Saturday 30 April 2016

April Wrap-Up.

Just in the nick of time, I've done it again! I read all seven of this month's planned reads! I'm pretty overwhelmed at having managed such a feat, and it definitely makes me feel that I'm managing my time better this year. There were some really great reads this month too!

  1. 'The Selection'; Kiera Cass. I put off reading this one for a while, despite how much hype it received, because the plot sounded a little ridiculous to me and there were some pretty mixed, post-hype reviews. However, I ended up enjoying it quite a lot! Sure, Maxon's use of 'my dear' as an endearment creeped me out a little, but the story-line actually gripped me pretty well and I liked the characters. 3/5 Stars.
  2. 'The Passenger'; Alexandra Bracken. I really did want to enjoy this book, but it was just so slow and ended up being a real chore to get through. I liked Nicholas' character, and really thought others like Sophia had great potential. But the insta-love was eye-rolling and Etta ended up being irritating and unrealistic in her reactions to the situation she finds herself in. Plus no one seemed to be able to finish their sentences without stammering in this book, which made it a lot of hard work. 1.5/5 Stars.
  3. 'Reasons To Stay Alive'; Matt Haig. Upon recommendation from my sister, I made this my first ever non-fiction read for this blog, and I'm so pleased that I did! I related to Haig's story on a very personal level, due to my frequent anxiety attacks and it gave me a lot of comfort to know I wasn't alone. Haig made a book filled with facts, thoughts, lists and opinions very interesting and easy to read too, with very little in the way of repetition. 4.5/5 Stars.
  4. 'The Sign Of The Four'; Arthur Conan Doyle. As I'm trying really hard to read books that I probably should have read years ago, I thought I'd give the second in the Sherlock Holmes series a go. Just like 'A Study In Scarlet', I really enjoyed this one. Holmes struggled a lot more to solve the mystery, but he was still the same narcissistic, sarcastic man that I know and love. Meeting more of Doyle's famous characters such as Mary Morstan made things even better! 4.5/5 Stars.
  5. 'Thorn'; Intisar Khanani. This lovely lady is very quickly becoming a personal favourite of mine. Her books are just so well written. While waiting for the sequel to 'Sunbolt' to be released, I had a proper look at the synopsis for 'Thorn' and realised that it was a retelling of 'The Goose Girl'! It was a really good one too with a strong, clever female lead and an intriguing setting. I had a few unanswered questions at the end, so I really hope here'll be a sequel or companion series to this. 5/5 Stars.
  6. 'Beauty's Beast'; Amanda Ashley. Speaking of Fairy Tale retellings, I've been a busy bee this month! As you may guess from the title, this is a slightly darker, more erotic re-imagining of 'Beauty & The Beast' and includes hints of 'The Phantom Of The Opera' too. Although I found myself enjoying this book for the most part, Kristine was a pretty dull character and the last quarter of the book felt like pure nonsense to read in comparison to the rest of the book. 2/5 Stars.
  7. 'Truthwitch'; Susan Dennard. I had really high hopes for my second Illumicrate read, as this book has been on the Hype Train for a long time. While I thought that it was a decent Fantasy with a lot of potential, I came out feeling pretty disappointed that my mind was not blown. That combined with an irritating main character and very basic world-building lowered it's rating, though I'm still engaged enough to want to read Book Two. 3/5 Stars.

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

- 'The Selection' by Kiera Cass
- 'Reasons To Stay Alive' by Matt Haig
- 'The Sign Of The Four' by Arthur Conan Doyle
- 'Thorn' by Intisar Khanani
- 'Beauty's Beast' by Amanda Ashley

This month I have read two books for Falling For YA's Netgalley & Edelweiss Challenge bringing my yearly total so far to eight. This month's reads were:

- 'The Passenger' by Alexandra Bracken
- 'Beauty's Beast' by Amanda Ashley

This month I have gained two points for Novel Heartbeat and Writer Grrl Reads' Prequel & Sequel Challenge, bringing my yearly total so far to twenty four. This month's points were as thus:

- +2 for 'The Sign Of The Four' by Arthur Conan Doyle

This month I have read two books for [un]Conventional Reviews' New Releases Challenge, bringing my yearly total so far to six. This month's read was:

- 'The Passenger' by Alexandra Bracken
- 'Truthwitch' by Susan Dennard

This month I have read two books for Daily Prophecy's Retelling Challenge, bringing my yearly total to four.

- 'Thorn' by Intisar Khanani
- 'Beauty's Beast' by Amanda Ashley

Here are the current updates for my Bookish Bingo card and Story Sprites board! I'm totally chuffed with my progress!

