Thursday, 1 December 2016

Book Review: Dragon Slayer Number 9; Intisar Khanani.

This was a very short story (I'm talking literally a few pages long) so I don't have plans to do a huge post on this one. I did want to talk about it however because I always try to post about everything I read, even if it wasn't lengthy.

SOURCE: Free With Author's Newsletter
TYPE: E-Read

TITLE: Dragon Slayer Number 9
AUTHOR: Intisar Khanani
PAGES: 5? Maybe 10?
GENRE: Young Adult, Fantasy, Short Story

RATING: 3.5/5 Stars

Sometimes a dragon just really wants to talk...

This is an exclusive short story currently available to the author's newsletter subscribers.

Note From Author: I wrote Dragon Slayer Number 9 after reading a Very Short excerpt from David Eggers’ Your Fathers, Where Are They? And The Prophets, Do They Live Forever? (Which is kind of an amazing book, if you haven't read it.) The thing to know about Eggers’ book in relation to Dragon Slayer Number 9 is it’s all dialogue. No attributions, nothing. Further, it takes place between a person in power, and others in his power. That’s about all I gathered from my first glance, but it fired up my imagination. I mean, wouldn't it be fun to write a piece like that, except with dragons, and maybe a bit lighter in mood? Thus was born Dragon Slayer Number 9. I did eventually go back to read Eggers’ book, but not until after I’d had my fun with this little story. I hope you enjoy it!

Overall Conclusion:
As I said, no real need to break this one down because it was such a short read. It was an interesting, experimental piece involving all dialogue and no descriptors or even guidance as to who is saying what. In a way it was a refreshing, light-hearted, humorous read and I certainly commend it for that. Intisar Khanani's charming style always seems to shine through, no matter what she writes. The short length did astound me a little, despite the fact that I went in knowing it would not be long, because it literally took me mere minutes to read. I would love to see everything expanded upon, or even just a re-written version that is more than dialogue, to compare the two. 

Planned Reads For December.

I'm laying off of the spooky reads and delving back into some reads that I've been looking forward to for a while. While they aren't Christmassy as such, they're sort of a present to myself because I've been wanting to read all of them for a pretty long time now!

  1. 'Memories Of Ash' by Intisar Khanani. I have gotten a little way through this book and am loving it. Intisar Khanani just never lets me down! I adored the prequel novella 'Sunbolt' but I read it quite a long time ago and I was a little concerned that I wouldn't remember it very well. I needn't have worried because everything came flooding back and I'm hooked on the plot so far!
  1. 'Stealing Snow' by Danielle Paige. That's right, fairy tales are very much on the agenda for this winter because I haven't read some in quite a while. I miss them! Danielle Paige has been floating around my TBR for over a year, with her 'Dorothy Must Die' series constantly resurging in popularity. Having received approval for this book on Netgalley, I felt that this had a much more wintry feel to it. I know very little other than the fact that it mixes The Snow Queen and Snow White & The Seven Dwarves together, so it should be interesting.
  2. 'Heartless' by Marissa Meyer. Words cannot describe how excited I am for this book. Seriously. Pan Macmillan were so kind to send me an ARC of this, and it was the one that made me squeal the most of the three they sent me. I'm actually hoping to read all three this month but this one is top priority and I'm desperately hoping that her portrayal of Wonderland and it's characters is as clever and original as 'The Lunar Chronicles' series I adored.
  3. 'Under Rose Tainted Skies' by Louise Gornall. YALC made me so excited for this book (in fact it was there that I bought it) and I've been dying to read it ever since because the reviews it has received are amazing. There's focus on anxiety, in particular agoraphobia, which will be interesting to read and probably receive a lot of comparisons to Michael Christie's 'If I Fall, If I Die'. Also, just look at that beautiful cover!
  4. 'A Girl Called Owl' by Amy Wilson. I thought I'd try out a slightly younger read and upon remembering this Netgalley approved Pan Macmillan read, felt it was the perfect one to choose! There's hints of Jack Frost in there, it's set in the winter and really couldn't scream December more if it tried. It's a debut from Wilson too, so I have high hopes that it'll be a good'n.
  5. 'A Quiet Kind Of Thunder' by Sara Barnard. Another pink cover (I'm loving this trend if it is one) for another YA Contemporary read. This was the third Pan Macmillan book sent to me and I was also very excited to see it because 'Beautiful Broken Things' was actually one of my favourite reads this year and I brought a copy at YALC just so I could look at it. I have high hopes for this one too after reading the synopsis and I'm hoping that I'll enjoy it as much as or even more than Barnard's debut!
  6. 'The Bear & The Nightingale' by Katherine Arden. Of course this book was making it on the list. I have been eyeing it up for a while now and while browsing for inspiration in my Netgalley approvals, remembered that this was also a winter-set novel that focuses largely on Fairy Tales of the Russian variety. The last time I read a Russian folk tale retelling, 'The Snow Child' by Eowyn Ivey, I adored it and I know that people have been raving about this book! What a great Christmas this is going to be!

