Friday, 27 January 2017

The Star-Touched Queen - Book Review


The Star-Touched Queen
Roshani Chokshi
YA Fantasy
UK PUBLISHER: St. Martin’s Griffin

Synopsis:

Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire.

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most… including herself. 

Review:

I’m in two minds about this book. There was a lot I liked about the story: the writing and sheer imagination of it are particularly spellbinding. However there was so much I found confusing. I couldn't connect all the dots between the story arcs, and I didn't understand the main characters choices at all. 

Maya was born with a terrible horoscope, one that binds her to a future of death and destruction. Safe in the freedom she will never marry, her life is turned upside down when her father suddenly announces she must choose a husband. But when the man Maya picks makes her queen to a world of myth and legend, she finds herself caught in a maze of secrets, stars, and a deadly plot that will cost her every person she loves….

My first impression of this story was that the prose is stunning. The descriptions are beautiful and Roshani Chokshi paints a world of vibrant colours, magical creatures and vivid scenery. The world building is truly astounding. I also love that it's all based around a fantasy version of old India, featuring its foods, scents and culture, as well as some delicious myths and legends. 

The characters however, I did not relate to so well. This was mostly because I didn't understand why they made such bad choices - and although I liked Maya’s personality and way of thinking, I didn't like how she could be so trusting and naive. The scenes between Maya and Nritti I found unrealistic and just plain confusing!

Then there was the romance between Maya and Amar. I felt it lacked connection because the sparks and passion, the butterflies and witty banter that makes a romance real… it just wasn't there. Despite many declarations of love from them both, I never experienced that rush (or any of the squee moments readers are prone too - you guys know the ones I mean!) when a couple finally gets together. 

However I adored the demonic talking horse, Kamala. She had some of the best lines and made me laugh out loud on many occasions. I’m just sad she didn't appear until near the end of the book.

All in all though, there was much to like about this book. The prose, the world building and magical creatures - those alone are reasons enough to give this book a try. It also means I will definitely be checking out other books by this author. Unfortunately though I wasn't sold on the characters, and the storyline unravelled in an almost dreamlike, yet non-sensical way. 

For those reasons, I give this book 3 stars!

Monday, 23 January 2017

The Girl of Ink and Stars - Book Review


The Girl of Ink and Stars

Kiran Millwood Hargrave
MG Fantasy
UK PUBLISHER: Chicken House

Synopsis:

Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella Riosse dreams of the faraway lands her father once mapped.

When her closest friend disappears into the island’s forgotten territories, she volunteers to guide the search. As a cartographers daughter, she’s equipped with elaborate ink maps and knowledge of the stars, and is eager to navigate the island’s forgotten heart.

But the world beyond the walls is a monster-filled wasteland — and beneath the dry rivers and smoking mountains, a legendary fire demon is stirring from it’s sleep. Soon, following the map, her heart and an ancient myth, Isabella discovers the true end of her journey: to save the island itself.

Review:

The Girl of Ink and Stars is a sweet, middle-grade adventure that has the power to charm all its readers. Wrapped in a pretty cover, inside of which are beautiful pages and pretty script, this a lovely book to add to any pre-teens collection. 

Isabella loves stories detailing the myths and legends of her island home. Yet when the governors daughter — her best friend, Lupe — goes missing, Isabella will do anything to see Lupe brought home safely. Even venture into the Island’s forgotten territories.

But the closer Isabella gets to the heart of the island, the more she realises that the myths and legends about it were true. Now, after a thousand  years of slumber — a fire demon has awoken with plans to lay claim to the island once more… and Isabella may be the only one who can stop it…

One of my favourite things about this book was the stories within a story element. Tales of the Island’s history, recaps of peoples adventures, as well as backstory on other characters and artefacts, all made it into this book. That alone really helped flesh out the world and bring Isabella’s story to life.

Isabella herself was a feisty heroine although I didn't always understand her decisions. Still I admired her bravery and liked how she was prepared to risk everything to save her friend.  Although I did feel the ending was a little… weird, given what the story itself was about. 

Also with so much happening in the last chapters, my mind struggled to wrap around the new ideas and I felt some scenes were just thrown in for the sake of raising the action. Worth mentioning too is that although the book is very fast paced, there is no subplots or intrigues. Each event follows the next in a predictable way that I think would be enjoyed more by younger readers.

All in all though this was still a cute read and a nice book to while away an afternoon with. Also both the cover and interior pages are beautiful. 3 stars!

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

A Giveaway (International)


(Aren't they purrrty?)

Giveaway

Hey Guys! 

So Chinese New Year will soon be upon us - and since it will be my last one in China, I thought I would do a small giveaway to celebrate it :)

As many of you know, I have a small obsession with buying notebooks - seriously, its a problem - especially as I don't actually use them that often! 

However just around the corner from my house is a lovely little shop that sells the cutest, most adorable sets of notebooks, pens and… well everything stationery related. I happen to pass this shop every day. It’s torture to not go in - especially as they get new stock every other week.

I know many of you guys are bloggers/students/aspiring writers and general doodlers yourselves… and everyone loves notebooks right? Therefore I convinced myself today that a blog giveaway was a perfectly justifiable reason for browsing in this shop.