Second Chance: The Invasion Of The Tearling; Erika Johansen.
March, April, May Release: The Selection; Kiera Cass.
Metallic Lettering: Truthwitch; Susan Dennard.
Book Towards Another Challenge: Golden Son; Pierce Brown.
Green Cover: Thorn; Intisar Khanani.
Freebie: Siege & Storm; Leigh Bardugo.
Retelling: Beauty's Beast; Amanda Ashley.
Set In More Than One Country: The Passenger; Alexandra Bracken.
MC Shares Your 1st Initial: Seven Ways We Lie; Riley Redgate.
Written Under A Pen Name: The Tropic Of Serpents; Marie Brennan.
Number In The Title: The Sign Of The Four; Arthur Conan Doyle.
Non-Fiction: Reasons To Stay Alive; Matt Haig.
Stand-Alone: Read Me Like A Book; Liz Kessler.

Alternative History: The Passenger; Alexandra Bracken.
Non-Fiction Biography: Reasons To Stay Alive; Matt Haig.
Book With A Sarcastic Character: The Sign Of The Four; Arthur Conan Doyle.
Female Role Model: Thorn; Intisar Khanani.
Epic Battle Scene In Book: Truthwitch; Susan Dennard.
Competition Among Characters: The Selection; Kiera Cass.
Theme - Revenge: Beauty's Beast; Amanda Ashley.

Book Review: Truthwitch; Susan Dennard.

I have such mixed feelings about this book after reading it, and I can't help but admit to a little disappointment despite the fact that I thought it was a pretty decent read. I think that to an extent, this book was a victim of the Hype Train. Good, but not mind-blowingly so.

SOURCE: Illumicrate
TYPE: Hardcover

TITLE: Truthwitch
AUTHOR: Susan Dennard
SERIES: The Witchlands (#1)
PAGES: 400
GENRE: Fantasy, Adventure, Young Adult

RATING: 3/5 Stars

In a continent on the edge of war, two witches hold its fate in their hands.

Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home.

Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she's a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden - lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult's true powers are hidden even from herself.

In a chance encounter at Court, Safi meets Prince Merik and makes him a reluctant ally. However, his help may not slow down the Bloodwitch now hot on the girls' heels. All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom, but danger lies ahead. With war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike. For some will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

What I Liked:
  • Despite my confessed disappointment, there were things about this book I really enjoyed. It was a fast-paced, action-filled adventure that never seemed to get boring. Constant battle scenes (that were well-written), tense politics and continuous twists meant that the plot at least kept me entertained. I appreciate a good pace when reading and this one certainly had one, throwing the reader straight into the action and never really pausing for breath.
  • I liked that for once, I was reading a book that's main focus was friendship. I read so many Fantasy romances and although there was a hint of that in this one, it didn't overpower the story-line in any way. The two main characters were the best of friends and when they did things like fight together, it was pretty awesome.
What I Disliked:
  • Here's the thing. I went into this book expecting a gorgeous new Fantasy world to get sucked into, and found that I didn't get it. Dennard didn't really explain an awful lot about the 'Witchlands' history, only choosing to hint at it here and there. I ended up with so many questions! Why is everyone fighting now that the Treaty is ending? How does everyone know about Safi being a Truthwitch? Why do they all want her so badly? She didn't seem to be able to do an awful lot! Where on Earth did that prophecy spring from? And can someone explain the point of the Puppeteer, and what the Bloodwitch has to do with anything? The world-building mostly consisted of changing up the English language, a couple of deities here and there and some different Empires that we didn't see much of.
  • As much as I liked the idea of the Friendship, I couldn't help but roll my eyes at our special snowflake, Safi. She's the Truthwitch, the one that everyone seems to want when her powers aren't really all that. But of course she's more than that: she's reckless, bad-tempered and very irritating. I actually can't understand why Iseult would want to be around her at all! All she does is get them into terrible situations and then refuse to do anything but what she wants to do, which is usually the stupid thing that gets them in more trouble. No wonder her Uncle kept so much from her, she would definitely have messed things up a lot sooner otherwise.
Overall Conclusion:
I did enjoy this book and there were a lot of great aspects to it. I'm certainly intrigued for Book Two! There were too many flaws for my mind to be blown however, and while it has a lot of potential, I feel that Dennard still has a lot of work to do. There were a lot of staged, cheesy conversations that were there purely for humour which ended up being not all that funny and the 'connection' that formed between Merik and Safi at the ball was basically laughable. With a bit more development, this series could be great and it's certainly not the worst Fantasy I've read. I hope to see more from the next book, but I fully intend to give this series another chance to wow me.

Tuesday 26 April 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: My picks for 'Bookworm Delights'.

I actually have a fair few things that I love about being a Bookworm, as I'm sure everyone has. It was pretty hard to pick ten, because there are so many great things about reading! I managed it in the end though!

1) Organizing bookshelves.

I did this recently with Mat to try and make more room, and I have to say it was deeply satisfying sliding each book into place and seeing how good the spines look side by side. There's something about seeing a row of books side by side just waiting to be read that makes me very happy and I look forward to getting even more space when we move house later in the year.

2) Browsing books in store OR online.

They are two very different experiences but I love them both. In store I can smell the paper and actually see all of the beautiful, untouched covers in front of me just waiting to be read. Book shops are magical places for every bookworm. I also like to browse Amazon for reads, especially to download onto my Kindle or grab bargains. Pre-ordering is a lot of fun too.

