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Book Review: A Time of Courage (Of Blood and Bone, #3) by John Gwynne

Book Review: A Time of Courage (Of Blood and Bone, #3) by John Gwynne

ARC provided by the publisher—Pan Macmillan—in exchange for an honest review.

A Time of Courage by John Gwynne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: Of Blood and Bone (Book #3 of 3)

Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy

Pages: 672 pages (UK hardback edition)

Published: 2nd April 2020 by Pan Macmillan (UK) & 7th April 2020 by Orbit (US)


A Time of Courage is one of the best final books to a series I’ve ever read in my life. It was truly a bittersweet, satisfying, and masterfully crafted finale to conclude Of Blood and Bone and the entirety of The Banished Lands saga.

Permit me to start this review with words from Gwynne himself:

“So, finally we come to the end of this series, and with it, the end of the Banished Land’s tales. Although Of Blood and Bone is a trilogy that can be read as a standalone series, it is also the final chapter of a longer history that involves the four books from The Faithful and the Fallen series. When read together they form around a one-hundred-and-fifty-year history of the Banished Lands, and a sizeable chunk of my life. Roughly seventeen years have flown by, I think, since lifting my pen and writing down my first ideas. I hope that you’ve enjoyed your time spent here, and that this book feels like a fitting and satisfying conclusion to all that has gone before.”

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Book Review: Age of Death (The Legends of the First Empire, #5)

Book Review: Age of Death (The Legends of the First Empire, #5)

Age of Death by Michael J. Sullivan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: The Legends of the First Empire (Book 5 of 6)

Genre: Fantasy, high fantasy, classic fantasy

Published: 4th February 2020 (Grim Oak Press)


Age of Death took an astounding turn in the direction of the overall story, and it was brilliant!

This book is aptly titled as it would be the death of me. We have yet another cliffhanger ending as the second arc of
The Legends of the First Empire series is shaping up to be one continuous story. It was excruciating to say the least, but I can empathise with Sullivan in struggling to find a suitable point to break off for each volume, short of releasing it as a single doorstopper.  A single volume wouldn’t work for physical printing purposes, especially if collectors of the hardcovers want to maintain the aesthetics of the books.  And if you’ve seen their covers and how the hardcovers look like, you’ll want that consistency.  They are stunningly beautiful.

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Book Review: The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H.G. Parry

Book Review: The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H.G. Parry

A review copy received from the publisher, Orbit UK, in exchange for an honest review.

The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H.G. Parry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Series: Stand-alone

Genre: Fantasy, mystery

First published: 23rd July 2019 by Redhook (US) and Orbit (UK)


How many of us readers have experienced the kind of immersion and connection to a story, its setting or its characters, which made us wish that it could be real? I’d gander a guess that it covers pretty much all of us. H.G. Parry’s marvellous debut novel, The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep, perfectly illustrates the magic of stories and words on a page.

“That’s how the story works, the way the sentence and metaphor and reference feeds into the other to illuminate something important. That explosion of discovery, of understanding, is the most intoxicating moment there is. Emotional, intellectual, aesthetic. Just for a moment, a perfect moment, a small piece of the world makes perfect sense. And it’s beautiful. It’s a moment of pure joy, the kind that brings pleasure like pain.”

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Book Review: The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Book Review: The Secret History by Donna Tartt


The Secret History by Donna Tartt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Secret History is one of those books that I’ve been meaning to read forever. According to my Kindle account, I purchased a copy more than five years ago; somehow, I just never got around to reading it. It’s one of those books that sounds so perfect for me that I’m afraid to read it for fear of it failing to meet the irrationally high expectations I have for it. When my co-blogger Emma informed me that it was one of her favorite books ever, I decided to take the plunge. I’m so glad I did. Far from failing to meet my absurd expectations, The Secret History blew them out of the water and is now happily ensconced on my favorites shelf.

“Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it. And what could be more terrifying and beautiful, to souls like the Greeks or our own, than to lose control completely?”

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Emma’s Best Books of 2019

Emma’s Best Books of 2019

The featured image above was specifically designed by Felix Ortiz for Novel Notions’ Top 20 Lists. 


Ok, I’ll admit it, I’m cheating… my Best Books of 2019 post is a little different from the rest of the Novel Notions team.

It’s felt like a bit of a strange reading year for me, with a lot of study, non-fiction, and comfort rereads. My number is sitting at 164 so far, with a whole load getting that very respectable 4 star rating. However, there have only been a small amount that have truly floored me, that have deserved the 4.5 or the big, shiny 5 star rating. These are the kind of books that stay in your memory forever, that you recommend EVERYWHERE and as often as possible. They’re the ones where it’s almost impossible to stop your eyes from flicking forward to see what’s coming next because you’re so excited to get there. When I made that feeling the criteria for my list, it made things immediately clear. I don’t have 20, I have 10. They were all published this year and I loved them all. I hope you consider giving them a go too…

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Book Review: Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children, #2)

Book Review: Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children, #2)


Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Some adventures being easily.

