Friday 31 March 2017

Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor #1), Mark Lawrence

"That's my secret and my shame. I'm Nona Grey, war is in my veins, and the screams of my enemies are music to me."
At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.

But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse.

* * * * *
5 / 5

Absolutely incredible. Red Sister is the amazing, heartwrenching, slow-paced, bloody story of ten year old (then twelve, then older) Nona Grey, first sold to a child-seller, then to a a gang of ring-fighters, then inducted into the Sweet Mercy convent of assassin-nuns to save her from the hangman's noose. It started with a bang and ended with my heart in pieces and my eyes yearning for more. Seriously, it starts with:

"It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy Convent, Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men."
And Red Sister only got better from there on out. Exponentially better.

Wednesday 29 March 2017

The Jungle Book: Manga Classics, Chrystal Chan

Heavily influenced by his childhood in British-ruled India, Rudyard Kipling created some of the most well-read children s stories in Western Culture. Book One of The Jungle Book(s) includes Mowgli s Brothers, the story of Mowgli, the abandoned man-cub who was raised by animals in the Indian jungle, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi the heroic mongoose, and Toomai of the Elephants, the tale of a young elephant-handler, and in The White Seal, we meet Kotick, a rare white-furred northern fur seal as he searches for a home where his family will not be hunted by humans.

* * * *
4 / 5

I picked up a copy of the The Jungle Book, manga edition on a whim and I was very pleasantly pleased with it. I have read my fair share of manga in my youth and this book follows the traditional format of being read right to left (a handy guide at the back for those that have never read a manga), as well as having loving, classically manga illustrations. As far as I can tell, The Jungle Book follows Rudyard Kipling's original seven stories very closely, even integrating some of the shorter poems into the artwork.

Monday 27 March 2017

Defy the Stars, Claudia Gray

Make a choice. Assert your own will. It's the first step toward being something more than a machine. Find out what you might become. 

When Noemi meets Abel, one of Earth's robotic mech warriors, she realises that Abel himself may provide the key to Genesis' salvation. Abel is bound by his programming to obey her - even though her plan could result in his destruction. But Abel is no ordinary mech. He's a unique prototype, one with greater intelligence, skill and strength than any other. More than that, he has begun to develop emotions, a personality and even dreams. Noemi begins to realise that if Abel is less than human, he is more than a machine. If she destroys him, is it murder? And can a cold-blooded murder be redeemed by the protection of a world?

Stranded together in space, they go on a whirlwind adventure through Earth's various colony worlds, alongside the countless Vagabonds who have given up planetary life altogether and sail forever between the stars. Each step brings them closer - both to each other and to the terrible decision Noemi will have to make about her world's fate, and Abel's. 

* * * *
4 / 5

Woah. I picked this up because I had fondly read A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray and thought hey, great, she's writing something new - and it has robots in space, so why not? In Defy the Stars Gray shows the same depth of imagination as she did in the Firebird Trilogy, creating an equally vivid and inspired universe. Noemi and Abel are amazingly compelling characters. My only problem is that Gray really likes to write love stories and about the power of love, which isn't what I thought Defy the Stars was going to be.

Sunday 26 March 2017

Digging In The Stars, Katherine Blakeney

The old belief that Thror was a black hole instead of a planet was not unfounded. A black hole sucking in all who ventured too far
A lost ancient civilization and the tomb of a legendary king lie buried beneath centuries of ash on the volcanic planet Thror, but that’s not the only reason sixteen-year-old Carter has tricked her Archaeology of Outer Space class into coming here. Her best friend Conrad has just disappeared on a trip to Thror, leaving behind little more than a broken vintage camera. The strange and disturbing photographs she manages to extract make her suspect Conrad’s disappearance is somehow connected to the hidden tomb of the last king of Thror.

Unfortunately, the ludicrously over-friendly ‘Furry Giants’ who have taken over the planet’s barren surface would rather offer her cheap souvenirs than answers, and the local officials insist they have no record of Conrad’s existence. Inspired by fear for Conrad’s life and the chance to make the greatest archaeological discovery of the century, Carter and her friends follow Conrad’s footsteps deep into the mountains of Thror’s forbidden Black Zone and launch an illicit excavation. 

* * .5
2.5 / 5

Digging in the Stars had a lot of potential (it's about archaeology IN OUTER SPACE, I mean talk about awesome) but unfortunately the characters were a bit too flat and the narrative too confused to pull it off. There was still a good chunk of mystery and a totally whacky ending to make this book fun, but it wasn't exactly a page turner. 

