Sunday, November 22, 2015

Book Review: Rush Oh! by Shirley Barrett

I love reading. Books are amazing. They are a form of escapism, yes, but they are also inspiration, joy, and... well. Goodness. I think in some ways I have used my appetite for reading to define parts of my personality, so it made sense for me to review some of what I read! Here we go...

Title: Rush Oh!
Author: Shirley Barrett
Publication Date: September 1st 2015

Synopsis: "When Mary Davidson, the eldest daughter of a whaling family in Eden, New South Wales, sets out to chronicle the particularly difficult season of 1908, the story she tells is poignant and hilarious, filled with drama and misadventure.
It's a season marked not only by the sparsity of whales and the vagaries of weather, but also by the arrival of John Beck, an itinerant whale man with a murky past, on whom Mary promptly develops an all-consuming crush. But hers is not the only romance to blossom amidst the blubber...
Swinging from Mary's hopes and disappointments, both domestic and romantic, to the challenges that beset their tiny whaling operation, Rush Oh! is a celebration of an extraordinary episode in Australian history, when a family of whalers formed a fond, unique allegiance with a pod of frisky Killer whales - and in particular, a Killer whale named Tom."

My thoughts: I was drawn to this one by the front cover, I will admit, and also by the desire to learn a little more about whaling so I could understand why it is so desirable to this day in places like Japan. And I have to admit I enjoyed the parts of this book that mentioned the strange alliance with the Killer whales, as it sounded like the Killers were an odd ally to have - and especially playful at times.

However, I just couldn't get into this book. The characters felt kind of flat to me, and I found myself often thinking of other things whilst I was reading this book. The chapters seemed to have very little rhyme or reason to them, and I found myself just looking forward to the next little drawing to break up each part. 

Having said that, though, I do think the writing was good, and it may be interesting to other readers. But I just found myself a little bit bored, and that killed my ability to read this quite quickly. Mary is an odd character, and her infatuation is very quickly apparent, and yet I still didn't feel that I empathised with her crush or her life in general - perhaps because it is so different from my own.

Sometimes you read something and you just don't mesh well with it for whatever reason - I am struggling to find the main reason here. My rating here reflects my own thoughts, but I think it is worth going to goodreads and checking out other people's thoughts if you would like to read this (or perhaps just jumping in without other people's opinions cluttering up your thought process!).

I received a review copy of this book through the Dymocks Gold Booklovers program.

You would like this book if: you want a bit of history of whaling in Australia.

Tea to drink while reading this book: Traditional Aussie Billy tea would be best, I think!

Rating:  4/10

If you'd like to keep up to date with what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads here!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Book Review: The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley

I love reading. Books are amazing. They are a form of escapism, yes, but they are also inspiration, joy, and... well. Goodness. I think in some ways I have used my appetite for reading to define parts of my personality, so it made sense for me to review some of what I read! Here we go...

Title: The Seven Sisters
Author: Lucinda Riley
Series: The Seven Sisters #1 
Publication Date: April 2015 

Synopsis: "Maia D'Apliese and her five sisters gather together at their childhood home of Atlantis - a fabulous, secluded castle situated on the shores of Lake Geneva - having been told that their beloved father, the elusive billionaire they call Pa Salt, has died.
Maia and her sisters were all adopted by him as babies and, discovering he has already been buried at sea, each of them is handed a tantalising clue to their true heritage - a clue which takes Maia across the world to a crumbling mansion in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Once there, she begins to put together the pieces of where her story began...
Eighty years earlier, in the Belle Epoque of Rio, 1927, Izabela Bonifacio's father has aspirations for his daughter to marry into aristocracy. Meanwhile, architect Heitor da Silva Costa is working on a statue, to be called Christ the Redeemer, and will soon travel to Paris to find the right sculptor to complete his vision.
Izabela - passionate and longing to see the world - convinces her father to allow her to accompany him and his family to Europe before she is married. There, at Paul Landowski's studio and in the heady, vibrant cafes of Montparnasse, she meets ambitious young sculptor Laurent Brouilly, and knows at once that her life will never be the same again."

