Monday, August 3, 2015

BLOG TOUR | Book Review: Crystal Kingdom by Amanda Hocking

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...

Welcome to another post for the Crystal Kingdom Australian blog tour! If you'd like to see who posted before me, please head to Book Nerd Reviews, and, to follow the blog tour along tomorrow, please head to Confessions from Romaholics!

Title: Crystal Kingdom
Author: Amanda Hocking
Series: Kanin Chronicles #3
Publication Date: 1st August 2015

Synopsis: "Bryn is on the run and in trouble. She's been framed for murder and is forced to turn to her oldest enemy Konstantin for help. Together they investigate her alleged crime and discover a staggering royal plot that spans three kingdoms - but they need proof to clear her name.
Then death also strikes the Kanin clan's royal family, and this time both Bryn and the Skojare tribe are falsely implicated. As the Kanin's queen pushes for war with the Skojare, Bryn's boss Ridley tracks her down and she dreams they might finally be together. However, they must first expose the villain at the heart of their kingdom and somehow stop the conflict.
But as Bryn learns the startling truth about Konstantin, who will ultimately win her heart?"

My thoughts: Phew, what a rollercoaster ride! This book is a fast read from start to finish, even though it is actually the longest of the three books.

Bryn's character continued to be strong and no-nonsense - although she did still irritate me at times, she definitely didn't bother me as much, and seemed to be convinced by good advice more often this time, which I appreciated. There were still a few inconsistencies with different characters that I found a little jarring, and I noticed a little of that old issue that book reviewers seem to love picking on - telling rather than showing - but it was only very occasionally.

The ending caught me completely by surprise in so many ways - I had kind of 'bookmarked' certain characters for being most likely to die, and Hocking turned that completely on its head. I found the ending quite satisfying, but I would have liked it if we could have had a bit more of an epilogue, just to see how things went even later down the track, but perhaps Hocking has more books planned for this? I'm not sure.

The journeys that Bryn went on were fascinating to read about, and I liked how Hocking gave us a glimpse into all the different troll tribes and their differing skills. Reading this has definitely peaked my interest in the previous trilogy, Trylle, and I may pick that up somewhere down the track.

This was definitely enjoyable and it times a little dark, and I enjoyed the ride.

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

You would like this book if: you want to round out the series properly, and catch some awesome action and sword fights in the process.

Tea to drink while reading this book: Blueberry or Elderberry tea, but spiked with some Raspberry or Cranberry, for a nod to the blood shed within this book.

Rating:  8/10

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

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Book Review: Frostfire and Ice Kissed by Amanda Hocking

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: Frostfire and Ice Kissed
Author: Amanda Hocking
Series: Kanin Chronicles #1 and #2
Publication Date: January 15th 2015 and May 7th 2015 respectively

Synopsis: "Will she give up her dream to follow her heart?
Bryn Aven is determined to gain status amongst the Kanin, the most powerful of the hidden tribes. But as a half-blood, winning respect is a huge challenge. Bryn's almost-human community distrusts people, and those from other tribes are almost as suspect.

She has just one goal to get ahead: to join the elite guard protecting the Kanin royal family. And Bryn's vowed that nothing will stand in her way, not even a forbidden romance with her boss, Ridley Dresden.
But her plans are put on hold when fallen hero Konstantin starts acting dangerously. Bryn loved him once, but now he's kidnapping Kanin children - stealing them from hidden placements within human families. She's sent to help stop him, but will she lose her heart in the process?"

My thoughts: Okay, first of all, I think this blurb takes things in a slightly misleading direction. There is not a huge focus on the romance, particularly within the first two books. It is there, but it didn't feel like the main part of Bryn's story. Her commitment and determination to becoming one of the elite guard, however, is strongly present, and I actually found myself enjoying how strong Bryn was.

Despite being an awesome character, Bryn did irritate me some of the time. To the point that I was just talking to the book saying 'what are you dooooingggggggg' and trying to reason out her decisions (it didn't always work). She fascinated me, but though I was fascinated, that doesn't mean I always liked her.

Ultimately I think what kept me coming back to these books is that I really wanted to know what was going to happen. There were so many twists and turns, political intrigue, kidnappings, action. As much as I tried to analyse the other characters, I had as much trouble as Bryn did figuring out who was trustworthy and who wasn't. I found some of the characters to be a little inconsistent at times, but mostly I loved reading about each one and Bryn's interactions with them.

