Monday, 27 November 2017

2017 Favourites: The Shades of Magic Series

And just like that, it is nearly the end of 2017 and the start of a new year! I haven't written a blog post in ages but with work, life and reading, I just never got around to drafting one. 

Back to my favourite topic... I have been on quite the reading marathon this year! Mainly YA fantasy, which to be honest, can be a lot faster to read. There are however so many wonderful and exciting YA fantasy series available and constantly being released, it's a wonder why I haven't run out of books to read. So I thought I would pull together my thoughts on some of my favourite books or series I have read in 2017. Here is instalment 1.

The Shades of Magic Series

The Shades of Magic Series

Author: V.E. Schwab
Genre: Fantasy

I started A Darker Shade of Magic last year. While I enjoyed the first book, I didn't quite love it. I felt Schwab spent a lot of this book building the world(s) and maybe the characters got lost a bit in it. I loved the concept of the different Londons and how magic has impacted each London. Character-wise, I admit Kell wasn't the perfect character, however I loved him for his conflicting emotions - part of the royal family but an outsider at the same time. Lila and Rhy bugged me though. I just could not love them. BUT... ADSoM was intriguing enough to keep me invested and I am totally glad I did.

This is truly one of those series where the next book completely surpasses the previous. A Gathering of Shadows was fantastic. Not only was it a continuation of the ADSoM, but there was much more depth in the characters. They came to life and I understood their part in the story better. The tournament and magic portrayal was fantastic. But the cliffhanger of an ending had me wanting more...

A Conjuring of Light continued right off the back of AGoS. I waited for this with anticipation and it did not disappoint. Did I mention that each book surpassed the previous?! Schwab is brilliant at creating villains. She is also brilliant at making you love or sympathise with 'bad guys'. When I started ADSoM, I never would have thought I could like Holland as much as I did by the end of AGoS. I was heartbroken in the end - he was a guy shaped by his circumstances and he had to endure a lot more than any other character.

Overall, I enjoyed this series immensely. I initially thought this was the end of the series but I believe there will be more to come and I can't wait!

Friday, 7 April 2017

Frogkisser! by Garth Nix

Frogkisser!Frogkisser! by Garth Nix
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Poor Princess Anya. Forced to live with her evil stepmother’s new husband, her evil stepstepfather. Plagued with an unfortunate ability to break curses with a magic-assisted kiss. And forced to go on the run when her stepstepfather decides to make the kingdom entirely his own.

Aided by a loyal talking dog, a boy thief trapped in the body of a newt, and some extraordinarily mischievous wizards, Anya sets off on a Quest that, if she plays it right, will ultimately free her land—and teach her a thing or two about the use of power, the effectiveness of a well-placed pucker, and the finding of friends in places both high and low.

My thoughts
3.5 stars...
This fairytale with a twist is a wonderful tale for a younger audience. I think I would've rated this a bit higher as a younger reader because it at times felt too childish for my liking. That being said, I love Arya, the main character. I also liked the references to various fairy tales and the mild hints to diversity (the good wizard! another of my fav characters).

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Review: Stars of Fortune (The Guardians Triology #1)

Stars of Fortune (The Guardians Trilogy, #1)Stars of Fortune by Nora Roberts
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Blurb (from Goodreads):
To celebrate the rise of their new queen, three goddesses of the moon created three stars, one of fire, one of ice, one of water. But then they fell from the sky, putting the fate of all worlds in danger. And now three women and three men join forces to pick up the pieces… 

Sasha Riggs is a reclusive artist, haunted by dreams and nightmares that she turns into extraordinary paintings. Her visions lead her to the Greek island of Corfu, where five others have been lured to seek the fire star. Sasha recognizes them, because she has drawn them: a magician, an archaeologist, a wanderer, a fighter, a loner. All on a quest. All with secrets. 

Sasha is the one who holds them together—the seer. And in the magician, Bran Killian, she sees a man of immense power and compassion. As Sasha struggles with her rare ability, Bran is there to support her, challenge her, and believe in her. 

 But Sasha and Bran are just two of the six. And they all must all work together as a team to find the fire star in a cradle of land beneath the sea. Over their every attempt at trust, unity, and love, a dark threat looms. And it seeks to corrupt everything that stands in its way of possessing the stars…

My thoughts:
This one was an OK read for me. I love Nora Roberts' mystery/crime writings but not so much the romance ones. This book leaned towards romance and some of the soppiness had me cringing a bit. That being said, the underlying storyline was good and I liked the mystic, magical aspects of it.

My recommendation:
This was a good book for an easy read, with a mystical twist but don't expect too much depth to the story or the characters.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Review: All That I Am by Anna Funder

All That I AmAll That I Am by Anna Funder
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Blurb (from Goodreads):
All That I Am is a masterful and exhilarating exploration of bravery and betrayal, of the risks and sacrifices some people make for their beliefs, and of heroism hidden in the most unexpected places.

When eighteen-year-old Ruth Becker visits her cousin Dora in Munich in 1923, she meets the love of her life, the dashing young journalist Hans Wesemann, and eagerly joins in the heady activities of the militant political Left in Germany. Ten years later, Ruth and Hans are married and living in Weimar Berlin when Hitler is elected chancellor of Germany. Together with Dora and her lover, Ernst Toller, the celebrated poet and self-doubting revolutionary, the four become hunted outlaws overnight and are forced to flee to London. Inspired by the fearless Dora to breathtaking acts of courage, the friends risk betrayal and deceit as they dedicate themselves to a dangerous mission: to inform the British government of the very real Nazi threat to which it remains willfully blind. All That I Am is the heartbreaking story of these extraordinary people, who discover that Hitler’s reach extends much further than they had thought.

