Blog Tours, book reviews, spoiler free

The Blue Salt Road – Spoiler Free Review

40200607The Blue Salt Road by Joanne Harris
Illustrated by Bonnie Helen Hawkins

Rating: XXXXX

Published November 15th by Gollancz

An earthly nourris sits and sings
And aye she sings, “Ba lilly wean,
Little ken I my bairn’s father,
Far less the land that he staps in.
(Child Ballad, no. 113)

So begins a stunning tale of love, loss and revenge, against a powerful backdrop of adventure on the high seas, and drama on the land. The Blue Salt Road balances passion and loss, love and violence and draws on nature and folklore to weave a stunning modern mythology around a nameless, wild young man.

Passion drew him to a new world, and trickery has kept him there – without his memories, separated from his own people. But as he finds his way in this dangerous new way of life, so he learns that his notions of home, and your people, might not be as fixed as he believed.

Beautifully illustrated by Bonnie Helen Hawkins, this is a stunning and original modern fairytale.

I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. When I heard Joanne had written another book in the same vein as her 2017 release A Pocketful of Crows (which I reread and reviewed Tuesday) I was hugely excited! I fell in love with the wonderful prose contained inside the tale of a nameless wild girl of the travelling folk and we are met with a slightly different style, that is no less captivating for it, about a nameless, young selkie man entrapped by a young woman and it does not disappoint.

I read The Blue Salt Road in a few small sittings over a couple of days and it has been an absolute joy to read. Joanne has an innate talent to bring hope and compassion into even the darkest of tales and this book is no exception. I was pleasantly surprised with the number of twists and turns throughout, one problem that I think stories that read like old tales can often suffer from is predictability but with this book while feeling familiar is also refreshingly new and strangely relevant to the world we live in today despite being set in a different time.

The prose is in a different style to A Pocketful of Crows but like it’s predecessor it evokes it’s subject perfectly and you can almost feel the wind and the sea spray against your face as you read about the waves, the different types of whales and other sea life, Joanne has a remarkable and magical way of describing nature and it really works well in The Blue Salt Road. We are also once again we are treated to some absolutely gorgeous art throughout by illustrator Bonnie Hawkins helping, even more, to bring the story to life. It is also hard to really pin down a true villain despite many of the characters doing despicable things but this just helps to bring it in line with reality, this is a perfect example of a new, yet old tale and I would happily read more like this.

book reviews, spoiler free

A Pocketful of Crows – Spoiler Free Review

34913762A Pocketful of Crows by Joanne Harris
Illustrations by Bonnie Helen Hawkins
Audiobook read by Joanne Harris

Rating: XXXXX

Published October 19th 2017 by Gollancz

“If only I had patience. If only I could sleep till spring. If only I were the hawthorn tree, too old to love, too wise to hate.”

I am as brown as brown can be,
And my eyes as black as sloe;
I am as brisk as brisk can be,
And wild as forest doe.
(The Child Ballads, 295)

So begins a beautiful tale of love, loss and revenge. Following the seasons, A Pocketful of Crows balances youth and age, wisdom and passion and draws on nature and folklore to weave a stunning modern mythology around a nameless wild girl.
Only love could draw her into the world of named, tamed things. And it seems only revenge will be powerful enough to let her escape.
Beautifully illustrated by Bonnie Helen Hawkins, this is a stunning and original modern fairytale.

In the run-up to the release of the beautiful “The Blue Salt Road” (Out this Thursday, November 15th) which although not a direct sequel to A Pocketful of Crows is also based around a Child Ballad poem and is full of the same beautiful illustrations and wonderful, whimsical writing. Not to mention this book this book is a perfect Autumn read and we are well into the season of crunchy leaves, knitted cardigans, scarves and magic by now.

Although I read this last year I’m rereading this now in the form of the captivating audiobook read by Joanne Harris herself. I love good audiobooks and this one is so exception, the joy of listening to a book narrated by the author themselves is you can hear how it was meant to be read, obviously everything is open to interpretation but there’s just something exceedingly special and magical listening to the words in the way they sound to the author themselves creating a whole other level of storytelling harking back to the roots of stories themselves.

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A Pocketful of Crows has a magical quality to it, in the story itself and in the telling of it and feels different from almost any other book I’ve read before, it feels old and mysterious and reads like something between a poem, a ballad and a spell. The writing and the language are absolutely beautiful and the story itself would be interesting no matter how it was told but Joanne’s hand has given it an extra flourish that makes it wonderous and allows you to feel the damp earth underfoot, smell the changing of the seasons and hear the sounds of the animals in the forest, it is truly an experience.