My thoughts: Wow, that is a hell of a blurb. Having just typed it out, I can honestly say that it pretty much has most of the book in it.
I really had high hopes for liking this book - it seemed a fascinating premise, following the seven sisters of the constellation and discovering their roots sounded like an excellent journey, and to begin with it was, but there were just a few problems that I had with this book that ended up making for a rather unfortunate reading experience.

Firstly, it feels like there is way too much packed into this one story. I would have liked to follow the building of Christ the Redeemer, because that story sounded wonderful to me, but we were also following Izabela's issues with her being married off, issues with her parents, falling in love, moving from place to place whilst also learning about those places, and suddenly an orphaned child came into the mix. And on top of this we also had to stay invested in the story of Maia, who is finding all of this out. It felt like too much, and it ended up making me feel like it was a chore to read this book, which is never enjoyable.

The other issue I had with this book was that the writing sometimes felt very wooden. The dialogue could sometimes be interesting, but mostly it felt like the characters were puppets, just saying kind of what I expected them to and then sitting back down until their next part came along. There was a lot of info-dumping, too, which made reading this a bit of a grind at times - and this is not a slim book.

Finally, I just found many of the characters to be quite unlikeable - I didn't empathise with what was happening much at all, and that honestly just made me feel a little grumpy. At times I had glimmers of understanding and enjoyment in the character's and their humour - a minor character being the main source of this (although she disappeared after only a couple of chapters) - but mostly I just felt a bit frustrated.

Overall, I found this to be a bit too ambitious, and perhaps not edited enough for my tastes. I will have a look at the second book, The Storm Sister, but to be honest I am just not sure it is to my taste.

I received a review copy of this book from Pan Macmillan (thank you!).

You would like this book if: you enjoy epic tales verging into history and based loosely on mythology.

Tea to drink while reading this book: I think the characters of this book would prefer you drank coffee, given that it is set during a coffee boom in Brazil!

Rating:  3/10

If you'd like to keep up to date with what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads here!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

{2015} October Reading

Books bought/received:
~ Second Chance Summer (Cedar Ridge #1) by Jill Shalvis

~ The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle
~ Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
~ The Aeronaut's Windlass (Cinder Spires #1) by Jim Butcher (review)
~ Archangel's Enigma (Guild Hunter #8) by Nalini Singh (review)
~ The November Criminals by Sam Munson (review) 
~ The Seven Sisters (The Seven Sisters #1) by Lucinda Riley (review)
~ The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber
~ Storm Front (Dresden Files #1) by Jim Butcher
~ Grave Peril (Dresden Files #3) by Jim Butcher
~ The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
~ How to Live Well With Chronic Pain and Illness: A Mindful Guide by Toni Bernhard

Books read:
~ Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling
~ Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
~ Rising Strong by Brene Brown
~ Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
~ Second Chance Summer (Cedar Ridge #1) by Jill Shalvis
~ The Aeronaut's Windlass (Cinder Spires #1) by Jim Butcher (review)
~ The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

Wow. Okay. Looks like I acquired quite a few books this month! And didn't read so many of them XD I think that was mostly because of the house move and just needing some comfort, so a few books were bought. Although, to be fair, The Crimson Petal, the Dresden Files books, and the Kate Morton were all bought from my favourite op-shop for $14 total, so I figure that's a bit of a win. Anyway, on to what I read this month, the small amount that is there.

The Harry Potter books were from a read-along that I am hosting where we read one HP book and watch the relating movie each month for seven months (two movies in the final month). I was a bit behind with the second book so I finished it this month before reading the third on schedule :)

Rising Strong by Brene Brown carried over from last month, and was fantastic. When I first started reading it, I couldn't actually get into it too well. But then when we moved, I picked it back up and loved the message within - the idea of identifying the stories we tell ourselves that can kind of warp what is actually happening, and how we deal with things in light of those stories. It was a great read that I am going to keep on my shelf for reference in the future :)

Carry On was a preorder that was the first package that arrived at the new house, and it was absolutely wonderful. It was alluded to in Fangirl, and I am so glad that Rainbow Rowell decided to commit to writing a whole story for Simon Snow and Baz. The relationship was super cute, and I think Baz is one of my favourite people ever.

