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Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Trial by Fire - Book Review

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Trial by Fire – Book Review

Josephine Angelini

YA Fantasy

The World Walker Trilogy Book #1



Synopsis:

This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying the experiences that others in her hometown of Salem take for granted, which is why she is determined to enjoy her first high school party with her best friend and long time crush, Tristan. But after a humiliating incident in front of half her graduating class, Lily wishes she could just disappear.


Suddenly, Lily is in a different Salem – one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by powerful women called crucibles. Strongest and cruellest of them all is Lillian… Lily’s other self in this alternate universe.

What makes Lily weak at home is what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. In this confusing world, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can’t hope to shoulder alone and a love she never expected…



Review:

I’m a huge fan of Josephine Angelini and I found this book was exactly the gripping kind of read that I have come to expect from this author.

Starting out in the real world, the story follows Lily, a 16year old girl who has never had the luxury of good health. Instead she has been forced to live her life one doctor’s appointment after the other. A life made harder by the fact she and her older sister are also full time carers for her mentally challenged mother. All Lily wants is one normal, sick free day.

Yet when her dream of attending a high school party falls apart after she finds her best friend/ boyfriend cheating on her, Lily finally says yes to the little nagging voice in the back of her mind. The one that has been begging her to let go of all her problems and escape.

And so Lily finds herself in an alternate world, summoned and trapped there by the all powerful Salem witch, Lillian – Lily’s other self. Yet Lillian’s motives are unclear and as Lily begins to discover, in this world, Lily is no helpless maiden.

She is a crucible, a powerful Witch cable of turning heat and substance into a raging force that she can shape to her will. But first – she needs training, and a lot of it if she ever hopes to see her world again…

This was an amazing read. Science vs Magic set in a fantasy land where witches rules and most of the population are shunned, left to fend for themselves in a harsh world where science and medicine are outlawed. It is a truly brilliant concept for a story and I feel that Josephine Angelini pulled it off spectacularly!

The heroine Lily is a compassionate yet slightly clueless sort of girl who does her best to survive and adjust to the strangeness of this new world. She rarely complains and relies heavily on Rowan, her mechanic and healer, to support her.

I must however admit that I am unsure how I feel about the romance that blossomed between them. While it was far from instant love, I didn’t really feel their connection, and given Lillian and Rowans romantic history, I worry for Lily and Rowan as sometimes it seems he looks upon her as a copy of his ‘old’ Lillian – which in turn makes me feel sorry for Lily.

As for the other characters though, I really liked them. While the idea of many versions of yourself spread through various worlds is alone an interesting idea, I like the contrasts found between each version depending on their own individual upbringings and surroundings. I also like that Lily gets to see  both the differences and shared personality traits between the friends and family of her world, against the same versions of these people in this new world.

As for the plot, it moves at a fast pace with plenty of action and drama to keep me turning the pages. A few twists and turns gave some surprises along the way and I like how Lillian’s true agenda has been left vague to help keep the reader guessing. I will definitely be reading the next book to find out what happens next.

With brilliant concepts, fantastical world building and some scientific grounding thrown in, Trial of Fire is every fantasy lover’s dream come true. 4 stars!

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Bloodlines - Book Review

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Bloodlines – Book Review 

Richelle Mead

YA Paranormal

Book #1 of the Bloodlines Series – A spin off from Vampire Academy


Synopsis:
Blood doesn’t lie…

Sydney is an alchemist, one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of human and vampires. They protect Vampire secrets – and human lives. When Sydney is torn from her bed in the middle of the night, at first she thinks she’s still being punished for her complicated alliance with dhampir Rose Hathaway. But what unfolds is far worse. 

Jill Dragomir – the sister of the Moroi Queen Lissa Dragomir – is in mortal danger, and the Moroi must send her into hiding. To avoid a civil war, Sydeny is called upon to act as Jill’s guardian and protector, posing as her roommate in the last place anyone would think to look for vampire royalty – a human boarding school in Palm Springs, California. But instead of finding safety at Amberwood Prep, Sydney discovers the drama is only just beginning…

Review:

I adored the Vampire Academy series and was delighted to hear about this spin off. And while I feel the plot was very predictable – especially as I’ve read the vampire academy books, I still found Bloodlines and enjoyable read.

