once in her world and once in Alitheia, has made her into someone who cares little for normal teenage activities. She’s got more important things to do, like save the mythical, magical world of Alitheia. But this time, Darcy can’t save Alitheia until she saves Tellius, the love of her life.

A window between the worlds allows Darcy to see Tellius from her home in Chicago. But, far from being reassured, she plunges into despair when she sees Tellius captured, imprisoned, and tortured. All her plans for her future life in Alitheia are put on hold as Darcy faces a singular goal: save Tellius, even if it means giving Tselloch something in return.

Details

Series: The Gateway Chronicles #5
Genre: Teen/YA Fantasy
Published: The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House, October 17, 2013
My copy: From the publisher via Netgalley

Paper copies: Writer’s Coffee Shop
E-copies: Writer’s Coffee Shop

Review

Please note: The Scroll is the fifth in this series so this review may contain spoilers for earlier books. You’re welcome to check out my reviews for The Six,  The Oracle, The White Thread and The Enchanted first, if you’re interested!


It has been almost a whole year since the last time I visited the world of Alitheia with Darcy and her friends, but I was very pleased to rejoin them in this, the penultimate book in the Gateway Chronicles series.

A while before Darcy and her friends are due to travel to summer camp and then back to the parallel world of Alitheia, Darcy is missing Tellius dreadfully. A magic mirror from Alitheia allows her to catch glimpses of her love from time to time, but when one day she looks in the mirror and sees Tellius captured and later tortured, she is desperate to get back to Alitheia as soon as possible. But there are more secrets, lies and adventures waiting for them in that other world than there ever have been before.

Some stories are told with events taking place over a few days. Not so in the Gateway Chronicles, where each instalment covers a whole year in Alitheia, as well as whatever portions of real-world events happen on either side of that. For this reason, great sections of the story (and in this book in particular) involve down-time – the six companions from our world spend a lot of time training or sitting around studying in the library, and the actual action parts are kind of spaced out. It was rather frustrating, for the characters as well as the reader – they know that Tellius is being tortured, why can’t they do something about it sooner?!

If there’s one thing that disappointed me slightly about this book in the series is that the characters are still repeating the same mistakes as they have previously. Secrets are being kept from Darcy and she doesn’t like it, so she takes things into her own hands and wanders off into trouble again. I don’t blame her, really, but I’d be more inclined (in my imagination, at least) to demand answers from someone before I went running off into danger. In any case, she manages to uncover some secrets on her own and eventually the reason for the lack of information is revealed.

Despite Darcy’s (and my) impatience, the interactions between characters in these books are really very well written and make the story really enjoyable. Darcy is essentially now an early-twenty-year-old living in a seventeen year old’s body, and her maturity shines through. It was really nice to see her come into her own as a mage, even if Rubidius wouldn’t help with training. The other characters have matured nicely as well, except for Percy, perhaps. I did want to slap him occasionally! Tellius, as usual, is adorable and wasn’t in this one enough.

The Scroll‘s cliffhanger ending really sets things up for the finale – I’m really looking forward to seeing what KB Hoyle could possibly have left to throw at her long-suffering characters!

Once again, I’d recommend the Gateway Chronicles series to those who enjoy fantasy aimed at a young-YA crowd.

Warnings: Violence

The Gateway Chronicles

The Scroll Book 6: ?2014

 

Review: The Burning Sky, Sherry Thomas

The Burning SkyThe Burning Sky (Goodreads)
Author:  Sherry Thomas (website)

Rating: ★★★★☆

It all began with a ruined elixir and an accidental bolt of lightning…

Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation—or so she’s being told. The one prophesied for years to be the savior of The Realm. It is her duty and destiny to face and defeat the Bane, the greatest mage tyrant the world has ever known. A suicide task for anyone let alone a sixteen-year-old girl with no training, facing a prophecy that foretells a fiery clash to the death.

Prince Titus of Elberon has sworn to protect Iolanthe at all costs but he’s also a powerful mage committed to obliterating the Bane to avenge the death of his family—even if he must sacrifice both Iolanthe and himself to achieve his goal.

But Titus makes the terrifying mistake of falling in love with the girl who should have been only a means to an end. Now, with the servants of the Bane closing in, he must choose between his mission and her life.