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

November Wrap-Up.

Things went a little off track this month in that while I'd planned reads, I ended up reading a fair few books that weren't on the original list. This meant that I only managed five of the seven reads from my Planned Reads For November post. However, that's actually not too bad, and I did manage a couple of other, much shorter reads on top bringing my total for the month to seven! Wahoo!

  1. 'The Dead House' by Dawn Kurtagich. I started this spooky read in October and did end up liking it a lot, though not as much as I thought I would. It had a great premise - an unusual format comprising of diary entries, police interviews, etc. that told the story of a young girl living with an identity disorder trying to figure out if her extra personality is a 'symptom' or something more. There were too many aspects to the plot and Kurtagich kept introducing them, even towards the end. This meant that my attention waned and the 'finale' was pretty disappointing. 3/5 Stars.
  2. 'Kindred Spirits' by Rainbow Rowell. This short story that I received at YALC for free had been playing on my mind, and while I was already borrowing 'Fangirl' to read later on in the month from my sister, I wanted to read this too. It's a very sincere depiction and I liked it a lot, as it introduced me to Rowell's writing style pretty well. The characters were well-rounded and considering it's length the plot was very succinct. The end was a little cheesy and I would have liked it longer of course, but they are called short stories for a reason. 4/5 Stars.
  3. 'The Lie Tree' by Frances Hardinge. It is so easy to see why this one Costa's Book Of The Year award in 2015 and I'm so happy for Hardinge. I read 'Cuckoo Song' and enjoyed it a lot, but I think I liked this even better. It's set in Victorian Society (my favourite historical period) and Hardinge's characters were powerful and complex, her plot imaginative and her writing exquisite. I need to read more books written by this lady, she's clearly the kind of author whose books just work for me. 4.5/5 Stars.
  4. 'The Bazaar Of Bad Dreams' by Stephen King. The often-called master of horror did not blow me away in the past with his book 'It' and I'd been afraid to go back for quite some time in case I was disappointed again. Finally I decided that this time I'd opt for some of his shorter stories and I did enjoy them a little more. They were each different, though linked by common themes and I don't think that I disliked any of them, though a few I loved more than others. If you're intimidated by King's larger novels then maybe this is a good place to start. 4/5 Stars.
  5. 'We Should All Be Feminists' by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I'm trying to read more non-fiction as I do enjoy learning about facts as well as through fiction. I am a feminist though until this book, I'd never read many essays or books on the subject and as I had already adored Adichie's TED talk, 'The Danger Of A Single Story', this seemed like a good one to start with. It's short but it neatly summarises what feminism is about Feminism, taking from Adichie's personal experiences and injecting her distinct style and wit. 5/5 Stars.
  6. 'The Ice Dragon' by George R.R. Martin. I didn't think that George R.R. Martin, famous for his use of gore, adult scenes and killing off everyone's favourite characters mercilessly would be able to pull of a children's book. But he has. In fact, it had a fairy-tale like quality to it, reminding me a lot of 'The Snow Child'. I did miss Martin's attention to detail, time period and setting however and elements of the story were a little vague. A great read though, and Luis Royo (whose artwork I've always admired) illustrates this edition beautifully. 4/5 Stars.
  7. 'Fangirl' by Rainbow Rowell. My second Rowell book of the month and this one is significantly longer, which pleases me a lot. All I can say is that this lovely lady has a total mastery over realistic teen lives. The dialogues, characters, relationships and situational events such as first time going further than a kiss or first time at college felt so real. I related so much to Cath's anxious personality and honestly, it's a great depiction of how anxiety actually feels and why it's so frustrating for us when people thing we're just being difficult or weird. Loved the fanfiction element too, it brought back some happy memories. 4.5/5 Stars.