It is not hard, after all, to be sucked up by a tornado or pushed through a particularly porous mirror; there is no skill involved in being swept away by a great wave or pulled down a rabbit hole. Some adventures require nothing more than a willing heart and the ability to trip over the cracks in the world.

Other adventures must be committed to before they have even properly begun. How else will they know the worthy from the unworthy, if they do not require a certain amount of effort on the part of the ones who would undertake them? Some adventures are cruel, because it is the only way they know to be kind.

Portal fantasy is among my favorite things, and Seanan McGuire excels at creating new realms. This book was just as good as Every Heart a Doorway, and yet managed to be completely different in tone and the method in which the story was told. This is the story of Jack and Jill, the identical twins from Every Heart a Doorway, before they were cast back through their door and relegated to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. The novella can be viewed as a prequel or a standalone story in the same series. It should most certainly be read, because it has much to say in its less-than-two-hundred pages.

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Book Review: Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children, #1)

Book Review: Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children, #1)


Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There was still something unfinished around her eyes; she wasn’t done yet. She was a story, not an epilogue.

This was my third time reading this, and I have loved it even more with each rereading. Seanan McGuire created something magical with this novella. I’m not one to judge a book by its cover, but that’s exactly what attracted me to this book in 2016. A random door in the middle of a forest is the stuff of daydreams, and I had to see if the story inside was as captivating as the cover. It was. Everyone who has every felt like they didn’t fit in should read this book. It’s a love letter to dreamers and outcasts, and a declaration that everyone should have the freedom to be exactly who they are, without worrying about the disapproval of others.

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Book Review: Sins of Empire (Gods of Blood and Powder, #1) by Brian McClellan

Book Review: Sins of Empire (Gods of Blood and Powder, #1) by Brian McClellan

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Sins of Empire by Brian McClellan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: Gods of Blood and Powder (Book #1 of 3), Powder Mage (Book #4 of 6)

Genre: Fantasy, High fantasy, Flintlock fantasy

Pages: 604 pages (UK paperback edition)

Published: 9th March 2017 by Orbit (UK) & 7th March 2017 by Orbit (US)


That was amazing. So glad I ended up giving this a go. What an explosive return to McClellan’s beloved Powder Mage universe.

It’s been two years since I finished reading the Powder Mage trilogy. Honestly, I felt satisfied with the ending I got in The Autumn Republic that I thought I would’ve been fine with not reading the Gods of Blood and Powder trilogy. Thankfully, so many reviews and word-of-mouth have spread throughout the years, and they convinced me that this trilogy is even better than the first one. And it’s highly probable that they will be proven right. Just from the experience of reading this book, I know I would’ve made a grave mistake if I didn’t continue. I’ll go as far as saying that Sins of Empire alone is better than the first trilogy already.

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Book Review: The Rise of Magicks (Chronicles of the One, #3)

Book Review: The Rise of Magicks (Chronicles of the One, #3)


The Rise of Magicks by Nora Roberts
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There’s something about a culmination that makes me hesitate. Whether it’s a fear that the ending won’t live up to my expectation or a desire for the journey to never end, it leaves me inclined to never finish anything. Not in life, mind you; I’m incredibly dependable and the opposite of a procrastinator when it comes to reality. But when it comes to entertainment, I’d rather let the story live on unfinished in my mind than risk a final chapter that sours something I grew to love. Constant Readers of Stephen King can relate, I’m sure; though I love his work, the endings are rarely satisfying. However, there are some authors I always trust to really deliver with their endings, and Nora Roberts is high up on that list. She knows how to stick the landing every single time. The Rise of Magicks is no exception, and has actually shot this series into my list of best loved series of all time, alongside The Kingkiller Chronicle and The Stormlight Archive.

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Book Review: As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride

Book Review: As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride


As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was such a delightful experience. Nonfiction isn’t anywhere near by genre of choice, but The Princess Bride is among my favorite movies of all time, so I decided to give it a go. Also, Cary Elwes is an absolute treasure. But even the fact that the book was the backstory of one of my favorite movies as told by its lead actor wasn’t enough to entice me into buying a copy of this book. Until I came across the audio version. Let me tell you, I jumped right on that, especially once I learned that Carey Elwes himself, along with the majority of his Princess Bride co-stars and those who were involved with filming, directing, writing, and producing the movie, narrated the audio. Getting to hear these people, whose work together has been delighting countless viewers for over 30 years, talk about their experience with the movie was a wonderful experience. It just made me appreciate even more this movie that has been so special to me for nearly half of my life. So many lines from this story have worked their way into my family’s vocabulary and, while that is in large part due to the brilliance of Goldman’s writing, the voices in which we heard them spoken are what have kept them in our heads for well over a decade.

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