Review: Den of Wolves by Juliet Marillier

Den of Wolves US FinalSeries: Blackthorn and Grim #3
Published by: Pan Macmillan Australia
ISBN: 0451467035
ISBN 13: 9781925483802
Published: September 2016
Pages: 432
Format reviewed: eVersion from NetGalley
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Lists: Favourites
Related Reviews: Tower of Thorns (Blackthorn and Grim #2)

‘Den of Wolves’ by Juliet Marillier is the third and epic conclusion in the Blackthorn & Grim series. The first and second books, Dreamer’s Pool and Tower of Thorns were easily my favourites in the years they came out, and this volume is no different – now that I’m finished I immediately want to go back to the start and read them all over again.

Our main characters, Blackthorn and Grim (hence the title of the series), are once again put to test in this novel, as the dire state we first meet them in during the first book finally come to a head. The evil Lord who had them in jail in vile conditions is now causing more and more trouble – now targeting those of a higher status than our simple Grim and healer Blackthorn, so it’s finally getting the attention of those who may be able to do something about it. At the same time, a young girl, Cara, is sent away from her home and all she has ever known to learn the ways of the court life, and grow up a bit, as up until now she’s acted younger than her age and seemed to be off with the faeries a bit.

Cara comes across Blackthorn and in her council is able to discover herself and that all she’s ever known as ‘right’ may not entirely be so. In one short book we get to see Cara’s change as she really comes into herself and, although it’s an overused term, blossom. Her story is probably my favourite of the lore that Marillier works into her stories (other than the swans from her Sevenwaters series), and I loved how we get to see it reflected in this novel.

The other characters in this series are varied and detailed to the extreme, even those we get to see so little of, for instance, like Fedach who we only get to see in two, maybe three scenes, and says only a few words and yet you get such a feel for what kind of person he is. Conmael as well is seen so little and yet contributes so much to the series in all three books.

Throughout, this is a book where you come to the final page, and marvel at how far our beloved characters have truly come – their journey is incredibly tough and trying, but you see how they’ve grown as characters completely and utterly from where they started out in the first book, which makes it an incredibly rewarding series to read. With the plot entwined with lore and a very structured way of magic, the fey folk and what is possible, you have a deep and dependable trilogy to lose yourself in.

I can’t recommend this series enough.

Review: Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta

melinatruthPublished by: Penguin Books
ASIN: B01GO0AYWI
ISBN 13: 9780670079100
Published: September 2016
Pages: 405
Format reviewed: eVersion from NetGalley
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five

I’ve loved Marchetta’s work since Looking for Alibrandi first came out. All of her books about identity were amazing, and I did my final paper for high school on them, comparing with books such as Miles Franklin’s My Brilliant Career.

This book is both different and similar to her previous work. This is her first book for adults, and it’s crime/thriller when her previous books have been either contemporary or fantasy. And yet, within this book amongst the action and the fact finding, is a tale told from the heart about what it means to be family, of a minority race, and so many things most of is are lucky to not experience.

Set mostly in England but with brief sojourns to France, we follow Bish Ortley (recently stood down from London Met, for reasons Marchetta slowly drips out through the novel), as he goes to France when his daughter is on a bus that’s bombed. It turns out that also on the bus is a daughter of a women currently in jail, currently serving a life sentence for connections with a supermarket bombing many years earlier. Bish gets tangled in the kids’ lives, the previous crimes, and acts as the go-between between all the offices involved – London and French police, the home office, and the other parents of the injured or overwhelmed.

Throughout you are told of people who haven’t always done the right thing, but you get to understand why and how, and get to see how they’re still a human being, and that their entire being isn’t boiled down to this one fact. We see lives both ruined and built back together, and how different even one family can be whilst still having such strong ties.

It’s amazing how much heartbreak can be poured into a book and yet it not be overwhelming as a result. It’s impossible to put this book down, and you come to care for characters you didn’t previously think you could care for previously. I want more in this series – now not a thriller but a casual ‘let’s all have dinner’ and ‘oh look, here’s the weather today’, just so I can experience more of these characters and see them finally at rest, when the media and public aren’t out for any little bit of them they can get.

Superbly written, I’d suggest this both to people who don’t often read crime/thriller and those who do, because it is just that well written. And if you haven’t yet read Marchetta’s work, do so. Go on, do it.

