The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

Published:  26th September 2017Goodreads badge
Publisher:
  Imprint
Illustrator: Sarah Kipin
Pages: 281
Genre: Young Adult/Short stories
Format: Paperback
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Love speaks in flowers. Truth requires thorns.

Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid’s voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy’s bidding but only for a terrible price.

Inspired by myth, fairy tale, and folklore, #1 New York Times–bestselling author Leigh Bardugo has crafted a deliciously atmospheric collection of short stories filled with betrayals, revenge, sacrifice, and love.

Perfect for new readers and dedicated fans, these tales will transport you to lands both familiar and strange—to a fully realized world of dangerous magic that millions have visited through the novels of the Grishaverse.

Things to love about this book: fantastic fairytales, beautiful illustrations.

This collection of stories was a divine read. I definitely loved some of these more than others, which sounds like I hated some, but I didn’t. I just adored some A LOT. There is great diversity in the style of stories and the surprises are brilliant and are incredibly clever.

The fairytales have the timeless era setting which makes them everlasting. There are sneaky characters and innocent victims, but there are wonderful tricksters with ulterior motives and who buck against their expectations.

Bardugo abides by the rule of three when it comes to fairytales. It’s great to see that fairytales are not just old tales we’ve retained or reimagined, they can be new stories as well. I love that fairytales keep being created, they are not a long ago genre we must be satisfied with only retelling the ones we already know. These new fairy tales are beautifully written and beautifully illustrated which makes them even more magical.

One thing that must be mentioned as many times as possible is the beautiful designs that border the pages. They creep their way around the pages as the stories unfold, adding an extra dark and sinister layer as they go. Perfect in their revelations and their foreboding.

If you love fairytales you will love this. It was dark and sinister, and all the creepy, unexplained magical things of the original fairytales. This is set within the Grishaverse of Bardugo’s other books but there is no need to have read them before starting this as it makes no difference if you’re coming in blind.

You can purchase The Language of Thorns via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Wordery | Angus and Robinson | Dymocks

Fishpond | Amazon Aust | Amazon | Audible

First Kiss by J Tomas

Published: 29th August 2011Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 JMS Books LLC
Pages: 11
Format: ebook
Genre: Young Adult/Short Story
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Noah Lipinski has a fierce crush on Doug Hathaway, a hot jock on the high school football team whose locker is fifteen down from Noah’s in the hall. When Melissa Bradshaw, only the most popular girl in school, suddenly shows an interest in Noah, he suspects he’s being set up for a cruel joke. She asks him to Homecoming and he refuses to go.

After school, the doorbell rings and Noah’s sure she’s back to pester him about the dance. But when he opens the door, he finds Doug there instead, with an explanation and a much better offer than Melissa’s.

At 11 pages there is a lot of pressure to make a fully rounded story and Tomas almost hits the mark. For a short story is covers the key intrigue points but there wasn’t enough time to get a feel for the writing, or get settled into the story. It is an enjoyable snippet, but I wasn’t totally caught up in the story, Noah was a good character, and I could see the approach Tomas was aiming for, but there just needed a bit more to cement the narrative. Tomas brushes past the characters, enough for the reader to get a glimpse at who they’re meant to be, but nothing sticks beyond one dimension.

I’m not 100% sure more pages would help, there can be power in a short story, there needs refinement in the writing though to make the characters count in the space they have and bring across depth in the story.

You can purchase First Kiss via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

From A Certain Point of View: A Star Wars Anthology

The day has finally arrived! After a long wait, the new Star Wars anthology, titled From A Certain Point Of View, has finally been released. This new anthology has been created in celebration of the 40th anniversary of A New Hope (Episode IV) and is a compilation of 40 writers who have contributed stories based on the film.

The premise is that each writer has taken a scene from the original film and told it from a different point of view, whether that’s a stormtrooper who couldn’t find the droids he was looking for or one of Luke’s X-Wing pilots who helped blow up the Death Star.

From early teasers from authors on Twitter via #OperationBlueMilk (a reference to a drink in A New Hope), the announcement that there would be a collection of short stories about Star Wars was high on my excitement list, especially since one of my favourite podcasters was going to be a contributor. Griffin McElroy (from MBMBAM and much more) is a contributor, plus 39 other creators including Wil Wheaton, Chuck Wendig, Meg Cabot, Ben Acker, Jason Fry, Paul Kemp, and Claudia Gray, just to name a few. Of the 40 writers there’s a mixture of bestselling authors, trendsetting artists, and treasured voices from Star Wars’ literary history.

If you are a fan of Star Wars, or even if you aren’t, this is a fascinating anthology with an intriguing premise. These are a combination of totally new stories, but based in a world we know and love around the Star Wars film.  I would love to see one of these done for all three original films, but for now, I’m content with this one.

You can purchase your copy of A Certain Point of View via the following

Dymocks | Wordery

Booktopia | Book Depository

Amazon | Amazon Aust

FishpondPenguin RandomHouse

 

Two for the Holidays by Ekta Garg

Published: 15th December 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Prairie Sky Publishing
Pages: 130
Format: ebook
Genre: short stories
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

A medium gets ready for one of the biggest days in her career speaking to the dead. An elf accepts an unusual assignment and faces his past. Two stories about people tied to holiday-themed professions. Two stories about the reality of life’s hardships in the last quarter of the year. Two stories for the holidays. 

The first story, “Take A Breath”: Marisa Bellini has travelled to a tiny town on Halloween to help people contact the dead. She’s built an empire on the idea that she can talk to ghosts…but can she really? Sometimes even Marisa isn’t sure.

