Saturday, 22 April 2017

King's Cage - Book Review


King’s Cage - Book Review
Victoria Aveyard
YA Fantasy
Red Queen Book # 3
UK Publisher: Orion

Other Books in the series:
Glass Sword

Synopsis:

Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightening, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a King, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother’s web in an attempt to maintain control over his country — and his prisoner. 

As Mare bears the weight of the Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organising, training and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled Prince with his own claim on Mare’s heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back.

When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire - leaving Norta as Mare knows it, to burn all the way down.

Review:

I have really enjoyed this series so far, but I must admit that this third book didn’t exactly start with a bang. Having said that, I did enjoy the in-depth look we received into all the characters, even if I did feel the first half was really drawn out.

This third book picks up straight from where the previous book ended. Mare is now Mavens prisoner, and with her will broken and lightning powers leashed she soon finds herself the new king’s puppet. Thankfully Cal - the exiled Prince turned rebel - will do anything to see Mare set free, no matter the lives cost.

Now with brother fighting brother, and the powerful new-bloods battling the God-like silvers, Mare’s country is being destroyed from all sides…

I’m still pumped on all the action and thrilling revelations that came with this book’s ending. Enough so that I’ve almost, almost forgotten how little I actually liked the beginning. For me the problem was that Mare is super withdrawn and depressed (although considering she spends months locked in a room unable to use her powers it’s understandable) but not exactly fun to read. 

However what did redeem it for me was the in-depth look we got at Maven’s backstory. Although still the villain, he is easy to pity for his childhood and we get a glimpse at the boy he could have been had his mother not turned him into a monster. Mare’s pity and soft spot for Maven is finally relatable. However I the first half of the book was so long winded that I was going a little crazy waiting for something to happen.

The action, when it came though, was definitely worth waiting for. The latter half of the book unleashed all the intrigue, explosion and first-book-goodness that I was waiting for. I actually thought it all became very Game of Thrones like, what with the backstabbing, new alliances and additional characters, not to mention a couple of new POVs woven into the flow. 

As for the romance, for the most part I liked it. Mare and Cal’s relationship has always been deep and meaningful, yet they both remain quite selfish people. This in particular came across really well in this book, and I’m super curious to see what will be in store for them next. 

All in all, this is a good read but I thought it was a little filler like. I probably would have liked it more if the beginning had been at least one hundred pages shorter - however I’m still excited to read the final book in the series which will release next year. Overall, I would give King’s Cage 3 stars!

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What are you thoughts on this series? Are you enjoying it so far?

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Cogheart - Book Review


Cogheart - Book Review
Peter Bunzl
MG Steampunk
(The Cogheart Adventures #1)
UK Publisher: Usborne 

Synopsis:

Some secrets change the world in a heartbeat…

Lily’s life is in mortal peril. Her father is missing and now silver-eyed men stalk her though the shadows. What could they want from her?

With her friends—Robert, the clockmaker’s son, and Malkin, her mechanical fox—Lily is plunged into a murky and menacing world. Too soon Lily realises that those she holds dear may be the very ones to break her heart…

Murder, mayhem and mystery meet in this gripping Victorian adventure.

Review:

Cogheart was utterly charming. I thought it had a style similar to Cornelia Funkes Inkheart, mixed with a dash of Neil Gaiman’s imagination in stardust. Throw in a bunch of airships, some mechanical wonders along with a helping of friendship and hey presto! A magical book is made.

Set in a fantastical version of Victorian London, the story follows eleven-year-old Lily as she sets out on a journey to find her missing father. Pursued by silver-eyed men who are certain Lily holds the key to unlocking her father’s “secret work” Lily must dodge every scheme they throw at her… or see a powerful weapon fall into the wrong hands…

A really great book! There were so many aspects of this story that I enjoyed. First I loved the world-building, full of airships and mechanical people/animals, but I was saddened by how the humans of the world treated the technology so coldly and without feeling. However this offered a sharp contrast against Lily’s warm character and I adored her own mechanical family. They were so amusing, with distinct personalities and word choices of their own, “Clanging crumpets!”