Although I primarily listened to the audiobook this read through I did take time to look through the physical book itself once again because the illustrations by Hawkins are simply gorgeous and something about the style and the black and white colouring just really brings them in line with and evokes the style of this new but ancient book.

A short read, the audiobook clocks in at just over four hours and it is a book that can fairly easily be read in one sitting and one I recommend to anyone feeling witchy or like they want to swept up in a magical and mysterious story about a wild girl who refuses to be tamed.

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Tags

BTT – Avengers Book Tag

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Although they are in no way related (Joanne has informed me that if Marvel Loki and Runemarks Loki ever meet the worlds come to an end!) I wanted to celebrate the release of The Testament of Loki recently with an Avengers themed book tag which I found on Kayla’s Book Nook. That and I’m still not ready to think about Infinity War more than I have to.

Iron Man: A book that made you laugh out loud.
Obsido.
One word. Parachute.

Captain America: A book that sends a positive message.
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson.
There are probably many others that fit this prompt and I would like to give an honourable mention to Starfish for it but I’ve picked Nimona, a graphic novel of sorts by Noelle Stevenson because it’s such a fun,pure book that had so many great messages hidden throughout, it’s an all time favourite of mine .

Thor: A book with a character who’s strength you admire.
Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman. Kiko manages to do what I’ve been trying to do for years and doesn’t take the path that is necessarily the easiest but is genuinely the best for her. I have a bad habit of chosing whichever just makes me feel better or seems the least complicated and Kiko has taught me so much. I feel like I’m honestly a better person for having read her story.

Black Widow: A book with a kick-ass female protagonist.
Inferno Squad. Iden Versio. I don’t think she gets anywhere near enough recognition but she’s such a great character, she’s kick ass and stands up for what she believes in.

Hawkeye: An underrated book that you think more people should pay attention to.
Invictus by Ryan Graudin.
It might be because this came out last year now but it’s such a great book and I just want to talk about it all the time but it’s a fun book that punches you in the chest when you least expect it. One of my absoloute favourite stand alone books.

(Bonus) Loki: A book with a shock or twist that surprised you.
The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James.
I’m still not sure if I can talk about this book without giving myself nightmares. It was amazing and totally blindsided me!

Don’t forget the Testament of Loki  by Joanne Harris is out now and although it is technically a sequel, never fear it can easily be read as a stand alone too! (You can check out my spoiler free review here).

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book reviews, spoiler free

The Testament of Loki

35077202The Testament of Loki by Joanne Harris

Published: May 17th 2018 by Gollancz

Rating: XXXX

“I’m Loki, son of Laufey and I always have a plan.”

Ragnarok was the End of Worlds.

Asgard fell, centuries ago, and the old gods have been defeated. Some are dead, while others have been consigned to eternal torment in the netherworld – among them, the legendary trickster, Loki. A god who betrayed every side and still lost everything, who has lain forgotten as time passed and the world of humans moved on to new beliefs, new idol and new deities . . .

But now mankind dreams of the Norse Gods once again, the river Dream is but a stone’s throw from their dark prison, and Loki is the first to escape into a new reality.

The first, but not the only one to. Other, darker, things have escaped with him, who seek to destroy everything that he covets. If he is to reclaim what has been lost, Loki will need allies, a plan, and plenty of tricks . . .

Loki is back! The Testament of Loki by Joanne Harris is out today in all it’s Norse glory!  was lucky enough to receive a digital advance copy from Gollancz via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I was super excited to also pick up my signed finished copy a day in advance as well! I love the style of the cover art so much and it looks great next to my copy of Gospel, I can’t wait to receive my preorder bonus pin as well.

The Testament of Loki is a sequel to The Gospel of Loki and are a part of the Runemarks universe, I haven’t read the Runemarks books yet but still enjoyed Gospel immensely and to be honest you don’t necessarily have to have read even that to enjoy Testament because it recaps most of, if not all of the important information. That said, The Gospel of Loki is pretty good (My spoiler free review can be read here) and it does help set the tone for some of the characters so if you get the chance I recommend it.

This sequel does have a very different feel to its predesscor however, in Gospel your humble narrator often tells you how it’s all going to end and it feels very much like a story being told whereas in Testament it feels more in the moment. There is also the fact that Gospel is set mainly in Asgard and features heavily on the interactions between the different gods but now The Trickster is stranded in the world of the folk, our world and he’s about to discover pizza.