Gripping, compassionate, and inspiring, this remarkable debut novel reveals an uncommon depth of humanity and wisdom. Anna Funder has given us a searing and intimate portrait of courage and its price, of desire and ambition, and of the devastating consequences when they are thwarted.

My thoughts:
This is the first Anna Funder book I have read and I really enjoyed it. She draws on great imagination to weave fiction and facts together for an intense storyline.

I love the main characters. Dora is the feisty, strong and fearless feminist of the story. While she is not one of the narrators, we live a lot of the book through her actions and beliefs. Her cousin, Ruth, is one of the narrators. While she isn't as fearless as her cousin, I found I related a lot more to Ruth. Funder does really well to build relatable and real characters.

The story itself is largely set in the pre and present Nazi period but from a different perspective to a lot of stories of those eras. Ruth, Dora and their friends have managed to escape the horrors of the concentration camps and they speak out against the regime outside Germany. It was also interesting to think that more could have been done earlier if not for political conservatism.

My recommendation:
I will definitely be looking up more of Anna Funder's works. She reminds me a little of Kate Morton, with the storyline woven between present times and the past. But this book also has a backbone that makes it a unique and strong book of its own. This makes it into my all-time-favourites.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Review: Healthy Brain, Happy Life by Wendy Suzuki

Healthy Brain, Happy LifeHealthy Brain, Happy Life by Wendy Suzuki
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Blurb (from Goodreads):
Dr. Wendy Suzuki one day woke up and realized she didn’t have a life. As an almost-40-year-old award-winning college professor, world-renowned neuroscientist, she had—what many considered—everything: tenure as a professor at New York University; her own very successful neuroscience research lab; prizes for scientific discoveries on cognition and memory; articles published in prestigious scientific journals. As a woman and a scientist, she was the envy of her peers and lauded by her superiors. On paper, she had a stellar career and an impeccable record.

What could she possibly be missing? Everything else. Suzuki was overweight. She was tired. She was lonely, had strained work relationships, and for the first time in her life, completely without direction. So she resolved to change her life. The first step--get moving. Everyone knows that exercise makes you feel better—that when you hit the gym despite the dread, you leave in a better mood.

Healthy Brain, Happy Life offers the real science of how exercise effects your mind. Using Wendy’s journey from frumpy, fat and frustrated to fit and fabulous as a guide, Healthy Brain offers not just the HOWS of making exercise an important part of life, but the WHYS of the benefits it brings. But movement is just the first step to being Brain Healthy. Once you get your body and mind hooked on exercise, you bring in practices in mindfullness to calm stress and allow your minds to wander to unlock creativity. As your brain begins to change (something called neuroplasticity), the benefits build--you get fitter, improve your memory, increase your ability to work quickly and move from task to task easily.

Along with Dr. Suzuki’s 4 minute Brain Hacks, Healthy Brain, Happy Life offers a simple program for changing your life, straight from a leading scientist’s personal experience.

My thoughts:
This is a non-fiction read for all those who are interested and was a motivating insight into Suzuki's experience with exercise and brain plasticity.

I think we all know intrinsically that exercise is good for us. What I enjoyed about this book was that it made a connection between exercise and the brain, and highlighted the fact that exercise is good for the brain. We often falsely believe that once we reach a certain age, our brain stops growing and does not have the ability to learn at the same pace as our younger selves. In this book, we learn this is not true and that exercise can help us learn and grow our brains in ways we may not have thought possible.

The aspects of this book that didn't make me enjoy it as much was that some of the anecdotes felt cheesy. For example, Suzuki liked to write a fair amount about how exercise helped her on the romance side of life. I don't think she quite hit the mark with the message in that respect.

All in all, I thought this was an interesting book. I have currently started on another book about the brain and will hopefully share that with you in a few weeks.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Review: Thicker Than Water by Brigid Kemmerer

Thicker Than WaterThicker Than Water by Brigid Kemmerer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blurb (from Goodreads): 
On his own.

Thomas Bellweather hasn’t been in town long. Just long enough for his newlywed mother to be murdered, and for his new stepdad’s cop colleagues to decide Thomas is the primary suspect.

Not that there’s any evidence. But before Thomas got to Garretts Mill there had just been one other murder in twenty years.

The only person who believes him is Charlotte Rooker, little sister to three cops and, with her soft hands and sweet curves, straight-up dangerous to Thomas. Her best friend was the other murder vic. And she’d like a couple answers.

Answers that could get them both killed, and reveal a truth Thomas would die to keep hidden…

My thoughts:
Halfway through this book, I was feeling disappointed. I thought I was reading some cheesy teen romance - the genre said 'paranormal romance'; where was the paranormal! But then things started to fall into place and I started to enjoy this more. The paranormal aspect of the story explains away most of the 'cheesiness'. Having said that, the ending left me without closure and with a lot of questions.

I am interested to read more of Brigid Kemmerer's books.

**I received this book from an Instagram giveaway by Allen and Unwin. This is my honest review of Thicker Than Water.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Review: Present Danger by Stella Remington

Present Danger (Liz Carlyle, #5)Present Danger by Stella Rimington
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Blurb (from Goodreads): MI5 intelligence officer Liz Carlyle has just been despatched to Northern Ireland to monitor the brutal breakaway Republican groups who never accepted the peace process and want to continue their 'war'. The situation becomes perilous when her informant turns tail.

My thoughts:
This was a pleasant thriller/crime novel to read. I would give 4/5 for plot. I think what let me down a bit was the characterisation. Sometimes the characters felt stiff and a little too clich├ęd for my liking.