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 Dant├Ęs. 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.