Wednesday, 23 August 2017

The Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse

Book Title: The Art of Hiding
Author: Amanda Prowse
Genre: Contemporary, Women's Fiction
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Netgalley

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Goodreads Summary: Nina McCarrick lives the perfect life, until her husband, Finn, is killed in a car accident and everything Nina thought she could rely on unravels.
Alone, bereft and faced with a mountain of debt, Nina quickly loses her life of luxury and she begins to question whether she ever really knew the man she married. Forced to move out of her family home, Nina returns to the rundown Southampton council estate—and the sister—she thought she had left far behind.
But Nina can’t let herself be overwhelmed—her boys need her. To save them, and herself, she will have to do what her husband discouraged for so long: pursue a career of her own. Torn between the life she thought she knew and the reality she now faces, Nina finally must learn what it means to take control of her life.
I got a review copy from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

What did I think? I don't read Women's Fiction very often, but every now and then I enjoy a good, empowering book. This is my first book by Amanda Prowse and I didn't know what to expect but was pleasantly surprised.

The story itself is quite devastating and even traumatising. A woman who, after a childhood spent in poverty, has everything: a rich and successful husband, two children who are doing well in school, and a big, beautiful house. It's quite scary to think that life can actually be so cruel and rip it all away away again... just like that.

I really enjoyed watching Nina grow and overcome the obstacles life throws at her, and I found myself rooting for her and her sons. Nina feels real and the book depicts loss, grief and redemption in a way that rings true.

The writing is crisp and engaging. I read the entire book during one sleepless night and couldn't put it down.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Sunday Post (23) - Back to Routine

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

If you participate, and you totally should because the community is amazing, don't forget to link up and if you leave me a comment, I will definitely check out your blog.

The Rules can be found here. And this week's post can be found here.

After quite a crappy summer, not because of the weather, but because it was filled with unnecessary stress due to being ill and job hunting, this household is settling into a new routine and hopefully my health will bounce back. I've been reading like crazy... and I need to get back to writing and sports.
Not quite running yet, because I want to give the sprained ankle a chance to recover, but hopefully not long to go now. I probably won't be ready for our event in September... and I miss running. I realised it helps a lot with my anxiety. I actually hate running but when I come home I feel much more relaxed. So, I do it for that.

Last week on my blog:
Last week in my kitchen: I made a gorgeous chicken breast recipe last week that I'd like to share with you. I found the recipe here. Chicken, potatoes, garlic and Parmesan? Count me in, right?
The chicken and potatoes are baked in a cream sauce made with garlic and herbs to which you add spinach and Parmesan. Quite easy to prepare and the oven does the rest!



I'd also like to link to The Blog Squad: Uma K, Di Hewlett and AmyNikita, who write such great and informative posts.

I've tackled some Jim Butcher this weekend and hope to write many reviews this week. Happy reading!

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

TTT (19) - Top Ten Recommendations Fantasy

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Follow the link to know more about the meme and join up, it's a great way to find out more about the book blogging community.

This week the theme is Top Ten Recommendations and this week's post by The Broke and the Bookish is a list of graphic novels and can be found here.

I love fantasy... ever since I discovered Lord of the Rings when I was fourteen years old and sometimes I lose myself in Classics, YA or mysteries but I ultimately always come back to fantasy. Let me recommend a few of my favourites that aren't the usual LOTR, GOT and Wheel of Time.
Fantasy Recommendations!

 

Both Theft of Swords and Senlin Ascends were self-published novels that got picked up by a traditional publisher because of their success.
Pick Theft of Swords if you don't like complicated fantasy and would prefer instead to follow a hilarious duo of thieves through various adventures. The writing is simple but very funny and the world building is straightforward. It's basically a fun fantasy romp.
Pick Senlin Ascends if you want to follow an introvert and scholar who lost his wife on their honeymoon... poor guy has to come out of his shell and survive adventures to find his beloved. A bit of steampunk and very poetic, a slow start but a marvellous adventure.

 

Pick The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August if you want an original spin on time travelling and a book that is otherwise set in our world.
Pick The Lions of Al-Rassan or any other book by Guy Gavriel Kay if magic isn't your thing but you love historical novels. All his stories are alternative history and this book is about medieval Spain and the clash of faiths. Wonderful and poetic language without wizards and spells.

