A Pocketful of Crows by Joanne M. Harris

pocketfulI loved A Pocketful of Crows, it’s a darkly woven fairy tale of love and revenge based on a poem called ‘The Child Ballads’.

Joanne Harris is one of my favourite authors and I must say that this is probably one of my favourite pieces of work by her so far, perhaps not surprising in that I do love a dark fairytale, and I’m also rather partial to anything that Ms Harris writes, but, this piece of work is rather exceptional and I will definitely pick up a copy of the illustrated version once it becomes available.

This is only a fairly short read, well approximately 250 pages or thereabouts, and so I practically devoured it in one day – and then deeply regretted it because I didn’t want the book to end (that’s what rereads are for you know).  It’s beautifully written but more than that it’s evocative, the characters and the woodlands spring to life off the page, there’s a strange feeling of whimsy but the author has brought into focus that sense of menace and darkness that is the root of many fairytales and yet is so often lost in the pursuit of sugary sweetness.

The plot basically revolves around love.  The main character, a wild young girl, one of the travelling/free folk who lives in the forest, finds herself in love with the laird of the manor.  In spite of warnings she embarks on a relationship with this young man, who is intrigued by her unconventional beauty and wild demeanour.  Of course he makes many promises and believing his sweet words she eventually finds herself changing in order to please him.  At first this involves only small things, taking a maid to help her dress, modifying her ways, wearing shoes and jewels, but the final straw is the taking on of a name.  Naming is ‘taming’ and once she agrees to this her nature is contained much like the caged bird that she has become.  Unsurprisingly the young noble eventually tires of his now tamed lover and moves on to find himself another young woman to whisper sweet nothings to.  There’s an old saying about hell having no fury like a woman scorned and this story certainly gives meaning to that old saying.  I won’t say more about the plot.

In terms of the characters, the nameless woman of the story makes for great reading.  Wild spirited and at one with nature she can transport herself into the bodies of the birds and animals of the forest, feeling, feeding and travelling as they do she makes absolutely fascinating reading.  I did feel sorry for her as she became lulled by love’s young dream.  There was no shortage of warnings and yet she placed all her faith into the charming young laird who was very quick to be rid of her when his guardian returned to the castle.  Her journey from there, well at first is one of disbelief, swiftly followed by anger at everything she’s lost and finally revenge.  From there on she becomes a much wilder and darker version of her former self. The majority of the other characters are perhaps quite not as engaging or well developed but they play their parts well.  The other character who does stand out, for me anyway, is Hawthorn –  I’ll leave the detail for you to discover for yourselves.

The writing is excellently done.  It has a lyrical sort of feel to it which totally belies the dark nature of the story.  The author has a wonderful way with words that makes it easy to envision the forest, the cold, the fear, the hunger, and even the warmth of the wolves who help our young protagonist to bear the cold of the winter months.  The story gradually works it’s way through the seasons of the year and the chapters are headed with a short poem or wise saying which really brings an extra level of poetry to the reading.  As with all fairytales there is a message to the ending which I thought came together in a surprising and satisfying way plus a good look at the inability of people to accept something or someone that they don’t really understand or is in any way different from the norm.

Basically, I thoroughly enjoyed this.  Joanne Harris is a wonderful story teller and bringing together a delicious combination of fairytale and mythology told in her lovely prose is an excellent idea and a delight to read.  Highly recommended if you fancy a dark tale to curl up with on a wintery night.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

 

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Weekly Wrap Up: 8/10/17

Posted On 8 October 2017

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Another good week, hope you’ve all had fun.  I’ve not read everything I hoped but I think I was being a bit ambitious.  I have a few reviews to write, I also have an update for my last batch of SPFBO books and need to also outline my next batch.  My reads last week:

  1. Deadlands by Seanan McGuire
  2. The Crow Garden by Alison Littlewood

A bit ambitious maybe, but lets just see how it goes.

This week I’m hoping to read:

  1. The Stone in the Skull by Elizabeth Bear
  2. The Tiger’s Daughter by K Arsenault Rivera

Hope you have a lot of good reading to look forward to.

Let me know what you’re reading.

‘.. If he wasn’t fathered by the black ram in the full of the moon my name is not Ragnar’

Posted On 6 October 2017

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FFO.jpg

Here we are again with the Friday Face Off meme created by Books by Proxy .   This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite book covers.  The rules are fairly simple each week, following a predetermined theme (list below) choose a book, compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future week’s themes are listed below. This week’s theme:

‘Then let the crabs be cursed by Odin’ – a cover featuring a Viking ‘

I had a few books in mind for this one but when I checked they didn’t have alternative covers, so another tough week!  I’ve gone for : The Grim Company (Grim Company #1) by Luke Scull.  Strictly speaking these covers aren’t really vikings – although they could be right?

viking 2

Which is your favourite?