Therefore - Thanks guys! If it weren't for you I would have so much guilt on my conscience. You're the best, really!

:)

Now considering China isn't local for most of you (or is it?) the giveaway will be INTERNATIONAL and will run until the 2nd February 2017! I’ll announce a winner when I return from holiday on February 4th :)

Prize:

4 Cat-style notebooks, some foxy highlighters, stickers and post-it-notes!

Depending on the number of entries, there may be some extra things included too…


To enter just fill in the Rafflecopter below :)

*Giveaway Finished*


Goodluck!

Edit: Ha ha - thanks very much to the person who pointed out I've spelled stationery wrong - this is what happens when you spend four years in China. You think this is bad, you should hear my sentence structure now - I speak fluent Chinglish lol

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

2017 Resolutions


(Using my diary - bullet journal style)


2017 Resolutions

Hey Guys!

So I’m a little late posting my resolutions. I’ve been really busy with work and haven't had much me time recently - but thankfully that will all ending soon. My contract finishes on March 1st and I’m looking forward to basking in a few good months of unemployment :) With that in mind, I’ve tried to set myself some goals geared to being productive.

Here is what I came up with:

Blogging

  • Minimum of one post a week - thats not to hard, surely? I figure if I can keep ahead and have posts scheduled at least a month in advance this is very doable. Scheduling also means I can still post content up even when I’m travelling. Although these day's Wifi is everywhere! I was most surprised to find I could get on Facebook even when I was deep in the Mekong Delta!

  • Mixed Content. Nearly all my posts are book reviews and I would like to try and branch out more. I want to add more personal posts - stories and pictures from my travels, my stumbling attempts at writing a book…. how would you guys feel about this?

  • Socialise! I’m actually quite an introverted person, but recently I’ve been making a real effort to comment on the blogs I read. I want to keep up this habit, as I love connecting with so many like minded people. You guys rock!

  • Vlogging? This one is still uncertain, but I’m considering starting a Vlog, partly as a way to get over my fear of cameras, and also so I can share some of my travel videos!

Writing

  • Complete a draft of my MG WIP. I’m halfway at 30K words, and so far that has taken me 4 months. I’ve set a deadline to complete it by the end of Feb, then I want it edited, polished and ready to query by summer!

  • Draft a YA novel (preferably within 4 months). Like many aspiring writers, publication is the dream - and also all the ideas in my head are clogging up my brain! However I need to set more word count goals and manage my time more effectively.

My TBR LIST- Bullet Journal Style

Reading

  • Read 100 Books. This is my Goodreads Challenge.

  • Read 12 Books by British Authors - I’ve already read two this year so I’m well on my way. Anyone interested in signing for the challenge should head over to Michelle's blog @TalesofYesterday

  • More Fairytale Retellings - Another one of my challenges hosted by Jo over  @onceuponabookcase

  • Clear up my backlist. I have so many books on my TBR so I’m cutting down on new releases and catching up on older books.

  • Accepting DNF. Life is too short to read books you don't like, and I’m starting to realise there is no reward to finishing books I’m not getting along with. 

Skills

  • Learn to make Sushi - why? Because I love sushi!

  • Learn Japanese. I actually studied Japanese for two years (before I moved to China lol) and I want to pick it up again. Being able to have a conversation is the goal!

Travel 

Normally my list of countries to travel is huge - but I don't really have set plans or know where I will this year. Therefore I’m going to just see what opportunities come up and follow where fate leads me. Except for:

  • Mongolia - In October I want to visit the eagle tribes and ride across the grass planes.

  • Northern Lights - I’m probably going to be in Canada at some point this year, so… why not?

*After writing this I booked a flight to Indonesia - and that's exactly where I will be jetting off to on the 24th January for ten days :) Let the travels begin!

Financial

  • Chocolate Box Recruitment. My boyfriend and I are setting up a business to help people find good teaching jobs in China. 

Sadly there are so many schools who treat teachers terribly, and we know firsthand what that is like! We want to help place teachers in schools that will look after them, and ensure their China experience is a great one.  If you or anyone you know is wanting to try their hand at teaching English as a foreign language, please get in touch. Our advice and services are all FREE! :) 

Time
  • Time Management. All my goals for the year are achievable since ultimately, it all comes down to how I manage my time. So far I’ve learned setting a timer works wonders so I don't spend too much time on one thing and too little on another.

  • Multitasking. Podcasts are a great way to learn new things and I can listen as I walk - and I walk a lot. I also love sneaking in writing while cookies bake in the oven. Audio books are also pretty good while doing household chores. With these things in mind, I want to find more ways to multitask! Any suggestions


And thats it. What do you think? Does this seem manageable? I think so, but I’ll be sure to let you know half way though the year how I’m getting on. How goes everyone else resolutions? Are you sticking to them?


Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Lorali - Book Review


Lorali - Book Review
Laura Dockrill
YA Fantasy
UK PUBLISHER: Hot Key Books

Synopsis:
Looking after a naked girl he found washed up under Hastings pier isn't exactly how Rory had imagined spending his sixteenth birthday. But more surprising than finding her in the first place, is discovering where she came from.