This month I have read six books for Pretty Deadly Review's Backlist Challenge, bringing my yearly total so far to fourty four. This month's reads were:

- 'The Dead House' by Dawn Kurtagich
- 'The Lie Tree' by Frances Hardinge
- The Bazaar Of Bad Dreams' by Stephen King
- 'We Should All Be Feminists' by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- 'The Ice Dragon' by George R.R. Martin
- 'Fangirl' by Rainbow Rowell

This month I have read one book for Falling For YA's Netgalley & Edelweiss Challenge bringing my yearly total so far to sixteen. This month's read was:

- 'The Dead House' by Dawn Kurtagich

This month I have gained zero points for Novel Heartbeat and Writer Grrl Reads' Prequel & Sequel Challenge, bringing my yearly total so far to sixty.

This month I have read one book for [un]Conventional Reviews' New Releases Challenge, bringing my yearly total so far to fifteen. The books I read were:

- 'Kindred Spirits' by Rainbow Rowell
This month I have read zero book for Daily Prophecy's Retelling Challenge, bringing my yearly total to ten

I also updated my Bookish Bingo card, and here are this trimester's results!

Stand Alone: Fearless; Tim Lott.
Back List: If I Fall, If I Die; Michael Christie.
Killers: The Bazaar Of Bad Dreams; Stephen King.
Suspense: The Dead House; Dawn Kurtagich.
Sea Creatures: Dark Tide; Jennifer Donnelly.
Revenge: The Gospel Of Loki; Joanne M. Harris.
Horror Or Paranormal: A Monster Calls; Patrick Ness.
Freebie: The Star-Touched Queen; Roshani Chokshi.
Illustrated: The Ice Dragon; George R.R. Martin.
American History: China Dolls; Lisa See.
Friendship: Harry Potter & The Cursed Child; J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne & John Tiffany.
Black Cover: The Graces; Laure Eve.
Fall Release: As I Descended; Robin Talley.
Creepy Cover: The Lie Tree; Frances Hardinge.
Short Story: Kindred Spirits; Rainbow Rowell.
College: Fangirl; Rainbow Rowell.

Book Review: Fangirl; Rainbow Rowell.

I've not been actively avoiding Rainbow Rowel's books as such. I'd heard such great things about them that I knew I'd get round to reading them eventually! Contemporary YA Romance has never been my absolute favourite genre however and so I've always found that there are things I'd rather read until now. Rainbow Rowell's short story 'Kindred Spirits' sold me to the idea that she's a very good writer and understands teenagers very well, and I couldn't put off one of her full-length novels any longer.

SOURCE: Borrowed
TYPE: Paperback

TITLE: Fangirl
AUTHOR: Rainbow Rowell
PUBLISHER: Pan Macmillan
PAGES: 459
GENRE: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

RATING: 4.5/5 Stars

Cath and Wren are identical twins, and until recently they did absolutely everything together. Now they're off to university and Wren's decided she doesn't want to be one half of a pair any more - she wants to dance, meet boys, go to parties and let loose. It's not so easy for Cath. She would rather bury herself in the fanfiction she writes where there's romance far more intense than anything she's experienced in real life.

Now Cath has to decide whether she's ready to open her heart to new people and new experiences, and she's realising that there's more to learn about love than she ever thought possible...