Review: Super Sushi Ramen Express by Michael Booth

supersushiramenSub-title: One Family’s Journey Through the Belly of Japan
Published by: Macmillan-Picador
ISBN: 125009979X
ISBN 13: 9781250099808
Published: September 2016
Pages: 336
Format reviewed: eversion from NetGalley
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Four out of Five

Super Sushi Ramen Express is a mesh of a food and travel doco-drama as the author takes his family through a holiday through Japan to try any and all types of food, take cooking classes, interview famous chefs and otherwise, and go through various markets and shopping centres. Booth is refreshing in his initial ignorance of Japan as a whole at the beginning, and explains everything with simple detail in an easy fashion. Sitting down with this book, it’s easy to demolish a third of it before you simply have to put it down (too hungry to continue, thank goodness I have a very decent Japanese place over the road from home), and then only to pick it up again to read on about how tofu is made, or sake brewed, and so on.

Throughout, Booth compares the Japanese way of cooking and eating to how people think of their food in both America and France, and sometimes compares the British way also. The Japanese focus on the natural flavour of their foods, relying on the freshness and quality of ingredients over ‘trying to leave their own mark on the food’, like some chefs are quoted as saying the French style of cooking tends towards. We see how the food changes between Tokyo and Kyoto, as well as from each and every tip of the various islands that make up Japan – whether it’s a different style of ramen, or a varying focus on vegetables making up the majority of the dish.

Booth is certainly lucky in this book to have both a guide and the opportunity to sample the rarer and higher-end level of food available in Japan. We don’t get to see as much of the ‘business-man’ level of one bowl wonders that the normal Japanese person may live on week to week – the book shows us more of the michelin star level places, and doesn’t go as in-depth for when he samples random alleyways of ramen. (If you’re looking for more that style of ‘anything, as long as it’s tasty, try the food critic Giles Coren who is amazing.)

The only slight criticism I have of this book were certain slurs that jolted me out to think ‘did he really just say that? Does he, uh, understand what that means?’ that I think (hope) just come down to ignorance or a poor attempt at humour (for example, the use of the word ‘tranny’, as well as other culturally-based slurs that made me worry just how careful he was when travelling around Japan…)

Also, the tendency to joke about animal cruelty and the unsustainability of the certain foods, such as whale, rather than providing commentary as he does on say, MSG. MSG gets a decent chapter on what it’s really made of, and how it can be used healthily, whereas whale just gets a lunch outing and crass jokes about the ‘environmental outrage checklist’… which was rather disappointing.

Series Rewatch: Farscape – Season One, Episode Thirteen

Farscape rewatch

Each week on a Sunday afternoon, join Alex (of Randomly Yours, Alex) and Katharine (of the unpronounceable Ventureadlaxre), as they re-watch the Australian-American sci-fi show Farscape, notable for the Jim Henson animatronic puppets, the excellent mish-mash of accents, and the best OTP ship of all time.

Times Aeryn saves the day: 3

Times John saves the day: 5

Times Zhaan saves the day: 1

References Star Wars: 1

Times John compares someplace to Earth: 1

Season One, Episode Thirteen: The Flax

As always, when things go wrong they go wrong in multiple areas all at once. A simple flying lesson turns much more deadly when Aeryn and Crichton get stuck in The Flax, and all they have to rely on to help them in a ‘garbage connoisseur’.

 

 

 

K: Aeryn is trying to teach Crichton how to pilot one of the shuttles, to half-baked results, however he is happy enough – she reckons she’ll kill him if he pilots so poorly again.

 

A: this is hilarious and of course it’s basically a driving lesson, which is always dangerous.

K: Everyone’s getting a bit tetchy due to Moya’s pregnancy somehow. I’m not entirely sure what’s so bad – if they’ve managed to find an empty bit of space surely life ain’t so bad.

 

A: Or they’re just wandering along and happened across it?

K: Aeryn says that someday Crichton may be vaguely useful, which is almost a compliment, and then everything goes to shit. Probably literally.

 

A: An invisible THING pulling them in?? Oh no!

And the credits tell me RHYS MULDOON is going to be in this episode!!  (HAWT)

I love that Pilot makes a screeching noise to make everyone shut up.