However I felt the beginning of the story quite slow and it takes several chapters to pick up the pace.  It’s not until Lily runs away from her guardian that the story starts to take a more interesting turn, but these beginning chapters also allow the reader to get a feel for Lily’s tom-boyish character.

Sadly though I actually saw the big plot-twist coming, but it was delivered in a dramatic manner that I think younger readers will enjoy this immensely. I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series. I'm most curious to see where Lily’s adventures take her next!

A heart warming Middle Grade read. I give cogheart 3.5 stars!

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Has anyone else read this book? If so I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments :)


Monday, 10 April 2017

Dark Tempest - Book Review


Dark Tempest - Book Review
Annette Marie
YA Fantasy
(Red Winter Trilogy #2)

Other Books in the Trilogy:

Synopsis:

Emi has dedicated her life to becoming the perfect vessel for the goddess Amaterasu, but the insidious betrayal of another deity has changed everything. Now Amaterasu has charged Emi with an urgent mission: to find and free the earthly gods before mankind is brought to its knees beneath divine tyranny.

At her side is Shiro, the mysterious fox spirit. When she first saved his life, she could never have imagined that behind hid cunning and confidence, he was lost - his power bound by a devastating curse and his memories obscured. His veiled history is somehow tied to the missing gods, but he can’t remember how or why.

As their search leads them into the murky depths of the spirit realm, the shadows of Shiro’s past begin to emerge. With each brief awakening of his true self, she loses a little more of him. The fate of the heavens and earth rest in her mortal hands, and she must find the missing gods before time runs out for her world - and for Shiro.

Review:

I am totally addicted to this series! Although this second book gets off to a slightly slow start, when the action does kick off it does so with a bang! The drama, the mythology… the romance (did I mention its the forbidden, heart-racing kind) Ah, I just want to jump about and squee! It’s so so so good!

Picking up shortly after the last book, Emi now finds herself in an even bigger predicament. Tasked with freeing the Earthly Gods before the solstice, Emi must fight against strong enchantments and powerful demons - all while maintaining her purity - but even as she struggles to control her ever-growing feelings for Shiro, the handsome Kitsune demon, she knows her first duty is to her Goddess Amaterasu and the world, but love might just prove to be Emi’s biggest weakness yet… 

This story really blew me away and I devoured it in less than a day. The action (once it starts) leads into a super fast-paced plot, all twined with elements of humour, romance, backstory and underlying intrigue. 

While the main plot really captures attention, it’s the slow burn romance between Emi and Shiro that has really hooked me. This second book see’s their relationship growing stronger and they are becoming more vocal about their feelings. It’s all made even more delicious by the fact that fate and Gods are vying to keep them apart. So dramatic! 

There is also a lot of character development. Emi now uses both her wits and growing magical skill to help in battles. She has earned the respect of the Yokai travelling with her and all the while she stays strong, despite the many burdens on her shoulders.

Shiro is still the sarcastic fox we came to love in book one, but we get a deeper look into his past which offers up a more vulnerable side to him. His interactions with the crow demon Yumei are totally comical and all the characters in this book deserve a huge applause. 

Dark Tempest, like its predecessor, also has lots of Japanese culture woven into the story. Words, food, etiquette, mythology and so much more - they all combine to make a really authentic tale that reads just like an anime in my head. 

And isn't the cover for this book just gorgeous? And the illustrations inside… they are all beautifully done and really help bring the world to life. I honestly can’t gush over this series enough. If you haven't already, go check out the first one, RED WINTER, it won’t disappoint. 

An easy 5 stars!