3) Reading a new favourite.

Every bookworm knows that feeling. The one you get when you've just read a brand new favourite book, and you know that it's yours to read again whenever you want, and you're a little overwhelmed because it's over but still so happy. You know while reading if it's giving you that feeling too. It's one of my favourite feelings in the whole wide world.

4) Discussing books.

Being a book blogger gives me so many people to talk to about my favourite stories, but I'm lucky to have good, book-loving friends too! We're all pretty interested in similar genres and it makes for a great discussion topic. I also love meeting people who turn out to be fellow bookworms!

5) Being inspired to write.

This might not apply to everyone, but writing is also a favourite hobby of mine and reading great books really helps with that sometimes. I love reading a Fairy Tale retelling and thinking up my own take on the story, or being inspired to build far-off, imaginary worlds myself! I've always felt that it's important for aspiring writers to read as much as possible.

6) The ideal mix of a book, biscuits, blankets and tea.

This is my version of heaven. I'm on the sofa, a huge fluffy blanket wrapped round me wit a plate of biscuits and a mug of tea at the ready. Chocolate too can make an appearance and it's just bliss when matched with no. 3!

7) Imagining my future library.

This is actually a very real hobby of mine. I don't just think about the number of shelves, how to arrange my books or whether I'd need rolling ladders. I think about window seats, writing desks, bean bags, maybe a children's section for the future. I've even started planning decorations and ornaments. I might have to start on the blueprints soon...

8) Shopping for book related bits.

I've already said that I love browsing for books, but I also find a lot of joy browsing Kindle covers, book ends, bookmarks etc. Especially on Etsy. I love Indie businesses and I find their products are some of the most creative. Illumicrate, a Subscription Box I'm signed to, send me some fantastic bookish bits and I always find myself browsing after I receive them.

9) Finding beautiful Hardcover books.

Mat and I are a big fan of Hardbacks, especially if they're Clothbound or Leatherbound. Classics are the ones we would really like to collect in this format and we already own a few really pretty ones: my favourite is a gorgeous green-covered collection of old Norse and Teutonic Myths & Legends. Gorgeous!

10) Being the book recommendation 'go to girl'.

This is my favourite. Being a bookworm sometimes makes you famous, especially among other book lovers. People that don't read a lot will come to me for recommendations if they want to start, or if they're buying gifts for bookworms that they know. It gives me a strange sense of accomplishment!

Monday 25 April 2016

Last Week's Shenanigans (18th April - 24th April)...

I've had a pretty busy week this week, which has ended up being a lot of fun but quite tiring. At the beginning, as I mentioned last Monday, I had a Job Interview. It went well so I'm just waiting on the results for that, and it was followed closely by a Training course from my current job on Tuesday which was very informative and added a bit of variety to my week. On Wednesday, Mat and I headed down to the cinema to watch 'The Huntsman: Winter's War'. It was a really enjoyable film with some great costumes and a wonderful soundtrack (two things that really matter to me in films). The plot was not as strong because it jumped so much around time but generally, I really liked it.

On Sunday, Mat and I headed back to Ashford to spend the day with my family. Once again we went to visit my Grandparents, and out for food. It was a really nice, fairly big family gathering and so enjoyable to spend time with so many people that I love. After stopping for tea, we went back home and played a few games on the Wii, which was so much fun! It's been a long time since I've been on the Wii so I had an awesome time doing so.

I Read:

I Received:



Saturday 23 April 2016

Book Review: Beauty's Beast; Amanda Ashley.

This book was one that I was unsure how I would get on with it. On the one hand it's a Fairy Tale retelling, and I tend to have a soft spot for those. On the other hand, it also seemed to venture into the Erotica genre, one that I tend to find boring. In the end, I found this book okay but there were definitely issues with it.

SOURCE: Netgalley
TYPE: E-Read

TITLE: Beauty's Beast
AUTHOR: Amanda Ashley
PAGES: 336
GENRE: Retelling, Historical Romance, New Adult, Fantasy

RATING: 2/5 Stars

Fair of face and figure, Kristine is young, innocent, pure. Yet she has been condemned to the gallows for killing a man. The only one who can save her is a lord so infamous that some say he is the son of the Devil himself...

Erik Trevayne is called the Demon Lord of Hawksbridge Castle, but few know of the curse he lives under. Or the terrifying changes slowly gnawing away at his humanity. When he weds her, all he wants of Kristine is a son. But when he beds her, a wild hope is born—that love that can tame even the most monstrous of beasts...