Details

Series: The Elemental Trilogy #1
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy, in a historical setting
Published: Balzer & Bray, September 2013
Pages: 464
My copy: The publisher via Edelweiss

Paper copies:  Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository
E-copies: Amazon.com  Amazon.co.uk Barnes & Noble • Bookworld (ePub)

Review

The Burning Sky is a story about Elemental Mages set partially in Victorian England. I couldn’t wait to get stuck into this one after hearing about it! I was even more delighted to discover that the English setting is none other than Eton College, just up the road from where I used to live in the UK. Any book that mentions Windsor Castle is a winner for me, and as it turns out, this is a very enjoyable story as well.

Iolanthe Seabourne is a gifted Elemental Mage. When trying to fix a light elixir, she calls down a bolt of lightning, which draws attention to her from a variety of directions. Suddenly she is The Realm’s most wanted person, hunted by the mages of Atlantis and nearly captured. Much to her surprise, she is instead whisked away to the non-mage realm of mid-1800s England with Prince Titus of Elberon, the rather attractive but cold and driven sixteen-year-old ruler of the Realm. Realising her potential from visions by his seer mother, Titus hides Iolanthe within his school disguised as Archer Fairfax – a fictional student who has supposedly been on a leave of sickness. Can Iolanthe pull off the public school boy masquerade, while training her magic abilities and avoiding the notice of the agents of Atlantis?

In preparing for this review I discovered that not only is Sherry Thomas an acclaimed Romance author, but she also writes in English as her second language. The romance part I can see in the way Titus and Iolanthe interact, but wow, she really writes in English like a native speaker. This is a beautifully written story, told in the slightly formal style of classical literature – a style that fits very well with the Victorian English setting.

The story is told from both Titus’ and Iolanthe’s points of view, sometimes switching after just a few paragraphs. At first, this jumping between heads was quite distracting and a little confusing at times, but it draws out the tension well and gradually becomes less annoying as the story goes on.

The world building here is amazing, although not everywhere. We don’t hear a lot about the Realm or Atlantis, but we do get a good sense of the interior of the magical construct of the Crucible, and also of the Eton School and surrounds (although perhaps that’s because I’ve been there!). What wasn’t made particularly clear was how the mage realms relate geographically to the non-mage world. Are they just integrated into each other as in Harry Potter, or are they actual separate countries? There was quite an information dump at the start that made the whole Atlantis situation unclear. I’m hoping that will be explained a little more as the story progresses.

My only real disappointment with the story was the magic system – magic performed by uttering a few words, with or without a wand and no energy expended. To make a spell more potent you just add “forte!” to the end of your command! As I’ve said before, magic without consequences or price is just not my cup of tea.

Despite my magical concerns, the story is action-packed and exciting all the way through. The romantic aspect was really quite predictable but ended up being subtle enough not to be annoying. Titus was a bit of a flirt all the way through which went against his aloof public persona a bit, but I loved Iolanthe’s rebuffs and the way she gradually warmed to him again.

I’d highly recommend this story to young adult fantasy readers – while perhaps not as gritty as Throne of Glass or Graceling, The Burning Sky has the same epic feeling about it. Bring on book two!

What did others think of The Burning Sky?

  • “With strong world-building, a rich magical infrastructure, consistent characters, and a touch of romance, The Burning Sky is exactly the sort of book that effortlessly pushes the rest of the world to one side.” – Realm of Fiction
  • “This beautiful story, and especially the romance, had me flailing around on my bed, seriously stifling sobs and squeals. It struck me in the heart like Cupid’s arrow.” – Snuggly Oranges
  • “Oh Titus, you adorable princeling. Let me love you.” – Writer of Wrongs

Roundup: September 2013

It’s time for a look back at the past month on the Oaken Bookcase.

Can you believe it’s October already? It’s been a very busy month and seems to have flown by.

I’ve read a fair bit more this month but the towering to-read pile still doesn’t seem to be getting any smaller. It’s a neverending struggle for the summit, isn’t it!

The Secret Blogging Project is still in the works and should be ready to roll quite soon.

The Tea in the Treetops podcast is still on hiatus for a short while until Philippa and I get our busy lives under control, but we hope to have a new episode for you very soon.

Time to talk books! It’s been another month of sequels and series.