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Have any of you read this series? If so I would love to hear you're thoughts in the comments :) May we all gush over this book's awesomeness together :)

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Sea - The Huntress Trilogy - Book Review



Sea - Book Review
Sarah Driver 
Middle Grade Fantasy
(The Huntress Trilogy Book #1)
UK Publisher: Egmont

Synopsis:

In the sky, the fire spirits dance and ripple. Grandma says they showed our Tribe that I’d be captain, before I was even born.

Ever since Ma died, Mouse has looked after her little brother, Sparrow, dreaming of her destiny as captain of the Huntress. But now Da’s missing, Sparrow is in danger, and a deathly cold is creeping across Trianukka….

Review:

This was a really unique story with a fabulous young heroine. With Pirates, deadly sea monsters and a spice of magic, this was a splashing start to a sea churning adventure.

When Mouse’s dad goes missing—and a long-lost crew member returns to claim the vacant spot of navigator—Mouse knows something is amiss. Then she finds a hidden message that leads to dangerous waters, depths where myths come to life and crew turn on their captains…

Admittedly, this book was a little confusing in places, and Mouse’s unique voice took me several chapters to click with. At first I didn't even realise Mouse was a girl! However once I got into the rhythm of the story, I soon found myself swept away. 

The story offers a really unusual set of characters, all memorable by there personalities, physical traits or magical abilities. However I didn't understand the motivations of some of the crew, and look forward to the next book to see if more puzzle pieces are slotted together.

One of things I really enjoyed though was the dialog - words like, “heart-courage” and “heart-thanks.” All simple words that conveyed so much. I also liked that Mouse was gifted with the ability to speak to animals, and I found the animals speech really entertaining. Several times I even laughed out loud.

In terms of plot, the story moves at a fast pace although I feel we don't know the bigger picture yet (again, something I hope is revealed in the next book) but overall this was a most enjoyable read and it's a series I definitely will be continuing. 

All I can say, is that due to the writing style I really hope new readers persevere and give this book a chance. Despite the choppy beginning you’ll find that once you click with the story, you will be well and truly hooked!

3 stars!

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Have any of you read this book? If so I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments :)


Monday, 3 April 2017

March in Review



March in Review

So I spent most of March in Tokyo, and now have just arrived in sunny Australia :) As you can guess this has been an exciting month of travel, great food, so many books (Yay for reading time) but sadly… not so much writing.

So at the start of the month I officially said goodbye to China. My boyfriend and I spent several lovely (yet smoggy) days in Guangzhou, before we headed on to Hong Kong. For once we treated ourselves to an expensive hotel and made full use of the pool and spa facilities. It was awesome!

A few days later, we said our goodbyes as my boyfriend flew to the Philippines for a holiday with his family, and I flew to Japan for a holiday with my dad.

First things first, seeing my dad in Japan was priceless. It was his first time in Asia, and while it did take him a few days to learn to use chopsticks, I’m pleased to say he had the time of his life. In fact, he’s already making plans to return next year. Annual trips to Japan… I can totally live with that :)

If any of you are interested, you can see the highlights of my trip in these two posts:


Otherwise I’m just about managing to keep up with the blog! There are a lot of upcoming reviews so be sure to look out for them. Otherwise, I’m just planning to your enjoy my time in Australia. The plan is stay another 4 days in Brisbane, then me and some friends will be driving up to Sydney :)

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If any of my Australian readers or fellow travels could give me some shout outs of things to see and do in Brisbane or Sydney it would be much appreciated! Also… maybe a location of some great YA bookstores….

Meanwhile - Here are my book stats for the month…


Books Read
  1. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
  2. The Mystery of the Painted Dragon by Katherine Woodfine (Can’t wait to read the rest of this series)
  3. The Huntress: Seas by Sarah Driver 
  4. The Night Spinner by Abi Elphinstone  (Loved this series so much!)
  5. A Gathering of Shadows of V.E Schwab
  6. The Naming by Alison Croggon (The First Book of Pellinor) 
  7. Cogheart by Peter Bunzl.
  8. Judged  by Liz De Jager (Blackheart #3)
  9. The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen (Tearling #3) - The ending of this killed me!