The second story, “The Truth About Elves”: Curtis, an elf, sets the record straight. No, elves don’t have pointy ears, they aren’t three feet tall, and they don’t live at the North Pole all year long. When Curtis gets a special assignment from the big man himself, though, he learns that Christmas magic has the power to transform everything he’s known for the last decade.

Come spend the holidays with Marisa and Curtis, and join the Stories in Pairs journey!

 Note: I was provided with a copy of this book from the author for review.

This is the fifth Stories in Pairs set by Garg, and once again two unique stories are presented with a common theme connecting them. As the title suggests Two for the Holidays revolves around the holidays, Halloween and Christmas respectively, and through her characters Garg explores the personal trials and hardships faced during this time.

Each story was interesting and tugged at your curiosity for where it was heading. There are hints at what is hidden and with characters skirting around issues means you are often guessing and trying to work out what has actually happened, but this is intertwined with magic and mystery and other plot elements that keep each story flowing. At times there didn’t seem to be a clear direction, and the hints and things unspoken often made it perplexing, but as the pieces fell into place they offered a revelation that brought each story home.

The first story follows medium Marisa as she puts on a show for a small town during Halloween. While an interesting behind the scenes is depicted of the practice, there is also an ongoing uncertainty about what is real and what is fake. Marisa’s story was interesting because Garg alludes to some things and discredits others, leaving you not entirely sure what is real and what isn’t. What’s unexplained doesn’t leave a cliff hanger exactly, but leaves you intrigued all the same.

The second story I felt explored the themes much better, but it also had a lot to wrap your head around and focus on. Curtis’ story offers a creative approach to Santa and the Christmas season and after you get used to the style and the voice, the story is quite interesting, and certainly creative. Garg alternates between first and third person and there is a lot more not being said and yet continually hinted at. Through this you can piece together snippets of Curtis’ life and as more is revealed the story falls into place nicely.

Overall this pair of stories was not as captivating as Garg’s previous sets, but knowing the message she was trying to tell it is evident she achieved that. The gradual revelations and slow reveals work in building anticipation and curiosity, and the exploration of the anguish and emotional nature of the holidays is certainly clear. Each character struggles with hardships in their life and the unique and creative approaches Garg has taken allows a new look at how loss affects people during the holidays and how it can affect every aspect of their lives.

You can purchase Two for the Holidays via the following

Amazon

 

 

Two for the Road (#3) by Ekta R. Garg

Published: 30th June 2015
Goodreads badgePublisher: Prairie Sky Publishing
Pages: 60
Format: ebook
Genre: Short stories
★   ★   ★  ★  – 4 Stars

Ah, summer. Long days full of warm sunshine and one of the most popular times to travel. But what happens when something throws your travel plans off course?

This June meet brand new characters in Two for the Road!

The First Story, “Excess Baggage”: Allison has just come home from a grueling business trip. All she wants to do is spend a quiet weekend at home parked in front of the TV or maybe curled up with a blanket. When a friend calls to ask her for a favor, though, all of Allison’s plans hit rough air.

The Second Story, “Wrong Way”: With one daughter married and another in college, Rachel and Jim should be enjoying their time as a couple again. But Jim’s worries about his widowed mother force Rachel into a spur-of-the-moment road trip to check on the old bat. When Jim catches Rachel complaining to a friend, tension will ride with them in the car. Can Rachel make an apology stick? 

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book from the author for review.

With these two new additions to the Stories in Pairs series it is clear Garg’s imagination and creativity isn’t waning anytime soon.  I love these paired stories, there is such a simple pleasure derived from two stories, connected by theme, characters, anything at all. I love Garg’s concept and execution and with this being the third set of stories I am just as delighted as I was the first time.

With Two For The Road the common theme is travel, more specifically travel plans gone awry. The first story is Excess Baggage and follows Allison, a woman who is planning to spend the weekend home relaxing after a business trip yet ends up playing host to friends of a friend who are heading out on a trip in the next couple of days.

From page one Garg captures Allison’s exhaustion and her frantic life, through Allison’s expression and actions you understand who she is and the kind of life she leads and you want her to have the relaxing weekend she longs for.

What is interesting in Garg’s approach is that it’s not Allison who is going on a trip, she is just coming home. But her involvement with others is what makes this story work so well. There are many twists and turns, if one can call them that. Changed plans, chaotic schedules, and the pressures of work and little sleep are all part of what makes this story so enjoyable.

The second story takes a more direct approach in the travel concept and has a different tone completely to the first. Wrong Way is a great expression of the issues that come up in marriage and the compromises and sacrifices that are made. The marriage between Jim and Rachel is played out on their car trip to visit Jim’s mother, during which their relationship is tested.

With Rachel as narrator only one perspective is given, but Garg uses thoughts, arguments, and debate between the pair to gain additional understanding and see Jim’s point of view. With every argument and comment that the pair throws at one another, a deeper understanding of both characters and their lives together is understood, highlighting the repeated arguments and frustration felt by both.

I like that while there are conclusions to these stories, there are no real resolutions provided. As readers we are allowed to work out what happened next while still being given an ending deserving of the story and one that is unexpected and suitable. Once again Garg has created two unique and enjoyable stories that retain the coupling concept she’s had since the first Stories in Pairs, and she has done so with the same creativity and style that made them so wonderful in the first place.

You can purchase Two For the Road via the following

Amazon

Amazon Aust

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