Monday, 19 June 2017

The Forever Court - Book Review


The Forever Court
Dave Rudden
MG Fantasy
Knights of the Borrowed Dark Books #2
UK Publisher: Puffin Books

Other books in the Series:

Synopsis:

Life is retiring to normal for Denizen Hardwick. Well, the new normal, where he has to battle monsters in quiet Dublin bookshops and constantly struggle to contain the new powers he has been given by Mercy, the daughter of the endless King. But Denizen may need those powers sooner than he thinks - not only are the Tenebrous stirring again but the Order of the Borrowed Dark face a new threat from much closer to home…

Review:

I liked this book but felt it was a heavier read than the first. The characters have matured, new enemies were introduced but for all the subplots and intriguing undercurrents, sadly, I felt this story lacked the spark that made the first book so unforgettable. 

Denizen is now an official knight in training. Struggling to contain the power given to him by Mercy, the daughter of The Order’s greatest enemy, the endless King - he lashes out at those closest to him, isolating himself away before he can hurt someone. But when a new threat rises, and the Knights are called to action once more, Denizen will need all his wits if he is to defeat the evil that is rising, and rising with a power that matches his own…

A lot of new characters were introduced to the story, and at times the switching POV’s were a little confusing. However I liked the new, fire-wielding bad guys, but missed the variety that the Tenebrous (and their mishmash bodies) brought to the previous story. Unlike book one which really excelled at creating a creepy atmosphere, I found these pages pretty lacklustre. 

Having said that Dave Rudden’s beautiful writing remains intact, and I liked the sarcasm and humour threaded through the story. The Epitaphs on the gravestones really made me smile, as did the witty banter between fights.

 Denizen though has done some significant growing and comes across older, and much more mature. He has begun to develop an interest in girls, but is closed up about his feelings. Whenever it came to building bridges with his mother, he turned into a typical petulant teenager, which although entertaining to read, took up a lot of his thoughts making this story less action based and more emotional.

I also felt that many of the original characters didn't get much page time. While everyone was present, most were given fleeting appearances meaning we got no more backstory, or character development from them. Mostly I just really missed the teamwork aspect that played such a significant part in the previous book - this novel read like a Denizen solo. 

As for the plot, it really picked up toward the end, and  it was engaging enough that I will read the next book. Despite the negativity of this review - I did ENJOY this book, I just didn't connect to this story the way I wanted to. I’m crossing my fingers the next book will feature more evil Tenebrous!

3 stars!

Thursday, 15 June 2017

The Last Duchess - Book Review



The Last Duchess - Book Review
Laura Powell
MG Historical Fantasy
UK Publisher: Macmillan children’s books

Synopsis:

Pattern is only thirteen, but is already rising through the ranks at Mrs Minchin’s Academy of Domestic Servitude and seems destined for a life below stairs. But fate intervenes when she is packed off to the small and secretive Duchy of Elffinberg, to serves as lady’s maid to the lately orphaned Grand Duchess.

Pattern’s young new mistress is excitable and paranoid, yet despite their differences the two girls forge an unlikely friendship that quickly turns into a battle for survival. For picture-perfect Elffinberg hides an extremely dark and deadly secret…

Armed only with her trusty sewing basket, a bottle of smelling salts and J. Bulcock’s inestimable guide, The Duties of a Lady’s Maid, Pattern will need all her wits and resourcefulness when dealing with above-stairs conspiracies and below-stairs intrigue. Darning stockings has never been so dangerous.

Review:

This was a super cute story, and one I think fans of Katherine Woodfine and Holly Webb will enjoy. Very character driven with vivid, old worldly descriptions, The Last Duchess was a lovely book with which to while away an afternoon.

Pattern’s ordinary life is turned upside down when she suddenly finds herself shipped away from London, back to the country of her birth to serve as a ladies maid to a young and orphaned duchess. But the land of Elffinberg holds many myths, and Pattern is about to discover that the palace sits on top of the biggest secret of all.