Review Posts


Currently Reading:

Frail Mortal Heart by Zoe Marriott
The Raven Boys by Maggie Steiefvater (Still haven't progressed any further)


And hows things with everyone else? Did you have a good March?


Friday, 31 March 2017

Goodbye Tokyo


(No! It's not an alien - it's a kodama!)

Goodbye Tokyo

So my two week holiday in Tokyo has at last came to an end :( I’m currently writing this post from Australia — Actually in the not-so-sunny living room of my aunts house in Brisbane. Lol, I didn't realise it could rain so much this side of the world! But I wanted to share the final highlights of my trip.

Public Bath House

When we arrived it was empty...

I didn't have time to seek out the famous Onsen’s this holiday, so I did the next best thing. I grabbed my Japanese friend, Nozomi, and headed to the public bathhouse. If you are super body-conscious this really isn't a place for you - but I love the family and social atmosphere in these places - although admittedly it’s pretty strange carrying on casual conversations surrounded by lots of naked people. Although I adore how (despite the lack of clothes) there is no judgement, no stares, only friendly banter between people of all shapes, ages and backgrounds.

Men and Women’s bath’s are separate of course!

Nikko

pretty pretty...

If you have time, I would totally recommend you spend a few nights in Nikko. It’s about a two hour train ride from Tokyo and is famous for its national parks, temples and awesome hikes. 

Considering that my dads a pretty “large” man, I was so impressed by how far he walked. Even if we did have to stop for constant coffee/sit down breaks :) But yay for dad — so proud that you finally got yourself to Asia. 

Tokyo Tower


Its a long way down....

Tokyo tower is one of the best view points ever - even if it does look like a white and red Eiffel tower. We actually went on my dads last day and we were super lucky enough to have a really sunny day, and could see for miles. Even Mt. Fuji was visible.

Ueno Park

One small corner of the park... its actually really big

Not only is this a nice place to walk (Or camp - as many people appeared to be doing) but there always seems to something going on. Book Fairs, street performers, and of course, stalls and stalls of awesome food! You all know how much I like food!

And that just about wraps up my trip. After my dad left I had an extra four days to kill so I got a little writing done, ate more awesome food - and wandered from cafe to restaurant to cafe dodging the pouring rain. However at least the sun came out for my last day!

But now I’m in Australia… and its raining yet again! Hopefully the sun will return soon!

Thursday, 30 March 2017

The Girl of Glass - Book Review



The Girl of Glass - Book Review
Holly Webb
MG Historical Fantasy
A Magical Venice Story Book # 4

Other Books in the Series:
The Water Horse
The Mermaid’s Sister

Synopsis:

Mariana lives with her family on the Venetian Island of Murano - famed for its artists who create masterpieces from glass. But when Mariana’s little sister, Eliza, dies their father decides to use his glassmaking skill - and a dash of magic - to create a girl of glass in Eliza’s image.

The remarkable glass doll, who sings, dances and talks, draws attention wherever she goes, and soon Mariana is famous for having the magical glass sister. But as the glass girl takes on more and more of Eliza’s personality, Mariana begins to suspect that there is more than just magic at play. Could the girl of glass be her sisters ghost made real?

Review:

Another magical read! Although this is the forth book in the series, the story reads perfectly fine as a standalone and will enchant readers from eight years and upward. 

Once again the reader is taken into the beautiful streets of Venice where skilled craftsmen use magic to create the most delicate fancies imaginable. But when Marina’s little sister, Eliza, dies - their glass maker father loses himself in his grief, and creates a living doll of glass - a miniature version of Eliza.

Yet as news of the glass girl spreads, people fight for the right to “buy” her - but she is not for sale. Now Mariana will do anything to ensure her glass sister stays safe, even if it means leaving home and finding work on the mainland…

There is a lot of emotion packed into this story. Mariana’s relationship with both the real Eliza, and the glass Eliza, is truly touching. Their bond as sisters helps them get through many tasks and ordeals - although I must admit, I found the idea of a glass child a little creepy.

