Melody

Penguin Publishing Group | November 2016 | 448 pgs
Source: Library




Den of Wolves, the third book of Marillier's Blackthorn and Grim series, tells a mystical tale of more perilous tasks Blackthorn and Grim have to face; this time around the mystery surrounding a fifteen-year-old girl, Cara, and the place she lives called Wolf Glen.

When Lady Flidais, princess of Dalriada approaches Blackthorn and ask if she could assist in taking care of Cara, daughter of landholder at Wolf Glen, Blackthorn thinks it a little unusual, considering the family is well connected and that there will doubtless be a personal maid and maidservants to wait on her and guide her some modicum of social awareness, considering Cara is a simple girl at heart, with her mind only on nature and birds. But that is not all, Cara's father requires the help of Grim to build a heartwood house. Together with a builder named Bardán, they are to build the house as quickly and discreetly as possible. Now Grim and Blackthorn aren't sure of Cara's father's agenda, but based on what Grim had heard, Bardán had been taught the skills of building a heartwood house by his father who is believed to have grown up in the Otherworld and become a craftsman of almost uncanny talents. There are also rumours that Bardán had a half-fey mother. There is also an old tale that said a heartwood house conferred a whole range of blessings, as long as it was built the right way. 

Perhaps it is the final book of the series (hopefully there's more!), Den of Wolves covers a lot of issues which had me thinking and feeling the emotions some of the characters had gone through. It was a book full of hearts, full of loyalty and righteousness that I couldn't help but to be swept away by this enchanting tale; and not to mention that close bond between Blackthorn and Grim. Blackthorn's justice towards her sworn enemy, Mathuin of Laois, concluded this series beautifully and despite everything is wrapped up with a big red bow I wasn't ready to see this series end. Blackthorn and Grim had both come a long way to where they are now and I felt connected to them considering I'd been reading this series consecutively. Highly recommended if you love a good fantasy and compelling protagonists. 


Related links:
Dreamer's Pool (Book 1)
Tower of Thorns (Book 2) 
(Each book works as a stand-alone though it's recommended to read them in order.)



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Melody

Do not let that title mislead you. The title may sound something out of a fairy tale but there's no magical element here but a feisty protagonist who goes out of her way to pursue her gold medal dreams and finding love at the same time. 

Kim Bok Joo (starring Lee Sung-kyung) is a college athlete major in weightlifting. Living with her father and uncle who run a chicken restaurant together, Bok Joo's life is simple and although she feels well-loved by her family and friends, she is actually a shy girl and hides her insecurities behind her strong exterior. 

Jung Joon-hyung (starring Nam Joo-hyuk) is childhood friends with Bok Joo. He is a talented swimmer but his traumatic past haunts him. As a result, his confidence dips and it is through Bok Joo's encouragements that he begins to find his dreams again. Joon-hyung's ex-girlfriend, Song Shi-ho (starring Kyung Soo-jin) is a supporting role portraying as an overachiever rhythmic gymnast. Although she has broken up with Joon-hyung, she wants him back while juggling to uphold her position as a top-class gymnast. 

Bok Joo has finally met Jung Jae-yi (starring Lee Jae-yoon), a guy she likes but alas he is an obesity doctor. While Bok Joo is encouraged to put on weight by her coach for her upcoming tournaments, she is also trying to lose weight through Jae-yi's consultations so she could see him and impress him. But Jae-yi treats her merely as a friend, and it is also at this time that Bok Joo begins to realise that he is also Joon-hyung's cousin.


(Joon-hyung and Bok Joo) 


This is a great coming-of-age story, filled with inspirations and dreams. It also show cast what a sportsman's life is and what it takes to attain their goals. There are both funny moments and sad moments, and what I enjoyed most is seeing each character faces their challenges and how the process has changed them and mould them into a better person. Cheesy or not, such scenes never fail to move me and in the end I found myself rooting for them and cheering them on. I also like the sweet moments between Bok Joo and Joon-hyung; their relationship reminds me how lovely it is to be young and carefree. Oh, those were the days.


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Melody

Penguin Publishing Group | October 2016 | 416 pgs
Source: Library




This second book of Blackthorn and Grim's series continues with more adventures and turmoil the two protagonists have to meet before fulfilling their wishes of attaining freedom. 

Blackthorn and Grim, after helping Prince Oran unravelling the mystery surrounding Lady Flidais in the first book (Dreamer's Pool), once again find themselves entwined in another mystery which requires more of their courage and intellect. When Lady Geiléis, a noblewoman from the northern border, travelled to Winterfalls to seek assistance from Prince Oran, Blackthorn and Grim knew they would be involved in helping to solve Lady Geiléis' problems; after all it revolves around a howling monster from an old tower and who knows lore better other than Blackthorn? And being Blackthorn's travelling companion and comrade since they'd long gotten out from a dark place, Grim wouldn't want to go anywhere without Blackthorn. No, they aren't lovers but what they'd gone through is far too precious to be complicated by romantic love. 

And after hearing Lady Geiléis' tale about a howling creature residing in the Tower of Thorns on her land, Blackthorn knew expelling it wouldn't be an easy feat, especially if Lady Geiléis' land is being cursed by an ancient fey and that they've only one chance to do it right - by performing a cleansing ritual on the Midsummer Eve. But that is not all, Blackthorn soon meets up with her childhood friend, who claims they could travel south together to defeat Mathuin, who is Blackthorn's long sworn enemy but is she ready to turn her back against her fey benefactor, Conmael, who has once given her a chance to live, even if she is duty bound to him and promised that she would seek no vengeance and do the good? 

