Thursday, 26 November 2015

Book Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Read: November 22-25   Verdict: 5 stars

This book was exactly what I needed!

Agnieszka lives in a little village near the mountains, beside an enchanted woods that creates evil things. Her land is ruled by the Dragon, a centuries-old wizard who takes a new girl to his tower every year for an unknown reason. When it comes to Agnieszka's year to be in the round-up of women, everyone is shocked when the Dragon chooses someone other than who they thought it would be and Nieszka's adventures begin.

Wow,oh wow. I was having a pretty crappy Monday when I started this book and my dad suddenly came so much better because I was looking forward to just jumping back into it. This is the kind of story where I had such a clear image of all the characters in my head. Much the way Nieszka imagines the land during her spells, I was able to see the Tower and the Dragon and Nieszka arguing and the creepy Woods and the Walkers. It was truly magical.

Nieszka was a great character for me. She had spunk and wasn't a dainty little princess. She's tall, with tangled mounds of hair and dirty dresses and just so much fun. She ran headlong into things and just kept shocking people along the way. I loved her relationship with Kasia, it was such a great strong friendship with two girls who would kill for one another and I found that really beautiful.

And as for the Dragon, oh lord, that chemistry!! It was killing me! Their scenes had me laugh out loud, their arguments and stubbornness just thrilled me and other scenes left me feeling breathless. The sex scenes in this book were perfect for my taste. They weren't crude at all but were just on that perfect edge of sexy. I really liked reading them.

This was the kind of book that I just wanted it to go on forever. I actually stopped myself from reading too fast because I wanted to savor every single word. It was just amazing. I am bound.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Book Review: Searching for Grace Kelly by M.G. Callahan

Read: November 12-14 Verdict: 2.5/75 Stars

I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

Searching for Grace Kelly tells the story of three women, Laura, D
olly and Vivian, and the six months they spent in New York City in 1955. The girls are all living in a women's residence and all searching for that one man to whisk them away to marriage and motherhood. 

At first I enjoyed this book. It was full of that mystery and glamour you can expect from a 1950s New York City. From the clothes, dates and places of food and drink, I was able to really imagine the era. The book was full of wonderful descriptions that really brought the story to life and it's obvious the author put a lot of research and effort into getting all of this right. I really imagined myself at the Blue Oyster with Laura and Box, looking at all the privileged people around me and the sounds of glasses chinking and the smell of cigarette smoke wafting around.

However, I began to lose interest in the story. I think this was partly because the Paris Shootings happened, and I suddenly couldn't bring myself to care about these three girls whose only problems were finding the right man to marry. They became trivial and honestly, my mood was down and I began to skim. By that time, the only parts I liked were Vivian's for obvious reasons. She had become trapped in the kind of relationship that many women still find themselves in, and I was interested to see how it worked out (guessing the prologue related to her). Laura became a Mary Sue to me. She had such big plans to be a writer and succeed in Mademoiselle, and yet literally all her moments were full of worries about Box and Pete. It became boring and I honestly couldn't care about her. Laura's attitude, and the whole book's underlying attitude, to Dolly also irritated me. There were so many mentions of Dolly's food habits and how that was most likely the reason she couldn't find a man. God forbid a woman with some lumps and bumps is found attractive by the opposite sex.

If there are any readers interested in this period in time, and a bit of (man-filled) drama then I would suggest checking this book out. But it's definitely not something that has a whole load of depth to it.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Book Review: Darkhaven by A.F.E Smith

Read: November 8-10 Verdict: 4 Stars

I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

Ayla lives in a world where the leaders of her land can transform into terrifying but beautiful beasts. Ayla also happens to be the ruler's daughter and is his only living child capable of changing which means her father has taking the right to be heir of Ayla's brother, and given it to Ayla...and she really doesn't want it. After arguing with her father, Ayla is locked up and then the night she escapes, her father is brutally murdered. On the run, and wrongly suspected of murder, Ayla needs all the help she can get, even if it's with the man who killed her mother.

This was one of those kind of books that after one chapter, I knew I was going to be completely enthralled. I mean, a world where one of the main characters can transform into a golden horse with a spiral horse and wings made of flame...awesome! I found the world and city the story was set in pretty interesting, and the way the city was laid out reminded me a little bit of Trudi Canavan's The Black Magician trilogy. I enjoyed pretty much all the POVs, with a particular favourite being Tom Caraway's and Ayla. Myrren and Serenna grew a little bit too soppy at points but they weren't too bad. There was enough action and mystery to keep me going, and I did jump around a few times to finally settle on who I believed was the mysterious Changer.