With that in mind, this has been my least favourite book of the series so far. Also while the emotional journey was there, I felt this book lacked the action and suspense of the other books. I also guessed very early on who the villain was, and the ending left me feeling just a little bit… empty.

Like the previous books though I throughly enjoyed the magical elements. I adored watching Mariana grow into her powers and unravel the secrets of her abilities. The old man with his magical potions was also an asset to the story - I really liked his shop of wonders - as well as the glimpses given into the bustling life of old Venice. 

This book also doesn't shy away from the grimmer side of the past, subtly acknowledging that death was a common-day occurrence  at the time, due to the sickness and poverty that plagued the city. 

All in all though, this was a nice book to while away an afternoon with. I will definitely be continuing this series - not to mention the covers for these books are gorgeous!


3 stars!

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Have any of you read this series? I would love to know your thoughts in the comments!

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Barefoot on the Wind - Book Review


Barefoot on the Wind - Book Review
Zoe Marriott
YA Fantasy/Beauty & the Beast Retelling
UK Publisher: Walker Books

Some other Books by Zoe Marriott:

Synopsis:

There is a Monster in the forest…

Everyone in Hana’s remote village on the mountain knows that straying too far into the woods is a death sentence. When Hana’s father goes missing, she is the only one who dares try to save him. Taking up her hunting gear, she goes in search of the beast, determined to kill it - or be killed herself.

But the forest contains more secrets, more magic and more darkness than Hana could ever have imagined. And the beast is not at all what she expects…

Review:

In this book, Zoe Marriott puts her own stamp on the beloved, Beauty and the Beast tale. Yet what struck me most about this book, aside from its Japanese setting, was the beauty of the writing, the friendships formed by the characters, and funnily enough, the distinct lack of romance. That’s not to say that this isn't a love story - because it is - but it’s a love story built on loyalty and companionship. You won’t find fluff in this book. It’s a truly exceptional read. A real masterpiece of fiction.

All Hana’s life, the forest has whispered the same warning. There is a monster in the woods. Yet growing up in a village where people frequently disappear, never to return, Hana’s heart is hardened to the warning. Yet when her father goes missing, she will do anything it takes to save him. Even venture into the deepest, darkest part of the forrest.

But the woods surrounding Hana’s village have a magic of their own and they protect a dark secret. A cursed creature, a beast with a heart of ice…

This was a really delicious read. Unlike most beauty and the beast retellings, this story explores the beast’s past, giving the reader an insight into the events that led up to the curse. It’s a book that doesn't turn away from the ugly sides of nature, but instead reveals the story in a truthful way.

Hana is strong heroine who has been sculpted by loss of her brother into a more masculine role. She is a hunter with a strong will that serves her well throughout the course of the story. The beast on the other hand is a healer, quiet and docile in nature. I like how his strength is portrayed, not through physical action, but through his acceptance of his sins. He doesn't fight his fate, and believes his punishment is just. It is only through Hana’s arrival that beast finally begins to see he is not the same man he once was. 

I also liked the mythology in this book, and without giving away spoilers, all I can say is I liked the twist on the whole “there is a monster in the forrest” storyline. It made the ending of the book that much sweeter.

However I did feel parts of the middle were a little slow. I understand many of the scenes were there to show the developing relationship between Hana and the Beast, but I couldn't help but be eager for something more to happen. While the pacing does pick up considerably toward the end, the contrast is sharp and in hindsight, makes the middle seem more slower than it probably was. 

All in all though this was a really beautiful read. Zoe Marriott has a real flair for poetic storytelling and I’m looking forward to her next book, whatever it may be. I give Barefoot on the Wind 4 stars!

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What did the rest of you think? Isn't that cover just gorgeous? And did I mention this book counts toward both the British Book Challenge, and the fairytale retellings? It's a win win! :)