Friday 24 March 2017

The Castaways, Jessika Fleck

We go out and settle on large boulders in the sun. It beats down on us like a tiny peace of heaven in all this chaos and confusion, orphan stories, and names.
The Castaway Carnival: fun, mysterious, dangerous. Renowned for its infamous corn maze…and the kids who go missing in it. When Olive runs into the maze, she wakes up on an isolated and undetectable island where a decades-long war between two factions of rival teens is in full swing.

Trapped, Olive must slowly attempt to win each of her new comrades’ hearts as Will—their mysterious, stoically quiet, and handsome leader—steals hers. Olive is only sure about one thing: her troop consists of the good guys, and she’ll do whatever it takes to help them win the war and get back home.

* * * .5
3 . 5 / 5

Confession time: I haven't read The Lord of the Flies, that supposedly is the inspiration behind The Castaways. I tried to once, when I was twelve, and it was incredibly boring so I put it down and went back to reading the Narnia Chronicles. What I can tell you is that The Castaways is firmly a young adult novel, full of action, violence, romance, and female character (which I understand Lord of the Flies doesn't have). It's a fun and quick-paced novel that bumps it up from the average 3 star book, but suffers from an abundance of cliches.

Wednesday 22 March 2017

Bull, David Elliott

What is it with you mortals? 
You just can't seem to learn: 
If you play with fire, babies, 
You're gonna get burned
Much like Lin-Manuel Miranda did in Hamilton, the New York Times best-selling author David Elliott turns a classic on its head in form and approach, updating the timeless story of Theseus and the Minotaur for a new generation. A rough, rowdy, and darkly comedic young adult retelling in verse, Bull will have readers reevaluating one of mythology's most infamous monsters.
* * * *
4 / 5 

Bull was a wild ride. I am not an expert in the story of the Minotaur, so I went into this virtually blind and was rewarded with a hilarious, witty, and surprisingly sorrowful tale. Does Elliott do the original justice? I have no idea. What I do know is that I had fun. 

So this Minos
This "king" 
This two-faced 
The guy's all ego. 

Monday 20 March 2017

Heartless, Marissa Meyer

Jest said you had no reason to stay, but he was wrong. There is always a reason to stay. Always a reason to go back. It's best not even to look, not even to guess. Turn around. Drink the elixir. Go through the Looking Glass and never look back. 

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love. Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.

Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

* * * *
4 / 5

I read Heartless after it overwhelmingly topped a poll I did and, friends of Goodreads, you did not let me down. I enjoy the odd romance book, which is essentially what this is with the occasional action related side-plot, but still I was surprised by how much I liked this. Another confession: I have never read any of Meyer's other works, so I cannot compare to her Lunar Chronicles works in terms of writing style or characters. Heartless is an Alice in Wonderland prequel, a Queen of Hearts origin story, the tale of Lady Catherine Pinkerton an aspiring baker and lover of confectionary who is a favourite of the King.  Cath doesn't much want to marry him, even before Jest and his Raven waltz their way into her life bringing magic and wonder that she had only dreamed of. 

Sunday 19 March 2017

The Shock of the Fall, Nathan Filer

‘I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.’

* * 
2 / 5

This is a good book. It's an important book. It just isn't a me book. I don't often read contemporary, but I picked this up thinking it was going to be a bit like We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, which I really enjoyed. It wasn't like that at all, other than in the fact that both books are a touch bizarre in terms of format and timeline. The Shock of the Fall follows Matthew before and after the death of his brother Simon, as he becomes more schizophrenic. 

Friday 17 March 2017

[challenge] Burn, Rewrite, Reread

Burn, Rewrite, Reread

a book challenge

I've done a chunk of book reviews recently in an attempt to clear up my Netgalley TBR pile, so I fancied doing something a bit more fun and light-hearted. So here's a delightfully bookish challenge I've seen floating around on some other blogs.

The Rules

  • Randomly pick three books that you have read (I'm using the Goodreads sort > random feature)
  • For each group of three, decide which book to burn, which to rewrite, and which to reread 
  • If you do the challenge, comment below with a link to yours so I can check it out!

Tuesday 14 March 2017

Quests of the Kings, Robert Evert

"I want someone who wants something. Something he's willing to work hard for. Something he'd dedicate his life trying to get, you know?"
Across the realms, the kings' quests captivate the imaginations of nobles and commoners alike. These dangerous competitions pit the most daring adventurers against each other as they compete for riches and glory for their kingdoms.  
Plain and ordinary Natalie, a sixteen-year-old peasant girl, loves listening to stories about famous adventurers, but the thrilling action of the kings' quests seems far removed from her everyday life of mucking out stables and working every odd job she can find to support her siblings and disabled mother. However, after a violent run-in with Brago, a ruthless adventurer who believes Natalie is a threat to his mission, she is dragged unwillingly into the latest contest. 

