Friday, 31 July 2015

Feature & Follow #2

The Feature & Follow is hosted by TWO hosts, Parajunkee of Parajunkee's View and Alison of Alison Can Read. I've just started getting involved in these features and they're great fun! It's a really cool way to find out what people are reading and connect with other bloggers. Added bonus, the aim of a blog hop is to follow others. You follow me, I follow you. Wins all round! I'm happy for followers on GFC, Twitter, Bloglovin', Goodreads, whatever works for you.

This Week's Question
If you could get an ARC of any book, already published, or not yet, what would it be?
suggested by Words I Write Crazy.

I'm torn between two for this. I absolutely adored the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo so I can't wait for her new one; Six of Crows.
My second choice is a book I know I'm not alone in waiting for; The Winds of Winter by George R R Martin. I don't even want to think about how long I'll have to wait for A Dream of Spring!
What about you guys?

Thursday, 30 July 2015

One Of These Things Is Not Like The Others...

One of the best things about starting this blog has been connecting with fellow book lovers. I never realised how big the online book community was! And in my travels around fellow book bloggers sites, I've been treated to pictures of some truly epic bookshelves.

Truth time. My bookshelves are a mess. Like, I'm too embarrassed to post a picture of them mess. And the less said about my random heap of books that I don't have shelf space for the better! So, with a day off work and some industrial strength cleaning products, I set about putting that right. Which brings me to the point of my rambling;  cover art.

One of these things is not like the others...
I have a couple of series' where I've bought a book second hand or started a trilogy abroad and picked it up when I got home (or in the case of the photo above, bought each book in a different country, luckily New Zealand imports from the UK it seems!). The result is this;

And I literally only just realised that one of them is a different size too!
Given that even having book series' together on a shelf is something of a novelty for me, I'm not losing sleep over this, but it did get me thinking about some of the prettier bookshelves I've seen. How important is matching cover art in a series to you guys? Would you make a special effort to get matching covers? Maybe even buy new books if the artwork changed part way through a series? I can't help but think that a few mismatched trilogies would ruin the works of art that are some of the shelves I've seen.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Characters Who Are Fellow Book Nerds

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish that other bloggers are welcome to join in, to create Top Ten lists on varying topics. This week it’s Ten Characters Who Are Fellow Book Nerds (love reading, are writers, work at a bookstore, etc.)

1. Matilda Wormwood
Matilda - Roald Dahl

I think this was the first book I ever read where I found a character who loved reading as much as I did and a book which portrayed reading in such a positive light. Honestly, this should be required reading in schools. I adore the movie too, mainly because I love anything with Bob Hoskins!

2. Belle
Beauty and the Beast - Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, although I'm going for the Disney verison!

Come on, who doesn't want their own library?

3. Tyrion Lannister
A Song of Ice and Fire - George R R Martin

"A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone if it is to keep its edge." Preach Tyrion!

4. Hermione Granger
Harry Potter - J K Rowling

Book smarts save the day! Even though I'm Ravenclaw, Hermione Granger is a can't miss on any list of book lovers. While Ron and Harry stumble around blind, it's up to Hermione to bring the knowledge. 

5. Elizabeth Bennet
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

Although she provides more memorable quotes on marriage than books, Elizabeth Bennet is still one of the foremost bookworms in literature. 

6. Liesel Meminger<.span>
The Book Thief - Markus Zusak

Oh Liesel! Let me count the ways I love thee! I can't type too much for fear of blubbing on my keyboard but if you're looking for a book that conveys the power of words and stories, look no further.

7. Mallory Pike
The Babysitters Club - Ann M Martin

Ok, I'm showing my age here, but as a kid I loved The Babysitters Club series. As much as I wanted to be one of the "cool girls" (Stacey or Claudia), I knew I was bookworm Mallory at heart!

8. Tessa Battle
Storykiller - Kelly Thompson

Perhaps not a big bookworm, but Storykiller Tessa lives and dies by books, battling against fiction come to life, rocking a red mohawk and swinging a big axe.

9. Ami Mizuno/Sailor Mercury
Sailor Moon

I'm stretching here, but Sailor Moon's Ami was always a favourite of mine. Preferring to spend time alone reading than with her classmates, it's a mystery to me why I identified so much with this character ...

10. Giles
Buffy the Vampire Slayer

And of course, no list of my favourite bookish characters would be complete without Giles! With his encyclopedic knowledge, bumbling Britishness and love of books, I'm pretty sure Giles is the perfect man. Plus, he looks like Anthony Head, bonus!

So, over to you guys! What do you think of my list? Any glaring omissions that I'll kick myself for not thinking of?

Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Review

"Once upon a time, and angel and a devil fell in love.

It did not end well."

Set in Prague, Daughter of Smoke and Bone tells the story of Karou, a seventeen year old art student with blue hair who entertains her friends with implausible stories of gods and monsters. Except all her stories are true.