What I Liked:
  • Rainbow Rowell has completely proven to me that she understands how to write teens and young adults. In fact, she does so in such a natural, easy way that this book completely sucked me in and wouldn't let me go until the very end. I also adored that she handled particular topics: first-time at college and away from home (a topic I rarely see covered by authors) and first-time foreplay/sex (a topic I see covered BADLY too often). She impressed me with the latter particularly because the awkwardness, humour and fear were there (unlike other books where it's painted as this amazing thing filled with fireworks and rose petals) but it was still hot. I loved it.
  • The characters were frustrating to read, and yet I loved that about them. I saw a lot of myself in Cath: anxious, unwilling to try in fear of getting it wrong, a hater of change, and misunderstood by most people. Her frustration with people who think drinking is fun and 'living' is also my own and it was so refreshing to find someone who felt the same way. The characters she surrounded herself with were flawed but likeable: Levi's tendency to say the wrong thing, Wren's constant selfish, bitch actions and words, Nick's arrogance, and even Reagan's jealousy and brashness. These characteristics I hated but I also liked that Cath didn't know perfect people because that's how the world is! I could see elements of these people in other people that I actually know and it was very comforting.
What I Disliked:
  • This book is extremely slow in it's pace. It took me a long time to exactly understand where the plot was actually going and though Rowell's writing was great from beginning to end, it lacked direction from the start. That being said, this was pretty minor for me in the end because a slow build meant real relationships. None of this 'Oh I've met a boy, he's hot, I'm in love with him forever now'. Cath and Levi remained good friends throughout a large portion of the book and even that took time before they finally moved onto something more serious.
Overall Conclusion:
Yes, the book was slow and I normally hate books that take a while to get to the point. But, I must have been in an especially good mood while reading this because I actually appreciated the slow build in this case. Realistic characters, relationships, plot and settings are all things that Rowell seems to have pretty much mastered and I'm just sad that I didn't jump on the hype train sooner because my sister has been telling me to read Rainbow Rowell since forever. It might be a while before I revisit her books, but I definitely will!

Monday, 28 November 2016

Last Week's Shenanigans (21st November - 27th November)...

It's been quite a busy week for me, especially as my sister's birthday was this week! That paired with Black Friday meant that work and 'me time' was pretty exhausting for me. It's been fun though! On Monday, Mat and I went to the cinema to see Doctor Strange, the new Marvel film starring Benedict Cumberbatch. We enjoyed it, though I feel some of the other films in the MCU were a little better. Cumberbatch was okay, but I loved Tilda Swinton in this one!

Friday was my sister's birthday which made it a good day, though working in retail on Black Friday on OXFORD STREET is not the one. Not at all. Nevertheless I only worked the earlier shift, so I'm glad I wasn't working until close. On Sunday, Mat and I made our way down to Ashford to see my family, both for Bev's birthday and dinner with my Nan and Grandad. There were a lot of problems with the trains to begin with but when we arrived we had a lovely day! We went out for a roast dinner, then back to my Grandparent's for a game before returning to Ashford for even more games!

I Read...

I Received...

- 'The Diabolic' by S.J. Kincaid: Received from Illumicrate (23/11/16)
- 'Blood For Blood' by Ryan Graudin: Received from Illumicrate (23/11/16)

I Posted...

Illumicrate Unboxing (Box 5)

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Book Review: The Ice Dragon; George R.R. Martin.

Yet another short read that I thought I should get into, seeing as I had a little time on my hands to read such a short book. At this point I've deviated pretty far from my chosen reads, but I don't mind. It's been nice to read a little of what takes my fancy!

TYPE: Hardcover

TITLE: The Ice Dragon
AUTHOR: George R.R. Martin
PUBLISHER: Harper Voyager
PAGES: 128
GENRE: Fantasy, Children's Book, Short Story

RATING: 4/5 Stars

From ancient times the ice dragon was a creature of legend and fear, for no man had ever tamed one. When it flew overhead, it left in its wake desolate cold and frozen land. But Adara was not afraid. For Adara was a winter child, born during the worst freeze that anyone, even the Old Ones, could remember.

Adara could not remember the first time she had seen the ice dragon. It seemed that it had always been in her life, glimpsed from afar as she played in the frigid snow long after the other children had fled the cold. In her fourth year she touched it, and in her fifth year she rode upon its broad, chilled back for the first time. Then, in her seventh year, on a calm summer day, fiery dragons from the North swooped down upon the peaceful farm that was Adara’s home. And only a winter child — and the ice dragon who loved her — could save her world from utter destruction.