Following the life of Sydney, an eighteen year old alchemist with a fear of magic and an even larger fear of vampires, this first book sees Sydney overwhelmed by both. Yet she is willing to do anything to protect her younger sister, Zoe, from the regimental clutches of the alchemists. Even if that means accepting a job that sees her relocating to a boarding school where she will room and pose as the sister of a Moroi Vampire Princess. 

However Sydney is soon surprised to learn that vampires – at least the Moroi – really aren’t so bad after all, but despite her newly made friendships, Sydney can’t allow the alchemists to discover her newly changed attitude. 

If it became known she sympathised with vampires, the alchemists would see fit to initiate Zoe into their order and have Sydney replaced and sent to the re-education centre – essentially, a prison for alchemists. 

However between keeping the Princess safe, learning to navigate the high school social scene and keeping Adrian, a party loving Moroi in check, Sydney has her work cut out for her. Especially as it seems someone seems to have stolen the alchemists’ sacred art of magical tattooing. 

Now with students popping up with heightened abilities all over campus, Sydney must battle to protect the princess, stay under cover as a loyal vampire hating alchemist and uncover the truth behind the mysterious tattoos. But someone from her past has it in for her and Sydney risks losing everything. Her future, her sister and maybe even her life…

I really, really enjoyed this book. As well as being its own unique story, it also gives an in depth look into what happened after the events in vampire academy. I particularly liked that many of the characters from the previous series also got to make cameo appearances. 

In terms of the plot, I found 2/3s of it very predictable, however I never would have guessed such outcomes had I not followed vampire academy. Still there were a few surprises, yet even being able to predict the ‘plot twists’ I still immensely enjoyed the story. In fact I actually just felt smug that I figured most of it out lol.

However my one criticism of the plot is that I didn’t feel like it was very action based. While plenty of drama unfolded to keep me happy, I felt that this story lacked the kick ass action that I have come to expect from Richelle Meads leading ladies. Yet saying that, unlike her other heroines, Sydney is a much more subdued character.

Her strengths lie in her smarts, and her ability to think on her feet. She is no warrior but is still the back bone of their little group. Rationalising her actions, she is trustworthy and responsible, yet we see glimpses of a potential spit fire smouldering beneath her straight laced upbringing. Her small eating disorder aside, she is a character I both respected and loved. I can’t wait to see how she develops in the next book.

The other characters were also plenty interesting. Jill, Eddie and Adrian all shine in their new leading roles and I hope we get to uncover more about their pasts as the series unfolds.

I also like how this book left many questions unanswered yet also gave small hints of things to come. For example Sydney’s history teacher being a potential witch, Sydney’s bad tasting blood, not to mention the potential romantic spark kindling between her and Adrian. I really can’t wait to dive into the next book.

So overall a great read and a terrific start to what promises to be yet another marvellous series from Richelle Mead. I give bloodlines 4stars! Oh and if you haven’t already, I would totally recommend checking out Vampire Academy!

Friday, 14 November 2014

A lesson in backing up!

broken computer in a lab

So like many wanna-be writers before me, the cruel and inevitable finally happened. My computer went boom! Or rather my computer overheated and my hard drive was essentially incinerated! 

So what's the damage? Well apart from me feeling like an idiot, and aside from needing a whole new computer,  I've lost my photos, music, movies, various important documents and of course, my writing!

 You're probably all now screaming at me, "why?! Why didn't you back it all up?!" 

And why didn't I take the advice of all those other heartbroken and unfortunate writers before me...? Well the truth is, I did. Yet fate it seems, hates me! And barely a mere three hours later fate saw fit to corrupt my pretty, red, Paperchase brought USB by giving it a virus! Then again, maybe I should have known better than to use the dodgy, computer game infested computers at my school here in China. But either way, it still comes down to majorly bad luck on my part! 

So my advice, back up your back ups! In fact - save stuff to your email (thankfully I had the sense to do that with my current work in progress) because to lose stuff you've had tucked away years and years, well it bites! 

So if you haven't already - go get backing up! You never know where fate will strike next...


