Update: Quidditch, Halloween reads and The Maze Runner

Lovely readers!

It’s been too long. My life is getting busier and busier and I’ve been thinking about making my blog more personal for a while now. That’s why I’ve decided to do these update posts to let you know what’s been going on in my life, what I’m reading, which reviews/interviews/guest posts are coming up and all sorts of other stuff like that. I actually have loads to tell you all!

Quidditch

10659196_791606634215820_6403797526615090014_nYes, the sport from the Harry Potter books and movies. And also, no, not entirely like that. But it’s real. It’s a legit sport and I’m a legit quidditch player. There are lots of awesome youtube videos online if you’re not really sure what I’m talking about or if you want to see what it’s all about. I’m PR and Social Media responsible for my team in Ghent, the Ghent Gargoyles, and I’m Communication Director for the Belgian Quidditch Federation. This means I’ve had a massive amount of work for the Belgian quidditch community. Some highlights: I organised, together with my team, a booth and demonstrations at the biggest SFF convention in Belgium. It was an awesome weekend, very tiring, but absolutely amazing. To top it off, a television crew spotted and approached us with an idea for a new program. It did mean that I had extra work because I had to organise a match where a known Belgian ‘celebrity’ would participate. In january my face will be on national television. I don’t really know how I feel about that yet. I might lock myself up with a book the night that program airs.

10325529_10204721537629062_4132887284751912075_n

Look at me gooo!

 

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Belgian television guy!

 

Movies 

mzr_imax_poster_smMe and my movie/banter pal went to see The Maze Runner last week! I haven’t read the books yet, but I enjoyed the movie. It has a Hunger Games feel to it, but it’s different enough to be entertaining and fun to watch. I also LOVE Dylan O’Brien as an actor, so that made for a favourable opinion as well. I now really want to read the books. My friend started reading them – correction, devouring them – and she’s made me curious. I think this will be my next investment!

 

This week the teaser trailer for the new Avengers movie, Avengers: Age of Ultron, was released as well and it’s. So. Good. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch it now! If you have seen it, I’m sure you can’t resist to watch it again ;-)

 

Books

Irenicon by Aidan HarteThe Unquiet House by Alison LittlewoodI’m currently reading two books: ‘Irenicon’ by Aidan Harte, which is the first book in the featured series I chose. I like the ideas and the worldbuilding in this book. It took me a while to get in to the story, but overall I’m now really enjoying it.
I’m also reading the first one of my Halloween reads: ‘The Unquiet House’ by Alison Littlewood. It’s creepy. I’m alone here in my studio and I mostly read at night, in the dark…

 

What’s coming up?

Next on the TBR list is the second book in the featured series: ‘The Warring States’ by Aidan Harte. There’s also the second book I chose as my Halloween reads this year: ‘Salem’s Lot’ by Stephen King. Other books that are near the top of the list are ‘Native Silver’ by Blake Hausladen and ‘Murder’ by Sarah Pinborough.

Reviews coming up: ‘Blood Will Follow’ by Snorri Kristjansson, ‘Traitor’s Heir’ by Anna Thayer and ‘The Leopard’ by K.V. Johansen.

Other upcoming posts: keep your eyes peeled for an interview and a giveaway!

Halloween reads

I can’t believe we’re already almost halfway through October! As some of you might know, I’m moving to the UK for a few months next year and the closer it gets, the more excited I am. Only 3,5 months left in Belgium :-)

Now, we all know that October also means: Halloween! We don’t celebrate it as much as the people in the US and UK do, but we do eat candy and I used to help and dress up for a ‘horror’ tour in the woods for the kids in our town. Last year I tried to read a horror book for Halloween and failed. This year I want to do better and read two!