What I Liked:
  • This was a really nice, sweet little tale set in a slightly familiar Westeros (long before the 'A Song Of Ice & Fire' series is set) but I loved that I could still recognise Martin's distinct style in it. I didn't imagine him to be as talented at writing books set for a younger audience, but he certainly proved me wrong. It read like a Fairy Tale which is my favourite sort of story, along the lines of 'The Snow Child'.
What I Disliked:
  • While I did enjoy this book, I didn't manage to enjoy it quite as much as I have other children's stories. I liked it of course, but I missed Martin's attention to detail and the lack of too much jumping around in time. There were a lot of things about this book that felt vague and I longed to know more about the setting, the time and the dragon.
Overall Conclusion:
A lovely, well-written story set in Westeros which is one of my favourite book settings. I enjoyed the change of age range and liked the story itself quite a lot, especially as it reminded me so much of a Fairy Tale. Sadly there was a little too much in the way of vague for me to fully immerse myself. I have read a few children's books and enjoyed others more than this because they balance things better. I feel that in attempt to decrease the adult themes usually found in his books, Martin ended up being a little too lacking in the details department.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Illumicrate Unboxing! (Box 5)

In the past months I've felt like the time between boxes has sped by. That is not the case with this one and I've been so impatient while waiting for it. It came today and I can hardly wait to let you guys know what I got!

I won't really talk about the design, you can refer to my previous posts on that matter because it's been the same from the beginning and I still love it! I'll get straight onto the unboxing itself!

BOOK ONE: 'The Diabolic' by S.J. Kincaid (Hardcover). That's right, BOOK ONE heavily implies two books and for me there was! The first is 'The Diabolic', a sci-fi YA adventure that I've had my eye on for a little while now. Especially as I don't read a lot of Sci-Fi. I'm really glad that this was Daphne's choice for the book because I don't know if I would have bought it for a long time if it hadn't have been in the box! This book came with a letter from Kincaid, a signed bookplate and a bookmark which is always useful for a reader! The cover is absolutely gorgeous too, I'm a big fan of butterflies!

BOOK 2: 'Blood For Blood' by Ryan Graudin (Paperback). Now there may be some readers who also received this month's box but didn't receive this book. Do not be alarmed! This was actually a really lovely extra that Daphne included because this month's box was Illumicrate's first anniversary and some subscribers (myself included) have been signed up from the beginning! I thought this was really nice of her to do, especially as it's the sequel to the first book we ever received: 'Wolf By Wolf'! I also received some temporary tattoos!

Coffee Cosy: Sadly, I'm not a Coffee drinker but I love the design on this cosy! Large orange and white books on a deep blue background, simple yet gorgeous! It's soft too and will definitely be useful for my trips to Starbucks while I'm at work for Hot Chocolate! You can find more pretty designs like this at Sparrow + Wolf's website or Etsy.

AIDAN Candle: I plan to read 'Illuminae' this month (I'm not sure I'll get time to, but I hope) because I've heard such good things about it! AIDAN, from what I can tell, is an AI and Meraki Candles have given him his own scent for this month's box! I have it lit as I'm typing this and I can tell you it smells really good. I've really enjoyed browsing through their website too as they have a lot of different bookish scents about!

Evil Plans Notebook: My favourite item in the box. I love notepads but this one is just so awesomely designed! It's plain paper too which I've been after (I have plenty of lined). I've been browsing a lot of the stuff on House Of Wonderland since then and I have to say, it's one of my favourite things about Daphne's boxes. She's introduced me to so many wonderful, smaller businesses since starting Illumicrate!

Happy Socks: Perfect for the winter, these socks are so cute! They're colourful, fun and managed to lift my mood during the cold, terrible weather! Happy Socks have so many different designs to choose from too, I wouldn't be surprised if everyone received a different pair but I love mine: rainbow hearts!

I also received some other extras from this box including:

- 'All The Bright Places/Holding Up The Universe prints.
- 'Six Of Crows' travel pass.
- 'The One Memory Of Flora Banks' sampler.
- 'I'll Be Home For Christmas' gift card.
- 'Caraval', 'Replica' and 'Unconventional' postcards.