Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Guns of the Dawn by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Book Title: Guns of the Dawn
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Genre: Fantasy (theoretically it's Flintlock?)
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Library

Goodreads, Amazon UK 
Goodreads Summary: First, Denland's revolutionaries assassinated their king, launching a wave of bloodshed
after generations of peace. Next they clashed with Lascanne, their royalist neighbour, pitching war-machines against warlocks in a fiercely fought conflict.
Genteel Emily Marshwic watched as the hostilities stole her family's young men. But then came the call for yet more Lascanne soldiers in a ravaged kingdom with none left to give. Emily must join the ranks of conscripted women and march toward the front lines. With barely enough training to hold a musket, Emily braves the savage reality of warfare. But she begins to doubt her country's cause, and those doubts become critical. For her choices will determine her own future and that of two nations locked in battle."
What did I think?

Imagine Elizabeth Bennet (yes, the one written by Jane Austen) is called to war...find this idea exciting? Then this is the book for you.

This is not your usual fantasy. Yes, there's some magic and a few warlocks but overall the supernatural is not the focus of the story and only plays a minor role. It may as well be historical fiction, with the history part totally made up. It's also a slow book, with gorgeous, elegant and witty prose. A bit in the style of Jane Austen, but still very much Adrian Tchaikovsky.

The plot is entertaining, the characters are well developed and I devoured Guns of the Dawn in one weekend. It has a good dash of romance, like you'd expect from a book featuring a musket wielding version of Elizabeth Bennet and I adored the love story just as much as the parts with action and war.

This made me laugh and cry and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. If the blurb is at all interesting to you, do yourself the favour and pick this one up. It's worth your while.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay

Book Title: The Summer Tree
Author: Guy Gavriel Kay
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Kindle

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Goodreads Summary: It all began with a lecture that introduced five university students to a man who would change their lives, a wizard who could take them from Earth to the heart of the first of all worlds—Fionavar. And take them Loren Silvercloak did, for his need—the need of Fionavar and all the worlds—was great indeed.
And in a marvelous land of men and dwarves, of wizards and gods—and of the Unraveller and his minions of Darkness—Kimberly, Dave, Jennifer, Kevin, and Paul discovered who they were truly meant to be. For the five were a long-awaited part of the pattern known as the Fionavar Tapestry, and only if they accepted their destiny would the armies of the Light stand any chance of surviving when the Unraveller unleashed his wrath upon the world.
What did I think? 

I LOVED IT!

I've read The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay earlier this year as my first GGK read. Here's my review. I really enjoyed it and wanted to read more books written by him. He usually writes light fantasy which I'd describe more as historical fantasy or maybe even alternative history. GGK takes an era and a region and tells his own alternative version of history. The Lions of Al-Rassan is set in medieval Spain and Tigana is set in Renaissance Italy.

Now, The Summer Tree is traditional epic fantasy. The kind where a small group of people get swept away through a portal into a fantasy land and become heroes and have to save the place from evil. I got lost in this book and couldn't stop reading.

The prose is lyrical and it was a pleasure to read every single sentence... I got lost in it. It was almost like sitting around a camp fire and listening to a poet. Marvellous experience.

I recommend this book to anyone who loves Tolkien and traditional epic fantasy. It does show its age (it's as old as me, eek) but I fell in love with all the characters and can't wait to read the rest of the trilogy.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

Book Title: Nevernight
Author: Jay Kristoff
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Library

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Goodreads Summary: Destined to destroy empires, Mia Covere is only ten years old when she is given her first lesson in death.
Six years later, the child raised in shadows takes her first steps towards keeping the promise she made on the day that she lost everything.
But the chance to strike against such powerful enemies will be fleeting, so if she is to have her revenge, Mia must become a weapon without equal. She must prove herself against the deadliest of friends and enemies, and survive the tutelage of murderers, liars and demons at the heart of a murder cult.
The Red Church is no Hogwarts, but Mia is no ordinary student. The shadows love her. And they drink her fear.
What did I think? Oh boy. Mostly. Even though the main character is a girl. So, first of all I read a few reviews that stated the prose is unbearable, but for me the prose was quite the opposite: bloody fantastic.

There's a narrator. I love narrators. The narrator uses footnotes to build the world. I love footnotes. (I really need to tackle Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.) The narrator is snarky. Brilliant.

Mia is an anti-hero and there's probably a lot of women I'd rather meet in a dark alley late at night, if possible I'd like not to meet Mia under such circumstances. She's quite deadly but so well developed.