Lorali is running not just from the sea, not just from her position as princess, but her entire destiny. Lorali has rejected life as a mermaid, and has become human.

But along with Lorali’s arrival, and the freak weather suddenly battering the sea coast, more strange visitors begin appearing in Rory’s bemused Sussex town. With beautifully coiffed hair, sharp-collard shirts and a pirate ship shaped like a tudor house, the Abelgare boys are a mystery all of their own. What are they really up to? Can Rory protect Lorali? And who from? And where does she really belong, anyway?

Review:

The first time I picked up this book, I gave up after fifty pages. I recently tried again, and this time I persevered through the beginning - with its heavy accents, unique view points and unusual prose - and I eventually fell into the books rhythm. My confusion cleared and at last I became engrossed in the story — which turned out to be extremely unpredictable and entertaining.

During a freak rain storm, Rory finds a naked girl hiding under the pier near his house. Taking her home, Rory discovers Lorali is no ordinary girl, but a mermaid princess on the run -- and a group of blood-thirsty pirates are hunting her. 

Vowing to protect Lorali, Rory is swept into world he never imagined existed. A world where legends are real and deadly. But can he protect Lorali from the dangers ahead? Or will love drown him as bit by bit, he loses his heart to the girl from the sea?

I ended up really liking this book. It’s author, Laura Dockrill, really has a flare for details and the story was brought to life in a really plausible way. Threaded between the chapters were news reports, forum discussions and messages - all gushing about the mermaid craze rocking the UK - and if a mermaid really did float herself down the River Thames, I could totally picture this big media-craze happening.

However for a fantasy, this book was surprisingly reality based which helped keep the plot grounded and relatable. It was also a story that teased the senses. With bold words and descriptions, I could practically smell the salt and feel the grime coating the pirates. I thought how the Harpies were depicted was particularly well done, and I loved the tragic backstories woven around each mermaid.

This book is also told from multiple points of view - one of which is the Sea! I particularly enjoyed the Seas perspective since through it, we got a lot of delicious insight into each character, as well as the backstory of how the Mermaids came to be.

The idea of mermaids being “salvaged” humans really appealed to me, and I thought their tails changing colour, creating a tapestry of the their personal stories was particularly invent full.  

Otherwise in terms of characters - they were all interesting but I didn’t really connect with any of them in particular. Instead it was the ideas presented in this book that I enjoyed. The imagination, world building and backstory — these were things that kept me reading. 

In terms of style, this book reminded me a lot of Sally Green’s Half Bad trilogy, something unique with prose that people will either love or hate. For me, I definitely fall into the first category, and despite my issues with the beginning, I’m really glad I gave this book a second chance. 

3 stars! 

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

December in Review

(School xmas show)

December in Review

Can you believe 2016 is over? I totally can’t. But welcome 2017! I hope it will be a fabulous year of books, travel and happy times for all of you!

So what have I been up too this month? Well here are the highlights:


  • My School had their Christmas show - me and the other English teachers preformed a (not so simple) YMCA dance to an audience of 400 Chinese parents and students. So much fun!

  • Boxing - I’ve discovered sparring with my boyfriend in the gym is very therapeutic! A couple of bruises aside, we’ve decided it isn't spousal abuse so long as its in a public place lol. Plus its a great way to get fit and learn self-defence :)

  • Advent calendars are amazing! A small piece of cadburys every day definitely keeps the doctor away :) I think this is the first winter in China that neither me nor my boyfriend have been sick so thanks mum!

  • I added another 5K to my WIP totalling 30K :) This means I am officially halfway done my first draft.

  • My blog now has a header :) So I finally discovered pic-monkey and made myself a simple (but I think pretty) header that I hope makes my blog look a bit more homey :) Let me know what you guys think.

  • Baking! So much baking - Brownies, Banana Bread, Cheese Biscuits, but mostly I’ve been experimenting with fairy cakes and various combinations of jam, peanut butter and chocolate filing :) There was only a couple of volcanic explosions!


Books Read and Reviewed


Currently Reading:

  • Unbecoming by Jenny Downham (nearly finished and loving it!)
  • Moon Chosen by P.C Cast (In one month I have made it 3 chapters - very slow going!)
  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Steifvater (really enjoying this so far)

Other Posts:

End of Year Wrap Ups

  • Goodreads 2016  Challenge - 80 out of 150 books. Not my best year, however since most of the books I did read were 4stars + I’m very satisfied with the books I did get to read!

  • British Books Challenge - 14 British books in total, most of which I snuck it last month in an effort to meet the 12 book requirement. Success… although not quite the 25 I had pledged lol

  • Travelled to 5 Countries (6 if you count 2 half day lay-overs in Dubai!) — China, Hong Kong, Japan, England and Cambodia!

  • Lost 4Kilos :) Which makes moving back to England in March so SCARY! You know, because I will have full and unlimited access to chocolate, biscuits, cheese and everything else that makes English food awesome!

Otherwise how was everyones else December? I hope it was a fun filled and snuggly as mine :)