What  I Liked:
  • There's no denying that despite not being my usual cup of tea, this book had me strangely hooked. It was simple, and yet had an intriguing enough plot that mixed 'Beauty & The Beast' with 'The Phantom Of The Opera' and for the most part, the pacing felt good. I actually spent a good portion of one morning reading the last two thirds or so because I was so invested. I particularly enjoyed watching Erik and Kristine's relationship develop and though the sex was frequent and uninteresting (at times it sounded more like a Farming manual, he 'filled her with his seed' a lot) it did contribute to the plot development and so I endured it.
  • Ashley's knowledge of the time period was actually fairly impressive, especially when it came to running estates, horse-riding, social circles and conversation style. She didn't try too hard to unload a ton of information on me too which I was thankful for. In a was, that contributed to this being a nice, easy read which sometimes are really nice. I liked not having to concentrate too hard to understand the plot.
What I Disliked:
  • Despite the lack of detail being helpful at times, it was also a major flaw in other aspects of the book. The characters were a big one. There was very little development in them, particularly Kristine who began the book sweet and pure and kind, and ended it that way too. She had no personality or feistiness, instead opting to just simper and sit and look pretty. Erik was written a little better though fit the tortured soul stereotype a little too well. I could predict every one of his moves. The rest of the characters were flat and uninteresting, and even the villain didn't really bother me all that much.
  • The ending was probably the biggest let-down of the book. Everything was going fine until I hit the last quarter or so of the book, and then suddenly it didn't seem like Ashley really knew how to end her story. She'd built it up pretty nicely, but things quickly turned to chaos with the introduction of a lot of unsubstantial characters who were no help whatsoever, a wedding that I didn't care about in the slightest, and possibly the stupidest idea from Kristine ever: 'How about if I give up my unborn child in exchange for the love of my life?'. Romantic? No. This was both uncharacteristic and awful and I almost threw my poor Kindle across the room there and then. I won't get started on how the curse ends up being broken in the end, but all I'll say is that it could have happened a lot sooner than it did.
Overall Conclusion:
The book stated out well. The writing was simple yet effective and the world-building not too overbearing which can happen in a lot of Historical Fiction. Despite it's shortcomings, I was petty invested and though it read a little like Fan Fiction at times, it did have some interesting ways of tackling some of the well-known aspects of both 'Beauty & The Beast' and 'The Phantom Of The opera' (mainly the former, it really only borrowed a few character names and the mask from the latter). However, the ending mucked it right up for me and turned a likeable book almost into a DNF for me which means that I merely found it okay in the end. That coupled with pretty poor, two-dimensional characters meant I was a little disappointed in the end. What a shame!

Thursday 21 April 2016

Book Review: Thorn; Intisar Khanani.

Since reading 'Sunbolt' all that time ago, and recently pre-ordering the next book in the series, I have been craving an Intisar Khanani read. I've also been wanting to read another Fairy Tale retelling, seeing as it has been so long since the last one I read. 'Thorn' was the perfect choice and I'm so excited for you all to hear my thoughts. It's also a 'Key Word' Challenge read!

SOURCE: Bought
TYPE: E-Read

TITLE: Thorn
AUTHOR: Intisar Khanani
PUBLISHER: Intisar Khanani
PAGES: 246
GENRE: Retelling, Fantasy, Young Adult

RATING: 5/5 Stars

Princess Alyrra has never enjoyed the security or power of her rank. Between her family's cruelty and the court's contempt, she has spent her life in the shadows. Forced to marry a powerful foreign prince, Alyrra embarks on a journey to meet her betrothed with little hope for a better future.

But powerful men have powerful enemies--and now, so does Alyrra. Betrayed during a magical attack, her identity is switched with another woman's, giving Alyrra the first choice she's ever had: to start a new life for herself or fight for a prince she's never met. But Alyrra soon finds that Prince Kestrin is not at all what she expected. While walking away will cost Kestrin his life, returning to the court may cost Alyrra her own. As Alyrra is coming to realize, sometime the hardest choice means learning to trust herself.

What I Liked:
  • Intisar Khanani's writing is a great love of mine and she didn't disappoint me here. The style had changed a little, in that the way that she wrote made me reminisce on Fairy Tales of old, and how they used to be written. A little bit like E.K. Johnston's 'A Thousand Nights' did. The story was short and yet once again, it didn't feel like it (a pattern is definitely emerging with Khanani on this matter). In fact it actually felt very long and detailed! The book was really quotable too, in an almost philosophical way.
  • The character development in this story is spot on! Alyrra, the heroine, is very likeable: both kind and clever. She's not 'badass' in the sense that she runs around swinging her sword, nor does she have a special 'magical' ability. In fact, all she really has to rely on is her wit, which made a very refreshing change. Kestrin, a Prince and her intended is also a great character: clever, serious and protective, yet mysterious too. I liked that the book focused more on Alyrra's growth rather than their relationship because it gave the tale a different spin.
What I Disliked:
  • There were a couple of plot-points that I felt weren't tied up at the end. Firstly, I wanted to learn more about Falada and the Horses which were casually referred to but never really expanded upon fully. The big one had to be the Snatchers though. Everything about the disappearances, the 'curse' and the 'blessing' sounded fishy and begged to be a sub-plot but it didn't happen. I can only assume that Khanani has plans for this in a sequel, or a companion series of some kind and I'm excited if that's the case. I want to read more about Menaiya!
Overall Conclusion:
Once again, Khanani has blown me away. She is quickly going to become an author that I sing from the rooftops about because she deserves more recognition as she's just so talented! I love her writing, her character development is spot on and her world-building is always intriguing and imaginative. I aim to read her short story 'The Bone Knife' soon, and I've pre-ordered 'Memories Of Ash', the next book in the Sunbolt Chronicles series. Everyone go and read this lady's work! Now!