 

Pick The Fifth Season if you want a WOC author and strong female characters in a world that could be ours but way down the future where a group of people have the power to move the ground and create earthquakes. This one was a five star read for me.
Pick Robin Hobb's Farseer Trilogy which starts with Assassin's Apprentice, continues with Royal Assassin and then ends with Assassin's Quest if you want a universe with 16 books and dragons. The first trilogy is told in first person. The protagonist is Fitz and he's a bit annoying every now and then but I love, love, love this series. This trilogy stands on its own but all 16 books are connected. 

 

Pick Red Sister by Mark Lawrence if you want a new spin on the magic school. This book is what I imagine Arya Stark's story would be like if she was the main character. The protagonist is a girl who joins a nun convent... but not just any nun convent, one where the girls are taught deadly skills. Wonderful world building, wonderful prose and not too dark, at least in my opinion.
Pick Moroda by L.L. McNeil if you want to support an indie author that self-published this year. The book is filled with female characters that kick ass (it has a female sky pirate) and dragons!

 

Pick The Ocean at the End of the Lane if you want a fairy tale for adults that is creepy, yet beautiful. It's Neil Gaiman at his best and made me cry.
Pick anything by Brandon Sanderson if you want intricate magic systems and wonderful stories that are meticulously plotted.

 

Bonus: Pick Malazan if you like complicated and epic and a 100 characters (I am not kidding) and names and places and wars and history and novels that make no sense because you have no idea what is happening because you're being thrown straight into the action and only around book 3-4 will things start to fall into place. (It's almost too complicated for me, and I'm struggling, but I'm trying! Currently on book 2!) According to many fantasy fans, this is the ultimate series.

Looking forward to seeing all of your lists! Happy reading!

Monday, 14 August 2017

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Book Title: A Court of Thorns and Roses
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Library

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Goodreads Summary: Feyre's survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price ...
Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre's presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.

What did I think?

I borrowed this from the library whilst ill because I was looking for something light. I knew there was a chance I wouldn't like this book and I must admit that I was on the fence for many pages... then the mystery around the ancient curse is revealed and I loved every single word of that reveal.

I do think the beginning is a bit slow and it took me a while to get into the book but that reveal 100% made up for that.

A Court of Thorns and Roses is a Beauty and the Best retelling and I carry a torch for fairy tale retellings. Fayre is a great protagonist, a bit on the stubborn side but likeable and kicks ass. I love that the faeries can't be trusted and Maas's world building is solid.

There's romance, of course, and I enjoyed it a lot. At no point did it make me feel frustrated and with these books the romance often is what makes or breaks the story for me.

However with A Court of Thorns and Roses, what made it for me is definitely the reveal of the backstory around the curse.

The prose is nice and easy and I managed to read the book in just a few sittings. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys fairy tale retellings and likes romance and handsome men in their fantasy. 

Friday, 11 August 2017

Song of Edmon by Adam Burch

Book Title: Song of Edmon
Author: Adam Burch
Genre: Sci-Fi (though more a Science Fantasy)
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Kindle First pick of August (Release, 1st of September 2017)

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Goodreads Summary: The isolated planet of Tao is a house divided: the peaceful Daysiders live in harmony while the pale Nightsiders pursue power and racial purity through the violent ritual of the Combat.
Edmon Leontes, the gentle son of a ruthless warrior noble and a proud Daysider, embodies Tao’s split nature. The product of diametrically opposed races, Edmon hopes to live a quiet life pursuing the music of his mother’s people, but his Nightsider father cruelly forces him to continue in his bloody footsteps to ensure his legacy.
Edmon’s defiance will cost him everything…and spark a revolution that will shake the foundations of Tao. His choice—to embrace the light or surrender to the darkness—will shape his own fate and that of his divided world.
What did I think? You know how sometimes you read a book and from the very first few pages you fall in love and can't really say why? And every time you pick it up something magical happens? That was this book for me.