All characters are well developed and the story is uplifting in places, downright depressing in others, always bloody, always a bit scary and mostly laced with 'what the hell?' THESE ARE CHILDREN YOU MONSTER. (Looking at the author here.)

The plot is filled with twists and is interesting throughout, there wasn't a single slow moment. The romance is amazing. Did you hear that? For once the romance is amazing!

This is a brilliant book and I highly recommend it to all fantasy fans that don't mind a young protagonist. If you're worried about the narrator and the somewhat purple prose, just read the first chapter, it'll tell you everything you need to know.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Sunday Post (25) - Almost November

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.

I think I'm starting to feel like a normal human being again... the sprained ankle has healed and I'm able to jog/run/walk again. The vertigo has gone away and now I only notice when I'm in the middle of London surrounded by a million tourists and everything moves far too fast... and I've had a September and October filled with guests who wanted to visit the Harry Potter Studios, Phantom of the Opera, eat in a dozen restaurants and do many other things that required me being a tour guide. Hopefully that's all over now.
I've not been to the cinema in a while, but I've been reading a lot and I'm on track to finish 104 books again this year.

Lately on my blog:

This was my highlight of the week. Guns of the Dawn by Adrian Tchaikovsky and I hope I can review it soon. It's a bit like Jane Austen's Elizabeth Bennet has to go to war in a flintlock fantasy. (I just noticed, I added some of my hair to that photo, how nice...)


This is the pizza you get for £20 in Covent Garden in London in a restaurant called Homeslice. It's 20" and gorgeous in your mouth.


This is Lola, the Cocker Spaniel on a cold Saturday trying to stay warm. (Ignore the hair on the carpet, Blue the Australian Shepherd is shedding his fur in preparation for winter. I'm vacuuming twice a day.)


This is what happens to London when a storm brings around sand from the Sahara desert.

I hope everyone is having a good time, I will now try and visit everyone's blog and hope to catch up with all of you. Have a great week reading!

Friday, 20 October 2017

Otherworld by Jason Segel, Kirsten Miller

Book Title: Otherworld
Author: Jason Segel, Kirsten Miller
Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Netgalley

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Goodreads Summary: The company says Otherworld is amazing—like nothing you’ve ever seen before. They say it’s addictive—that you’ll want to stay forever. They promise Otherworld will make all your dreams come true.
Simon thought Otherworld was a game. Turns out he knew nothing. Otherworld is the next phase of reality. It’s everything you’ve ever wanted.
And it’s about to change humanity forever.
Welcome to the Otherworld. No one could have seen it coming.

I got a review copy from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

What did I think? Otherworld is a game, the kind I've always wanted to play. The participants leave their physical bodies behind and step, literally, into the game. Virtual reality is an amazing premise and one I hope to see more often in science fiction novels.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It moves with a good pace, is thrilling, entertaining and there's not a single dull moment. I finished it in a single day.

However, it's definitely a book for young adults and the writing style is aimed at the younger age bracket. The story is simple and straightforward and the teenage love story made the novel less interesting for me. People who have read Tad Williams' Otherland or similar books, might think this is not as original as it could be.

The characters are definitely well developed teenagers that sound authentic and the world building is intriguing, if a bit lacking.

I would recommend this to people who enjoyed the Maze Runner series and loved Ready Player One not because of the 80s nostalgia but because of the focus on virtual reality.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

Book Title: Leviathan Wakes
Author: James S. A. Corey
Genre: Science Fiction
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Kindle Copy

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Goodreads Summary: Humanity has colonized the solar system - Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond - but the stars are still out of our reach.
Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, "The Scopuli," they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for - and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.
Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to "The Scopuli" and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.
What did I think? I wasn't a fan. And I don't know why. I should have been. Really. This book is fast paced. The plot moves forward with an incredible speed. The world building is amazing. The characters are interesting and well developed, though I really wanted to strangle Holden. I liked Miller a lot.

Every chapter ends on a cliffhanger. At the end of every chapter you just want to dive into the next. In theory. I didn't. I put the book aside and sometimes forgot to continue for weeks. Even though there were cliffhangers?

I can't tell you why it didn't work for me. But I can tell you it worked for my girlfriend. She devoured all five books that were out at the time within a month. She couldn't stop reading. She loves this series and this universe. In fact, she's the reason I picked it up.

I prefer my science fiction to be placed on Earth, and in the near future and I like it to be about technology and social science. Maybe that's the problem, but, on the other hand, I loved Battlestar Galactica and would consider it my favourite show.

Maybe, I just don't make sense.

So, to finish this review, let me say: if you love sci-fi, love space and spaceships, love a good mystery, pick this one up, it probably is fantastic.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

NaNoWriMo

It's this time of the year again: NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month.

