Darkwood (Gabby Hutchinson Crouch)

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I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads Link

Completely fabulous, can’t wait for the rest of the series. A strong contender for Book of the Month

TL;DR – A funny, clever and wonderful fairytale re-telling.

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Ragdoll Rating: 5/5 Buttons

Recommended For: Fans of fairytales, fantasy and female characters who kick butt!

About the Book…

Darkwood is a sort of fairytale retelling and variety pack. The lead character is Gretel, of Hansel and Gretel fame, driven out of her home by villainous Huntsmen who (wrongly) accuse her of being a witch! Gretel finds herself in the Darkwood, and soon winds up as part of a band of witches, featuring such wonderful characters as The White Knight (Snow White), Jack (of the Beanstalk fame) and my personal favourite, Trevor the Talking Spider. What follows is a hilarious adventure to fight back against the forces of evil!

What I thought…

I flat out adore this book. There are 2 things I didn’t like about it, and I’m gonna start the review with them because then I can gush about how good it was uninterrupted.

  1. The word ‘cowl’ is used to describe clothing with sleeves, which confused me.
  2. It’s written in the present tense, which I’m generally not a fan of. HOWEVER, I will come back to this point in a moment.

OK, where to begin. Let’s start with the setting. I’m a big fan of fairytales and folklore, and combining so many stories into one setting was a real treat for me. Each story has been turned on its head and reimagined, and then blended into something better than the sum of its parts. It’s really clever, well executed and extremely good fun.

And it’s funny! Oh man. I mentioned Trevor the talking spider in the intro and I’m gonna talk about him here. Trevor is *exactly* the type of character I love to read about. He’s small and apparently useless, but he dreams big. He wants to be useful. He wants to be a spy! And every time he gets the chance he does something daft. Like disguises. It’s silly, and playful and I love it.

Now I’m going to return to point 2 of my complaints. Present tense. I don’t like it, it annoys me and I’ve never been able to get over it. Until now. I really love how this book was written. I’m turned around on the use of present tense in writing, which is a big thing for me to admit.

Final Thoughts…

I love this book. I can’t wait for the rest of the series. I suppose the biggest compliment I can give to this book is that it made me want to write the book I’ve been planning for so long. It’s encouraged me to get up and give it a shot!

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Please Note: I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book Review: Bodhisattva of Compassion: The Mystical Tradition of Kuan Yin (John Blofeld)


Goodreads Link

Interesting, if a little confusing.

TL;DR – A series of collected stories and information about Kwan Yin, Bodhisattva and Godess.

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RAGDOLL RATING: 3.5/5 BUTTONS

Why I read it…

I came across Kwan Yin Bodhisattva some time ago – one of my Buddhist friends introduced her to me. It was interesting to see a prominent Buddhist figure who had gone from a male from (Avalokiteshvara) to female, some trans Buddhist folk I know see that as a really big thing for what I assume should be obvious reasons. Since then I’ve been meaning to research her a bit and this book was on a list of recommendations.

The Book…

This book is more like a collection of anecdotes than anything else. I could be wrong, but it doesn’t appear to have been actually researched. That’s not to say it isn’t accurate, just don’t go into it expecting references or academic stuff.

It follows Blofeld’s quest to discover Kwan Yin. He begins by telling us how his quest began – specifically that a bronze statue addressed him in a temple once. What follows is an examination of Kwan Yin from as many perspectives as possible. We learn about the manifestations of Kwan Yin – from Buddhist figure to Chinese mythical princess. Then we look at her origins in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism and her possible origins and a combination of Tara and Avalokiteshvara. Then we have some chapters on her history as the subject of Chinese folk tales, sacred rites and practices, meditations and so on.

Each chapter is presented as either first hand information or recollection of stories the author was told by people he has discussed the topic with.

What I liked…

I liked the first half of this book or so. The discussion of the theoretical histories, origins and interpretations was really interesting, and the fact that Blofeld provided (what he claims to be) accurate transcripts of discussions he’s had was a peculiar but welcome change from the usual academic non-fiction I read.

I particularly enjoyed the section where Blofeld discussed – at length – the connection between Kwan Yin and Tara. Blofeld treats us to stories of peoples interactions with these figures, without trying to dismiss them automatically as nonsense – and speaks of his own experiences that could be considered ‘supernatural’.

What I disliked…

The last chapter. I really don’t know what happened. I was enjoying the book until the last chapter, at which point it felt like the writing changed and all of a sudden I was reading a different book. For the life of me I couldn’t tell you how this book ended.

Final thoughts…

This book was an interesting read, and the format of collected anecdotes was novel and different – although what the means in terms of accuracy I’m not sure. It was worth reading though, even if I didn’t enjoy the final chapter.

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Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I bought this book with my own money for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Kwik Review: Shadow of the Yangtze (Julian Sedgwick)

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Goodreads Link | Author Website

The continuing adventures of Shanghai Ruby. More action, more folklore, more romance.

TL;DR – The second book in the ‘Ghosts of Shanghai’ series follows Ruby and her best fried / love interest Charlie in their quest to rescue Charlie’s sister, Fei. The pair make a perilous journey from the relative safety of Shanghai into the dangerous and wild interior of China. Action packed from start to finish.

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RAGDOLL RATING: 5/5 BUTTONS

What I thought: 

As I said in my review of the first book, I could read about Ruby’s adventures until the cows, and any other missing farm animals, came home. This book was an excellent, action packed continuation from the first.

As Ruby and Charlie make there way up the Yangtze river into the Chinese interior, they encounter a host of deadly situations – from freedom fighters to hopping vampires – but the brave pair will stop at nothing to rescue Fei.

This book has more action than the first one, which is well written and exciting. But the real push for me is the folklore elements, which I love. I adore Chinese folklore and it was a nice touch to not only include some themes but a folk story as well. There is also more romance in this book than the first – ‘Ghosts’ skirted a romantic theme but ‘Shadow…’ gets right into it – I don’t like romance so this was a bit of a negative to me.

Finally, Sedgwick continues to make up verbs for no apparent reason, which isn’t so much a criticism as it is something that amuses me. All in all an excellent book. Roll on number 3, Return to the City of Ghosts.

See the full review of Ghosts of Shanghai here: Book Review: Ghosts of Shanghai (Julian Sedgwick)

Please note: Although my family do know the author, I have do not. I am reading them because they come recommended by my younger sisters, not because of any connection to the author. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!