 

Salem’s Lot – Stephen King

9917996‘Salem’s Lot is a small New England town with white clapboard houses, tree-lined streets, and solid church steeples. That summer in ‘Salem’s Lot was a summer of home-coming and return; spring burned out and the land lying dry, crackling underfoot. Late that summer, Ben Mears returned to ‘Salem’s Lot hoping to cast out his own devils… and found instead a new unspeakable horror.

A stranger had also come to the Lot, a stranger with a secret as old as evil, a secret that would wreak irreparable harm on those he touched and in turn on those they loved.

All would be changed forever—Susan, whose love for Ben could not protect her; Father Callahan, the bad priest who put his eroded faith to one last test; and Mark, a young boy who sees his fantasy world become reality and ironically proves the best equipped to handle the relentless nightmare of ‘Salem’s Lot.

 

The Unquiet House – Alison Littlewood

20989321Mire House is dreary, dark, cold and infested with midges. But when Emma Dean inherits it from a distant relation, she immediately feels a sense of belonging.

It isn’t long before Charlie Mitchell, grandson of the original owner, appears claiming that he wants to seek out his family. But Emma suspects he’s more interested in the house than his long-lost relations.

And when she starts seeing ghostly figures, Emma begins to wonder: is Charlie trying to scare her away, or are there darker secrets lurking in the corners of Mire House?

 

 

I have only read ‘The Shining’ by Stephen King, so I’m practically a Stephen King newbie. I got lots of his book from the book fair last year and haven’t gotten around to reading any of them. Now seems like the perfect time to read one!
The Unquiet House by Alison Littlewood was on my wish list for 2014, because it’s about a haunted house. I have a weak spot for haunted houses, they creep me out. I’m that kind of person that loves watching horror movies but has to have ALL the lights on when going to bed after the movie. I love horror, but I hate it.

Have you read one of these? What did you think? Scary enough for this Halloween?

Featured Series: The Wave Trilogy – Aidan Harte

I’ve had a bit of a break from the Featured Series on the blog, because of a crazy summer and the start of the new academic year. I’m slowly back to my normal routine now and I think it’s time for another series that’s been on my shelf for far too long!
This time I’ve chosen for Aidan Harte’s The Wave Trilogy, published by Jo Fletcher Books. I’ve been interested in these three gorgeous looking books for a while, but haven’t had the chance to read them yet, because my life has taken a turn for the crazy lately.

I’m really excited to start this trilogy and I’d love to hear your thoughts along the way!

 

Book I: Irenicon

untitledThe river Irenicon was blasted through the middle of Rasenna in 1347 and now it is a permanent reminder to the feuding factions that nothing can stand in the way of the Concordian Empire. The artificial river, created overnight by Concordian engineers using the Wave, runs uphill. But the Wave is both weapon and mystery; not even the Concordians know how the river became conscious – and hostile.

But times are changing. Concordian engineer Captain Giovanni is ordered to bridge the Irenicon – not to reunite the sundered city, but to aid Concord’s mighty armies, for the engineers have their sights set firmly on world domination and Rasenna is in their way.

Sofia Scaglieri will soon be seventeen, when she will become Contessa of Rasenna, but her inheritance is tainted: she can see no way of stopping the ancient culture of vendetta which divides her city. What she can’t understand is why Giovanni is trying so hard to stop the feuding, or why he is prepared to risk his life, not just with her people, but also with the lethal water spirits – the buio – that infest the Irenicon.

Times are changing. And only the young Contessa and the enemy engineer Giovanni understand they have to change too, if they are to survive the coming devastation – for Concord is about to unleash the Wave again…

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City of Stairs – Robert Jackson Bennett

23003529Release date: October 2nd, 2014
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Age Group: Adult
Pages: 420
Format: Hardcover
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

You’ve got to be careful when you’re chasing a murderer through Bulikov, for the world is not as it should be in that city. When the gods were destroyed and all worship of them banned by the Polis, reality folded; now stairs lead to nowhere, alleyways have become portals to the past, and criminals disappear into thin air.