Tower of Thorns is so much better than Dreamer's Pool, with twice the peril and implications between the characters to cause doubts and betrayal towards one another. I liked the two protagonists; and I found myself liking Grim more in this installment. This book has enough myth and magic to fill readers' imaginations, in particularly the tower of thorns, which reminded me a few fairy tales of towers and trapped princesses, though this is anything but. 

The story is told from Blackthorn's and Grim's first person narrative and Lady Geiléis' third person. Perhaps for this reason, I didn't feel much connection towards Lady Geiléis but due to the plot and some secrets I could easily understand why. Tower of Thorns was an engaging read; and I'm glad I've the next few book, Den of Wolves, in hand.   




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Melody

Penguin Publishing Group | November 2015 | 464 pp
Source: Library


Dreamer's Pool is the first book of Blackthorn and Grim's series, featuring a pair of ex-prisoners of Mathuin, who is chieftain of Laois in northern Laigin. Mathuin is known to be cold and ruthless and an abuser to women. Blackthorn used to be a healer way before her family had perished under Mathuin's hands and she was held prisoner thereafter. She knew Grim when they were kept behind bars in Mathuin's dark place; although they hardly talk they have kinda formed a bond through each other's company. 

When Conmael, a fey nobleman visited Blackthorn and told her he could help her to get out of that dark place, in exchange for her vow to to set aside her bid for vengeance against Mathuin and live in Winterfalls in Dalriada, duty bound for seven years to assist anyone who asks for her help. Blackthorn is skeptical at first but what more could she lose? Together with Grim, they travel to Dreamer's Wood and found their "home" there. 

Oran is the crown prince of Dalriada and he is waiting for the arrival of Lady Flidais, who is to be his future bride. However, Oran has never met Lady Flidais in person and only knows her from a portrait, though they have corresponded through letters and somewhat knew each other sentiments through words. Lady Flidais finally arrives in Winterfalls, but she is not the woman whom Oran thinks she is. Although Lady Flidais' appearance resembles her portrait, her behaviour and speech prove otherwise. And with their marriage date drawing near, Oran is anxious and puzzled about Lady Flidais' mysterious temperament. He has heard from the community that Blackthorn is a wise woman and his people at Winterfalls seek her help be it medicinal or other matters. Oran decides Blackthorn might be the person he's looking for to unravel this mystery and Blackthorn knows she couldn't say no to his request, duty bound or not as the need to right the wrongs is too great. Together with Grim, Blackthorn will seek all the resources they can get and with or without magic, they will find the answer to Oran's quest even if it means facing their own personal demons. 

Dreamer's Pool is one enchanting read. Filled with some folklore and mythology, Juliet Marillier has spun an unforgettable tale about family bonds and friendship, as well as courage and ingenuity to set things right. Blackthorn and Grim are both engaging characters, in particularly Grim, as he often plays the protector role and his characteristic shone throughout the story. A man of few words, Grim surprised me with his insightful views at times. Blackthorn is an intriguing character, but given her past history she is a little bitter and has this furious need to seek vengeance against Mathuin but given she is duty bound by Conmael, she gets on with her life day by day while waiting for the day for freedom to come. Told from three perspectives - Blackthorn, Grim and Oran, this allows readers to understand more of their inner thoughts. Despite a fantasy, there is a little mystery to this book and I liked how things are neatly wrapped up towards the end (the mystery that is, not Blackthorn's justice towards Mathuin though I'd be interested to see how it would solve in the end), thus it could read as a standalone.



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Melody
Here is a list of books I read in 2017. They are sorted in alphabetical order by the authors' last name.


C
First Apple by Ching Yeung Russell

M
Dreamer's Pool by Juliet Marillier
Tower of Thorns by Juliet Marillier
Den of Wolves by Juliet Marillier



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Melody
Boyds Mills Press, Inc | 1994 | 127 pgs
Source: Library
Illustrated by Christopher Zhong Yuan Zhang



My "First Book of the Year" is a Children's Literature written by Ching Yeung Russell. It was a meaningful story about a poor young girl's various attempts of fulfilling her grandmother's childhood dreams and what she did would inspire both young and older readers alike. 

Nine-year-old Yeung Ying lives with her cousins' family ever since her parents left her with them when she was five. Being the only Yeung in Chan's Village of a small town of Tai Kong, China, Yeung Ying is merely a simple-minded girl who is satisfied enough to have food in her stomach and a roof above her head. She is closest to her grandmother, whom she fondly called her "Ah Pau" (as in Cantonese pronunciation) and after knowing Ah Pau's childhood dreams is eating her first apple, she decided to buy one for her upcoming seventy-first birthday. Now apples are considered as a rich man's fruit back then in the 1940s and Yeung Ying has to find ways of earning money to buy that shiny red fruit as a present to Ah Pau. 

As the story progresses, we see Yeung Ying going through all the troubles to earn sixteen cents for an apple. Through the course, we see her struggles, the mistakes she has made and what she has learned while making Ah Pau's (as well as hers) dreams come true. Truth be told, it was a simple story but yet it was touching and contains full of valuable traits that inspire readers to be filial, grateful, honest and most of all, not to be afraid of admitting your mistakes. I also loved it that this story details the everyday life of our young Yeung Yin and some of these descriptions are brought to life through Mr Christopher Zhang's lovely illustrations. Personally I felt this is a great book to be read together with your children and after closing this post I'm going to share it with my daughters. 

  


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