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.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Review: Time and Again by Jack Finney

Time and Again (Time, #1)Time and Again by Jack Finney
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Blurb (from Goodreads): Transported from the mid-twentieth century to New York City in the year 1882, Si Morley walks the fashionable "Ladies' Mile" of Broadway, is enchanted by the jingling sleigh bells in Central Park, and solves a 20th-century mystery by discovering its 19th-century roots. Falling in love with a beautiful young woman, he ultimately finds himself forced to choose between his lives in the present and the past.

A story that will remain in the listener's memory, "Time and Again" is a remarkable blending of the troubled present and a nostalgic past, made vivid and extraordinarily moving by the images of a time that was...and perhaps still is.

My thoughts:
I didn't quite like the writing style of this book but the storyline was alright. I always pictured time travel to include a time machine but the method employed in this book seemed feasible enough.

In reference to the plot, I found the timing and wording of the letter quite confusing. Was it just me? I didn't quite understand how it played into the story, given how the events turned out. What I did like was visualising New York in the 1880s through Si's travel through time. Taking a step back in time is one thing. But imagine someone from that era travelling into the present time - would they like the advancements made or would they abhor the changes?

Si is a likeable and easily relatable character. That being said, I found his relationship morales questionable. While I liked Julia, I also liked Kate, who was such an integral part of the story. So I did feel sorry for her as Si fell for Julia.

There is a twist at the end of the story that I did not see coming, an attempt by Si to do the right thing.

**I read this book as part of the Sword and Laser December 2015 bookclub.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

It has been a while...

Yes, it has been a while... I went into somewhat of a reading slump towards the second half of 2015 and sadly let other aspects of my life take over. But this year, I am keen to get into control of my life, to do things I love and improve my health.

Here are 5 simple things I'd like to achieve this year:
1. Read more books (I will achieve my 30 book reading challenge!)
2. Practice yoga/meditation
3. Eat healthy
4. Keep a clean environment (home & work)
5. Be more organised

I wouldn't call these New Year's resolutions; conversely a step towards making a better me. These are things I want to integrate into my life and continue past 2016.

Do you have any goals you'd like to achieve?

Hello from Morris the travelling moose!