Next week – a cover featuring a Dragon

Future themes:

13th October 2017 – You have nice manners for a thief, and a LIAR!’  – a cover with a dragon

20th October 2017 – ‘Me and my….’ – a cover featuring a Shadow

27th October 2017 – “Thus with a kiss I die” – a cover featuring a couple

3rd November 2017 – ‘Desperate affairs require desperate measures’ – a regency style cover

10th November 2017 – ‘zip it, lock it and throw away the key – a cover featuring a key

17th November 2017 – Snap! – a cover featuring a double image or reflection

24th November 2017 – ‘I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently’ – a cover featuring snow

1st December 2017 – The pen is mightier than the sword – a cover featuring a fancy font

8th December 2017 – ‘Do not go gentle’ – a cover featuring the night…

15th December 2017 – Hubble bubble toil and trouble – a cover featuring a portion/perfume bottle

The Rules of Magic (Practical Magic 0) by Alice Hoffman

I confess I wish I had Alice Hoffman’s way with words so that I could review this book in a way which it deserves.  Perhaps I could seek a charm to improve my ability to conjure the best things to say to entice you to pick this up.  As it is, well, I’ll have to make do and just gush profusely at every opportunity because as much as I expected to love this book, having read a good few books by this author previously, this still exceeded my expectations in every way.

Beautifully written, this story has a light, almost ethereal touch.  It tells the story of three children born into a family with a curse and looks at the ways in which they try to overcome the limitations they face and at the same time come to terms with who they really are.  Strong character focus is key to the story.  The characters are wonderfully developed and I simply couldn’t help falling in love with them a little (okay a lot).  Hoffman sketches them in an easy way, making it appear effortless, which is far from the truth.  The story builds with a sense of ‘impending doom’ and the fact that the characters are so enjoyable to read about just helps to increase the sense of foreboding that you feel as you read on.  On top of that this is well paced and enchanting.  There’s a whimsical feel to it all particularly in terms of the times and places depicted.  Those are my immediate feelings, now for a little bit more.

In terms of plot.  Hundreds of years ago the Owens family were cursed.  The history of why and how will be explored in good time but in the meantime this is a look at one particular branch of the Owen’s family tree.  Susanna Owens removed her three children to New York, where she lives with her husband, many years ago.  Susanna is desperate for them to enjoy a regular childhood, she knows they’re different and realises how dangerous this can be.  Susanna has many strict rules about what the children can and can’t do but no matter how much she exerts her authority their own natures will eventually surface.  Franny, Jet and Vincent are the three children and their stories make for wonderful reading as we watch them struggle with their abilities, their differences and their desires.  It’s difficult to go into great depth really.  This isn’t a story that can easily be elaborated upon as ultimately it’s a coming of age tale.  Each of the characters has their own individual storyline, although they’re all intertwined, but what comes across really strongly is the strength of feeling that they share as a family and this is something that holds strong throughout.

The three of them finally begin to make their own voyages of discovery when they first visit their aunt in Massachusetts.  The people in the village where Aunt Isabelle lives believe the stories of witchcraft and fear the Owen’s family, at the same time they all, from time to time, pay visits to the family home in search of more than tea and sympathy As soon as the three arrive things start to fall into place.  Vincent is the first to embrace who he really is with the two sisters following at their own reluctant pace until they finally reveal the extent of their own family gifts and discover the truth behind the family curse.

Now, I realise I’ve probably made this all sound very tame and I’m certainly not going to pretend this is an action packed, war filled adventure because it isn’t.  It’s a magical tale, written with style and compelling to read.  I cold barely put this down and must have read it in two days at the most, even though I was at the same time desperate for it not to finish.

For information, The Rules of Magic is a prequel to Practical Magic.  I think I can confidently say that you could read this without having read the earlier book – in fact, if you haven’t read Practical Magic you could pick it up when you finish this one.

I loved this, it has such incredible heart and soul,  The characters are wonderful and I adore stories about witchcraft.  I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending.

I received a copy courtesy of the publisher for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

 

 

 

Waiting on Wednesday : The Lost Plot (The Invisible Library #4) by Genevieve Cogman

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was created by Breaking the Spine.  Every Wednesday we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : The Lost Plot (The Invisible Library #4) by Genevieve Cogman.  I am loving this series and can’t wait for this book.

the lost plotAfter being commissioned to find a rare book, Librarian Irene and her assistant, Kai, head to Prohibition-era New York and are thrust into the middle of a political fight with dragons, mobsters, and Fae.

In a 1920s-esque New York, Prohibition is in force; fedoras, flapper dresses, and tommy guns are in fashion: and intrigue is afoot. Intrepid Librarians Irene and Kai find themselves caught in the middle of a dragon political contest. It seems a young Librarian has become tangled in this conflict, and if they can’t extricate him, there could be serious repercussions for the mysterious Library. And, as the balance of power across mighty factions hangs in the balance, this could even trigger war.

Irene and Kai are locked in a race against time (and dragons) to procure a rare book. They’ll face gangsters, blackmail, and the Library’s own Internal Affairs department. And if it doesn’t end well, it could have dire consequences on Irene’s job. And, incidentally, on her life…

Due for publication January 2018

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