The murder of Dr Efrem Pangyui, the Polis diplomat researching the Continent’s past, has begun something and now whispers of an uprising flutter out from invisible corners. Only one woman may be willing to pursue the truth – but it is likely to cost her everything.

Review:

With all the glowing reviews for this books, it wasn’t easy not to have immense expectation when I got a chance to read it myself. But I wasn’t disappointed, at all! The book might take off a bit slow, but it’s got such a strong world building and interesting characters that it won’t let you go.
I absolutely love books like this and I’d been craving one just like it for a while now. I mean, City of Stairs has it all: Gods, magical creatures and divine objects, an immersive world, a rich and fascinating history behind it all and to top it all off: a murder to solve.

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Gleam – The Factory Trilogy #1 – Tom Fletcher

GleamRelease date: September 4th, 2014
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Age Group: Adult
Pages: 400
Format: Hardcover
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

The gargantuan Factory of Gleam is an ancient, hulking edifice of stone, metal and glass ruled over by chaste alchemists and astronomer priests.

As millennia have passed, the population has decreased, and now only the central district is fully inhabited and operational; the outskirts have been left for the wilderness to reclaim. This decaying, lawless zone is the Discard; the home of Wild Alan.

Clever, arrogant, and perpetually angry, Wild Alan is both loved and loathed by the Discard’s misfits. He’s convinced that the Gleam authorities were behind the disaster that killed his parents and his ambition is to prove it. But he’s about to uncover more than he bargained for.

Review:

This book turned out to be something completely different than what I expected. ‘Gleam’ is a fascinating story about a world with two extreme, opposing sides. The Discard is a place of chaos, survival, crime and violence, but a place where everyone makes their own choices. The Pyramid is a highly controlled structure, where people live a comfortable life, but aren’t allowed to step out of line or ask questions. Tom made a richly described new world to get lost in and it’s one you’ve never read before. He also made some interesting choices for his characters.

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Guest Post: ‘Good Vs Evil’ by Michelle L. Johnson

Michelle JohnsonGood vs. Evil is a common theme in fiction. After all, without it where would all of our beloved superhero stories be, from Superman to Batman? The inner struggle of those characters, the good vs. evil within themselves, is a large part of what makes them interesting.

In my novel DIVINITY, though, don’t assume that the traditional good vs. evil, angel vs. evil, rules apply. They don’t.
Every character – angel, human, and even the terrifying A’nwel – has an agenda. They each have a role to play, and a purpose that guides their actions.

When our main character Julia discovers that she is half-human and half Archangel, her agenda is to simply understand who she is, to learn about her family, and to understand how to use her own unique powers. Her agenda quickly converges with those of the Archangels, each of whom have their own sense of who Julia is and what she might become, and her human family, friend and business associates, each of whom wants or needs something from Julia as well.

The Archangels in the world I have created are more interested in keeping a balance between good and evil than in destroying evil. They understand that evil is a natural part of humanity, and each Archangel has a role to play to ensure that balance is maintained.
Then, there’s the A’nwel, the dark and terrifying creature that our heroine, Julia, must face. It has immense power, and frightens the Archangels because they can’t see it, nor have they ever encountered anything like it before. It threatens to destroy the balance in humanity that the Archangels strive to protect. Only Julia can see it, and only Julia has the power to confront it.

(Let’s be clear now: the A’nwel is not the devil, nor a demon, nor anything we traditionally think of as evil. There are no devils or demons in DIVINITY. I was very careful to steer away from the traditional “if it fights with the angels it must be of the devil” theme.)

As the story develops, we get to know each character and discover the many aspects of each character’s agenda. What makes DIVINITY so much fun is watching as the different agendas intersect. We discover that each agenda isn’t inherently good or evil, but that how the characters see it – how you as the reader see it –defines a character or an action as good or evil.