Friday, 24 October 2014

All our Yesterdays - Book Review

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All our Yesterdays – Book Review

Cristin Terrill

YA Dystopian/Time travel

All our Yesterdays series Book #1

Synopsis:

What would you change?

Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present – imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside.

Marina has loved her best friend James since they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way too. But on one disastrous night, James life crumbles, and with it, Marinas hopes for their future. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it… at least, not as the girl she once was.

Em and Marina are in a race against time that only one of them can win…


Review:

While I found the beginning of the story a little confusing, I found that by the end of the book I was hooked. Unknowingly, I had become swept up somewhere in the middle, although I do recall a distinct defining moment when everything suddenly clicked and made sense. So let me begin by saying, do not give up on this book! While things may seem a little fuzzy and disjointed at first, they soon come together and you will be very glad you persevered.

Like with most time travel books, there is a lot of jumping about. You don’t always know if you’re in past, present or future, but you do know that you are between the pages of a good story. In regards to this book, please trust the author to guide you through it – it really is a great piece of literature!

The story begins with sixteen year old Marina, a shy, introverted girl who happens to be in love with her best friend and next door neighbor, James. The youngest son of a rich and influential family, James is a prodigy in his own right. After losing both his parents at a young age, he slowly sinks into an obsession with finding a way to get them back.

Yet when an assignation attempt leaves James beloved brother in a critical coma, Marina finds herself at a loss to help. Especially as she could have sworn one of the assassins looked to be the mirror image of herself. But now with James sspiraling out of control, the foundations of a dark future are falling into place, and only two unlikely heroes from the future can stop the impending doom, but the cost may just be James life…

This book was complex but very well written. I myself love paradoxes and this story certainly leads you on a twisty path of maybes and what ifs that at times may just blow your mind.

The characters each have distinct voices and often conflicting agendas that contribute to a fast paced plot with plenty of action and drama. And while at the end you are left with many unanswered questions, I can’t wait to see how Cristin Terril plans to continue this series.

Overall ALL OF OUR YESTERDAYS is an emotional and deeply thought provoking read that will really open up your mind to the possibilities of fate. A fantastic read. 4 stars!


Friday, 12 September 2014

Nobody's Princess - Book Review

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Nobody’s Princess – Book Review

Esther M. Friesner

YA Historical Fantasy

Nobody’s Princess Book #1

Synopsis:

She is beautiful, she is a princess, and Aphrodite is her favourite Goddess, but something in Helen of Sparta just itches for more out of life. Not one to count on the Gods – or her looks – to take care of her, Helen sets out to get what she wants with steely determination and a sassy attitude. That same attitude makes Helen a few enemies – such as the self proclaimed “son of Zeus” Theseus – but it also intrigues, charms and amuses those who become her friends, from the famed huntress Atalanta to the young priestess who is the oracle of Delphi.

Review:

This is the second book I have read by this author and I have to say, Esther M. Friesner is fast becoming one of my favorites. Weaving together a tale of history and fantasy, this book tells the story of a Young Helen of Troy – before she launched the thousand ships that lead to the city’s downfall.

Beginning in her early childhood, the story follows Helen's life through to her adolescent years. Wanting only to be as free as the waves from which Aphrodite rose, she discovers early on that to have freedom, you must have power. And while her growing beauty may win her many a warriors loyalty, it isn’t nearly as fun as becoming a warrior herself…

I must admit that when I first picked up this book, I had no idea that it was a retelling of Helen of Troy’s early years. However I soon cottoned on and was happy to realize I had never heard a story venturing into this aspect of Helen’s life before. Helen was simply “the face who launched 10,000 ships”, and as to who she really was and the life she lived before, no one seemed to care. So thank you so much to Esther M. Friesner for writing this book. It’s truly been a pleasure to read.

I thought this story was exceptionally well written, throwing in just enough history so that the book hinged on fantasy that was borderline plausible. With plenty of cameo appearances from heros such as Jason, Hercules, Atlanta and Apollo’s oracle, the story really brought the ancient world to life.

Helen is a fantastic heroine and centre piece for the story. Confident and a little vain, she works hard for what she wants and learns early on how to manipulate people who see only her beauty. However I like how when she becomes a gangly adolescent she pulls back into herself slightly, allowing her to lose some of that childhood vanity.

