Friday, 27 February 2015

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Cover from Goodreads

Blurb (from Goodreads):
Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.

This is the twelfth expedition.

Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers - they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding - but it's the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that changes everything.

My thoughts:
This was a strange book for me; I don't know how else to say this. I gave this 4 Goofys but I'm not sure if I would knowingly read this again. So here's what I thought...

"The beauty of it cannot be understood, either, and when you see beauty in desolution it changes something inside you. Desolution tries to colonize you."
<I loved this quote; so beautiful and haunting at the same time.>

First of all, what genre does this book belong in? I'm not normally one that likes to place books in categories but I did feel quite confused with Annihilation. My first thought was sci-fi but then there are aspects of horror in here as well. This wasn't exactly scary and I'm not a huge fan of horror (books, tv, movies) so trust me on this. I can however picture it being a lot scarier as a movie, which is apparently in the works.

I thought it was well-written. I really did. I read reviews saying otherwise but there's something about reading this from the biologist's viewpoint that got me hooked. No names are given to the characters, we only get to know them by their occupation. This didn't worry me too much as I felt the other members of the twelfth expedition were only really there to nudge the story in the direction Jeff VanderMeer intended. The book is really all about the biologist; her curiosity, her discovery of herself and also her guilt (without giving too much away). I felt this was intriguing and was enough to keep me interested in at least reading till the end.

The end... was an aspect of the book I didn't quite like. It felt abrupt. Considering this is the first book of a three part series, perhaps more will be revealed in later books.

I debated with myself for a long while as to what to rate this book. In the end, I decided to give this 4 Goofys, largely because I felt it was a better than average book. I don't however feel motivated enough to pick up the next few books in the series. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed reading this, it isn't however the type of book I'd normally like to read.

*I read this book as part of the Sword and Laser February book of the month. This review has also been profiled on Goodreads.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Tales Compendium Blogoversary and Australia Day Giveaway!

Jess from The Tales Compendium is giving away 5 signed Aussie YA novels. The giveaway ends tomorrow 26 February 2015. There's only 1 day to go so hurry up and enter! Click here for more information.

Jess also writes lovely book reviews so even if you miss out, check out and follow her blog anyway :)

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Top Ten Tuesday (24/02): Top Ten Heroines

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

Join in the fun!

Top Ten Heroines (in no particular order)

1. Ella (Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine). This was one of my favourite books as a child and Ella is just phenomenal. She's smart, witty and has a lot of guts. Plus she captures Prince Char's heart (I majorly fell in love with Char when I first read this book). I have to admit I wasn't a fan of the movie adaptation; a huge fail for me even though I adore Anne Hathaway.

2. Hermione Granger (Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling). Of course, what's a heroine list without Hermione. What would Harry do without Hermione? She's the brains in the famous trio and gutsy too. 

3. Emma Donahoe (Dark Heavens trilogy by Kylie Chan). A devoted fan to this series (now into it's third trilogy). Dark Heavens is the first and best of the three trilogies, with Emma being the kick-ass main character, putting Chinese mythological gods in their place and battling the demonic underworld. She's independent, fearless and basically a superwoman in her own right.

4. Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins). A strong, independent character, who stands up for her family and friends and for a better world. Sometimes she struggles to choose the right path, but life isn't always perfect.

5. Elizabeth Bennett (Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen). Oh Lizzie, the literary world wouldn't be the same without you. Despite being one of the original heroines of all time, you were probably more modern for your own time. We all wish we had some Elizabeth Bennett in us (and a Mr Darcy to boot!).

6. Jane Eyre (Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte). Again another all time favourite book. Jane, like Elizabeth, was a heroine way ahead of her time. 

7. Alicia Florrick (The Good Wife tv series). Alicia is a strong and independent woman. She's someone I'd like to be and definitely a good role model for all women.

8. Temperance Brennan (Temperance Brennan series by Kathy Reichs). Also commonly known as Bones from the tv series of the same name, Temperance is one of my favourite crime/detective heroines. Smart and witty and a forensic genius.

9. Nancy Drew (Nancy drew series by Carolyn Keene). I was obsessed with Nancy Drew as a kid. She was THE heroine of my childhood. You could always count on Nancy to solve the crime.

10. Veronica Mars (Veronica Mars tv series). I was so upset when this series was canned. Seriously, it kicked-ass with a great heroine, Veronica (played by Kristen Bell), and a great storyline. Veronica Mars is basically like the Nancy Drew of this decade; independent, smart and sassy. 

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Week in pictures (w.e. 21/02): reading on the train; tea; and tv

I often like to spend my travelling time reading. Luckily I catch trains as reading on buses make me queasy! Here I'm reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. This is a bit of a hefty book  to carry around (the large paperback version). But I am liking it so far.

I am also a fan of teas and this is a nifty tea infuser. His name is Fred :). The tea I'm drinking is T2's Green Rose. It's a nice flowery green tea.

I'm also a huge fan of The Good Wife and like to keep up to date with the episodes I've missed. Alicia kicks butt!

Friday, 20 February 2015

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Book cover from Goodreads
Blurb (from Goodreads):
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called "Le Cirque des Reves", and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway - a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love - a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hand in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

What did I think?
This was one of my favourite reads for 2014 and deservedly so. I loved this book. I loved it so much I bought a physical copy as well (I read this on my Kindle).