Tuesday 19 April 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: My picks for 'Book Characters That Made Me Laugh'.

The actual theme this week is Books That Made Me Laugh, but for me it's normally particular characters that get a giggle out of me because I have such a particular sense of humour. I've chosen ten (somehow) and can't wait to see if anyone agrees!

1) Sturmhond/Nikolai from 'Siege & Storm' by Leigh Bardugo.

I don't think I've really spoiled anything here, seeing as the whole Pirate to Prince thing is an early reveal in Book Two. From the moment I met Sturmhond, I found him charming and funny. He cracked some really great one-liners and I loved his consistently witty responses. Nikolai was also great. He maxed up the charm factor, but it was pretty fun to watch him fluster Alina and even better when he managed to annoy Mal. My kind of guy!

2) Isabella Trent from the 'Memoirs By Lady Tent' series by Marie Brennan.

This book is written in the form of a memoir (so an elderly Isabella Trent is retelling the story of her life) and I have to say that she is the funniest old lady I have ever read in a book and the kind that I would love to meet. Her commentary on her past actions and notes to her editors made me laugh audibly so many times and most of the reason that I adore this series is because of her feisty nature. I hope that when I age, I keep her youthful spirit.

3) Sherlock Holmes from the 'Sherlock Holmes' series by Arthur Conan Doyle.

I'll be very surprised if I'm the only person to choose this character/series for this week's topic. Holmes is hilarious! Sure he's arrogant and infuriating, and has too many bad habits to count but his lack of caring towards his peers, sarcasm and wit is too funny and I love him anyway. I only recently read the second novella in this series, so I'm looking forward to continuing with it in the near future!

4) Tristan from 'Stolen Songbird' by Danielle L. Jensen.

I read this book quite a while ago, and I remember particularly enjoying the relationship between Cecile and Tristan and this was mostly down to Tristan's sarcastic sense of humour. They played off each other perfectly and I couldn't help but chuckle my way though most of the book.

5) Howl from 'Howl's Moving Castle' by Diana Wynne Jones.

When I watched the Studio Ghibli film of this I loved this character so much. He's vain of course, but so funny! In the book he's exactly the same and watching him interact with Sophie was all the funnier. Jones' writing is so witty and I really would like to get round to the next couple of books soon.

6) Randle McMurphy from 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest' by Ken Kesey.

This book actually covers a very serious topic and can be quite sad at times, but there is no denying that Randle McMurphy is funny. His wise-cracking was one of the things that I immensely enjoyed about the book, and anyone who has seen the movie will know that Jack Nicholson is perfect for the role!

7) Captain Thorne from 'The Lunar Chronicles' series by Marissa Meyer.

This guy has got a similar personality to Nikolai, but I've seen a lot more of him and love him more. Of the four male love interests in the Lunar Chronicles, he was my absolute favourite because he made me laugh. Loudly. His relationship with Cress was the thing I adored reading. I'm hoping to get hold of 'Stars Above' soon in the hopes of reading more of them.

8) Don Tillman from 'The Rosie Project' by Graeme Simsion.

This was actually the name that first came to mind when I saw the topic for this month. Don Tillman has got to be one of the funniest book characters alive, make no mistake about it. Due to the fact that he suffers from Aspergers Syndrome (unknowingly) he often makes a lot of social mistakes, and I love that Simsion has tried a light-hearted approach when handling Don's mental health.

9) Zuzana from the 'Daughter Of Smoke & Bone' series by Laini Taylor.

I loved a lot of things about this series, but the one thing that I really enjoyed was Zuzana's sense of humour, which is very similar to that of a good friend of mine. Her interactions with Karou, particularly in Book One, made the whole thing feel very authentic. A brilliant character!

10) Tyrion Lannister from the 'A Song Of Ice & Fire' series by George R.R. Martin.

This guy cracks me up in the show, and he certainly didn't disappoint me when I started reading the books. He's probably one of my favourite characters of all time, and his chapters are always the ones that I enjoy most. He's sarcastic, has a great sense of irony and isn't afraid to poke fun at himself and other characters that in most situations inspire great fear in me as a reader.

Monday 18 April 2016

Last Week's Shenanigans (11th April - 17th April)...

This week has been a quiet one for me, which I'm actually pretty thankful about as I've been pretty tired as of late. Work-wise, a few exciting things have happened to me! I've been accepted onto a course to learn how to become a member of Management, and I also have an interview (today in fact) for such a position. It should be interesting and I am excited about the potential changes in my life, though my Anxiety has been kicking in pretty dramatically. Still, I've had a great week reading and I can't wait to share all of my blog happenings with you!