The book lost a star for me for how quickly some things seemed to wrap up. For all of the book, Ayla had been resenting Tom and he had purely helped her because of his loyalty to her family and his remorse over her mother. While the reader was told that Ayla had once fancied Tom, there no real sense of any flickers of attraction there until the very end where Ayla is rather blunt about the whole thing and Tom just goes along with it (even though there was pretty much nothing about how he felt about Ayla in that way in the rest of the story). I just would have liked this relationship to have built up more in terms of attraction and 'moments', like Serenna and Myrren's.  I also felt this book was often a victim of the readers being told something, rather than shown. Travers repeatedly called Myrren weak and afraid, the same with Ayla talking about Tom's hangdog expression. I would have liked to have seen a bit more of this in the character's actions. I also would have liked more Changing in general but for reasons, Ayla trying to stay hidden, I understand why she couldn't.

This was a great fantasy debut, and I can only hope there is more to come!

Monday, 9 November 2015

Book Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Read: November 8   Verdict: 3-4 Stars (haven't quite decided yet)

Before going into this book, I knew about all the hype. I had heard so many good things about it, and i knew it was suppose to take your breath away and there was a massive gasp-like twist that left people reeling. I reserved this book from my library around the same time that BookTubeaThon was on, I think, because loads of people were reading it and reviewing it. But because of some system changes, the book had to be reserved again and basically it took a few months before it landed in my hands. But that was a good thing because by then my expectations had decreased and I wasn't riding on the expectation carousel.

We Were Liars centres around a very rich, privileged family and how they all spend their summers on a private island with their own houses, docks, beaches and servants. But something happened that caused a terrible accident and two years later, Cadence is back and trying to piece together the forgotten memories of her fifteenth summer on the island.

Basically, despite the great detailed writing, this is a story about terrible people doing terrible things. There's nothing quite redeemable about the family. It has a bit of a King Lear quality to it, except I couldn't quite tell which aunt/sister was Cordelia. They were all very Goneril and Regan at different times. The weaving of the fairytale stories was a nice little twist and I enjoyed them. But at the end of the day, everyone, even Gat, was selfish, spoiled and pretty rotten.

When the big twist came, I had't guessed it at all but nor was I falling off my chair in shock. It was more of a small, "oh, okay, I can work with this" and carried on reading. I'm glad I gave this book a chance and that I finally read it but it definitely didn't blow my mind.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Book Review: Put A Spell On You by Karen Clarke

Read: November 7-8 Verdict: 3.5 Stars

I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

Josie's life isn't going the way she expected to. Her boyfriend Will has abandoned his job to grow vegetables and look after abandoned donkeys. Her friend Lara is more focused on her crying baby than listening to her best friend's woes, and she is about a centimetre away from losing her job on top of everything else. Luckily, it's Josie's 27th birthday and she's about to inherit a book of spells from her grandmother. But is the family tale really true? Could Josie use spells to her advantage and fix everything? Or does magic always come with a price?

If you're looking for a light, fast-paced and comedic read, this is it. Josie does what everyone thinks she will do and ends up in some pretty funny scenarios with absolutely no idea how to get out of them. This would make a pretty funny chick-flick as well as an entertaining read. Josie definitely got on my nerves at times, it seems like she lacked a lot of understanding for those who were doing things wrong (in her point of view). She was a lot more concerned for money than her boyfriend's happiness, not to mention the fact that she hadn't even bothered to venture out to see what it was he was actually doing. And her feelings about Lara and Olly, and her mum and Del. bordered on extremely selfish. Despite everything, there were, at points, times I could sympathise with Josie. She just wanted life to go the way she planned it. And that's not too much to ask for, is it?

The humour was great in this book but at time it felt almost too much and too ridiculous. I think it could have been toned just a tiny bit and, like is mentioned at one point, it would have strayed away from seeming like an episode of Carry On.

Overall, a great read for a bit of respite away from heavier books.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Book Review: The Beach Hut by Cassandra Parkin

Read: November 3-5      Verdict: 4 Stars

I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

Ava and Finn have only ever had each other. For her whole life, Ava has watched out for her little brother Finn and in return, he's always kept her happy and been there when she needs him. Now, the siblings have returned to a childhood holiday beach to live in a tiny beach hut for a few months. Accidentally, they end up annoying Donald and entrancing Donald's daughter Alicia. As all their lives intermingle, secrets unravel and families fall apart and are sewn back together.

I really enjoyed this book. From the get go, Ava and Finn's relationship was so beautiful. I haven't read about such a strong relationship in quite a while and I think, as a big sister myself, I really connected with Ava and her overwhelming desire to keep her brother safe from any harm. This trait in Ava follows them into adulthood and even when they're living on the beach, Ava still thinks of Finn and how she can protect him. While we didn't get a really in-dept look at Ava, I still felt like I knew her and she was a very likeable character, as was Finn. Finn was one of the characters that's larger than life. He almost seemed liked a changeling child, full of stories and magic.

Finn's fairy tales are interspersed among the ordinary chapters in this book and I thought they were so beautiful, and in some way they related to the characters of the story and what was going on or had happened in their life.