Get ready for my review of Crystal Kingdom, the third and final book of the Kanin Chronicles, online tomorrow :)

I received review copies of these books from Pan Macmillan (thank you!)

You would like this book if: you like female characters who kick ass and take names, but also enjoy making spur-of-the-moment decisions.

Tea to drink while reading this book: The Kanin live in an icy area, and there was mention of blueberry tea, so I would recommend something blueberry or elderberry related :3

Rating:  7/10 and 8/10 respectively.

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

Saturday, August 1, 2015

{2015} July Reading

Books bought/received:
~ Earth Hour by David Malouf
~ Yes Please by Amy Poehler (giveaway prize win)
~ Crystal Kingdom (Kanin Chronicles, #3) by Amanda Hocking (review)
~ The Peony Lantern by Frances Watts (review)
~ The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
~ Northern Lights (His Dark Materials #1) by Phillip Pullman
~ The Hungry Ghost Festival by Jen Campbell

Books read:
~ Ophelia: Queen of Denmark by Jackie French
~ Frostfire (Kanin Chronicles #1) by Amanda Hocking (review coming tomorrow)
~ The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive #1) by Brandon Sanderson
~ Drowned Vanilla (Cafe La Femme #2) by Livia Day
~ Way Down Dark (The Australia Trilogy #1) by J.P. Smythe (review)
~ The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales by Kirsty Logan
~ The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
~ Ice Kissed (Kanin Chronicles #2) by Amanda Hocking (review coming tomorrow)
~ Crystal Kingdom (Kanin Chronicles #3) by Amanda Hocking (review coming Monday)
~ The Hungry Ghost Festival by Jen Campbell
~ I also read four random paranormal romances on my kindle, but those were just a little fun :)

For a lot of this month, I was in cleaning up mode. I was going through clothes, bags, bed linen, basically everything - including books - and really just getting rid of a load of stuff. Apparently I do my spring cleaning really early! The result of this is that I didn't buy myself as many books, because I slimmed my collection down by about 4 or 5...hundred. These books were either given away to people, or they went to the Save the Children book collection for their pop-up shop and regular sales (love those sales).

I may end up writing another blog posts somewhere down the line about my feelings on this, and how I have dealt with different reactions to my decision, but for now I am just enjoying the clean (still have some stuff to go but almost there!).

Anyway, on to the reading. In terms of review books this month, there was a bit of a mixed bag. Ophelia was brilliant, and I adored it. I wasn't such a fan of Way Down Dark, but if you have a look at my review you will see that my feelings may be linked to the fact that me and dystopians generally don't get on so well. I'm glad I gave it a shot though. The Kanin Chronicles by Amanda Hocking were pretty awesome, and you'll be able to see my thoughts on those in the coming days.

On to personal reading, and you will see that I finally finally finished The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. Yay me! I did a little dance when this happened because I have been trying to finish this book for months. And I gotta say... probably not the best Sanderson to start with? I don't know. I found it really interesting, but the sheer length made me think that a lot of stuff could have been taken out - I started to find myself uninterested in what was going to happen because it was just taking so long to get there, and it was only through the continued urgings of some friends that I kept reading to the end. I haven't given up on Sanderson, but I am taking a break and will be trying again with a different book.

Drowned Vanilla was pretty awesome, though I think I preferred the first book, now that I look back on it. I also loved the short story, The Blackmail Blend, a little more than Drowned Vanilla, but honestly - this series is just so wonderful to read, and I can't wait for the next one.

Both Rental Heart (a collection of short stories/modern fairytales) and The Hungry Ghost Festival (a collection of poetry) really touched something in me, and made me feel more connected to the way I like to write. There are some haunting and slightly odd tones in these two books, and they shine through. The writing in both was superb, and both Kirsty Logan and Jen Campbell have really cemented themselves in my heart as some of my favourite authors now. I have pre-ordered Kirsty Logan's next collection of stories - A Portable Shelter - and I can't wait to dive in.

And that's about it! I am looking at my (recently changed) shelves right now and thinking about what I would like to read next, and also thinking about the Aurealis Awards since they are happening again now, and I am feeling pretty good about my reading future.

How about you guys? What did you read in July that you loved? Anything you didn't like as much as you thought you would? Any recommendations you would like to pass on? Please feel free to comment, I like hearing from you guys!

Love to all who read.

P.S. I also just want to mention that I am falling in love with little magnetic bookmarks lately (see little Merida above!), so if you want to look into them, I have recommended etsy shops for you to check out! Just ask :D

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

This is going to be one of those blog posts where I just sit down and write it out, before my inner critic gets her hands on it (she can be scary).