I Read:

Note: I read 'The Sign Of The Four' from 'The Complete Sherlock Holmes.

I Received:

- 'The King Slayer' by Virginia Boecker: Approved by Netgalley (11/04)


Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Mythical/Supernatural Creature Lovers Should Read

Saturday 16 April 2016

Book Review: The Sign Of The Four; Arthur Conan Doyle.

In a bid to read all of the Sherlock Holmes stories that I feel I've been missing out on, I've managed to get round to the second novella that Doyle wrote: 'The Sign Of The Four'. I'm so proud of myself! I enjoyed this one even more than the first which is surprising because I've never heard of this title outside of the books.

SOURCE: Borrowed
TYPE: Hardcover

TITLE: The Complete Sherlock Holmes (The Sign Of The Four)
AUTHOR: Arthur Conan Doyle
SERIES: Sherlock Holmes (#2)
PUBLISHER: Barnes & Noble Classics
GENRE: Mystery, Classics, Historical Fiction

RATING: 4.5/5 Stars

As a dense yellow fog swirls through the streets of London, a deep melancholy has descended on Sherlock Holmes, who sits in a cocaine-induced haze at 221B Baker Street. His mood is only lifted by a visit from a beautiful but distressed young woman - Mary Morstan, whose father vanished ten years before. Four years later she began to receive an exquisite gift every year: a large, lustrous pearl. Now she has had an intriguing invitation to meet her unknown benefactor and urges Holmes and Watson to accompany her. And in the ensuing investigation - which involves a wronged woman, a stolen hoard of Indian treasure, a wooden-legged ruffian, a helpful dog and a love affair - even the jaded Holmes is moved to exclaim, 'Isn't it gorgeous!'

What I Liked:
  • I felt that the plot in this one flowed a lot better. In 'A Study In Scarlet' it jumped from moment to moment in a very bumpy way. 'The Sign Of The Four' was a lot smoother, and more enjoyable as a result. The twists and turns made more sense, as well as being more prominent. As a result, I found myself more invested in the ongoing development of the story, as well as the characters I've come to know.
  • It's very quickly becoming clear to me that Doyle has a great grasp on humour and silliness in his stories. The mysteries are a bit of fun of course, but what makes these novels special are the characters. Holmes is an arrogant, eccentric, intelligent man who has often already solved the mystery when his poor companion John Watson can barely remember the basics. Watson's exasperation is guaranteed to bring a smile to anyone's face, as are the boisterous detectives who think they know better and yet try too hard to impress Holmes. Let the hilarity ensue!
What I Disliked:
  • A few minor quibbles came with this story. As it was so short the instantaneous love that sprung between John Watson and Mary Morstan in this book was both adorable and slightly nauseating. I don't personally feel that I got to know Miss Morstan well enough in this book, though I've seen plenty of her in various media adaptations that I have enjoyed immensely so I know that there is so much more to her than I've read. I'm hoping she develops and evolves in the subsequent stories that Doyle writes. One final thing that bothered me were the racist remarks: a product of the time of course, but troubling and cringe-worthy nonetheless. I hope this isn't commonly found!
Overall Conclusion:
This series is only on it's second Novella and yet I can already see why it has become so iconic. The characters are probably it's best element, because they are just so quirky and memorable! They are designed to be funny which they achieve very well, and yet I also feel a certain sense of awe regarding Holmes in particular, and his remarkable skills of deduction. I would love to read these books retold at some point in the near future but for now I am certainly content to make my way through the originals that started it all.

Thursday 14 April 2016

Book Review: Reasons To Stay Alive; Matt Haig.

So this is my first Non-Fiction read in a long time and it was actually a recommendation from my sister so I was quite excited to get round to it. I didn't really know what to expect but I'm pleased to say it was everything I ever hoped it to be. I'll also be entering this into the Key Words Challenge AND the Monthly Motif Challenge for this month! 

SOURCE: Borrowed
TYPE: Paperback

TITLE: Reasons To Stay Alive
AUTHOR: Matt Haig
PUBLISHER: Canongate Books
PAGES: 272
GENRE: Non-Fiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Mental Health

RATING: 4.5/5 Stars

What does it mean to feel truly alive?

This is the true story of how Matt Haig came through crisis, triumphed over a mental illness that almost destroyed him and learned to live again. Moving, funny and joyous, Reasons to Stay Alive is more than a memoir. It is a book about making the most of your time on earth.