Second Chance Summer is the first Jill Shalvis that I have actually bought a physical copy of rather than ebooks or borrowing from the library, and I really enjoyed this one. I maintain that Shalvis is one of the better romance writers, and her books always make me feel comforted and happy!

The Aeronaut's Windlass was a bit of a surprise, in more ways than one. It turned up on my parent's doorstep (address changing is working now, but for a while it wasn't) even though I hadn't requested it (or actually even known it existed). The other surprise was how much I loved it - I've never actually read any Jim Butcher and wasn't sure whether I would like his work, but then I started reading and just flew through it. Hence, buying more Jim Butcher. :P

Finally, I grabbed The Rest of Us Just Live Here from my library's reservation system and read it quite quickly. Again, an amazing book with interesting characters and such interesting plot points. I really want a copy now.

November is my final month of study so my reading may still suffer a little, but hopefully it will pick up! And I am hoping for more Jim Butcher to be honest...

Friday, October 30, 2015

little pieces of poetry #8


I can be your excuse
get you out of the things you don't want
let my illness, my pain
be your saviour, your freedom
let my mind's mess
envelope you
and spirit you away
the only thing I ask in return

is that you see me.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Book Review: The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher

I love reading. Books are amazing. They are a form of escapism, yes, but they are also inspiration, joy, and... well. Goodness. I think in some ways I have used my appetite for reading to define parts of my personality, so it made sense for me to review some of what I read! Here we go...

Title: The Aeronaut's Windlass
Author: Jim Butcher
Series: The Cinder Spires #1
Publication Date: September 29th 2015

Synopsis: "Since time immemorial, humanity has lived inside the Spires, habitats towering for miles over the dangerous, monster-infested surface of the world. Captain Grimm of the merchant airship Predator was dismissed from Spire Albion's military in disgrace - now his ship and crew are all he has, and he's fiercely loyal to both. When the Predator is severely damaged in combat, Grimm is offered a choice - take on a clandestine mission for Albion's leaders, or stay grounded for good.
And even as Grimm undertakes this perilous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. Humanity's ancient enemy, silent for more than ten thousand years, has begun to stir once more. And death with follow in its wake..."

My thoughts: I have never read any Jim Butcher before, though I have watched most of the Dresden Files tv series (which is excellent), so when this turned up on my doorstep I was definitely intrigued to try it out. And I was not disappointed.

Butcher has created such a fantastic, intriguing world - not quite dystopian, but pretty close - and has populated it with amazing characters. These characters, guys, they are just so interesting. So varied and charming (for some), and occasionally downright scary (for others).

There's a quote on the back of my copy from Patricia Briggs that says "Beware fellow readers, herein lies adventure that will keep you from food or rest..." - and, really, I have to concur. I had a tendency to ignore my body's needs (such as food) when I started to read this book. The story was just fascinating, and I couldn't predict where it was going to go next. It was such a fantastic mix of adventure, suspense, humour, and yes, a little romance (just a teensy touch). And there's even cats!

Seriously, I loved this. And I really want to get my hands on the next one. And maybe read more Jim Butcher in general :D

Big thanks to Hachette for sending me an unsolicited copy of this book.

You would like this book if: You enjoy awesome adventures with well-crafted characters.

Tea to drink while reading this book: A hard one to pick, as this book has so much in it... But I have to say I enjoyed the odd pot of chai (Cuppa and Co.'s Cheeky Chai) to go with the complex flavours of this book :)

Rating:  10/10

If you'd like to keep up to date with what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads here!

Friday, October 23, 2015

{2015} September Reading

Oh, so very late! Sorry about this guys, but better late than never! Some of the sections may be a bit small as I try to remember what I bought and received, or what I read. When I had internet again at the new place, I tried to update goodreads as best I could, but this may not be a complete record!