Oh man, you guys. I am so proud of myself for getting through stuff lately, but also feeling so many things and today am feeling just so, so tired. The glands in my neck, which I now associate almost exclusively with chronic fatigue flare-ups, are pounding with pain, making the bones in my face hurt.

I am just getting over my fourth? maybe fifth cold of this year (three have been super bad), and I thought I was doing okay until I woke up today feeling that bone-deep exhaustion.

I have been testing my boundaries, asking myself questions. Cleaning and sorting all of my stuff is part of that, and I have let go of about 400 books, not to mention three giant bags of clothes, shoes, and bags, a load of bed linen, and many old plush toys. I am working on releasing old documents right now, and then I will move onto the more nostalgic items, like photos. I am confronting so much about myself that I held to be absolutely true and finding's actually not. Things I thought I had let go of are still here - this isn't always bad, and it's making me want to get back into things that I thought I had grown out of.

The next week or so is going to be kind of huge for me. It feels like, because I decided to clear many things out and organise myself properly, the world is going 'oh okay, try this on for size then!'. I have a job interview soon, which will be my first in over three years, and then next week I have another (small) hospital procedure to get through. [I am being deliberately vague here, I am just not ready to share everything yet.] I have a social thing coming up which is a big deal for me, and I am thinking about returning to some old things/starting some new things that appeal to me.

Ultimately this means that I feel cracked open a lot of the time. And I am trying to sit with that, because it is okay to feel that way. It's okay to feel overwhelmed and, in moments of great overwhelm, to want everything to go away. Those things hang around for a while to remind you of what feels right and what feels forced, and then they move on, and you find yourself in a new area.

I am looking forward to that new area, whenever I manage to arrive at it.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Book Review: Way Down Dark by JP Smythe

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: Way Down Dark
Author: JP Smythe
Series: The Australia Trilogy #1
Publication Date: July 2nd 2015

Synopsis: "There's one truth on Australia. You fight or you die. Usually both. Imagine a nightmare from which there is no escape. This is a hell where no one can hide. This is a ship of death, of murderers and cults and gangs. This is Australia.

Seventeen-year-old Chan's ancestors left a dying Earth hundreds of years ago, in search of a new home. They never found one.
The only life that Chan's ever known is one of violence, of fighting. Of trying to survive.
But there might be a way to escape. In order to find it, Chan must head way down into the darkness - a place of buried secrets, long-forgotten lies, and the abandoned bodies of the dead.
Seventeen-year-old Chan, fiercely independent and self-sufficient, keeps her head down and lives quietly, careful not to draw attention to herself amidst the violence and disorder. Until the day she makes an extraordinary discovery - a way to return the Australia to Earth. But doing so would bring her to the attention of the fanatics and the murderers who control life aboard the ship, putting her and everyone she loves in terrible danger.
And a safe return to Earth is by no means certain."

My thoughts: Those who know me will see the blurb above and realise that this book was not really on my radar at all - the grit and horror of it may appeal to others, but unfortunately not to me. And I think that is a big part of the reason why I found it almost impossible to read this book. It was so dark and soul-draining that I found myself resenting the idea of reading it, and that led to me skim-reading for a very large chunk.

The other things that bothered me were the characters - I think their backgrounds and general traits were well-constructed, but I found it hard to tell the voices apart. Everyone seemed to talk in the same tone, and the writing had the same tone, too. It made it hard to know when someone else had started talking.

I definitely think that this book has potential for people who are more interested in dystopian books, and those who love grit and a bit of horror, but I am just not one of those people.

I received an unsolicited review copy of this book from Hachette.

You would like this book if: you like dystopian/sci-fi mash-ups; you like a bit of grit and horror in your stories, and don't get depressed easily.

Tea to drink while reading this book: Tea wouldn't work. Just coffee. No milk or sugar.

Rating:  5/10

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

Monday, July 13, 2015

Book Review: The Divine by Asaf Hanuka, Tomer Hanuka, and Boaz Lavie

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 Divine
Author: Asaf Hanuka, Tomer Hanuka, and Boaz Lavie
Publication Date: July 14th 2015 from First Second Books

Synopsis: "Quanlom is an obscure Southeast Asian country mired in a vicious civil war; Mark is an ex-military explosives expert from Texas with a dead-end job and a baby on the way. When Mark's old buddy Jason comes calling with a lucrative military contract to Quanlom, Mark ends up signing on for way more than he expected. In a place where land mines and ancient spirits exist in equal measure, the two men must choose their allies carefully in order to survive.