I didn't much care for Donald and Alicia. I much preferred Finn and Ava's story, and I just wasnt bothered with Donald's back story. It wasn't as exciting and even with the twist bit, I was surprised but I still wanted to go back to the siblings. I would have liked a bit more of a conclusion to Alicia's situation as it was interesting and I feel like some kind of repercussions for those involved would have been good to see.

This book was a nice way to say a fond farewell to summer and now autumn until next year.  It has a mix of summer and autumn feelings in it, and is just a great story of family sticking together and holding each other up through thick and thin.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Book Review: Crane by Stacey Rourke

Read: November 1-3   Verdict: 3 Stars

When Ireland Crane moves to Sleepy Hollow, mysterious things start to happen. And those mysterious things include a headless horseman chopping off people's heads, weird dreams and a narcoleptic man who has, apparently, been asleep for centuries waiting for Ireland's arrival.

I don't the know much, or anything really, about the legends around Sleepy Hollow and the horseman, nor do I know the famous figures at the center of the story. However, I do love the show Sleepy Hollow so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Ichabod Crane was a central character in the story. Because I love the show and it's returned for a new season, I think I found it hard to separate the Ichabod and Katrina from the show, with the same characters in the book. But Rourke was able to out her own nice little flair on the story of the Headless Horseman and Crane's involvement. 

The weird distance I felt with Ichabod spread to other characters as well, namely Ireland and Noah. Even at the end of the book, I didn't really feel I knew her. I think part of this may have been the mindset I was in while reading the book. I'm not sure if I really focused enough on the story, maybe if I was, I would have bonded with Ireland a little bit more. There were hints of her coming to Sleepy Hollow to get away from other things, and I just didn't feel that her douchey ex was all of that reason. I also hate the cliché of a douchey ex. Though the fridge story was funny.

A little bit of the descriptive language was a little bit too cringey for my taste. The "soft waves" of Katrina's blonde hair caressing her face like the sea on sand, and her satin soft skin. No thanks.

There was definitely a lot of action in the latter half of the book when Ireland finds some things out, and I really liked the addition of Rip as a character in the modern day world (and it reminded me of Ichabod's story in TV show Sleepy Hollow, minus the stress-induced narcolepsy). I do wish that maybe he had been more help but hopefully that will come in the next book. The two timelines started to come together nicely as the reader finds out more, though I'm still not 100% sure I get the whole "Hessian" thing but that's just me.

I will be continuing on with this series, if not to just gush about the beautiful covers. 

Book Review: We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas

Read: October 25 - 31    Verdict: 2.5 Stars

I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

We Are Not Ourselves focuses on the life of Eileen Tumulty. Born to Irish parents in New York, Eileen strives to make a better life for herself and a better marriage. The book follows Eileen through childhood, young womanhood, marriage, children and all the ups and downs in between. Eileen eventually becomes Eileen Leary, wife to Ed and mother to Connell. 

I thought this book would be a real insight into Eileen's life but at times I felt like a stranger watching through a blurry window, not 100% sure what I was looking at, or what I should be looking at. Despite being with Eileeen through so much, I actually felt very little connection to her. 

I also thought the book was too long. Some parts of Eileen's life were skimmed over, and others parts of it just had too much focus. It was so packed with words, it was difficult to read at times, huge chunks could have been taken out without a negative effect to the story as a whole. It was just too long, and too far from what I thought it would be. I found myself getting bored a lot with it, and when I came back to it after putting it down, and reading another book, I felt I didn't really care if I finished it or not.

Book Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

Read: October 29 - 31 Verdict: 3.5/3.7 Stars

This book is pretty unique. Told from the point of view of Jack - a five-year-old boy who's only ever known the room he was born into, and his mother is locked into. Jack has a very different perspective on life than a normal child. He has no idea what a playground is, or what grass feels like. He's never felt the sun on his face or sand between his fingers. All Jack knows is his Ma, Rug, Melteded Spoon, Jeep, Remote, TV and other objects in the cork-tiled shed he lives in. 

This was a different way of reading a book and it did take time for me to really understand what Jack was saying. Because of how he was born and raised, he has a different way of describing things. Sometimes he was clear, other times he wasn't. There were certain events, one particularly big event that happened for Jack and his mother that I felt was very rushed. I can't say whether this was on purpose because everything was from Jack's point of view, and as a child it may have happened faster in his mind than an adult POV, but I felt a bit disappointed about how little action happened in that scene. It was a kind of pivotal moment that I wanted all kinds of sights, sounds and actions but because I was looking through Jack's eyes, it was extremely blurred.

This book is a good read, it just wasn't as good as I expected it to be. I do want to go on and read the rest of Emma Donoghue's books though as I feel she is an extremely interesting and diverse writer. Plus, I will definitely be seeing the movie adaption for Room.