1 / 5 

Frankly, I found Quests of the Kings to be rather boring. Natalie, the main character, is all over the place in terms of personality, there's a lot of sexist attitudes to wade through (the world, not the author's opinions, per se), and the plot doesn't really pick up until about half-way through. The main idea is that Natalie runs afoul of an adventurer, Brago, who is on a quest to uncover a golden harp. He threatens her life and she seeks safety with another adventurer, Sir Edris.

Saturday 11 March 2017

[article] Making Time & Reading More

 A fun little book pile

Making Time & Reading More

I thought I'd write a little bit about how I manage to read a reasonable amount of books, despite having a busy life! Like a lot of bookbloggers and people I know on Goodreads, I'm at university, managing a degree and an active social and sport life. But I still manage to read over a hundred books a year, which I think is a good amount. So here are a few tips so help you up the amount of time you spend reading (and hopefully hit whatever your reading goal is).

Thursday 9 March 2017

Brother's Ruin, Emma Newman

"You were so clearly trying to hide the sun behind a paper fan"
The year is 1850 and Great Britain is flourishing, thanks to the Royal Society of the Esoteric Arts. When a new mage is discovered, Royal Society elites descend like buzzards to snatch up a new apprentice. Talented mages are bought from their families at a tremendous price, while weak mages are snapped up for a pittance. 
* * *
3 / 5

Brother's Ruin was short, sweet, and over before I could really sink my teeth into it. I love the occasional book set in a quasi-Victorian setting and Brother's Ruin made use of the setting, adding a hint of magic. Newman has crafted a complex world with three different magical systems, but it seems like just as the world building and my connection to the main character, Charlotte, really starts the book is over! At barely 100 pages long Brother's Ruin is tiny; I feel like Newman could have written a much larger book, one that I would have read very eagerly. 

Tuesday 7 March 2017

The White Hare, Michael Fishwick

 "People don't move very far, Robbie, societies don't change, and their stories, and their legends, never die, and because we can't see things doesn't mean they aren't there"
A lost boy. A dead girl, and one who is left behind.

Robbie doesn't want anything more to do with death, but life in a village full of whispers and secrets can't make things the way they were.

When the white hare appears, magical and fleet in the silvery moonlight, she leads them all into a legend, a chase, a hunt. But who is the hunter and who the hunted?

* * *
3 / 5 

I felt the same way reading The White Hare as I did when reading Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane: like I was reading something in a weird hazy dream, knowing that the book was good but not quite grasping it. It was like experiencing childhood again, that weird blur of reality and belief that the world is more magical than it really is. I have absolutely no doubt that anyone who enjoyed The Ocean at the End of the Lane or A Monster Calls will absolutely love this; Fishwick has nailed that interweaving of narrative threads about family, love, fear, loss, growing up, and wondering who you are and how you fit into the world. 

Sunday 5 March 2017

The House of Mountfathom, Nigel McDowell

No journey can be made without the risk of stepping into the dark
Luke Mountfathom knows he is special and odd. He is told so by everyone he knows. His parents are special and odd too - they are the keepers of the House of Mountfathom, a magnificent stately home where the wrong door could take you to a far away land, and strange animals appear to stalk the grounds at midnight. The house is his home - but it is also the headquarters of the Driochta, a magic-weaving group of poets, artists, politicians and activists charged with keeping the peace in Ireland. They have many powers - have mastered Mirror-Predicting and Smoke-Summoning and Storm-Breaching - and a final ability: that of Mogrifying; taking on a unique animal form.

I was hesitant to assign this book a rating, given that it felt unfinished, more akin to a draft than a completed novel. Upon learning that The House of Mountfathom is to be published posthumously (and so possibly never was finished to the satisfaction of the author), I have decided to leave my review unrated. The House of Mountfathom is a tale of magical realism, of a living house, of a family, and of a war. 

Thursday 2 March 2017

[article] February Round-Up, 2017

Unfortunately, most of my books this month were on the Kindle, making for a rather unimpressive photo

February Round Up

February has proved to be an excellent reading month for me - I had a lot of 3 & 4 star books. I read a rather large number (at least for me) of varied books, hitting a total of 13 books this month. This means that I am 6 books ahead of schedule to meet my 100 books in 2017 target. This gives me a nice buffer for months like May where I will be studying for summer exams. I've had a fair amount more time on my hands than last month, now that my exams are fully over and I've settled back into the swing of normal university life. I've been doing a number of new reading related things like writing book reviews on Amazon and joining Netgalley (if you want to know more about that click here).