From world-renowned artists Asaf Hanuka and Tomer Hanuka and writer Boaz Lavie, The Divine is a fast-paced, brutal, and breathlessly beautiful portrait of a world where ancient powers vie with modern warfare...and nobody escapes unscathed."

My thoughts: ', brutal, and breathlessly beautiful...' I think I can agree with that. This book is really confronting on many levels, and I didn't always (in fact, hardly ever) felt comfortable reading it. But I still think it was an extremely interesting read, and the art was just so beautiful that I found it hard to put down - I was challenged, but I still read this in one sitting (it helps that it isn't super long, either).

The characters are as powerful as the story and the gore contained within it - they are confronting and seem to represent more than what you see on face value. The two boys on the cover, in particular, are quite intriguing and, while there is very little exploration into their back story and abilities, you still find yourself entranced by them.

A lot of this book is quite graphic - gore, in particular, is used regularly - so just be warned of that. I do think it lent something to the power of this book and wasn't used wastefully, but I was still a little overwhelmed at times. The artists' knowledge of the human body is detailed, to say the least, and that comes across amazingly in the artwork.

I do think a few things were lost due to how short the book is and, while I believe the compact nature of the story is very good, I would have liked to have seen more exploration of the characters simply to understand their motivations and backgrounds a little better. Also, I want to understand a little better why Jason is such a jerk (sorry, my opinion there, but seriously), even if the background just says 'because he was born a jerk'. I just found myself wanting more.

Overall, I don't think I will be rereading this one (to avoid gore-induced nightmares), but I will most likely be sharing it with friends so that it can continue passing on its amazingness.

I received a review copy of this book from First Second Books (thank you!).

You would like this book if: you enjoy powerful graphic novels with a deeper message; you don't mind a bit of gore.

Tea to drink while reading this book: don't drink tea. you may throw it up when the gore happens. :)

Rating:  8/10

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

Friday, July 3, 2015

Book Review: Ophelia by Jackie French

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: Ophelia
Author: Jackie French
Series: Not a series as such, but the second book Jackie French has put out where she has rewritten or tweaked Shakespeare's female leads.
Publication Date: July 1st 2015

Synopsis: "She is the girl who will be queen: Ophelia, daughter of Denmark's lord chancellor and loved by Prince Hamlet.
But while Hamlet's family stab, poison or haunt one another, Ophelia plans a sensible rule, one filled with justice and delicious cheeses. Even if she has to pretend to be mad to make it happen, Ophelia will let nothing - not even howling ghosts - stand in her way.
This is Shakespeare's play, but with what might also have happened behind the scenes. And this story has a happy ending."

My thoughts: I reviewed I Am Juliet last year when it come out and found it really good, but a little bit dull at times. Ophelia I found to be perfect. The difference here may be that I studied Hamlet in high school and I guess I have never really let go of my interest in it, and finally being able to read a different, interwoven story that connects with Hamlet's was fascinating - I loved that Jackie French wanted to give Ophelia a voice here.

And I liked Ophelia - she was the most wonderful mix of roles and personality - how she acts around the King and Queen and her father outwardly and then seeing within her to hear what she is actually thinking made for very interesting reading. She is also not immune to love and lust, and yet she is very considered and logical about things. Basically, a character that I could really get behind and as I am writing this I want to dive back in and maybe read the alongside a copy of the play...

As with I Am Juliet, lines from the play are interwoven into the story, and it adds a great sense of beauty and homage to Shakespeare. Some of the research and history of the play and a few things within it are included in the end, as well, and I really loved how much French introduced cheese into the story. Seriously. It made me hungry.

I don't think I can really keep raving about this for much longer because, really, you ought to just go read it for yourself and see if you like it. I think French really brings out the tragic humour of the play, and brings a certain level of 'seriously? why are you doing that?' to the action and intrigue. Seriously, just go read it. I loved it.

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

You would like this book if: You like Hamlet and always wanted Ophelia to get a bit more of a say; you like cheese...

Tea to drink while reading this book: There wasn't much tea drinking in this book, so I would recommend a fruit tisane - perhaps something lingonberry or citrus - to reflect the drinking of wine and ale that happens so often in this tale. Perhaps Twinings Raspberry, Strawberry and Loganberry? I want to try that now...

Rating:  10/10

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