The first three-quarters of this book is great fun, a little silly and almost deep at times in its own way. Loki still has the great voice Harris brought him to life with in the first book and this is a whole new level and a glimmer of a slightly different (but not too much) side to our beloved red-haired, silver-tongued devil. I love the way Loki interacts with Jumps, his relationship with the other people in her life and his perspective on the way many of us live today, seeing our insecurities through his eyes was quite enlightening. We get to see a f/f relationship from a (I believe) bisexual character and we get a bit of a glimpse into another character suffering from a chronic pain disorder who is often confined to a wheelchair without making a huge deal of any of these things outside of the story. Just a warning there is a scene involving self harm, it didn’t trigger me personally but I was made away before hand and prepared for it so I feel it’s right to pass this on to my readers as well. I honestly think this aspect of Loki was my favourite parts of the story and I would have quite happily had a whole series of this side of things.

Sadly I felt again a few of the characters, bar perhaps Meg (in addition to Loki and Jumps) were a little flat and a bit lacking in the fleshing out department out but I like to think this is such Loki thing to do, he’s so self-absorbed and doesn’t have time for hardly anyone else. I found other than Loki and Jumps I didn’t give much of a hoot about anyone else.

I will say that although I enjoyed Testament a few things let it down for me, hence the XXXX rating and not XXXXX but I will say the good for me outweighed the bad by far but a few things still niggled me. There is a fair bit of repetitiveness and perhaps its to make sure things make sense and because things get a little twisty but after a little while it started to bug me and I could feel myself rolling my eyes every time it happened. Somehow though my other problem was that for the last quarter of the book I was pretty confused. I got the jist of things and understood most of the story but things would get skimmed over and then sometimes we found of what was said or happened later or sometimes we wouldn’t. This is quite possibly just a problem I’ll encounter because I often have a terrible attention span and I might not have been taking things in properly but towards the end I kept feeling like the final exam was here but I’d skipped a few classes. That being said it was enjoyable over all and I hope/wonder if there will be more. I’d certainly like to see more and I believe that the (I’m not quite sure on because it felt a bit weird) ending has been left in a way that we can have more of my favourite Norse god. (Yes please).

So happy release day to The Testament of Loki! Did you pick up this book today or will you be checking it out in the future? Let me know and until next time!

Jemma.

jemma setterington

#SixforSunday

#S4S – Questions for authors

31933372_10155209608341581_135988770649407488_nHappy Sunday to you all and here we are with this weeks Six for Sunday post! The prompt this week is “questions you have for authors.” I couldn’t decide whether to answer this prompt with six hypothetical blanket questions that could be applied to all authors or if I would ask six different questions to six different authors and then I had a terrible idea and took to Twitter in search of six authors who could instead answer one question for me. “What do you enjoy most about being an author.” Writing is damn HARD work, editing is mostly a nightmare (for me at least), and I can’t even imagine going down the road to get a piece of work actually published and the amazing people who go through all of this are amazing super heroes in their own right so I wanted to make this post about them and hope to show why they love being authors to perhaps inspire others to keep going and keep trying.

1. Joanne Harris (Chocolat, Runemarks, The Gospel of Loki)
“The possibilities it has opened up for me: the places I’ve been, the people I’ve met; the ideas I wouldn’t otherwise have had for writing yet more stories.

2. Delilah S. Dawson (Phasma, Wicked as they come, The Perfect Weapon)
“It’s given me a calling. I always felt like an artist who couldn’t find her body of work, like I needed to create but nothing that I made was fully satisfying. Now writing keeps me energized, hopeful, moving forward. I love the craft. And it’s brought amazing people into my life.”

3. Anna Day (The Fandom)
“Seeing my book in a book shop, knowing i can share stories with others 😊❤

4. Sally Green (The Smoke Thieves, The Half Bad Trilogy)
“The freedom (and the necessity) to explore and expand my creativity. Hard to express the joy this gives me.”

5. Dan Smith (The Dry Season, The Child Thief,  Below Zero)
“I love being close to stories, creating my own, and knowing that other people have enjoyed them.”

6. Lindsey Cummings (The Murder complex, The Balance keepers, Zenith)
“Telling stories for the pure joy of it.”

And I know I said six but as an extra bonus I also heard back from…

Maria V. Snyder (The Chronicles of Ixia books, The Healer trilogy, The Inside out duology)
In that case, my favorite thing about being an author is interacting with my readers! I love when I get emails and messages. My favorite ones are when someone is inspired by one of my characters. Like the woman who decided she wanted to be able to defend herself like Yelena and took karate classes until she earned a black belt! Girl Power! Woot!

Thank you so very very much to the authors who took part and took the time on a weekend to message me back (and super quick!) These people are all lovely and you should totally check out their books! I hope you all have a great weekend and I’ll be back with a review for you on Tuesday.

Until then, speak soon.

Jemma.

jemma setterington