K: Just what we need. More Aussie ratbags who look like rejects from Red Dwarf. Most Aussies will know Muldoon from all the usual Aussie things like Water Rats but also my absolute favourite show as a kid – Genie from Down Under. He was Bruce! Anyway, now he’s a ‘garbage connoisseur’ apparently. He knows all about some Flax thing that’s an invisible web left by pirates that totally locks down a ship but leaves it otherwise in good order.

 

A: MULDOON! With awesome hair. But without the sense he should have been born with, to not recognise that Rygel is playing him. Although given he has a criminal record, perhaps he might have some intelligence… I do love that their worldmakers have gone so far as to create a game and actually show them playing.

 

K: And he has no boy bits apparently.  

 

A: AHAHA damn. “We’re not exactly cut from the standard mould” – HA! Just another alien, right?

 

K: I find it interesting that Peacekeepers consider tech work beneath them, to the point where if they crash or otherwise get in technical trouble, they just wait until they can take over another ship and continue on their merry murdering way. Strangely ineffective. Still, she doesn’t seem to think too poorly of John having a go at tech work.

 

A: yeh, I think that’s one of the interesting changes in Aeryn, is her being more willing to do the science type stuff. And yes, the Peacekeeper attitude is truly inefficient.

K: D’Argo makes a deal with the dodgy Aussie. Never a good idea.

 

A: NOTHING dodgy about Muldoon, dude.

The graphics are pretty awful.

 

K: More so than usual. And then John and Aeryn set to make their way back, to again, limited results and sudden fire. I would have thought fire is the number one you don’t want to happen in space. Chris Hadfield said!

 

A: There’s a lot of being thrown around a confined space so far in this episode. Aeryn is prepared to joke at this stage regarding chopping off her own foot?? I love her.

 

K: Rygel continues to be useless.

 

A: And Zhaan is showing a much lower level of tolerance for Rygel’s crap. Also, Muldoon is basically saying he’s a Womble – picking up what other people discard and making it useful…

 

K: At least we get a chance to see Zhaan bamboozle some pirates.

 

A: I really like that D’Argo is worried about Moya. Pity Rygel is stoned and even more stupid than usual.

K: Aeryn and John discuss options, and I’d just been thinking that while they’d been throwing themselves around the ship in their many crashes they hadn’t somehow found a chance to fall on each other. Third time’s the charm? Get him a pillow, Aeryn!

 

A: John looks both uncomfortable and somewhat intrigued.

K: Aeryn literally puts her life in Crichton’s hands

 

A: which is adorable and COLD.

 

K: Meanwhile, everyone else relies on none other than Rygel. No matter what, we’re not marking this episode down as a win for Rygel.

Or not! Oh, finally fire is mentioned as important. Good.

 

A: I love Aeryn’s awareness of how she works: just give me a number and I’ll do it!

K: Goodness they’re all grumpy. And John seems way more freaked out about being in Aeryn’s hands than she was in his. Peacekeepers are athiests, eh?

 

A: I love Aeryn’s dismissal of the idea of learning CPR – far too complicated! – and then I realised that John was going to physically show Aeryn and ahaha and then we cut to D’Argo and Rhys. Pft.

How did Rhys get clear of the Flax? That makes zero sense.

It makes sense that Peacekeepers are atheists. If nothing else, it would be pretty taxing for the writers to create a believable belief system…

 

K: Rygel is reckless. And is that Aeryn’s own voice counting down?

 

A: Rygel is a jackass. And it probably is Aeryn – again with budget! – isn’t Pilot voiced by D’Argo or something? I forget.

K: Aeryn fails to make the repairs, John almost dies, Rygel fails to win the game, D’Argo fails to be a decent Luxon… the list goes on.

 

A: Amongst the more dramatic episodes of the show.And Rygel just gets worse and worse. Although I guess by giving up Rhys and D’Argo’s location, he was fulfilling his bet.  

Rygel was BLUFFING?! On behalf of Moya and everyone else?!



K: As John and Aeryn huddle together for warmth, Aeryn admits she doesn’t want to die alone despite her training to live and work and fight and die alone. And then a kiss because why not. One that looks quite uncomfortable in those suits with those collars so – oh, sure, fine, take them off then. I thought you were cold!

 

A: Just listen to that rising triumphal music. NAW.