The premise is simple: write 50,000 words in the month of November (about 1667 a day.) Set aside some time every day and write. By the end of November, hopefully, you'll have a first draft.

One of my worst enemies is procrastination, and without deadlines I procrastinate even more. I'm the student who started writing her papers forty-eight hours before the deadline and stayed up all night cramming an 800 page book before an exam.
That is why I love NaNoWriMo. It's a deadline, albeit a fake one. I just don't work well without pressure and this is why I attempt to pressure myself whenever I can. NaNoWriMo is a bunch of writers, writing alongside me, and I feel like I've committed. And now I have to see it through.

Not everyone is a fan of NaNoWriMo. I can understand that. It's not helpful to sit down with a fever or a headache or if you're simply too tired after an exhausting day and are writing down words just for the sake of writing down words. This is why NaNoWriMo definitely isn't for everyone.

But for me it is the permission to write crap. It is the permission to just write a first draft and worry about editing later. It's the permission to suck.
I used to stare at white space: Scrivener, my phone, sometimes a physical notebook...just stare. Every sentence I wrote wasn't good enough to publish, so I would delete them. Every paragraph was uninspired and bland. Deleted. I'd go to bed with as much white space left on the page as I started with.

NaNoWriMo is the permission to write a story–an entire story, from beginning to end. It does not matter if it’s any good or if the chosen words are the right words. Everything wrong can be fixed during the editing process. Editing is hard work, sure, but you can’t edit without first having a story.

I needed, and still need, that permission to write crap. Because once I’ve written something, I can fix it later. But if I don’t allow myself the freedom to create without judgement, the white space will never be filled.

NaNoWriMo kills the fear for me, and the deadline (the end of the month) is what motivates and pressures me.

If you like to edit as you write or if you like to work slower and finish with a cleaner first draft than you would after 30 days of frantic writing, then no, it’s probably not for you. If 1667 words a day is too much, then it may not be for you either and that’s fine.

But if fear of failure, procrastination and other shiny things keep you from writing then maybe it’s worth a try.

Are you a NaNoWriMoer? How do you motivate yourself? Do you need a deadline? Or can you just write? Let me know in the comments.

[I've published a version of this post on the blog of my writing group earlier this year. It can be found here.]

Monday, 2 October 2017

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Book Title: Lev Grossman
Author: The Magicians
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Library

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Goodreads Summary: Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. A senior in high school, he’s still secretly preoccupied with a series of fantasy novels he read as a child, set in a magical land called Fillory. Imagine his surprise when he finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the craft of modern sorcery.

He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. Something is missing, though. Magic doesn’t bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he dreamed it would. After graduation he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real. But the land of Quentin’s fantasies turns out to be much darker and more dangerous than he could have imagined. His childhood dream becomes a nightmare with a shocking truth at its heart.
What did I think? I loved the idea of a protagonist who wishes magic was real and the fantasy world he enjoyed growing up actually exists, but even though it all drops into his lap, he still can't find happiness.

Something's always missing, even if your dreams become real.

That's a great premise and a problem I deal with frequently. You idealise the next stage of your life, thinking love/school/promotion/publishing contract/marriage/kids/graduation/etc. will make you happy and then you realise, nope, still not quite there. 

But...I had a hard time getting into The Magicians. Mostly because Quentin is an unlikeable character who I wouldn't want as my friend. At least not at first; he did grow on me somewhat. The world is bleak, everyone is miserable and people are shitty to each other. Then I understood the tone of the novel more began to enjoy myself.

The author took the Hogwarts years from Harry Potter and mixed in Narnia in the second half of the book. It sounds old, but it worked well, and I thought it was done in an original and surprising way. 

The characters are well developed and the world feels real.

I recommend this book to everyone who grew up wishing Narnia was a real place and who doesn't mind unlikeable and miserable characters.

I'll definitely read the next one at some point.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Sunday Post (24) - Why so cold, September?

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.

You'd think autumn started at the beginning of September and I've almost turned on the heating several times already. We even changed to our winter duvet... 

I've been slowly getting back into things. I have friends visiting the next few weeks, so my house will be full and when not, I'll be cleaning it to prepare for the next lot. I am quite the introvert and it's stressing me a bit, but on the other hand, they're all close friends.
On my blog lately:
I'm hoping to find more time to blog in the upcoming weeks, there's still a million books waiting for their review. That's if my visitors let me breathe. I'm also writing a lot... and NaNoWriMo is approaching.


And I'm finally reading Nevernight by Jay Kristoff.