I also particularly liked how Helens true friends care nothing for her looks and judge her by her deeds, actions and sheer passion for life.  

The plot moves at a fast pace, usually as Helen always seems to be getting herself into trouble.  And while the Gods and various creatures of legend are mentioned, they always lurk at the back of the story, and I like how even the characters themselves are sceptical as to the reality of such myths.

However the one thing I disliked about this book was that it ended on a cliff hanger, so naturally I have had to go by the sequel Nobody’s Prize which I imagine will be just as enthralling a read. All in all, a fantastic story and hugely recommended. 5stars!  

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Banished - Book Review

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Banished – Book Review

Liz De Jager

YA Urban Fantasy

The Blackhart Legacy Book #1

Synopsis:

Sworn to protect, honour and slay. Because chaos won’t banish itself…

Kit is proud to be a Blackhart, now she’s encountered her unorthodox cousins and their strange lives. But it’s not until she rescues a rather handsome fae Prince, fighting for his life on the edge of Blackhart manor, that her training really kicks in. With her family away on various missions, Kit must protect Prince Thorn, rely on her new friends and use her own unfamiliar magic to stay ahead of Thorn’s enemies. As things go from bad to apocalyptic, fae battle fae in a war that threatens to spill into the human world. Then Kit pits herself against the Elder Gods themselves – It’s that or lose everyone she’s learnt to love…

Review:

I really, really enjoyed this story! Kits voice and kick ass character swept me away from the beginning. With romance, intrigue and plenty of action, this YA fantasy is an amazing novel from debut author Liz de Jager. Venturing into the realms of Myth and Legend, I just couldn’t stop turning the pages. Now I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book!

The story begins with Kit – a fifteen year old girl who has only recently discovered her family’s legacy as demon slayers. Now following the murder of her grandmother, Kit takes up the family mantle and reunites with her long forgotten cousins to join the fight against evil. But not only is she struggling to master her new found magical powers, she is also inspected to become a master of weaponry, strategy and self defence.

But when recovering at home after her first solo mission, Kits celebrations are put on hold when she finds a fae Prince being attacked just outside her family’s manor. Now with her relatives suddenly unreachable, a dragon looming outside the gates and an injured fae royal passed out on her sofa, kit must decide – hide behind the covers or join the battle. But the world is in more danger than anyone could guess, and an ancient evil is looking to rise again…

Kit is an awesome heroine. She’s spunky, realistic and has a quick sarcastic tongue – I couldn’t help but like her immediately! Unlike her family who have all been martial artists since they were three, she is frustrated by her lack of training but is making a name for herself with her attack first, plan later kind of attitude. She often makes mistakes that come with various consequences, but her true quality lies in her bravery and determination to never give up. She is a great and very believable character that young girls can look up too.

Prince Thorn plays Kits love interest and I feel his calmer and more rationale personality suits Kits fiery nature. While their attraction is a little ‘insta love’ the dramatic and life threatening situations they are throw into helps make it somewhat understandable. I’m curious to see how their relation is going to develop.

The secondary characters are also unique individuals and I hope to see their stories fleshed out in the next two books. And I’m also hoping there won’t be a love triangle as the book gave the vibes that potentially, one could be lurking around the corner but that is by no means definite.

However what truly swept me away about this story was the plot. Fast paced, the action just kept coming and there were few places where you could put the book down to breathe, so to speak. There is such a plethora of mythological creatures threaded throughout the pages and Liz de Jager has added her own fresh spin to some of the legends.

So overall a fantastic story, and a great beginning to what promises to be a brilliant trilogy! The second instalment in the series, VOWED, will be available I the UK on November 6th – definitely one to add to the wish list! 4.5 stars!


Thursday, 24 July 2014

2014 Travelling Highlights Part 1 – Thailand


Hey guys.

Sorry for being MIA for the last six weeks, but I’ve been doing a spot of travelling! I spent all of June walking, busing and flying around Thailand, which was utterly fantastical – but exhausting! And despite the military coo – which wasn’t at all as scary as English news made it out to be – meaning the papers didn’t show you the soldiers taking selfies, or allowing the tourists to pose for pictures on the army tanks! It was a really great holiday and I want to share with you all some of the more thrilling moments of this trip.