It took me almost 300 pages to realise there are parallels to The Count of Monte Cristo and only then did it hit me that Edmon Leontes, the main characters name, is pretty damn close to Edmond Dantès. And you know what? That discovery made me giddy, because damn do I love The Count of Monte Cristo. (And no you don't need to have read Monte Cristo to enjoy this book... it was just a nice tidbit.)

It's a dark book and I know as a writer you're supposed to torture your main character and make things worse for them, but for Edmon it just does not get any better EVER. Throughout the book until the very end I thought, oh my... MORE? Leave the poor boy alone. It does not help that Edmon just can't keep his mouth shut when necessary... he keeps pushing.

The book is told in first person present tense which I often dislike, but I highly enjoyed Burch's prose and writing.

The world is exciting and I loved the idea of a planet that no longer spins and thus has a side on which it's eternally night while on the other side it's always day.

Edmon is a well developed character who loves music, and I really liked that he was so much into art and so opposed to fighting.

I can't really talk about the female characters in this novel without spoiling the plot. Let's just say that's the one bit that bothered me somewhat.

I highly recommend Song of Edmon to Science Fantasy fans.

P.S. Can I just hijack my own review to say: if you're into anime and love The Count of Monte Cristo as much as me and are not opposed to have it set in space and the Count be some sort of space vampire, please please please check out the absolutely underrated Gankutsuou.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

Book Title: I Let You Go
Author: Clare Mackintosh
Genre: Suspense, Mystery
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Library

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Goodreads Summary: In a split second, Jenna Gray's world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever.

Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating...
What did I think? This book could have been a solid and well written mystery, but there's a few things about it that made it so much more, and guarantee that it will stay with me for the foreseeable future.

I can't talk about it though, because I firmly believe this one should be experienced blind and that knowing anything about it would probably ruin the experience. If you're looking for a mystery novel with a fast paced plot that is extremely well written, look no further, pick this one up, don't look at any reviews and start reading. Trust me.

I didn't mind that the story is a bit slow in the beginning, and after it picks up it turns into a wild ride that I couldn't put down. I basically devoured this in one sitting. The characters are interesting and well developed, and I could tell that the author infused this book with personal experience.

Why didn't I give this five stars? Well, I wasn't a fan of how it all came together at the end. I felt like it was a tad too neat and a little bit too convenient, but maybe I'm just difficult to please?

Recommended to all mystery and suspense fans.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Sunday Post (22) - Why so cold, August?

I'm pretty convinced the universe still hates me. 
Yesterday, during a walk through the English countryside I rolled my ankle and there was a nauseating crunch. I sat down for 10 minutes and then managed to walk back to the car... bandaged it up and am now keeping it still. It hurts a lot when I move it in certain ways but the swelling is minor and I can put weight on it without problem. I've been told that that means it's a minor sprain and to just let it heal. Sigh. If you want to catch up on my July and why I'm convinced the universe is after me, read my post Come on, Universe?!

August is presenting itself pretty cold so far and I guess there will be no sports even for me mid September, instead I will be resting my foot and waiting to be able to run again. Sigh.
The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. If you participate, and you totally should because the community is amazing, don't forget to link up and if you leave me a comment, I will definitely check out your blog. The Rules can be found here. And this week's post can be found here.

Last week on my blog: 
  • Crazy House by James Patterson (fun romp, but ultimately nothing new and a generic YA dystopian fantasy.)
  • The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay (alternative history, medieval Spain in a fantasy setting, wonderful book.)
  • Red Sister by Mark Lawrence (grimdark fantasy that is wonderful and poetic and basically what I imagine Arya Stark's life could have been.)
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (wonderfully written YA fantasy but the romantic element is insta-love and I just don't like that...)

Last week in my kitchen: I tried this breakfast/brunch recipe last week. Shakshuka. A North African dish with tomatoes, peppers, spices and eggs. It was delicious. Essentially you simmer all the ingredients, then make little wells for the eggs to sit in and wait until the egg white cooks but the yolk stays runny. Must make again!


Next week the plan is not to injure myself, not to get ill and instead write and read and live life as if my 33 year old body hadn't decided to stop working like it's supposed to. 

I'm currently reading a ton of books and I'm enjoying most immensely.

  

 

I hope everyone has a great reading week!