I hope everyone has a great week and gets lots of time to read.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Nyxia by Scott Reintgen

Book Title: Nyxia
Author: Scott Reintgen
Genre: Science Fiction
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Netgalley

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Goodreads Summary: Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family.
Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden—a planet that Babel has kept hidden—where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe.
But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human.
I got a review copy from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

What did I think? Young Adult in space? Sign me up! Those were my thoughts when I requested this title from Netgalley. I ended up having a lot of fun with the story and read it during a long, sleepless night.

It's not groundbreaking, but it's exactly what it promises to be. It'll probably be sold as Hunger Games in space... which makes me want to roll my eyes, but I also have to admit, it is a bit like Hunger Games in space.

Ten teenagers are on board this spaceship on its way to a planet called Eden. They're being trained to mine a new element called Nyxia... but only eight out of the ten will be allowed to do so. Let the competition begin!

This book has a great and varied ensemble. For the average reader the beginning might be a bit overwhelming, since ten teenagers are introduced. It took me a while before I was able to keep them straight, but Reintgen made sure to give each one an individual voice. They're all well developed, and by the end I felt like I knew them all.

I recommend this to fans of Young Adult (who don't mind books aimed at the younger end of the YA audience) and Science Fiction novels, who are looking for something like the Hunger Games, Ender's Game or The 100.

Monday, 11 September 2017

The City & The City by China Miéville

Book Title: The City & The City
Author: China Miéville
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Library

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Goodreads Summary: When the body of a murdered woman is found in the extraordinary, decaying city of Beszel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks like a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad. But as he probes, the evidence begins to point to conspiracies far stranger, and more deadly, than anything he could have imagined. Soon his work puts him and those he cares for in danger. Borlú must travel to the only metropolis on Earth as strange as his own, across a border like no other.
What did I think? Do you know what it feels like when the premise sounds absolutely amazing, but you don't like the story set in it? That's what happened to me with The City & The City.

The setting of the book is what intrigued me in the first place. Two separate cities existing within the same geographical area, at the same time and citizens of one city are prohibited from interacting with, or even looking at citizens of the other city. It's a brilliant concept and through it the author can look at cultural differences, segregation and how we're capable of going about our lives without noticing the homeless man in the corner.

I was looking forward to finding out more about the two cities and how it came about that they occupy the same space at the same time, but the author decided to set a simple, classic noir detective story into this setting...

The writing is gorgeous. China Miéville has a way with words. The pacing is somewhat slow, at least at first but once the story gets going it really picks up.

It's a great blend of crime and fantasy, unfortunately I was more interested in the fantasy aspect and the author seemed intent on focusing on the mystery.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

TTT (20) - Top Ten Books I Struggled To Get Through

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 Books We Struggled To Get Through and this week's post by The Broke and the Bookish can be found here
I hardly ever DNF books. How about you? As a teenager I'd usually read one book at a time and since I'm an only child that loved reading, I'd sometimes get through a book a day. Then my 20s came around and video games and television series somehow were more important than reading. Social Media swiftly followed and destroyed my attention span. I swear I could read for hours without looking up once... now I promise my brain it's allowed to check Twitter once the chapter is done.
Nowadays, I am mostly reading again but quite often 8 books at the same time. I avoid reading slumps like that. If I'm not in the mood for a book, I just reach for another one. I also gave myself the permission to DNF books, but I still rarely do it.

These are some of the books I struggled with but ended up enjoying more than expected:



Tom Toner's The Promise of the Child is probably my favourite read of 2016. It's quite dense and complex though. It's the 147th century and humanity has conquered the stars and evolved. It's a book that demands 100% of the reader's attention and it's definitely not straightforward but I'd love to have the guy's imagination. I'm an impatient person, I sometimes skim long descriptions...shame on me. This book taught me a lesson, because after about a third I had no idea what was happening and had to start from the beginning. That's when I fell in love...



My first adult fantasy book. My father gave it to me when I was fifteen years old, and I remember sitting down with a Bloodhound Gang CD (the music to this day evokes a shiver and a faint memory of Nazgûls) and cracking it open. I did not get the first 100 pages... the description of the Shire is quite lengthy and I was mostly bored. Once I managed to wade past the first 150 pages or so, I could no longer put it down.


This book is brilliant. Yes, it's complex and yes, if you want to understand everything that's going on you'll probably need a philosophy and history degree. But you don't need to understand everything to enjoy the heck out of this story...
Once I admitted that many details will fly over my head and I will probably not get most of his clever hints and allusions, I just read it. And Umberto Eco takes a shopping list, makes it a conspiracy, feeds it to a bunch of scholars and lets them re-write the entire history of Europe...based on said shopping list. I love conspiracy theories and this book rolls with it in a way I'd never seen before.