Book bought/received:
~ Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert (review)
~ Rising Strong by Brene Brown

Books read:
~ Still the One (Animal Magnetism #6) by Jill Shalvis
~ Tower of Thorns (Blackthorn & Grim #2) by Juliet Marillier (review)
~ Instant Gratification (Wilder #2) by Jill Shalvis
~ The Peony Lantern by Frances Watts (review)
~ Instant Temptation (Wilder #3) by Jill Shalvis
~ The Dark Mirror (Bridei Chronicles #1) by Juliet Marillier
~ Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert (review)
~ State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

So, this month was a bit of a Jill Shalvis and Juliet Marillier heavy month... Lots of romance and lovely fantasy. A few review books for good measure, too. Overall a pretty nice month!

The Jill Shalvis books were borrowed via the library system - mostly the online ebook editions. I love that I can borrow these on my ipad without having to go anywhere! And I love Shalvis' work... she just makes me smiley. :D

Tower of Thorns was excellent, mysterious, fantastical. I swear every time I read a Marillier there is this particular feeling that I get that I just can't pinpoint. It makes me feel happy, connected, and magical. I decided to re-read The Dark Mirror so that I could continue on with the trilogy. I am still semi-reading the second book - The Blade of Fortriu - but the move kind of messed up my reading patterns. I will get back to it soon, though, just so I can get that feeling once more.

The Peony Lantern was a bit of a surprise - it ended up making me cry a little bit. Well-researched and interesting, I am so glad I requested a copy to review. Please check out my full review for more info :)

Big Magic was a wonderful book to read and review, and I still re-read parts of it to remind myself of the awesomeness of creative lives. Gilbert is just amazing - she writes so wonderfully and just draws you in. I am so so grateful to have gotten a review copy of this book. It was because of her and her podcast - Magic Lessons - that I picked up Ann Patchett's State of Wonder, which was something I probably wouldn't normally read. It was absolutely amazing and I loved every minute of it. In fact, it was the first book I finished in the new house. I think it will have special meaning because of that.

And that was September! Or as much as I can remember of it... I am reading a few things at the moment, but mostly I am just trying to settle into the new place and build my reading life around that. :) What are you reading?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Notes on a new life

I have not posted in quite some time, and I have no real explanation for that. For some time, I did have a real explanation - no internet at the new house. And then sheer exhaustion. Today I am dealing with symptoms and general ick, but I thought it was finally time for me to write some of the things that have been happening.

I am writing to you from my new home - Xin and I have finally moved in together to a sweet little townhouse. We have our own courtyard where I am growing some pretty plants, and there are already trees established and thriving, including some citrus trees. We even have a little balcony where I have a small lavender plant.

Life here is still falling into a routine, and I feel like I am dealing with it well, but there is a certain urgency to my energy lately that bothers me. Things are going a bit odd at the moment - Centrelink suspending my payments, things getting broken, surges of anxiety for both me and Xin. And it is only writing it now that I realise things are getting cracked open, broken, so that new light can come in. 

I have spent a lot of my days feverishly doing things, cleaning, cooking. Yes, I am enjoying these things. I love them and I try to put that love into everything I do. But, somewhere along the way, I have repressed the knowledge that my body can't do things all the time. I have started getting bigger and bigger symptoms, and I have to start recognising them for what they are - warning signs. Little notes and messages from my body trying to let me know that I need to create a routine that not only makes sense for this new life, but that make sense for my own self-care and self-love.

Increasingly I have noticed myself turning towards things like Facebook, writing posts where I subtly (and not-so-subtly) ask for permission to rest, permission to be the way I am. Sometimes this helps, as I remember the support I have. But a lot of the time it simply leads me to feel lost and disconnected, because the fact is that I am asking others for advice about how to live my life. They can't know what it is to be me, and I need to remember that my inner world is just that - inner. Only I can connect to myself and know what is best for myself.

This alarming tendency to ask others for permission is something I am going to try and lessen. I think what would be best is to get quiet with myself a bit more often and figure out what I need. And right now? I need Castle, books, maybe some tea, and food. Oh, and snuggly things.

Love to all who read.
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