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Book Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Library

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Goodreads Summary: Errand requiring immediate attention. Come. The note was on vellum, pierced by the talons of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. 'He never says please', she sighed, but she gathered up her things.
When Brimstone called, she always came.
In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she's a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in 'Elsewhere', she has never understood Brimstone's dark work - buying teeth from hunters and murderers - nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn't whole.
Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.
What did I think? In theory I should have loved this and I was quite mesmerised in the beginning mostly because Laini Taylor simply writes so very beautifully and I am a sucker for fantasy. I thought I was heading for five stars...

This book is filled with amazing things: chimera, angels, art classes in Prague, strong friendships, and the protagonist Karou has blue hair and is a talented art student. I loved the world building and the mythology and I can't recommend Taylor's writing style enough. It's unique and poetic and she has a knack for choosing the right word to render a sentence more magical.

Then it kind of, sort of, fell apart.

Mostly because of something I often encounter in YA that I really can't stand: insta-love.

A super special protagonist who is beautiful and talented and chosen falling in love with an incredibly hot man who happens to be an angel but also her enemy?

Doesn't it just sound a tiny bit like something we've already read a million times?

I do think if I would have read this when I was a teenager I would have been much more forgiving and would have fallen head over heels in love with this book. Highly recommended to people who love YA fantasy and don't mind the romance aspect.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

Book Title: Red Sister
Author: Mark Lawrence
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Review Copy (but I loved it so much, I'm buying that the moment I get a chance.)

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Goodreads Summary: At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.
But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse.
Stolen from the shadow of the noose, Nona is sought by powerful enemies, and for good reason. Despite the security and isolation of the convent her secret and violent past will find her out. Beneath a dying sun that shines upon a crumbling empire, Nona Grey must come to terms with her demons and learn to become a deadly assassin if she is to survive…
I got a review copy from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

What did I think?
"It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy Convent Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men."
I fell in love with this one almost immediately. Mark Lawrence's writing is beautiful, almost poetic. You can tell he chose each word meticulously. If I was one to highlight, half this book would be highlighted by now.

I enjoyed Lawrence's Broken Empire but Red Sister may as well have been written by an entirely different author.

It's a dark story. It's right there in the premise, of course: a convent where young girls are raised to be killers. But it's oh so beautiful. At no point is the violent excessive and at no point do bad things happen just so the author can claim his work is grimdark or gritty.

The protagonist is a young girl, Nona. She's a terrific character and not only feels real but is well developed and someone I could immediately connect with. She's damaged, but fiery and passionate and fights for what she believes in.

The magic system and world building are both mesmerising and full of potential and possibilities. It's a captivating world. The main theme is friendship and a lot of what happens is heartbreaking.

I'm not usually a fan of the school trope and I found some of the time we spend following Nona through her training dragged a bit, but that's the only criticism I've got. Other than that I loved it and can't wait for the next instalment.

Highly recommended to any fantasy fans.

Monday, 31 July 2017

The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay

Book Title: The Lions of Al-Rassan
Author: Guy Gavriel Kay
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Library

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Goodreads Summary: The ruling Asharites of Al-Rassan have come from the desert sands, but over centuries, seduced by the sensuous pleasures of their new land, their stern piety has eroded. The Asharite empire has splintered into decadent city-states led by warring petty kings. King Almalik of Cartada is on the ascendancy, aided always by his friend and advisor, the notorious Ammar ibn Khairan until a summer afternoon of savage brutality changes their relationship forever.
Meanwhile, in the north, the conquered Jaddites' most celebrated military leader, Rodrigo Belmonte, driven into exile, leads his mercenary company south.
In the dangerous lands of Al-Rassan, these two men from different worlds meet and serve the same master. Sharing their interwoven fate is Jehane, the accomplished court physician, whose own skills play an increasing role as Al-Rassan is swept to the brink of holy war, and beyond.
What did I think? 
This book made me weep. That's all you need to know, isn't it? Guy Gavriel Kay came highly recommended by many fantasy fans, even though he doesn't write your usual fantasy. There are no elves and dwarves. There are no strange creatures and no dragons. And there is almost no magic.