As the residents of the castle gossip, bribe and attempt to plot their way to the throne, Pattern will need all her skills if she is to help her new mistress survive. But first Pattern must gain the duchess’ trust, or be sent back to London in disgrace… 

I couldn't help but enjoy this book. In a merge of history and fantasy, Laura Powell brings to life a small country faced with one very big problem. A dragon. And like in any good fairytale, the only way to appease the dragon is to offer him a princess to snack on…. But the characters in this book are no helpless maidens.

Pattern is hearty heroine. Although mousy on the outside, she is quick thinking and practical, winning her battles through sheer will and kindness. A loyal servant, she is a good balance for the hot tempered duchess, and together the two spark a heart-warming friendship.

However the book is set in a fantastical country, and I was a little sad we didn’t get to visit more of it. Most of the book takes place within the palace, with only short jaunts into the countryside. But the village itself teems with life and I hope in the next book we get to see more of Pattern’s world. 

The story is also full of plot twists and I often found myself surprised. Between each page and the next I would suspect one thing only to find myself proven half-right, which left me with just the right amount of smugness, yet still enough intrigue to delight in the truth. 

All in all, a sweet MG read. 3 stars!

Saturday, 10 June 2017

YA in Japan

(View from Kawagushi Shrine)

YA Set in Japan 

Hey lovely people!

 So while I was in Japan, I put together this post on all my favourite YA books that have a Japanese theme or setting. 

These are the same books that first seeded my desire to see Japan, then later became even more enjoyable when I started to recognise and relate to the words and culture now so familiar to me. 

I want to share these book with you today because each story is beautifully unique, and they all capture the real flavour of Japanese life. Everything from the culture, scenery, customs, food, etiquette… even the folklore. 

I hope you will enjoy these as much as I did. Now in no particular order, here they are:



The Ink Trilogy 

Amanda Sun

YA Fantasy - but with a modern-day setting!

I really enjoyed the imagination behind this book. The main character is western girl whose life is suddenly up-rooted to Japan and I found her reactions to be really relatable. She of course meets a gorgeous Japanese guy… but he has dark secrets and an even darker power…

You can find my review of the first book HERE


Shadows on the Moon 
&
 Barefoot on the Wind 

 Zoe Marriott

YA Fantasy/ Retelling

These books are simply beautifully and are re-tellings of the classic fairytales, Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. Given a Japanese twist, and set in a fantastical version of feudal Japan, they are a definite must read!

Find my reviews HERE and HERE


The Name of the Blade Trilogy 

Zoe Marriott

YA Fantasy with modern day setting!

Yes, Zoe Marriott gets a second mention because her books are just that awesome! And although this trilogy is actually set in London, the main character is of Japanese heritage and her adventures are something straight out of a manga. Another must read!

My Reviews for the first all three books are HERE and HERE and HERE


The Red Winter Trilogy

Marie Annette

YA Fantasy with modern day setting!

I only recently discovered this series, and am desperately waiting to get my hands on the last book. Its got everything! Romance, Demons, a heart-pounding plot and so much page-turning goodness!!

I’ve reviewed Book’s one and two HERE and HERE.


Tales of the Otori
 (Across the Nightingale Floor)

Lian Hearn

YA Fantasy

It’s been a few years since I’ve read this series (back in my pre-blog days) but there was a lot to like about it. In fact… I think its time I gave this one a re-read myself!

Chat to me!


Any that I’m missing? If you know of any more great Japanese themed books please shout them out to me in the comments. I’m always on the lookout for more - whether they be Middle Grade, YA, NA or Adult :)

Take care guys and happy reading!

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

May in Review


(Kamloops - Road-tripping in Canada!)

May in Review

Hey lovelies - how is life treating you all? Can you believe May is over already? I don't know about everyone else, but for me 2017 is passing by super super fast.

 Here are my May highlights:

(One Star for everyday of writing!)

  • I HIT 50K ON MY MIDDLE GRADE WIP! I’m finally writing again, and this month I took my WIP from 35K to 50K. Thanks to some handy tools and V.E Schwab’s awesome star system (You can find more info on that on my post: WRITING HACKS & TRICKS) I’m well on my way to hitting my 60K goal and should have my first draft finished soon! Exciting!! 

  • I READ ELEVEN BOOKS! Not only did I hit my reading target for this month, but I’ve reached 50/100 books on my Goodreads Challenge, which puts me eight books ahead of schedule! … That’s never happened before. 