 

K: D’Argo is like the worst parent ever.

 

A: And AHAHA D’Argo arrives at exactly the right moment. Magnificent. This is going to be THE most awkward thing in the world, going forward.

K: N’aww, I love you too, Bruce!

 

A: NAW Rhys! I am amused by how incapable D’Argo is of dealing with this, although it is rather indicative of homophobia, I think.

K: It is, a bit.

 

A: Eh.

K: Aww, how adorable, Aeryn and John are trying to deny their intent for some reason. ‘Female of your species’, John, really? Why does it even matter. Eugh, get to the tongue vial things already. (I think it’s like a season away?)

 

A: Kinda cute, kinda silly, foreboding for more possible interaction in future.

 

In summary, I’d trust Aeryn anyday.

 

Join us next week for episode eleven, Jeremiah Crichton

2016 – August

August was pretty full on. People away at work, trying to get things done in general, the year slipping by too quickly, and a milestone birthday at the start of September. How dire!

Onto the novels read in August!

Sisters of the Fire (Blood and Gold #2)

Sisters of the Fire by Kim Wilkins was a book I’ve been looking forward to so dang bad. The first in the series, Daughters of the Storm, was so amazing. Countless strong female characters, varied layers of good and complex and evil, and everyone out for their own gain. Or doing what they think is for the best, to mixed results.

This book is so good that it’s stressful to read, because as you see the pages dwindling away, and as the plot unfolds around you at the very end you’re so damn worried for so many characters and you worry Wilkins will take your favourites away from you. Rowan is quickly growing to be a favourite – as epic as Bluebell, yet also scarily patient. I can’t wait to see how she develops.

My full review can be found here.

Asymmetry (Twelve Planets book 8)

Asymmetry by Thoraiya Dyer was read for the current Twelve Planets read/review a book a month challenge we’re doing this year. This is one of the 12PP books I haven’t yet got around to reading, and I wasn’t disappointed – it’s beyond excellent. This is the eighth book in the Twelve Planets series, which showcase the talent of female Australian authors.

You can read my full review here.

Cold-Forged Flame

Cold-Forged Flame by Marie Brennan is just as interesting and versatile and easy to lose yourself in as her Lady Trent series. The characters are developed and utterly their own in so few pages, and this is exactly what a novella should be – self contained and satisfying without feeling rushed, but also makes you wish it were longer because it’s just so enjoyable.

What I was most impressed with in this novella is how everything turned out. Our unnamed main character seeks and strives, yet makes dedicated and impressive choices, that shows she is either vastly intelligent, or of a good heart, or both. This type of thing is warming to read, and you can’t help but smile.

You can read my full review here.

The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Novellas 2016

The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Novellas 2016 edited by Paula Guran contained nine novellas in total.

Novellas are currently my favourite thing. Longer than a short story so you get some meaty character development and/or world building, but only need half an hour to a few hours to lose yourself in before it sets you free to go flail about it to a friend.

This is a collection of the best of the best, and it shows. Highly recommended.

You can read my full review here.

The PaulandStormonomicon

The PaulandStormonomicon by Storm DiCostanzo was disappointing after such a long wait. It was a add-on in a kickstarter I backed and hence, fairly cheap, but still. Eh.

A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers #2)

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers was one of my highest anticipated books, after absolutely loving The Long Way to Small, Angry Planet which my friend Bethwyn won for me on instagram. I absolutely loved this book just as much as the first, and highly recommend them both to anyone – though this book isn’t out until October. Both books could easily be stand-alone and the reader would feel content. They’re so well written though, that the reader will grab them both and more as soon as they’re released, and still look forward to the next. This is such a lovely, heart-felt and detailed and dedicated series that I’m getting even more excited to see what the author has for us next.

You can read my full review here.

~

August was all about a holiday I’m now currently on – writing this in mid August (and will add to it if I finish anymore books!), I fly out to New Zealand on the 27th August for a meet up with a group of girls from high school. Twelve years on, and we’re still just as crazy and everything’s exactly the same as it was back then. Except better, as now we have adult money rather than just savings from in between exam peak times. We’ve seen different parts of the world, two of the six of us are married and even the crazy ones who became doctors etc have finally finished the many, many years of study. We’ve even hired a hot spa at our holiday house, c’mon, how awesome is that!