Her hair grows blue from her head and she was raised by monsters in Elsewhere, now moonlighting as an errand girl for her guardian, the part-human, part-lion, part-ram chimera Brimstone. When angels start appearing through a hole in the sky and Karou crosses paths with the haunted and vengeful Akiva, she is torn from the only family she has ever known and plunged into an otherworldly war between angels and demons.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Allegiant - Review

The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered - fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she's known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.

But Tris' new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend to complexities of human nature - and of herself - while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice and love.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Feature & Follow #1

The Feature & Follow is hosted by TWO hosts, Parajunkee of Parajunkee's View and Alison of Alison Can Read. Each host will have their own Feature Blog and this way it'll allow us to show off more new blogs!
Happy for follows wherever. GFC, Twitter, Bloglovin', whatever you prefer.

This Week's Question
What is your favourite movie?
suggested by A Kernel of Nonsense

I love movies! Not as much as I love books, but still a lot. There are so many great movie but my all time favourite has to be The Shawshank Redemption.
Endlessly quotable, motivational, inspirational ... it's a crime that this never won an Oscar for Best Picture. If there was ever a more wonderful scene than Andy locking himself in the warden's office and playing Mozart to the inmates over the loudspeakers, I haven't seen it. Actually welling up as I type!

Close second is Brave. I love Merida so much! I don't get why kids go so crazy over Elsa from Frozen when Merida is clearly the better Disney princess.

So over to you guys. What's your favourite movie?

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Ruthless - Review

How far would you go to survive?

17 year old Ruth Carver wakes up with a concussion in the bed of a moving pick-up truck with no idea where she is or how she got there. Taken to a cabin in the woods, she's plunged into her worst nightmare; she has been kidnapped and marked for death. Her captor is a deeply disturbed figure from the sidelines of her life on a mission to punish "bad girls" like Ruth, and she is to be his seventh victim. To have any hope of survival, she has to find out just how far she is willing to go, how ruthless she is willing to be.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

The Girl Who Would Be King - Review

The Girl Who Would Be King
Newsflash; I am in love with this book!

After reading good things about The Girl Who Would Be King by Kelly Thompson while setting up my blog, I picked it for my second review, expecting to take a week or so to read and review it properly. Instead, I stayed up until the early hours of the morning reading because I simply could not put it down. It’s that good!

Featuring a pair of kickass female leads, TGWWBK tells the story of teenagers Bonnie Braverman and Lola LeFever, both gifted with god-like superpowers on the event of their mother’s deaths. While Bonnie is driven to help and protect, Lola is set on death and destruction. Drawn to each other by destiny and a history which goes far beyond the two of them, the two girls take very different paths with their powers, paths which collide in spectacular style in the lead up to the inevitable confrontation. 

Dual protagonist novels are notoriously difficult to write and usually difficult to read without the temptation to skip pages. But to call TGWWBK a dual protagonist novel would be untrue. What Thompson has done is even trickier; tell two interwoven stories through the eyes of a protagonist and an antagonist. The story itself may not be ground breaking - it’s your classic good vs evil, with a helping of “teenager with magical powers” thrown in - but the characters of Bonnie and Lola are what makes this book come alive. Relatable even when they’re punching helicopters out of the sky or setting their broken bones, both girls are damn near close to character perfection. The inner dialogue and first person point of view storytelling paints each character with her own vivid personality, there’s certainly no danger that you’ll forget which character you’re reading! Thompson is a truly gifted author (one who makes me positively green with envy!) who does a fantastic job of writing in two distinct voices. There are symbols to tell you which girl is narrating, but you likely won’t need them. The care that's gone into creating these girls as three dimensional characters, rather than just "skins" that the reader can slip into to experience the story, is clear to see. There's also some fantastic artwork online which is worth checking out.

As with all novels that feature more than one lead character, it’s hard not to play favourites, but whether you lean towards good or evil, this book has you covered. Bonnie is your more traditional YA novel heroine. Her gift is her curse, and she takes a while to accept what she is and decide to use her powers for good. She’s introverted and guarded, but ultimately kind and selfless, rising up to become what she was born to be. Maybe it says something about me though that my favourite character was Lola. Hand on heart, I found her to be one of the finest characters to come out of YA lit in a long time. She begins the book by killing her own mother for her powers, then driving off to Vegas on a motorcycle with a black cat suit and a vague plan to set up an underworld empire. She’s twisted, she’s evil and she’s seriously screwed up, but good lord is she fun to read! Brutally honest (as well as downright brutal) and utterly clueless at times, she’s like a comic book supervillain who grew up in Hollywood, and her descent into madness is utterly riveting. If the book had one flaw, it’s that Lola was such a fantastic character that she left Bonnie a little in the shade. I found myself rooting for the bad guy! That’s not to say at all that Bonnie’s chapters left me cold, but they were much more familiar territory for an avid reader of YA books.