Guy Gavriel Kay writes historical fantasy. The Lions of Al-Rassan is his version of medieval Spain and the conflicts between the different faiths. This book is about war and the intolerance different cultures and religions have for each other. People don't need to be evil to do the unthinkable, they just need to do it in the name of war or religion.

The book starts out slow and takes its time throughout, but about halfway through I could no longer put it down.

The writing style is very descriptive and beautiful. The characters are well developed. The world building is exciting and mesmerising and once you're hooked, Guy Gavriel Kay makes sure to punch you in the gut with all he's got.

Only one thing bothered me: Kay likes to injure his characters without telling the reader which one, and then forces the reader to rush through another chapter in a desperate attempt to find out just how upset they need to be. (And the sex scenes made me cringe... but that's often the case.)

I recommend this highly to anyone interested in history more so than fantasy.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Crazy House by James Patterson

Book Title: Crazy House
Author: James Patterson (Gabrielle Charbonnet)
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads Summary: There were no charges. There was no trial. There will be no escape.
Seventeen-year-old Becca Greenfield was snatched from her small hometown. She was thrown into a maximum-security prison and put on Death Row with other kids her age. Until her execution, Becca's told to fit in and shut her mouth... but Becca's never been very good at either. Her sister Cassie was always the perfect twin.
Becca's only hope is that her twin sister will find her. That perfect little priss Cassie will stop following the rules and start breaking them, before it's too late. Because her jailers made a mistake that could get them both killed: they took the wrong twin.
I received a copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

What did I think? I requested Crazy House because I've always wanted to read a James Patterson book and I quite enjoy novels with a dystopian setting.

The premise is simple: Becca Greenfield is thrown into prison known as the Crazy House where she's told that she's on death row. In the meantime her twin, Cassie, is trying to find her. A fight for survival begins.

The writing is nothing spectacular, in fact I found it quite juvenile in places, but the world building is intriguing and the story is fast paced and I ended up reading it in one sitting. The novel comes with a few decent twists and turns and kept me guessing until the end. The characters are well developed and believable teenagers.

Recommended for fans of dystopian YA, but do not expect anything groundbreaking or special.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Come on, Universe?

I feel like this year, the universe somehow doesn't like me an awful lot. After the dog vs. postman scare and the finding random lumps scare, I finally was all ready to start my July. I had a sports plan ready, to train for our Duathlon in September. My other half was off work (still between jobs) and we could have done a ton of day trips with the dogs. We could have enjoyed one glorious summer.
Instead... that first July Monday, I woke up in the middle of the night with extreme vertigo. The room was oscillating back and forth and would not stop. The nausea was unlike anything I'd ever experienced. Labyrinthitis or Vestibular Neuronitis were the two things the doctors came up with, after my other half drove me there, me lying in the back of her car draped over the seats, clutching a bucket in my tired hands.

We even got to see the ER because I was so terrified my body had finally given up on me, that my blood pressure was through the roof.

The first week I spent in a dark room without noise, just waiting for the room to stop spinning. The 2nd week was a bit better and I was able to read. Now, during this third week, I can do most things normally again, I just feel slightly drunk and unsteady.

And again, I've read books and am a million reviews behind and July is almost over. Oh well.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Sunday Post (21) - Writing, Reading, Running

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

If you participate, and you totally should because the community is amazing, don't forget to link up and if you leave me a comment, I will definitely check out your blog.

The Rules can be found here. And this week's post can be found here.

We've had pleasant temperatures, a bit of rain but also some sun, just the way I like it. We're busy with our running and cycling and yesterday Camp NaNoWriMo started, so I'm busy writing as well. Another doctor visit is scheduled for next Tuesday, so hopefully I can remove all the unnecessary anxiety from my life soon.
Here a picture of the brioche buns (recipe can be found here) I made last week, that I told you about:


Last week on my blog:
Last week in the cinema: It's sunny and warm and bright and I haven't been in weeks... I should really find the time to again, I miss films.

Last week in my kitchen: I found out that broccoli is so much better roasted than simply steamed. Probably taking a bit of the health away from the green vegetable, I'm sorry, but it's so delicious. Toss the florets in a bit of olive oil, add salt, and bake for 20-30 minutes (turn them once) until the broccoli is crispy on the outside and nice and soft on the inside.