I have to admit it was really slow going in the beginning and it may not be for everyone. Erin Morgenstern however has a great writing prose that is able to completely transport you to another place. She has this wonderful way of igniting nearly all your senses - sight, sound and smell - so that you really do feel like you're at Le Cirque des Reves. I became so totally immersed in the imagery, in the storyline.

"A show without an audience is nothing, after all. In the response of the audience, that is where the power of performance lives."

The story itself is set in the late 1800s to early 1900s.  The magic component of the book is probably what categorises it as fantasy but, if you were expecting magic along the lines of Harry Potter, this isn't quite the book you were looking for (not to say you may not like it!). I would describe the magic in this book as 'classical magic' - is there even such a thing? The magical duel and the magical circus are central aspects of the story but the characters are really what bring the story to life - they all so beautifully fit into the fold of the story, from the enigmatic Chandresh to the lively twins Poppet and Widget. I read somewhere (can't remember where - sorry ): !) that earlier versions of the book had only one central character (Marco, I think). I really cannot envision this book without both Marco and Celia - they are both integral main characters and I'm so glad that they both feature in this published version.

If I do have a gripe, this doesn't work so well as an e-book. The book often transitions back and forth between the 'past' and the 'present'. On my Kindle, this made my reading this book difficult as it wasn't as easy a task for me to flip back to revisit certain chapters. Hence why I bought a physical copy (meaning that I do plan to re-read this one day). 

I give this book 5 Goofys! 

It is a beautifully written novel. If you like a bit of Victorian England, circuses and magic, this is the book for you. But please please please, if the first few chapters feel a bit slow to your liking, please please please persist, because it does deliver in the end.

**I read this book as part of the Sword and Laser December 2014 book pick. This review has also been profiled on Goodreads.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Top Ten Tuesday (17/02): Ten Book Related Problems I Have

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

This blog is a recent discovery. I love their blog and this weekly list seemed like fun so I decided to participate (:

Ten Book Related Problems I Have (in no particular order)

1. Buying books faster than I read them. There are way too many books on my shelves (physical and electronic). But when I read or hear about an interesting book, I can't help but purchase it for later.

2. Reading too many books at once. Oh you know, start one book with a bookclub, start another on the Kindle because it's travel friendly, just bought a book you can't wait to get into... Next thing you know, you have way too many books on the night stand!

3. Moving is a pain. Only when you move do you realise how heavy books are!

4. Multiple copies of books across different devices - but some books are just that good!

5. Read the book before the movie? Always a dilemma.

6. Loyalty to a series. When the earlier books in a series are too good and you continue to read the series because you just need to know what happens, even when the latest books have become too farfetched or dull.

7. Kindle vs purchase physical book vs borrow book.

8. Falling in love with characters. If only they were real, they'd make the best boyfriends / friends.

9. DNF. I hate not finishing a book. But I've only ever not finished ONE book - it was so bad and not my cup of tea, I just couldn't go on.

10. Book gifts. Disappointment with the lack of excitement when you gift a book to a loved one. Give me books or book gift cards anytime! I'll love you forever!

Monday, 16 February 2015

Week in pictures: Ben & Jerry's; one book down

I ended last week with some Ben & Jerry's ice cream at one of their Open Air Cinemas. We didn't manage a superb viewing spot on the hill but our little section was still great. We saw Big Hero 6, which I had heard was really good from many people (including my 5 year old nephew). To be honest, I wasn't expecting too much, especially after seeing the ads for it. But can I just say that was totally PROVEN WRONG. This movie was absolutely fantastic - for all kids BIG and small. There were many great morales to take away in addition to cuteness overload and some action for all the kids in us. LOVED it!

I also finished Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer. I hope to write my thoughts in due time. This I read as part of the Sword and Laser February 2015 book pick.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

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I love using Bloglovin' as a one stop shop to follow all the blogs that I love.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Week in Pictures

Ok ok ok... I've done a little sneaky thing and changed my Reading week in pictures to Week in pictures. I wanted to be able to sneak in some non-reading pictures and it was a difficult to do so under the Reading week in pictures umbrella :)

I bought some new specs! I bought 2 pairs actually. This is the more casual pair. The other ones I would wear more for work when I don't feel like wearing my contacts. I love these. They aren't normally what I'd choose but I just loved them when I tried them on. Here I am watching Ingrid on YouTube. I love listening to her in general so check her channel out if you're interested.

This was the second half of Sunday's breakfast - some blueberry yoghurt, coffee and Leo & Sarah on iPad Today. I like listening to iPad Today to discover new apps, hear about what's happening in the iPad/Apple world and, most of all, I just love listening to these two.

And what about the reading? Yes, I'm making my way through Annihilation. Luckily it's not a huge book so it shouldn't take too long to finish. I think I like it. But I'm still trying to discover what the whole point of the story is. You know how you can normally guess how the story will pan out... I'm still quite perplexed. Anyway... we shall see...!

On to the next week now!

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Week in Pictures: Annihilation

Just started reading the Sword & Laser February book of the month, Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer. I borrowed the book from my local library because I wasn't sure if I'd like it enough to want to own a copy.

This picture is pretty bad as I was reading in bed and was too lazy to get up to take a proper one. I loved this paragraph from this page:

"The effect of this cannot be understood without being there. The beauty of it cannot be understood, either, and when you see beauty in desolation it changes something inside you. Desolation tries to colonize you."

I haven't gone far yet so I'm not sure if I like it yet.