Category Archives: Reviews

Book Review: Welsh Fairy Tales by William Elliot Griffis

Welsh Fairy Tales by William Elliot Griffis
Welsh Fairy Tales by William Elliot Griffis

I love reading fairy tales and reading fairy tales from different countries is really interesting as it tells you a lot about their culture and past. So I picked up Welsh Fairy Tales by William Elliot Griffis for my Kindle a few months back.

As you can expect it’s fairly short with a collection of different fairy tales within it’s covers all hailing from Wales.
Anyone familiar with fae lore especially when it comes to the English and Welsh (Scotland had a slightly different take on things) will find some familiar places, myths and even characters.

I’m not going to lie, this book starts off pretty week describing the  origins of the “Welsh Rarebit” (aka Cheese on Toast) which whilst interesting to some degree it is not… so interesting it makes you want to read the rest of the book.
However it does go on into the stories of Fae in Wales – a lot of which are tied into not-quite-proven historical events – e.g. King Arthur.

The stories are enjoyable and really interesting if your into mythical history and lore. Unfortunately the Griffis, who is retelling these fairy tales in his own words (many fairy tales are “retold” because they would have been just verbally told way back when) feels the need to get a bit patriotic about Wales. Whilst I do love Wales, he mentions far too many times how Wales did this first, or they made the best this or that and it’s just so obvious and feels unnatural in the context of a fairy tales. Not to mention Griffis wasn’t even Welsh, he was American so it’s not even like he’s singing the praises of his own country because of how dear it is to him.
There are also some inaccuracies for example London Bridge being called Tower Bridge.

That aside though this a great little collection that does capture the spirit of Wales and of a time when men and Fae lived side by side peacefully (for the most part). It’s doesn’t cover all of Welsh Fae stories and lore I’m sure but it’s a great place to start and a quick read.

Rating: 4_stars

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Author Website: N/A
Publisher: Kindle
Publication Date: 17th May 2012 (first published 1921)
Pages: 146
Genre(s): Fantasy, Fairy Tales, Short Stories
Purchased From: Amazon/Kindle UK

Book Review: Truckers: The First Book of the Nomes by Terry Pratchett

Truckers by Terry Pratchett
Truckers by Terry Pratchett

Truckers: The First Book of the Nomes by Terry Pratchett is the first book in The Bromeliad Trilogy – which as you may have guessed is about Nomes – 4 inch high people like creatures that because of the size the book explains live much faster than humans.

The story takes place in the 90’s (despite this first book being published in 1989) and we follow Masklin a fairly young Nome who lives near a motorway cafe with what’s left of his Tribe; of which there isn’t many of them due to food shortage and foxes. The youngest left to find a better place to live but never returned and so Masklin was left to fend for the rest of them in increasingly difficult circumstances and a barrel of complaints from the elderly. And so Masklin decides there is no future for them here and formulates a plan to stow away on a truck from the bear by service station. When they finally agree to ago, it’s a struggle to get them all – and The Thing – aboard a truck but they manage it.

The truck eventually stops at a department store called Arnold Bros, where they quickly find there are other Nomes in the world living right under human’s noses in the department store itself. However they are a strange lot with a religion based around Arnold Bros. (est 1905) and divided into fractions by the different departments of the store. And then there’s all the new human things that Masklin and his tribe have never seen before ceilings, books, carpet, etc. The Nomes of Arnold Bros. (est 1905) however have never been outside, they don’t even believe in it but they may have to if the rumours about the department store being demolished are true.

This has all the Pratchett charm but reels in on the somewhat “out there” aspects that you find in his Discworld series.
The characters are full, comical and you’ll probably find at least one Nome that is just like someone you know.
It’s all poking a bit of fun at human nature, society, religion and politics but all wrapped up in a charming adventure that you’re taken on along with the Nomes. You’re so with them that you’re routing for them at every bump in the road even when the huge impossible obstacles are in their way.

I actually enjoyed this more than I thought I would because I was so quickly pulled into the story that before I knew it, I was through a good many chapters. It’s a little like The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents in a much less fairy tale world.
Would really recommend this is you want something entertaining but light with a good measure of the underdog becoming somewhat of reluctant leader/hero.

Kindle Unlimited – Yay or Nay?

kindle-Logo-550x401

Amazon Kindle UK, has just launched it’s Kindle Unlimited Premium service. I don’t know about you but I’m intrigued by the concept, so I thought we could take a closer look together.