Currently reading: Why can I not for once read just one book like a normal person? I'm reading the first book in the Riyria Revelations, plus Perdido Street Station, Gardens of the Moon, The Eye of the World and Watership Down (though I can't bring myself to care about those bunnies!).

Saturday, 1 July 2017

The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett

Book Title: The Warded Man (Demon Cycle #1)
Author: Peter V. Brett
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Own a Copy

Amazon UK, Goodreads

Goodreads Summary: As darkness falls after sunset, the corelings rise—demons who possess supernatural powers and burn with a consuming hatred of humanity. For hundreds of years the demons have terrorized the night, slowly culling the human herd that shelters behind magical wards—symbols of power whose origins are lost in myth and whose protection is terrifyingly fragile. It was not always this way. Once, men and women battled the corelings on equal terms, but those days are gone. Night by night the demons grow stronger, while human numbers dwindle under their relentless assault. Now, with hope for the future fading, three young survivors of vicious demon attacks will dare the impossible, stepping beyond the crumbling safety of the wards to risk everything in a desperate quest to regain the secrets of the past. Together, they will stand against the night.
What did I think? A friend gifted me a copy of The Warded Man for my birthday, and I was worried I wouldn't like it. Demons? Meh. An orphan farm boy (sigh) who (conveniently) has the right skills to save the world? Meh. I wasn't excited by any of it and that wasn't helped by a rather slow start.

The novel focuses on three protagonists, Arlen, Leesha and Rojer. We meet them as children and watch them live their lives in this world where humans are being hunted by demons as soon as the sun sets.

As a reader you assume from the very beginning that all three protagonists will eventually meet and it takes Brett quite a while to get there, which is why almost 70% of this book feel like a set-up.

But I was never bored. Quite the opposite. I enjoyed watching them grow up and I slowly fell in love with them.

The worldbuilding is really intriguing and detailed. It's a dark world with almost no happiness and the three protagonists face tragedy wherever they go. This isn't a happy story and none of the protagonists get to live a happy life, even happy moments are rare.

The demons and the magic system feel well developed and the characters have a lot of depth. I will definitely continue to read this series.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

What Makes You Rate a Book Five Stars?

I was browsing through my books on Goodreads the other day and realised, I seldom rate books five stars. It's almost as if I think those stars are rare or precious and if I award all five of them too often, I'll run out.

According to Goodreads, I've read about 450 books in my life, which is definitely not accurate, but a lot of the books I've read were in German during my childhood and I don't remember all of them. (Sometimes I regret that I didn't keep a reading journal as a child.)
I also suffered from a bad case of re-reading.What's bad, you ask? I'm pretty sure that when I was about ten years old, I kept re-reading the same adventure novel over and over again, possibly twenty-five times or more. Later, as a romantic teenager, the same happened with Pride and Prejudice.

Anyway, back to my bookshelves.  I've given thirty out of my 450 books a five star rating. Ten are because I absolutely loved those books when I was a child or a teenager and possibly wouldn't receive the same rating today. Three are Jane Austen and another three are Harry Potter.

Six in the last five years. SIX! IN FIVE YEARS!

Am I too harsh? On the other hand I dish out four stars without hesitation. Anything, I remotely enjoy receives at least three stars and as soon as I feel emotionally attached to the story in any way, it definitely receives four stars.

But, whenever I consider giving it five, I think... really, this book couldn't have possibly been better? Obviously, that's a question not many books survive. Maybe that's why I'm always grumpy. Imagine only reading one five star book a year!

How do you handle five star ratings? Do you award them freely? Or are you as conservative as me?

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

TTT (18) - Best Books I read in 2017

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Follow the link to know more about the meme and join up, it's a great way to find out more about the book blogging community.

This week the theme is best books we read in 2017, at least so far, and this week's post by The Broke and the Bookish post can be found here.

We're halfway through the year so this is a great moment to look back and choose a few books that I loved so far. I've been reading quite a bit. More or less two books a week is my goal and so far I've kept up with that.
Please let me know in the comments what your favourite books are so far in 2017, because my tbr list desperately needs to grow (not really, but also yes, it does!)