  • MOUNTAINS, LAKES and LOG CABINS! My boyfriend and I took a drive across Canada. Not only was the weather gorgeous but the scenery was simply stunning. Although I think my boyfriend was rather worried by how many pictures I took of ducks and gofers… *So much cuteness!*

  • I’M GOING BACK TO ENGLAND! Yep, I finally booked my ticket home. I think my mother had lost all hope of me ever returning! But on the 5th of July I will be back on home soil :) … Now I’ve just got to keep my fingers crossed that my brother has managed to keep his hands off my easter eggs!

  • 88 CUPS OF TEA - And no, that’s not a one-day achievement of mine, but a podcast I recently discovered. Ran by the amazing Yin Chang, it features interviews with bestselling YA authors like V.E Schwab, Victoria Aveyard, Alexandra Bracken, Angie Thomas, Louise O'Neill and so many more. Packed with writing & publishing advice, plus fun facts and laughs I really urge you guys to check it our HERE.

And that pretty much wraps up my month. Aside from reading, writing and hitting the gym, May has been pretty quiet for me. I’m massively behind on book reviews, and the blog in general, but since I’ve made finishing my WIP my priority hopefully I will catch up with it all soon.


Books Read

  1. Empire of Storms by Sarah J Maas ****
  2. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater ***
  3. Spindles Fire by Lexa Hillyer **
  4. The Last Duchess by Laura Powell ***
  5. Newts Emerald by Garth Nix ***
  6. The Winners Crime by Marie Rutkoski ****
  7. Duels and Deceptions by Cindy Anstey ***
  8. Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch ****
  9. The Weight of Feathers by Anna Marie McLemore *****
  10. Ruined by Amy Tintera ***
  11. The Winners Kiss by Marie Rutkoski ****

I ticked so many books off my TBR list this month - Thank You North Vancouver Library! My favourites though were:

 THE WINNERS CURSE Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski - her writing just flows so beautifully. 

Then there was LOVE AND GELATO which has made me crave a holiday to Italy - such a fab summer read. 

However the WEIGHT OF FEATHERS was my most unusual read. I hated the first 75 pages but soon found myself hooked by the spell binding world Anna Mclemore created. If you like magical realism it is definitely one to check out!

Books Reviewed


Other Posts:


And that wraps up my May. How was it for the rest of you? Is life treating you all well?

SARAH
x

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Frogkisser! - Book Review



Frogkisser! - Book Review
Garth Nix
YA Fantasy / Fairytale
UK Publisher: Piccadilly Press

Synopsis:

The last thing she needs is a Prince. The first thing she needs is some magic.

Poor Princess Anya. Forced to live with her evil stepmother’s new husband, her evil stepstepfather. Plagued with an unfortunate ability to break curses with a magic-assisted kiss. And forced to go on the run when her stepstepfather decides to make the kingdom entirely his own.

Aided by a loyal talking dog, a boy thief trapped in the body of a newt, and some extraordinarily mischievous wizards, Anya sets off on a Quest that, if she plays it right, will ultimately free her land — and teach her a thing or two about the use of power, the effectiveness of a well-placed pucker, and the finding of friends in places both high and low.

Review:

This has been on of my favourite reads this year! A unique and original fairytale that has no romance, doesn’t try to take itself too seriously, and isn't afraid to make fun of the outdated notions of old school fairytales. It was a really unexpected read that I throughly enjoyed.

Princess Anya is second in line for the throne, and as such, cares only about reading books and practicing her sorcery. But when her evil step-step-father takes over the kingdom, transforming any who defy him into warty-amphibians, Anna is forced to flee the castle.

Now with a talking dog at her side, and accompanied by a boy/newt and an otter/maid, Anna sets off on a quest to create a magical lip balm - the only thing with enough power to transform each frog back to its human state. But the search for the ingredients is full of perils, and with her step-step-father’s minions shadowing her footsteps, Anya will need all her skill and cunning if she is to survive and win back her castle…

I adored this book and I think anyone from the age of eight upwards would enjoy it too. With a cast of unique characters - who come in all shapes and sizes -  this book is not your typical fairytale. 