Kindle Unlimited boasts that you can read as much as you want and choose from 650,000 titles and thousands of audiobooks for just £7.99 a month. You can even Try it out for free for 30 days. Currently Kindle Unlimited (UK) is currently available only to customers located in the United Kingdom, Gibraltar, Jersey, Isle of Man, Guernsey and Ireland.

For an avid reader who buys around 10 books a month, not even counting Kindle purchases this sounds like a pretty good deal. So naturally I wanted to know more.

The first thing I wanted to know is what I could get for my £7.99 a month, after all this has the potential to be some saving!
Alas, next to no big publishers are signed up to Kindle Unlimited – purely because it’s not feasible for them. I won’t go into too much detail, if you want to read all about it – you can read information on it here and here. However basically an author and/or publisher only gets a share of what is in that months “pot” not their normal profit .
This means the majority of books that are available are from indie authors and small publishing companies – not that there is anything wrong with either of these, we readers should still support them because everyone had to start somewhere – however your not going to get the latest best sellers.
As I said, do give love in indie authors and small publishers – but one also has to consider than normally their books do not cost a whole lot anyway – plus they take advantage of Amazons promotional system and have offers on and sometimes free books regularly. The bulk of books available on Kindle Unlimited would cost under £2 each anyway – most at 99p infact so one will have to buy at least 8 of these to make the £7.99 a month worth while.

But hey, that could happen… but it’s less appealing than they make it sound, but moving on!

The next problem I encountered is when I assumed I could buy 8+ books a month – which I can, I really can – technically. You can only keep 10 Kindle Unlimited books on your Kindle or Kindle app at a time however. Better read fast.
Also, if you cancel you Kindle Unlimited subscription… all those books, will be deleted from your account. Whether you have read them or not. Whilst this is understandable if I had spent time getting my money’s worth and then for some reason finding myself not being able to afford £7.99 a month, I’d be pretty miffed about the amount of books been taken off my Kindle.

Needless to say my initial excitement about Kindle Unlimited… has well now become limited. So I’m sorry to say, it’s a “Nay” for me.
Nice try Amazon, but the benefits just don’t measure up in the end for an avid reader. It’s a good attempt at “book streaming” but it doesn’t work for me and for it to have any kind of future you need to give a better deal to the indie authors and small publishers. Plus make it work for bigger publishers too. Books, even eBooks are nothing without authors, publishers and readers. Sort it out.

What are your thoughts on Kindle Unlimited? Will you be signing up?

Book Review: Foxwise (The Legend of Vanx Malic #2.1) by M.R. Mathias

Foxwise (The Legend of Vanx Malic #2.1) by M.R. Mathias
Foxwise (The Legend of Vanx Malic #2.1) by M.R. Mathias

Let me start by saying I’ve not read anything by M.R. Mathias before at all so Foxwise (The Legend of Vanx Malic #2.1) is my very first encounter with this author.

Foxwise is a short story, which is an off-shoot of the The Legend of Vanx Malic series. It side steps into giving you a short story and a little more background into one of a character that is just about to enter the main series and as I understand it comes to be quite a main character.

It was (and still is at the moment) free on Kindle, so I thought I would give it a go and hopefully get a good feel for the author.

Foxwise or General Foxwise Posy-Thorn to give him is full name – is a fairy/pixie type creature and he is the best of the best in Queen Corydalis guard. Being Fae, they live in a peaceful valley hidden from the eyes of many other creatures. There is a perpetual state of spring in the Valley so everything is young, green and lush. Unfortunately the oldest tree – the Heart Tree, which protects the whole valley and the fae with it’s magic has been poisoned by the Hoar Witch.

Enter the typical fantasy quest! The queen requests the best of her smartest, fiercest and most loyal to retrieve the “Shard” that can heal the tree and defend the realm. So Foxwise teams up with Barb and Bristle to journey outside of their protected boundries and into the Overland, where danger is everywhere for these small creatures.

Short stories can be really great, unfortunately this one isn’t. You barely get to know any of the characters and so really struggle to have anything to hold onto in the short time it takes to read this book. It reads far too much like a children’s TV show – this happens, and then this happens, and then this happens – it’s overly simple. Which I was rather disappointed about since Mathias – from what I’ve read – is a great epic fantasy writer, I expected much more.

However there are some endearing and funny moments that broke it up slightly. You do really want to like the characters and root for them, so it’s a shame there isn’t quite enough for you to identify with them.

Perhaps this makes for better reading if you’ve read the series (or are reading the series) but as a standalone read, it’s pretty poor. My guess is it was wrote specifically to create a little hype for the next installment of the series – it’s filler. Too bad because with either a little more work it could be a great short story (and thus a much better introduction to the author – at least I’m hoping the rest of his work is better) or with a little rewriting, it could be a nice little children’s book.