Speaking of which, the book is a little edgier than most YA, with more graphic violence and a sprinkling of PG 13 sex, but that’s just another thing that sets it apart from the rest of the pack. There’s always the risk when setting this type of story in the real world rather than some mythical kingdom far, far away that a fair bit of suspension of disbelief will be required, and this is certainly true of TGWWBK. But the storytelling, and most importantly the characters, are so enthralling that you won’t even notice!

In summary. Five stars! Loved it, and cannot rate it highly enough! If you like ass kicking female leads, comic book violence, superpowers and an old fashioned good vs evil throw down, then this book is for you. Oh, and if you’re a guy? Please don’t be put off by a female lead, trust me when I say you will not be disappointed by TGWWBK. The only problem is I’ll need to clear my diary when Thompson’s next book comes out. I certainly won’t be getting much sleep!

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Veronika Decides To Die - Review

Veonika Decides to Die cover

“And all of us, one way or another, are insane.”

For my first book review, I decided to revisit one of my all-time favourites. I was introduced to this book in Beijing China on my travels by a fellow backpacker but was running short on cash (and backpack space – part of the reason for my eventual acceptance of e-books!), so didn’t buy it. When it turned up in a hostel book swap a few weeks later in Auckland New Zealand, it seemed it was meant to be. Perhaps it speaks of where I was at in my life that I was drawn to it!

Veronika Decides To Die tells the story of a twenty-something Slovenian woman who seems to have it all. A good job, a loving family, friends, lovers and her youth and beauty. Despite this, something she can’t identify is missing in her life and so she makes the decision to kill herself. After passing out on an overdose of pills, Veronika wakes up in a mental institution, only to be told that the damage has already been done, and that she will die in a matter of days.

Veronika Decides To Die is, like Veronika herself, is shamelessly introverted at first, the limited scope allowing Coelho to focus as he does so well on his character to tell a very human story through a single protagonist. Her journey, one she makes without ever leaving the building, is intensely personal, allowing the reader to interpret and react to the themes in their own world view. Veronika is a flawed heroine, unashamedly selfish and more than a little narrow-minded, but faced with her own mortality and confinement with those characters deemed “crazy” by society, she undergoes a transformation. We’re introduced to the people she meets in her drug-induced daze while her time runs out and she (and Coelho) contemplates living versus existing, embracing life versus simply going through the motions. What does it mean to truly live? What am I doing? Where do I belong? At first, Veronika doesn’t open up enough to tackle these provocative topics, content to let her suicide be attributed to something as inconsequential as the question; “where is Slovenia?”. But as her time slips away, so do her inhibitions and it’s in these pages where the book comes alive, sparking the imagination and creating one “a-ha” moment after another. Love it or hate it, I’ve yet to meet anyone who hasn’t identified with Veronika at some point or another in their life (maybe not as dramatic as suicide, but you get the idea).

Simply put, I loved this book (though was perhaps slightly worried by how much I identified with the “heroine”!). Paulo Coelho explores what is means to be mad in a mad world in his typical, almost lyrical writing style. It’s a stunning book, fable-like in its plot, an absolute must-read for anyone who’s ever felt lost, directionless or just wondered what on earth life is all about. The Veronika we see at the end of the novel is not the same one we meet at the beginning. Nor is she the same girl with a different haircut (a pet peeve of mine and massively lazy way to signify “transformation”). The journey she goes on, while not leaving the building, is astounding and, dare I say it, life affirming (oh that’s right, I went there).

So why not five stars? Like Coelho’s writing, this is a love it or hate it book, mainly down to the writing style I love so much, but it is hugely divisive. The book is littered with the kind of quotes you see on Facebook in a calligraphy font over a sunset background, and there’s an author cameo that is unforgivably self-indulgent. The themes of mind over matter are interestingly explored, but for me there was a little too much navel gazing at times which detracted from the story as a whole and tried my patience once or twice. The same goes for the surplus of supporting characters which caused Veronika to get lost in her own story at times.

All that aside, Veronika Decides To Die is a wonderful read, and I absolutely urge anyone who comes across it, be it in a hostel book swap or anywhere else, to pick it up. After all, nothing in this world happens by chance …

Monday, 13 July 2015

First blog!

Wonderful ... the first blog, no pressure!

First off a little about me. I'm a twenty-something, probably what you'd call "young professional", working in marketing, digital creative and copywriting. I can't live without music, yoga and tea (it's the Brit in me!) but my two big passions are travelling and reading. So far, so fascinating right?

After an extended period of clipping my wings and being sensible and career focused, I've gone back to my basics. I get out of the country whenever I can, even if it's just long weekends in a European city I've never been to before, and I've decided to have a bash at my other big love and start a book blog. Initially it's intended to be book reviews and general musings, but my secret lover writing is starting to make a reappearance in my life, so maybe (hopefully!) I'll be posting some of my own work too!

I'll be kicking off with reviews of some of my favourite books and general musings. I've just joined a reading group so a few wildcards might crop up every once in a while too.

Until next time!