Anya is a delicious, if reluctant heroine. Practical in her thinking, she uses her wits to defeat her opponents, yet is still naive enough about the world around her to learn some big, life-changing lessons along the way.

Nothing about this story is stereotypical. Each character comes with distinct personalities and together they really help drive this book forward. You never know who (or what) you’re going to meet next. 

What I liked most about Frogkisser! though was the humour in the writing. It's a book that isn't a afraid to make fun of the villain’s laugh, or roll its eyes at the swooning princess and her “true love”. 

The plot was also very imaginative and I was never bored. Admittedly I did figure out a few of the plot twists and guessed the direction the story was heading, but I still enjoyed the journey nonetheless. 

Overall a super cute fairytale that deserves to be gushed over! 5 stars!

Chat with Me!

Have you read this book? If not I hope you check out this one, along with Garth Nix's fabulous Abhorsen Series! Happy reading!


Friday, 19 May 2017

Mini Reviews 2017 #1



Hey everyone! So today I decided to post some mini-reviews, I’m on a role with my Goodreads reading challenge this year (already 44 books!) and I wanted to share with some of the books that didn't make the review list.

Echoes in Death by JD Robb #44 ****             

I am a huge fan of Nora Roberts futuristic detective series. I have read all the “In-Death” books to date and this was a really good one. Will plenty of red-herrings, it was hard to work out who the culprit was - and the ending had a really nice twist to it. Looking forward to the next release in September!

A Darker Shade of Magic #1 by V.E Schwab ****

This series has been on my TBR pile for long - I’m only sad I didn't pick it up sooner. I love the world-building so much and the ideas of multiple Londons and magic coats. The characters were also super interesting and  there was just so much about this book to like!

A Gathering of Shadows #2 by V.E Schwab ****      

I thought this story danced to a slower pace than the first book, but we got to meet some interesting new characters and explore more of the world. I really enjoyed the plot and loved how each character had their own problems to deal with - before ultimately gathering together for the bigger picture. Really looking forward to starting book 3!

The Gift by Alison Croggon ***
A proper old-school-style fantasy! This was actually a re-read since I first read this book back when I was a pre-teen. However I think I understood the world much better this time around, although the plot wasn't quite as deep as I remembered. Still this is a series I would like to continue with and I would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of High-fantasy. Aka, long and winding journeys, dark creatures, sword fights and of course, a foretold “chosen” hero. 

The Fate of the Tearing #3 by Erika Johansen **

This book was the biggest disappointment. The first 80% was fabulous but that ending?! Words cannot describe how much I hated it. Not only were so many questions left unanswered, but the ending essentially made the previous storyline completely redundant. As much as I loved the first two books in thus trilogy, I would now be wary to read anything else by this author….

Judged by Liz De Jager (Blackheart #3) ****

The final book in the Blackhearts trilogy, I utterly and thoroughly enjoyed this book. The characters had such great dynamics, I loved the world-building and the plot was super intriguing. It was a brilliant end to the series and I’m really looking forward to reading more books by Liz De Jager. 

Talk to Me!

Have you read any of these books? If so I would love to know your thoughts on the comments :)

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Writing Hacks & Tricks

My Current Writing Space...

Writing Hacks and Tricks

So these past few weeks have been strangely productive for me in terms of writing - and by that I mean I’m managing 1000 + words a day. Its a pretty awesome feeling, and if I keep it up, I should hopefully have my MG fantasy drafted by the end of the month!

With that in mind, I thought I would share with you some of the things that keep me upbeat, productive and accountable towards hitting my writing goals.

Apart from the weekend I took off, doesn't it look pretty?

#1 - V.E Schwab’s “good students get a star” method.

I imagine many of you are familiar with the amazing author, Victoria Schwab, and her most loved, A Darker Shade of Magic series (If not, I implore you to go pick it up right now) However this author has released quite a few Youtube videos on her channel where she talks about the craft of writing. One of her best suggestions I found was this:

Get a basic, month view calendar (I already have one inside my diary) and for every day/500 or 1000 words you write - you get to award yourself a sticky star!