I almost missed it. How silly. "I'm not participating in this dumb wizard hype," said 13 year old me. It taught me two things: do not ignore hype and do not ignore wizards. We were on our way to a getaway in the mountains and I knew it would be hiking, therefore boring. I asked if I could buy a few books to take with me and my parents said yes... the bookshop at the station had the first three Harry Potter novels neatly stacked by the entrance and I had a moment of, why not? Might as well find out what the fuss is about... 48 hours later I had to join the wait for book 4!

I've struggled with other books. Anna Karenina, for example, had an entire chapter about farming and I almost fell asleep, but once I push through and end up loving the book, I tend to forget about the struggle.

What are books you struggled with? Or maybe even abandoned? Or still pushed through? Let me know.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Book Title: Truly Madly Guilty
Author: Liane Moriarty
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Library

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Goodreads Summary: Six responsible adults. Three cute kids. One small dog. It’s just a normal weekend. What could possibly go wrong?
Sam and Clementine have a wonderful, albeit, busy life: they have two little girls, Sam has just started a new dream job, and Clementine, a cellist, is busy preparing for the audition of a lifetime. If there’s anything they can count on, it’s each other.
Clementine and Erika are each other’s oldest friends. A single look between them can convey an entire conversation. But theirs is a complicated relationship, so when Erika mentions a last minute invitation to a barbecue with her neighbors, Tiffany and Vid, Clementine and Sam don’t hesitate. Having Tiffany and Vid’s larger than life personalities there will be a welcome respite.
Two months later, it won’t stop raining, and Clementine and Sam can’t stop asking themselves the question: What if we hadn’t gone?
What did I think? This is my second Moriarty book. The first was Big Little Lies and I loved that one so very much. Still haven't watched the show but definitely want to. I couldn't put Big Little Lies down once I'd started, but, sadly, this one takes a long time to really get somewhere.

The main focus here are the characters and Moriarty builds them carefully and with attention to detail. Maybe if I'd expected less thrilling action and instead a character drama, I would have enjoyed it a lot more. The characters are amazingly well written. Moriarty really has a knack for painting vivid, flawed people. The way she describes dysfunctional friendships and relationships is basically what made the book for me.

I must admit I was extremely frustrated by the time it was finally revealed what happened at the BBQ. And the way the characters suddenly were incapable of even seeing each other, made my brain imagine the absolute worst... and it turned out to be something traumatic, yet not something that, in my opinion, would drive a wedge between a group of people. I can't say more without spoiling the book's plot.

If you haven't read a Moriarty book yet and enjoy suspense novels, pick up Big Little Lies. I'd recommend this one for people who are Moriarty fans or people who enjoy character driven novels, who don't mind slow plots and instead love to read about dysfunctional relationships.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Gilded Cage by James Vic

Book Title: Gilded Cage
Author: Vic James
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: Library

Goodreads, Amazon UK

Goodreads Summary: In modern-day Britain, magic users control everything: wealth, politics, power—and you. If you’re not one of the ultimate one-percenters—the magical elite—you owe them ten years of service. Do those years when you’re old, and you’ll never get through them. Do them young, and you’ll never get over them.
This is the darkly decadent world of Gilded Cage. In its glittering milieu move the all-powerful Jardines and the everyday Hadleys. The families have only one thing in common: Each has three children. But their destinies entwine when one family enters the service of the other. They will all discover whether any magic is more powerful than the human spirit.
Have a quick ten years...
What did I think? This is the first book in a planned trilogy. I was surprised at how much I ended up liking this. Young Adult is a bit hit and miss with me and I'm more of a fantasy fan, but this book had a premise that simply was too intriguing not to pick up. And I fell a little bit in love with it all...

It's a very political book. This is a world where commoners are required to serve as slaves for ten years during which they lose all basic human rights. The protagonists set out to serve at the beginning of the book and I expected it to be mostly about their struggle for freedom with a dose of rebellion... but I was pleasantly surprised and the reader gets the perspective of the ruling Equals as well and they're not all bad. Some of them are fighting to abolish the slavery.

There are a lot of characters to keep track of and many twists and turns. It's not an easy plot to follow either, but I think that only added to my enjoyment. The characters are layered and well developed and thankfully not one dimensional. The writing is enjoyable and the world building is original.

One thing I enjoyed less was the romance, which felt like it was added just so there's at least some romance or maybe as a set-up for the sequels.

Highly recommended to YA fans who love fantasy and don't mind a book being a bit on the political side.

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.