I really wanted to like this, but it just lacks that something.

Rating: 2_stars

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Author Website: http://www.mrmathias.com/
Publisher: Kindle
Publication Date: 20th November 2013
Pages: 28
Genre(s): Fantasy, Short Story
Purchased From: Kindle/Amazon UK

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Have you read anything by M.R. Mathias? Is his main work better than this? Thoughts?

Book Review: Clockwork Angels by Kevin J. Anderson

Clockwork Angels by Kevin J. Anderson
Clockwork Angels by Kevin J. Anderson

I picked up Clockwork Angels by Kevin J. Anderson as part of the last StoryBundle (if you haven’t check that out yet – do!). Kevin J. Anderson isn’t an author that I’ve read or come across before but whilst browsing the StoryBundle Darren had pointed out to me that it was on his to read list. Since we have super similar tastes after purchasing this bundle I decided I would dive right into this one.

This book was written in quite a unique way, infact to quote the synopsis:

A remarkable collaboration that is unprecedented in its scope and realization, this exquisitely wrought novel represents an artistic project between the bestselling science fiction author Kevin J. Anderson and the multiplatinum rock band Rush. The newest album by Rush, Clockwork Angels, sets forth a story in Neil Peart’s lyrics that has been expanded by him and Anderson into this epic novel.

That’s right it’s inspired by and follows the lyrics of a rock album.  This particular part I was all kinds of skeptical and excited about at the time time. So far, I haven’t listened to the album but lyrics are at the beginning of each chapter and they fit really well. It doesn’t feel like it’s forced together. It’s a song that tells a story and this novel simple elaborated upon that story. It actually works well to my relief and I was pleasantly surprised.

So lets get onto the actual book, the story, the meat of it all.

The world we are plunged into is a world of steampunk and alchemy, with pirates, carnivals and lost cities to boot. Exciting times one might imagine, except nothing has really changed in 200 years. Everything runs like clockwork. No crime, nothing unexpected, no blimp on the map of life, no disease and no nastiness whatsoever actually. All thanks to the Watchmaker who has watched over and ruled the empire, making sure everyone has a place in the world, a plan and they have everything they need. They all have a true love, a given career, a house and food. They’re secure and safe from crime and illness. What more could anyone ask for? “The Stability” one calls it.

Enter our protagonist Owen Hardy an apple farmer who is oh so close to his 17th birthday and therefore becoming an adult. He knows on his birthday he will receive a letter from the Watchmaker himself wishing him happiness, he will take over managing the orchid from his father and in a few more months when his true love also turns 17, they will get engaged with the Watchmakers approval.
The problem is that Owen Hardy longs to visit Crown City, the capital and see the famed Clockwork Angels for himself but leaving your village is forbidden and anyway, that’s not the Watchmakers plan for him.
As a result of his girlfriend not showing up meet him at midnight (also forbidden), Owen ends up making a snap decision to stow away on a Steamliner headed for Crown City.

Having left all he knows behind and subsequently tearing himself away from the life the Watchmaker has planned for him, he finds himself among pirates and carnies – the barely tolerated outcasts of society – who follow their own paths. Unfortunately for Owen this mean seeing and facing fears, dangers and hurt he never knew could exist and life around him crumbles.
And yet he is torn between feeling real emotions – even if they’re negative and the safety of The Stability.

At it’s heart Clockwork Angels is a coming of age story with a little revolutionary spirit thrown in. You go through all the emotions, confusion and anger with Owen. As well as seeing a little perspective from the outside influences upon him.

The Watchmaker is the other main character in this journey who is a sort of lovable rogue with a power complex. It’s clear that his heart is in the right place but at times it’s blindingly obvious that he’s lost a screw or two along the way. He’s eccentric in an almost creepy way and his OCD is way out of control. And yet… one can sympathise with him.

It’s a story less about good vs evil and more about order vs chaos, and how good and evil are a matter of perspective.

There is adventure here, some fights and alchemy but this is more of about a journey, one that makes you think and perhaps even grow with Mr. Hardy.

Fantasy is my favourite genre to read but this isn’t too heavy on the fantasy or the steampunk aspect for that matter so really this book has a very wide appeal. Anyone can enjoy it without knowing too much about those genres.

Definitely worth a read.

Rating: stars_4

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Author Website: http://kjablog.com
Publisher: WordFire Press
Publication Date: 2 Oct 2013
Pages: 319
Genre(s): Fantasy, Steampunk, Adventure
Purchased From: StoryBundle (from Truly Epic Fantasy Bundle)