31 March 2014

February + March Wrap Up

I just realised I haven't done a wrap-up since January, so this is a double wrap-up!

February - I had an awesome reading month in February - for such a short month I was over the moon to see how many books I'd read.

The Deepest Secret by Carla Buckley 
Schapelle Corby by Kathryn Bonella 
How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr 
This Side of Salvation by Jeri Smith-Ready 
Anything to Have You by Paige Harbison
State of Emergency (Collapse Series #1) by Summer Lane
Shatter Me (Shatter Me #1) by Tahereh Mafi
Zom-B Underground (Zom-B #2) by Darren Shan
Requiem (Delirium #3) by Lauren Oliver
Siege and Storm (The Grisha #2) by Leigh Bardugo
Cherry by Sara Wheeler
If You Stay (Beautifully Broken #1) by Courtney Cole
Golden by Jessi Kirby
In Velvet by Burt Weissbourd
NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

Total pages read as at end of February - 10,510.  Woohooo - ahead for the year!.

March - Aaaaand it all camecrashing down.  March pretty much kicked my arse - work was insane and then in the last week I broke a tooth and could not for love or money get into a dentist for two days.  When I wasn't crying in pain I was floating around in a drug-induced haze - neither of which were very condusive to reading.
The Worlds We Make (Fallen World #3) by Megan Crewe
The Assault by Harry Mulisch
The Reapers are the Angels (Reapers #1) by Alden Bell
Into That Forest by Louis Nowra 
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills
The Three by Sarah Lotz
Such Good Girls by R.D. Rosen 
Night by Elie Wiesel 
Miss Peregrine's House for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children #1) by Ransom Riggs

I also DNFed all over the place.  Before March I had 5 books on my permanent DNF shelf.  By the end I had 9.

Blazed by Jason Myers - read 96 pages - now I like dark books.  In fact, I LOVE dark books - the grittier the better, but this was just too much - and I hated the main character.
Dark Days by Kate Ormand - read 39 pages - it just felt so clunky - and way too fast - and I didn't believe a second of it.
The Distance Between Us by Kasie West - read 30 pages - I KNOW.  But I hated Caymen and her 'rich people are evil' speeches.
After the End (After the End #1) by Amy Plum - read 141 pages - I really didn't like the paranormal aspect.  Perhaps because I didn't EXPECT it, but it just drove me crazy.

I'm now nearly 1000 pages behind on my page goal for the year, but there's still LOADS of time to make up for it.  Bring it on, April!

30 March 2014

Showcase Sunday #72

Showcase Sunday is hosted by the fabulous Vicky at Books, Biscuits and Tea and is all about sharing our new books - beg, borrowed or bought.

Ugh, what a week!  Apart from being insanely busy at work, I then ended up with an abcess under one of my teeth - I have never been in so much pain in my life!  Luckily I have excellent drugs and am feeling lots better - just in time for Monday :-|.  But I'm so glad that the clocks went forward and now the evenings will be lighter for longer, huzzah!

Ebooks for review 
Kiss of Broken Glass by Madelein Kuderick
Rites of Passage by Joy Hensley
Feral by Holly Schindler
Don't Touch by Rachel M. Wilson
In a Handful of Dust (Not a Drop to Drink #2) by Mindy McGinnis
Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican

Ebooks purchased (because I felt poorly and I deserved cheering up!)
Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher
Trans-Sister Radio by Chris Bohjalian
Hushed by Kelley York
Wildthorn by Jane Eagland
How Beautiful the Ordinary edited by Michael Cart

Have a fabulous week!!

29 March 2014

Review: State of Emergency by Summer Lane


State of Emergency (Collapse Series #1) by Summer Lane

Published: 18 January 2013

Pages: 228 (paperback)

Genre/s: New Adult, Post-Apocalyptic, Dystopian

Source: Own library

Find it: Goodreads ~ Amazon 

Synopsis

What would you do if the world as you know it ended in an instant? 

How far would you go to survive? 

Cassidy Hart is your typical High School graduate: A little shy, a little sarcastic, and a little naive. But when an electromagnetic pulse takes down the United States, she's forced to kick into full survival mode when she gets separated from her father. 

Yeah. Things suck. 

But with the help of a handsome soldier named Chris, she just might find her dad without getting into serious trouble.

Emphasis on might. 

Oh. And there's the matter of avoiding getting killed in a world that's quickly turned into an active war zone. 
It's going to change Cassidy's life.

It's going to be a major pain in the butt.