It sounds simple - but the reward of getting a star is highly addictive. I felt quite sad on the days I don't hit my goals - especially as I feel my calendar looks incomplete.

Ultimately its a great way to hold yourself accountable to writing!

Who is this for: 

  • Anyone who loved playing “teacher” at school
  • People who liked seeing a line of stars by their name
  • People who collect/hoard stickers 
  • Anyone who has OCD and can’t stand seeing things incomplete

You will come to both love and fear this page...

#2 Writers Block

You’re probably wondering at the title, and once I explain, I hope you will also laugh at the irony. Because essentially Writers Block is a FREE app that once opened, fills your screen with a word document and won’t close until you hit your target settings.

You can programme it in one of two ways:

To stay open until you hit a number of words

or

To stay open for number of minutes

For the most part, I try to hit a target number of words because once you hit enter, you're stuck with the task of finishing what you pledged.


The only down side to Writers Block is its easy to procrastinate about opening the app itself. Sometimes it better to have someone take the initiative and do it for you...

Once you hit enter, there is no going back!

 Although in AN EMERGENCY tying A A A A A A A  A A A A akhsdjahs ausgoausfhafh etc will eventually trick the programme into thinking you hit your goals, but you will be cursed with shame - and you won’t deserve your sticky star!

Better to stick with your pledge, as you will soon see your word count rising. 

Who’s it for?
  • Procrastinators
  • Twitter-Holics
  • Anyone struggling to just “Start”
  • People who like to torture themselves by writing, even when they don't want to!

Today's bullet points + target word count

#3 Outlining - Bullet Pointing

I can already here the pantsers screaming in protest, but I promise, these is still plenty of creative freedom. However I’ve found when I finish writing for the day, I like to plan out my next scene so I can jump right in the next morning. This can be done in a few ways depending on the scene I’m writing.

Dialog - If the scene is centred around a conversation, sometimes I will script it out first. The setting and action parts can always be threaded in later. For example:

P - Pass the salt
L - What’s it worth?
P - My undying love and affection (window smashes - convo interrupted) What was that?
L - ...  Maybe you should go check it out


Note: this isn't my actual writing, this was just the best I could come up on the spot lol, but you get my point.

Plot Threading - When I write, I want each scene to do and capture at least a couple of things. Often I will bullet point these down so that when I start writing, I can make sure I’ve included everything… even if I don't know “how” it will happen.

Today I wrote a whole scene based around these 5 bullet points -

  • Miranda’s sister
  • Burn recipe
  • Steal Candy - Foreshadow Ajax awakening
  • Family made “Donation” 
  • Kodama Cries - Hope Gone

Thanks to these five little lines, I wrote 1286 words in less than an hour. They probably look like nonsense to all of you, but to me these were guiding lights that sparked even larger ideas.

 Planning (even just a little) makes a huge difference to my writing. It takes away the daunting terror of the blank page, meaning I can open my document each day knowing I have something to add.

Who is it for?
  • The stuck writer
  • Foreward Planners
  • Note-book/paper enthusiasts 
  • People who enjoy using pretty pens
  • Doodlers

Pages and Pages of notes.... Its so satisfying!

#4 Good old Pen & Paper

If all else fails me, sometimes I will just whip out my notebook and write whatever comes into my head. There is something very satisfying about filling up a notebook with words, even if you never read them again and just flick through and see all those pretty, handwritten pages.

However writing with a pencil (I always chose a pencil - generally the mechanical kind -because I think I can write faster) is a way for me to just spew out everything in my head.

 I actually find I write my best descriptions this way. After I fill an A5 page with pretty words, I can then cherry pick through the better sentences :)

There is also no chance of accidentally deleting anything! 

Who’s it for?

  • Frustrated, Stressed, Tearing-their-hair-out writers. 
  • People with too many blank notebooks
  • Those who like drawing in the margins
  • People who are unafraid to make lots of spellings mistakes!

*Talk to Me!*

I would love to know everyone else writing tricks and tips! I’m always on the lookout for new things to try.

Also writing is something very important to me, but it isn't something I talk about much on my blog. Out of curiosity, would you guys mind if I did more writing-ish posts? 


Don’t be afraid to let your opinion fly!