Number 1 – Bann Chang Elephant park in Chiangmai, THAILAD


One of my favourite things was coming here and spending two nights and three days feeding, washing, riding and learning to take care of elephants.

Unlike most elephant parks, this place will take in all elephants, both the good and the bad, the young and the old, as well as both the sweet and ill tempted. They rescue their elephants from all over Thailand, and provide the care and attention needed to ensure the elephants lead happy and care free lives.

While the Mahuts (the elephants caretakers) all carried the required bull hook, they are rarely used and you can see each Mahut has a special relationship with their own elephants. Not to mention the Mahuts were all particularly entertaining and enjoyed trying to speak to you with their broken English.

 However while it was sad seeing elephants that had been previously abused – our guide admitted three of the elephants had even killed their previous owners due to ill treatment – It was rewarding to see the good work being done at Bann Chang and should you go to Thailand, I would recommend this as a number one place to visit.

You can learn a lot about the elephants, the how’s and why’s in which they came to live in the park, the way in which to look after them, the right and wrong ways in which they can be ridden. It truly is an overall amazing experience and I took pleasure in learning each elephant’s personality. Some grab food politely, others are greedy and snatch. Some just want to play while others are not quite so friendly and will give you a good wack with their trunks if you get to close… or squirt you with water.

It really is a must! Please feel free to check out their website HERE!

Number 2 – The Golden Palace in Bangkok



A beautiful place to walk around – although if you visit in the height of summer be sure to take a drink! And be warned before you go in, both legs must be fully covered, a woman must have sleeves of some sort (apparently a shawl is not enough – or you are considered too sexy!) and definitely show no cleavage. It’s also an advantage to wear shoes that are easy to slip off as many of the temples require you remove your footwear!

So while getting through the door is often a challenge for many, once you are in the sights are well worth the effort. The statues, the buildings, everything is a mass of colour and history. And being deceptively large, at a wandering pace it will easily take you at least four hours to walk through. Sun glasses might also be a good thing to back as the Palace is, suffice to say, Dazzling!

Number 3 – Chiangmai Town


I adored Chiangmai! There is so much to do both in and outside the town. I would recommend the bike tours - especially the one to the waterfall - and the spas! If you want to pamper yourself, go ahead. I spent four and half hours being pummelled, stretched, rubbed and lathered with goo that turned my skin baby soft and left my brain like mush! All for £50! It was fantastic!

However my favourite thing was the Sunday Market. Prices are cheap, but even so you can haggle – and the markets sell everything! From bags to electronics, food, leather, silks, you name it, they have it! Be prepared to buy very much, but spend very little!

So if you plan to spend any time in Chiangmai, please, please try and be there on a weekend!

Number 4 – Scuba Diving! In Phuket!


So my friend could scuba dive, I could not. Yet finding my hotel literally around the corner from the local dive shop (Aussie Divers) I soon found myself getting talked into taking my Open Water Diving Course and getting my license. Oh boy was it worth it! Not only was my instructor amazing (despite his jokes and obvious entertainment at our screw ups) but learning with only one other student, and taking your first dive into clear blue waters were we saw (A miniscule) mantra ray, a very large turtle, a ship wreck and more fish than I knew existed… it was truly magical!

So Overall…


(What can I say - I live in China! Pizza is a novelty for me!)

Granted there were many other wonderful things, yet these were the most phenomenal that I experienced in Thailand. But after 5 weeks, surprisingly not as much money as you would think, lots of pizza and some amazing sun sets, I am now back in mainland China. However I just spent three very wonderful days in Singapore (a post on that adventure will soon be following) and I am ultra excited to announce, I have just booked a week in Japan! Which, those of you who know me can attest, it has been my lifelong dream to visit! And there is only two weeks to go!

In regards to book reviews, be sure I’ve got lots of reading done these past few weeks! Hopefully now I am home I can catch up on my sleep and will have some reviews up soon! How’s everyone else’s summer going?

Love and Hugs all

XxX