My Thoughts

State of Emergency is a new adult romance post-apocalyptic dystopian.  That's a whole bunch of very specific genres, and it's also one of the rare post-apocalyptic books that also fit the dystopian bill (under my very specific definition), as the world goes to shit when a crazy bunch of dictator types take over the world after an EMP.

However, the characters are so inconsistent that I found it a struggle not to roll my eyes pretty much all the way through the story.

Cassidy is an isolated, directionless young woman, trying to find a job after not going to university, when an EMP strands her in the middle of the city.  Upon arriving home, she jumps in her EMP-proof car and starts the drive to her father's cabin in the country.  Now, Cassidy and her father are preppers which is fine and consistent with the EMP-proof car.  However, Cassidy has never shot a gun in her life, and in fact later in the story refuses to, only to later on pick one up and be a great shooter.  Inconsistency aside, what kind of hard-core prepper that has a cabin in the woods DOESN'T have experience or at least an understanding of guns?

OK so she's a little confused when it comes to firearms.  However, when the romance kicks in after she picks up an ex Navy Seal on the road, she is apparently so dazzling and beguiling that he throws out his years of training and experience and pretty much trots around after Cassidy, even when she has the most ridiculous ideas (yeah!  let's go to a refugee camp, because as all preppers know, nothing bad EVER happens in refugee camps!).

Probably my favourite part of the story was Cassidy and Chris trying to survive on the road, in bad weather and encountering some crazy travellers, but even those interactions just seemed off - EVERY SINGLE PERSON goes ape-shit crazy within 24 hours of the EMP.  Now I can imagine that there'd be looting, some panic buying and some megalomaniacs trying to take control when the authorities are helpless, but would everyone REALLY go all cut-throat-bandit-survivalist within 24 hours?  I really hope not, and it did get a little tiring that pretty much every person they met had robbing and murder on the brain.  And that Cassidy continued to walk into ridiculous situations.

Personality wise, she's also quite irritating - mentioning several times how she had no friends before the EMP, which I understood the first time she mentioned it - the more often it was mentioned the more I felt like it was just a way to make me feel sorry for her as a reader.  And I didn't.

State of Emergency has an intriguing premise, a lot of potential to be a true post-apocalyptic-dystopian series which is rarer than you would think, and combining romance with such a desolate backdrop could have been a great juxtaposition, but in the end the inconsistency of the main character stopped me from truly enjoying it.

28 March 2014

Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi


Shatter Me (Shatter Me #1) by Tahereh Mafi

Published: 15 November 2011 by Harper Teen

Pages: 340 (paperback)

Genre/s: YA, Dystopian

Source: Own library

Find it: Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ The Book Depository

Synopsis

Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war – and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

My Thoughts

Whenever I see someone is reading a book that they are probably going to dislike, I start to question their motivation behind reading it.  I mean, why put yourself through torture when you could be reading something that rocks your world?  But I do it myself, and Shatter Me is a perfect case in point.  I love a good dystopian, but when the romance is more prominent than the world-building, it's probably going to end in frustration and also some feelings of guilt - why am I reading something that I won't like?  Isn't that really unfair on the book?

In the interests of full disclosure, I read Shatter Me for Book Club *waves to awesome book club girls Jana and Karin* - and although I've owned a copy since shortly after it was first released, I possibly would never have gotten around to reading it otherwise.

First, the characters.  Oh, Juliette, you are a contradiction - and normally that would mean I'd dislike you with a burning fiery passion.  Alternately brave and shit-scared, she wasn't easy for me to like.  But to be fair, she'd just spent a year in complete isolation in an asylum, so I'm a little bit more forgiving on the inconsistencies than I would normally be.

Connecting to the characters is, of course, the romance.  Now I'm really sorry to all the Team Warner readers out there, but I don't get the bad boy attraction.  He's a dick.  A power-hungry, abusive dick.  And he will never redeem himself to me.

Adam is sweeter, and much more the boy that I'd pick if I was Juliette - he's caring and kind and has this weird childhood-protective connection to Juliette that I found rather fascinating, even if it is a little too close to insta-love for my comfort.  And sadly, that's pretty much all I have to say about the romance/s in Shatter Me - they just didn't rock my world.

It would be impossible to review Shatter Me without talking about the writing style - it's...unusual, and it took me a while to get used to all the metaphors and stuff, but by the end I actually enjoyed the style far more than all the other elements of the book put together.  It's wordy, but it's not overwhelming - despite the fact there's a lot to take in, some of which works and some of which is just completely over the top, it's easy to read.  Which is actually quite a skill.