Reviews for September:

  • Kinslayer, Jay Kristoff (Lotus War #2) – Steampunkish fantasy. Extremely awesome.
  • Red Seas Under Red Skies, Scott Lynch (Gentleman Bastards #2) – heists and adventure on the high seas, more from Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen
  • Happy Hour in Hell, Tad Williams (Bobby Dollar #2) – A nightmarish trip to Hell for the advocate angel Bobby Dollar
  • City of Ashes, Cassandra Clare (Mortal Instruments #2) –  After seeing the City of Bones film, I had to read on to find out what happens next!
  • Crystal Venom, Steve Wheeler (A Fury of Aces #2) – High-tech science fiction space opera

Books I read but didn’t review yet:

  • The Scroll, KB Hoyle (The Gateway Chronicles #5)

 

Goal Update

  • Goodreads challenge – I’m currently sitting at 69 books read, 5 books behind schedule. I seem to be getting further behind for some reason – must need some shorter books to read! 

 

Coming up in October

To be honest I’m not really sure what’s coming in October because I’ve barely had a chance to plan anything! Hang around though, I’m sure there will be more great books to read about :)

Have a lovely October!

Review: Crystal Venom, Steve Wheeler

crystalvenomCrystal Venom (Goodreads)
Author: nz_flag Steve Wheeler (website)

Rating: ★★★½☆

What will you do when the hand that nourishes you starts choking you? 

The crew of Basalt, the interstellar frigate, are major media heroes, famous beyond their wildest dreams. The various factions of the Administration, the Games Board, the Haulers and the corporate Gjomviks all want a piece of their action, and will go to any lengths to manipulate the famous ship and crew to make more money and gain more influence, even if it means savaging Basalt beyond recognition.

Details

Series: A Fury of Aces #2
Genre: Science fiction
Published: Harper Voyager, September 2013
Pages: 465

Paper copies:  Bookworld • Booktopia
E-copies: Amazon.com  Amazon.co.uk Barnes & Noble

Please note: This review is for the second book in the Fury of Aces series and so contains spoilers for the first, Burnt Ice. You might prefer to read my review of that book instead!


Review

In Burnt Ice, the veteran crew of the Basalt were sent to investigate a far-away planet where they uncover a few different strange, new and rather dangerous life forms. They are effectively abandoned there by the Games Board but become instant celebrities once they limp their way back into the Sphere. Now, after a recuperation period the crew head out on a new salvage mission, along with their new crewmates, Stephine and Veg.

At the start of this book we are thrown back into the action with the crew of the Basalt without any real re-introductions. If, like me,  it’s been a while since you read Burnt Ice, here’s a short summary.

The Human Sphere of influence in space is controlled by the Administration. The Basalt is an Administration ship, tasked with carrying out security missions around the the Sphere. The Games Board is a group under the Administration providing reality audiovisual entertainment to the general population. They sanction conflicts and send in their monitors and producers to record everything, edit it and broadcast it to the hungry public.

As with Burnt Ice, Crystal Venom consists of a series of episodes – adventures where the Basalt is sent on various missions and runs into different kinds of baddies at the behest of the Games Board. I did wonder at several points why on earth they keep signing up for these missions as it’s become rather obvious that the Games Board is pretty much out to kill them, but they continue to jump in head-first. They are being well-paid for the footage they provide, but surely the cost to their sanity and general health is starting to get a bit overwhelming?

In general, the dialogue and character interactions were better written in this one than in Burnt Ice, although still rather cold and a little awkward at times. I enjoyed reading about Marko’s development and his new abilities, as well as the rest of the crew and their technical wizardry.

There also seems to be a fair bit of gratuitous sex in this one – there’s very little romance in this universe. Marko’s sheets are barely cold before he’s jumping into bed with someone else, and despite this being the future where there may well be different etiquette for this sort of thing, it jarred a little bit.

Once again, the ACEs (Artificially Created Entities) steal the show and get up to lots of mischief – it’s like having a bunch of highly intelligent children in charge of some high-tech weaponry. What could possibly go wrong?

These books are designed as a series of episodes, threaded together by plenty of amazing technical creations and strange alien life forms. The writing may not be the most brilliant I’ve seen but the imagination and world building is just amazing. I’ll be interested to see how things develop next.

Warnings: Graphic violence, sexual references

A Fury of Aces

Burnt Ice, Steve Wheeler crystalvenom 3: Obsidian MaulTBR 2014
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