What I Liked:
  • I could relate to this book on a very personal level, and that really helped me to enjoy and understand it. I suffer from pretty severe anxiety myself, and there are many times that I feel like it's just me who panics the way that I do. Reading Haig's words gave me comfort and confidence that I was not alone and there are others who 'worry' as much as I do. Haig writes on Depression too, which I found that I related to less but was glad that it was included because Mental Health is something that seriously needs to be talked about more.
  • Haig writes beautifully on his chosen subject and the facts, thoughts and opinions that he includes are informative and interesting. This book is very educational in a lot of ways and I loved that his chapters were short and to the point. Not only that but they were each styled in an interesting way that meant maintaining concentration was easy for me and I flew through this book. It was clearly well-researched too and that's obviously important when talking about a subject such as this one.
What I Disliked:
  • There was very little to dislike about this book. It included so much of worth that I was pretty hooked from start to finish. At times it was a little repetitive I suppose, Haig often reiterated the points that he was trying to make. This is a very minor quibble however.
Overall Conclusion:
A book well worth reading and one that I am glad came into my notice, I must once again thank my sister's awesome reading tastes. She stumbled upon this gem and I'm grateful to her for letting me borrowing it and discovering it's brilliance for myself. As I said, Haig really did his homework before writing this but he never bogged me down with facts or let me become bored. A lot of what he wrote was of his own opinions and experiences too and it made so much more sense than some of the psycho-babble one hears on topics such as Mental Health. This is a topic that needs to be spoken about more and I think that books like this ought to be more widely read. Hopefully I'll be able to read some of Haig's fictional work in the near future!

Tuesday 12 April 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: My picks for 'Books That All Mythical/Supernatural Creature Lovers Should Read'.


1) The 'Memoir By Lady Trent' Series by Marie Brennan.

Everyone who has read my recent review of 'The Tropic Of Serpents' (the second book in the series) will know how much I adore this series. I left a fair amount of time between Books 1 & 2 but I won't be making the same mistake again because it's so great! This one doesn't have quite so much of Dragons being Dragons, but you do get to learn a lot about them (the POV is a Natural Historian who studies them) and the Heroine is brilliant. I love it though if you want to see more fire-breathing and human-killing then these might not be the books for you.

2) The 'Inheritance Cycle' Series by Christopher Paolini.

I chose this series because it has what my first choice lacks. Kick-ass Dragons. It was a toss-up between this set of four books or George R.R. Martin's 'A Song Of Ice & Fire' series but this one focuses way more on the Dragons and less on other plot-lines. It's beautifully written and the world-building magnificent, but the bond that Eragon shares with his Dragon Saphira is one that's not easy to forget.


3) The 'Modern Faerie Tale' Series by Holly Black.

I've read two of the three books in this series and I have to say that it was Book Two that sold it to me. The world of Faeries that Black builds is fantastic and a heck of a lot of imagination went into it. It contains a lot of common Faerie Lore (aversion to Iron, stealing Children, etc.) and mixes it with a gritty, urban vibe that's impossible not to love. The Faeries in Black's series are not the friendly kind that live at the bottom of the garden looking after flowers, let me tell you.

4) 'Winterspell' by Claire Legrand.

This book received a fair amount of mixed reviews thanks to the dark sexual energy it contains, but that was part of the appeal for me and one of my favourite parts of the book was when Clara found herself abducted by the Faery Queen Anise. She was a wonderful villain and her court was both magical and seductive. I like the idea of extravagant Faeries and this book had them by the bucket-load.


5) The 'Daughter Of Smoke & Bone' Series by Laini Taylor.

Angels have long been part of legend and are included frequently in all sorts of Mythology. I may not have overly liked the ending to this series, but there's no denying Laini Taylor's imagination or distinct style. I loved learning more about the Angels that fought the Chimaera: their lifestyles and hierarchy in particular as in conflict with the belief that they are protectors, most are greedy, lustful and self-serving. I would recommend this series to anyone who loves Urban Fantasy, forbidden love and most importantly, Angels!

6) The 'Penryn & The End Of Days' Series by Susan Ee.

What would happen if Angels came to Earth? More importantly, what would happen if they turned out to be our doom rather than our Guardians? This series is a post-apocalyptic thriller which sees the Angels taking over and humanity cowering in fear. More importantly, it follows the unlikely duo of Penryn (human girl) & Raffe (angel) as they race to regain something precious to them. I've only read Book One (I have the second on May's reading list) but I love it!


7) The 'Demonata' Series by Darren Shan.

This series was my very first introduction to Demons and I highly recommend it if you are a fan of those particular creatures. These ones are particularly bloodthirsty. The series as a whole is told from various different viewpoints and only becomes more interesting as it goes on. Darren Shan won't coddle you: there are a whole bunch of gruesome character deaths and the Demons he creates are vile in every way possible. You only have to look at the cover art to get a taste of what I mean. 

8) The 'Dark Days Club' by Alison Goodman.

This was a recent read of mine and I adored it for a number of reasons, but the Demons played a pretty big part. So did the ass-kicking league of humans that are born to stop them. This book is set in an alternate history, a retelling of Pride & Prejudice in fact but with a whole lot more ass-kicking action and a more extensive plot-line. One of my favourite new releases this year.


9) The 'Light' Series by Laura Whitcomb.