Imagine, if you will, a chess board on a swivel. Chess masters use them a lot to practice their game by playing against themselves. If one side is white and one side is black, does that mean that they are good and evil? Or can it just mean that they each have the desire to win, and so they will play with their agenda in mind.

So when I write from any character’s perspective, I swivel the board around to see the game from their point of view. I believe this makes for well-rounded characters. Human characters – even when they’re not. This approach to writing gives me a unique ability to see what each character wants and what they need to do in order to get where they want to go.

What I didn’t count on when I started writing was the number of characters playing the game. My chessboard has many sides to it. Each character’s moves ripple across the board, interacting with the moves of others, in surprising and unpredictable ways, ways that I hope make the reader wonder if good or evil really exists, or if we all see things based on our own agenda.


Michelle L. Johnson was born in Ohio and adopted by Canadians. They traveled all over North America, and when they weren’t on the road Michelle could be found with her nose buried deeply in the pages of a book. With all of her travels and adventures, she hopes to bring some of her unique perspective to the pages and to entertain others the way all of her heroes have for her. When she’s not hanging out with her feathered friends, she’s busy being a literary agent with Inklings Literary Agency. She says wherever she hangs her coffee mug is her home, and right now that’s a toasty warm Jacksonville, Florida with her happy Cocker Spaniel and her small family.

About the book:

DivintyWhen Julia climbs into a flaming car to save a trapped child, she’s left wondering why either of them survived. Then she learns that her father is the Archangel Gabriel, and that she is half human, half Archangel. With guidance from Michael, the most powerful Archangel, Julia sets out to discover her own history and explore her angelic powers. But her journey is cut short when an evil force, invisible to human and angel alike, tears her world apart. Now Julia must fight through her despair, harness her newfound gifts, and risk her very soul to stop the A’nwel and protect the family she never knew she had. What she doesn’t know is that Archangels have secrets too.

Divinity hits shelves on the 23rd of September.

 

Our Lady of the Streets – The Skyscraper Throne #3 – Tom Pollock

Our Lady of the StreetsRelease date: August 7th, 2014
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Age Group: Adult
Pages: 438
Format: Hardcover
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Four months ago, Mater Viae, the Goddess of London, returned from London-Under- Glass to reclaim her throne. And ever since then, London has been dying.

Streets are wracked by convulsions as muscles of wire and pipe go into spasm, bunching the city into a crippled new geography; pavements flare to thousand-degree fevers, incinerating anyone and anything touching them. Towers crash to the ground, their foundations decayed.

As the streets sicken, so does Beth, drawn ever deeper into the heart of the city, while Pen fights desperately for a way to save her. But when they discover that Mater Viae’s plans for dominion stretch far beyond London’s borders, they must make a choice: Beth has it within her to unleash the city’s oldest and greatest powers – powers that could challenge the vengeful goddess, or destroy the city itself.

Review:

This is the last book of the Skyscraper Throne trilogy and with every last book in a series I go in with heaps of questions. Will I like the ending the author has come up with? Will it be a happy ending, sad, satisfying, disappointing? I’m always excited and anxious to find out, especially if it’s the end to a series I really liked, like this one.
We’ve been on quite a journey with Beth and Pen, seen so many magnificent and unimaginable things through their eyes and we’ve learned so much along the way, about friendship, about equality and about the fact that appearance isn’t important at all. With Our Lady of the Streets I honestly couldn’t have wished for a more perfect end to this trilogy.

Pollock has packed his last book in the trilogy full of action, new aspects of his imaginative London and gut-wrenching emotions. I was glad to see many of the interesting characters we met in the previous two books making an appearance in this one, though there might be a few surprises when it becomes clear who’s siding with who.

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The Barrow – The Barrow #1 – Mark Smylie

The BarrowRelease date: March 4th, 2014
Publisher: Pyr
Age Group: Adult
Pages: 613
Format: Paperback
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Action, horror, politics, and sensuality combine in this stand-alone fantasy novel with series potential. Set in the world of the Eisner-nominated Artesia comic books.