Please don't make me choose my favourite.

  

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North (review here) is an amazing novel with an interesting spin on time travel.
The Lions of Al-Rassan is a historical fantasy novel and broke my heart.
N. K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season (review here) is a gorgeous read with fantastic prose in a post-apocalyptic world.

  

Golden Son by Pierce Brown (review here) is the second book in the Red Rising trilogy and made me want to eat my pillow.
Moroda is L. L. McNeil's debut (review here) and has dragons and wonderful grey characters plus women kicking ass.
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (review here) had me on the edge of my seat. I could not stop reading this suspense novel.

  

The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett has a lot of demons and an orphan destined to save the world but it grabbed me from the very first page.
Robin Hobb's Royal Assassin (Farseer Trilogy #2) broke my heart.
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell is a wonderful and whimsical read.

I can't wait to discover more books!

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Sunday Post (20) - Almost July

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

If you participate, and you totally should because the community is amazing, don't forget to link up and if you leave me a comment, I will definitely check out your blog.

The Rules can be found here. And this week's post can be found here.

Doctor visit #3 and #4 are done and I continue to receive good news. Everything my body decides to grow (mostly cysts) is benign (until now) and nothing has to be removed unless it starts to hurt... almost done with the yearly check-ups. Two to go, four down. I also found a really nice specialist who manages to make me feel comfortable, so that's a plus.
It's cooler again, thankfully. This week has been mostly uneventful. Mostly writing and reading. We're still running and it's time to start preparing for our Duathlon in September. We'll be expected to run 5K, then bike 22K and run another 5K. The second 5K is the one that hurts the most.
The first time I participated in this event in London was two years after undergoing two knee surgeries, and I was still quite slow. It took me 2 hour and 34 minutes, because my 5K time was a very slow 40 minutes. Last year I was 10 minutes faster and this year I'm hoping to maybe manage to do it in 2 hours. Still slow, but I'm improving.

Last week on my blog:
Last week in my kitchen: If you've ever looked for a burger bun recipe that tastes delicious with both burgers and pulled pork, look no further: these are amazing. In this heat we ate a lot of salad, so my kitchen life was quite uneventful.

Upcoming: I need to get back in the habit of dragging my ass to the cinema. I've not watched a lot lately. And I still have a ton of reviews to catch up on. I'm currently reading China Miéville's Perdido Street Station and enjoying it a lot while also dipping into Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb.

I hope everyone has a great week :)

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Book Title: Dark Places
Author: Gillian Flynn
Genre: Thriller
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Library

Amazon UK, Goodreads

Goodreads Summary: Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice" of Kinnakee, Kansas. She survived—and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, the Kill Club—a secret secret society obsessed with notorious crimes—locates Libby and pumps her for details. They hope to discover proof that may free Ben. Libby hopes to turn a profit off her tragic history: She’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club—for a fee. As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started—on the run from a killer.
What did I think? Gillian Flynn must have such a dark and twisted imagination, I wouldn't want to visit her mind. I find her books downright terrifying because she portrays the worst in humans in such a detailed manner.

Dark Places is so much better than her first book (Sharp Objects) and possibly even better than Gone Girl. The novel is told primarily in first person through the eyes of the protagonist but we get to see the day of the massacre from the point of view of Libby's mother and Ben as well.

I wasn't entirely happy with the ending to the mystery because once you find out what actually happened, it feels a bit unrealistic and it left me thinking: really??

But, despite a somewhat unbelievable ending I was in awe throughout this novel because Flynn is such a master at blending the macabre and grotesque with family dysfunction, personality disorders and the typical small town mentality.

The characters are complex and well developed, though I would suggest you read this surrounded by people who make you happy unless you want to lose whatever faith in humanity you have left.