I love me some Ghosts and this duology is a real favourite of mine. I finished the second book while in Amsterdam recently and enjoyed it a lot, though you could easily read Book One and be just as happy. I loved the ideas that Whitcomb had about how the Afterlife works and the way that the ghosts inhabited the lives of the bodies they possessed and tried to help them was heart-warming to read. It's a ghostly love story that's well worth getting into.

10)  The 'Afterlife' Series by Terri Bruce.

Thoughts on the afterlife are always really interesting to me, and Bruce's imagined 'beyond; is one of the best I've come across. I didn't overly enjoy the MC in Book One but I realise that the point of Bruce's series is to start with a flawed character and help her to grow and develop so that she might reach her goal of 'moving on'. I'm really interested in what Book Three will offer (it was released less than a month ago) and really think that more people should get into this series.

Monday 11 April 2016

Last Week's Shenanigans (4th April - 10th April)...

This week has been quite filled, especially at the beginning! I stayed over at my Parent's house from Sunday into Monday, and while they worked I got to see a really good friend of mine whom I haven't seen for a really long time. I've borrowed many books from her in the past but our biggest shared interest is Video Games, and so we played those for most of the day which was a lot of fun! It was so good to be able to chill out and relax for a while. That evening my sister and I returned to London together and she stayed over, as she had a training course for her job on Tuesday.

The rest of the week was of course filled with work, but this was more exciting than usual because I've been selected to go on a Training Course which will hopefully help me to progress at my job! I'm also applying for a position at a store closer to me so I'm excited to see how that turns out. It made me feel a little more positive for my future, at least for now. Mat and I both had Sunday off and so we caught up with Gotham which is getting really interesting, and watched more of Daredevil which is of course awesome! We just finished Episode 8 and are really excited to see where it's going to go.

I Read:

I Received:

- 'The Gospel Of Loki' by Joanne M. Harris: Present from Rosie (04/04/16)
- 'Fool's Assassin' by Robin Hobb: Present from Rosie (04/04/16)
- 'Crimson Peak' by Nancy Holder: Present from Rosie (04/04/16)


Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish People I Love On Social Media

Sunday 10 April 2016

Book Review: Passenger; Alexandra Bracken.

This was a book that, given it's topic of Time Travel and good reviews, I had been looking forward to reading. Unfortunately, now that I've read it, it really wasn't a book that I enjoyed all that much.

SOURCE: Netgalley
TYPE: E-Read

TITLE: Passenger
AUTHOR: Alexandra Bracken
SERIES: Passenger (#1)
PUBLISHER: Disney Hyperion
PAGES: 464
GENRE: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Historical Fiction

RATING: 1.5/5 Stars

In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has travelled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them— whether she wants to or not.

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveller who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are playing, treacherous forces threaten to separate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home...forever.

What I Liked:
  • One of the saving graces of this book was one of the duel narratives: Nicholas. He was definitely the most likeable of all the characters and even better, he was African-American. Seeing as a lot of the story was set in eras where Racism was a huge thing, it made the story mildly tolerable because of this extra detail. Diversity in YA is a really big deal to me so it was nice to see that Bracken had included a good dose of it in 'The Passenger'.
What I Disliked:
  • As much as I had high hopes for this novel, it was quite a lot of work to read. I ended up skimming quite a lot of it and putting it down frequently because though Bracken's writing was actually pretty good, it lacked any form of personality to keep me gripped. The world-building was kind of confusing, the info-dumping tiresome and the conversations far too stilted (there was a lot of stuttering from the characters, so much space could have been saved if Bracken had got to the point). Generally, I spent most of this novel confused. Not just because I was skimming, but because the huge amount of information that Bracken would unload now and again made little to no sense. She did do a lot of research for the various time periods that Etta and Nicholas visited, but then spent absolutely no time in each of them which was sad.
  • The characters weren't awful. I was just disappointed to find so little development. I thought that Sophia had potential but she spent hardly any time in the novel and in the end her 'villainous' role made me roll my eyes. I wanted to see more progress made between her and Etta. In a way, I wanted a strange sort of friendship to form and it looked like it would to begin with, but alas it never went further. Etta herself was no dainty Mary-Sue but she was a tad irritating and her overall reaction to the situation she was in was far too unrealistic. Anyone who woke up dazed, held hostage and in a completely different century would be freaking out not 'playing along'.
  • Everyone knows I don't like insta-love, and it came in bucket-loads here! From the moment that Nicholas and Etta laid eyes on each other there was something 'special' between them and suddenly they implicitly trusted each other no matter what. That kind of feeling didn't make an awful lot of sense, I would have preferred a slower build between them.
Overall Conclusion:
I'm so disappointed that I didn't love this book more, especially as it had such a good premise. But such a long-winded blurb should have warned me that the book would be exactly the same and the worst part is that it could have been so easily avoided. Cut out the moments when Etta and Nicholas couldn't say more than "" to each other and you'd save at least fifty pages! If the world-building hadn't been dumped on me in such a confusing way and the page space had been taken up by more time spent in the awesome, well-researched historical locations that the duo visited and developing the relationship properly then I would have liked it more.