To find the Sword, unearth the Barrow. To unearth the Barrow, follow the Map.

When a small crew of scoundrels, would-be heroes, deviants, and ruffians discover a map that they believe will lead them to a fabled sword buried in the barrow of a long-dead wizard, they think they’ve struck it rich. But their hopes are dashed when the map turns out to be cursed and then is destroyed in a magical ritual. The loss of the map leaves them dreaming of what might have been, until they rediscover the map in a most unusual and unexpected place.

Stjepan Black-Heart, suspected murderer and renegade royal cartographer; Erim, a young woman masquerading as a man; Gilgwyr, brothel owner extraordinaire; Leigh, an exiled magus under an ignominious cloud; Godewyn Red-Hand, mercenary and troublemaker; Arduin Orwain, scion of a noble family brought low by scandal; and Arduin’s sister Annwyn, the beautiful cause of that scandal: together they form a cross-section of the Middle Kingdoms of the Known World, brought together by accident and dark design, on a quest that will either get them all in the history books, or get them all killed.

Review:

‘The Barrow’ is an epic fantasy adventure, set in the world of the Artesia comic books, by the same author and illustrator, Mark Smylie. For those of you who are familiar with the Artesia comic books, ‘The Barrow’ follow Artesia’s brother, Stjepan, on a dangerous quest to retrieve a fabled sword from the tomb of notorious Demon King. The story is some sort of prequel to the Artesia comic books and is as such accessible for new readers. If you don’t know anything about the comic books, as I did when I first started this book, you’ll have no trouble following or enjoying the story at all. Artesia herself only makes a few brief appearances in this novel, but if I’ve heard correctly, we’ll learn more about her in the sequel to ‘The Barrow’.

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Spotlight: ‘Return of the Wizard King’ by Chad Corrie

About the book

rotwkuscoveraAfter nearly eight centuries, the last wizard king seeks a return to Tralodren. But doing so requires the manipulation of some mercenaries oblivious to his goals.

The gladiator sold his soul for revenge. The knight’s a bigot. The dwarf only cares about regaining his honor. Even the wizardess seems too bookish for anyone’s good. But they’ve all been hired by a blind seer and his assistant to retrieve some forgotten knowledge kept hidden away in some jungle-strangled ruins.

Get in. Get out. Get paid. At least that’s what they thought. Instead, they uncover hidden agendas and ancient power struggles threatening to take the world to the brink of annihilation.

Welcome to Tralodren, a world rich in history, faith, and tales of adventure 
of which this story is but one of many.

 

“Here be roaring monsters to be fought, characters who come vividly to life,
and fell magic… A wild ride. Highly recommended.”
–Ed Greenwood
New York Times Bestselling Author, Creator of The Forgotten Realms

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Spotlight: ‘The Flood Dragon’s Sacrifice’ by Sarah Ash

About the book:

The Flood Dragon's Sacrifice

With artwork from Marcelle Natisin

A special spotlight today! I met Sarah Ash at LonCon3 last week (yay!) and she told me she had released her new book ‘The Flood Dragon’s Sacrifice’ earlier this year. I really love Sarah’s work, so I’m quite excited about this one. Sarah’s also one of the sweetest authors I’ve ever met and her books were the first I reviewed on this blog, back when it was still in Dutch, so her work is special to me! Be sure to check out her other books as well!

Synopsis:

Two rival clans. Two sacred pearls, the Tide Jewels, that can summon the Tide Dragons to protect the empire. Two young men, Kaito and Naoki, one a Black Crane healer, the other a Red Kite shinobi, are sucked into an ancient, unresolved conflict between the gods of land and sea, when the exiled Red Kites steal the Tide Jewels and re-ignite a bitter clan war. Kaito must find a way to restore the emperor’s jewels – but how can it be done without betraying his own clan or angering the gods?

Interested? Go and buy it over here, here or here!

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