If you love dark and twisted characters, can stomach brutality and murder, definitely pick this one up, yes, even if you didn't enjoy Gone Girl.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

Book Title: The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
Author: Claire North
Genre: Science Fiction
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Library

Amazon UK, Goodreads

Goodreads Summary: No matter what he does or the decisions he makes, when death comes, Harry always returns to where he began, a child with all the knowledge of a life he has already lived a dozen times before. Nothing ever changes.
Until now.
As Harry nears the end of his eleventh life, a little girl appears at his bedside. ‘I nearly missed you, Doctor August,’ she says. ‘I need to send a message.’
This is the story of what Harry does next, and what he did before, and how he tries to save a past he cannot change and a future he cannot allow.
What did I think? What a wonderful, wonderful premise, right? A man who always returns to where he began, a child but with all memories of his previous lives intact. Harry is a kalachakra. Every time he dies, he is reborn as himself and he lives his own life over and over again. Harry August is a fascinating character. He's good and bad and everything that is grey as well.

The novel tells of Harry's first fifteen lives and explores the culture of the kalachakra in the first half, then in the second half Harry has to try and save the world.

I especially loved the way Claire North imagined time travelling. The kalachakra can pass messages to the future or to the past. A message for the future is easier as you can simply leave it in a permanent medium like a stone tablet for future generations to find. A message for the past requires more time as a young kalachakra must give a message to another kalachakra who is at the end of their life, so that when they are born again they can in turn pass the message on to another kalachakra at the end of their life and so on until the message reaches the intended century.

The book is told in a non linear way, almost disjointed in places, but I never got confused. The pacing is slow (some people called it glacial) as we get to see bits and pieces from Harry's different lives, told in a subtle almost poetic manner. (The writing style reminded me a bit of Station Eleven.) Despite being slow, I found it compelling and was never bored.

I'm sure after all my gushing you wonder why I didn't give it five stars. Sadly, I was disappointed by the ending. See, whenever I come across such an amazing premise that includes potential plot holes, (and time travel always does) I'm worried how the author will manage to tie up all the loose ends. Claire North doesn't do a bad job, but sadly it was disappointing nonetheless. I can't say what bothered me without spoiling the plot, but it involves a villain with a momentary lapse of judgement.

Still, I highly recommend this book if the premise sounds fascinating to you. I loved it a lot.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

TTT (17) - Top Ten Series I've Been Meaning To Start But Haven't

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Follow the link to know more about the meme and join up, it's a great way to find out more about the book blogging community.

This week the theme is top ten series I've been meaning to start but haven't and this week's post by The Broke and the Bookish post can be found here.

Series. My weakness. My main problem is that I start a million of them and struggle to finish them or someone (*cough* George R.R. Martin *cough*) takes ages to bring out the next book and I feel like I've forgotten what happened so far and have to start from scratch.
Now, let's look at the ones I haven't yet started.
  • Otherland by Tad Williams
  • Shadows of the Apt by Adrian Tchaikovsky
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
  • The Faithful and the Fallen by John Gwynne
  • The Ryria Revelations by Michael J. Sullivan
  • The First Law by Joe Abercrombie
  • The Gentleman Bastard by Scott Lynch
  • The Black Company by Glenn Cook
  • The Magicians Trilogy by Lev Grossman
What series would you like to start?

Monday, 19 June 2017

Sunday Post (19) - Hot, hot, hot!

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

The Rules can be found here. And this week's post can be found here.

If you participate, and you should because the community is amazing, don't forget to link up and if you leave me a comment, I will definitely check out your blog!

Doctor visit #2 is done and they confirmed the first of my troubles is only a cyst. The downside is because of its location they can't remove it without general anaesthesia and I said, I'd prefer to keep the cyst thank you very much. Hopefully by next weekend doctor visit #3 will be done with good news as well. Then #4 is left. Sigh.
It's hot here in England. Over 30 degrees and humid and these people build houses without AC, so it's not very pleasant. Thinking of just moving permanently into the bathtub to keep cool!

On the weekend I had a visitor and we ended up strolling around the Kew Gardens in London. Let me show you a few pictures.




Last week's books: I'm still reading Stephen King's It and also read Thinner by King's pseudonym, Richard Bachmann. Quite a disturbing book.

Last week on my blog:
Last week at the cinema: Wonder Woman! Oh, wow. If you haven't seen it yet and you even remotely like superheroes, give this one a try. It's super entertaining and good fun. I had a blast!

Next week on my blog: Again! Catching up on a million reviews!

I hope everyone is having a great week :)