The world building is interesting for what exists, but that's just the problem - there's not enough volume for me to have been completely sucked in by it.  Humans have fucked up the environment and Juliette has a strange super-power that allows her to kill/hurt/maim people by touching them - sounds really cool, but there's just not enough substance for me.

Am I glad I read Shatter Me?  Yes.  I enjoyed the writing style immensely once I settled into it, and I could easily have read the whole book in one sitting.  However, a bit more world-building and a bit less love-triangle-insta-love-romance would have made it far more memorable and enjoyable for me.  I do own the second book, and maybe one day I will actually read it, but I'm undecided right now.

27 March 2014

Life of a Blogger - Favourite Animals

Life of a Blogger is a weekly feature hosted by Jessi at Novel Heartbeat, which is all about what us bloggers do when we aren't blogging.

This week's topic is favourite animals.  Let's start with a sad story where I tell you that I am not allowed pets in my rental house.  I've always had a pet cat, right up until I moved to the Netherlands, and I still get an urge to kidnap other people's cats even after no having one for six years.

So instead I made friends with all the neighbourhood cats - the only downside being that sometimes their owners move away and therefore the cats also.

I'd post some pictures of my own previous cats but I find it a little depressing, so let's talk about other animals that I love.

ELEPHANTS!  I've always been fascinated by elephants - I even lined up at Melbourne zoo for an hour in 35-degree heat to see a baby elephant a few years ago.  And I used to collect elephant figurines (in fact, they are still packed up at my dad's house).

Frogs - I love frogs so much I have a tattoo of one (also, an elephant tattoo would have been huge-er and more painful that I chose a frog instead!).

I'm pretty much an animal lover no matter what it is (except snakes, eeeep), and I've never been a fan of dogs.  Now, back to my petless existence *sad face*

25 March 2014

Top Ten Things On My Bookish Bucket List


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. I heart lists!


1) Go to BEA.  It's pretty much the holy grail of bookish people and apart from that - NEW YORK.  One day my pretty, one day.

2) Meet one of my favourite authors - even though I'd probably just either a) babble or b) act like a shy 5-year-old and stare at my shoes.

3) Read a Russian classic - War and Peace or Anna Karenina or similar.  Just to say I have.

4) Read the whole Song of Ice and Fire series - I'd intended to do this in 2013, and have kinda planned it into 2014, but .... it's long.

5) Meet my bookish BFF Karin! - Which will happen in a few short weeks.  So excited!

6) Read all the books on my TBR - hahahahahahahahaha *falls off chair* - but I had to put it here because, well, it's a bucket list and bucket lists aren't always things you can easily achieve.

7) Read a book in Dutch - Yep, it will probably be Nijntje but it would still totally count.

8) Work for a publishing company - A bit of a tricky one considering I'm not intending to change my career path any time soon, but might be possible one day.

9) Write something - Blogging has actually scared me off writing - I don't know WHY (in fact, it should perhaps have encouraged me), but one day it would be cool to put an idea into words.

10) Have my own home library - like with wall-to-wall shelves and comfy chairs and no one else except other bookish people are allowed in there.

What's on your Bookish Bucket List?

24 March 2014

Review: This Side of Salvation by Jeri Smith-Ready


This Side of Salvation by Jeri Smith-Ready

Expected Publication: 1 April 2014 by Simon Pulse

Pages: 384 (hardcover)

Genre/s: YA, Contemporary

Source: Publisher for review

Find It: Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ The Book Depository

Synopsis

Everyone mourns differently. When his older brother was killed, David got angry. As in, fist-meets-someone-else’s-face furious. But his parents? They got religious. David’s still figuring out his relationship with a higher power, but there’s one thing he does know for sure: The closer he gets to new-girl Bailey, the better, brighter, happier, more he feels.

Then his parents start cutting all their worldly ties in to prepare for the Rush, the divine moment when the faithful will be whisked off to Heaven…and they want David to do the same. David’s torn. There’s a big difference between living in the moment and giving up his best friend, varsity baseball, and Bailey—especially Bailey—in hope of salvation.

But when he comes home late from prom, and late for the Rush, to find that his parents have vanished, David is in more trouble than he ever could have imagined...

My Thoughts

Religion in books is a difficult subject, and something I usually try and avoid.  However, in This Side of Salvation it's used as a plot device that works well to drive the plot without shoving a whole bunch of ideals in your face.  Add in a sweet romance and a close brother-sister relationship and a load of grief, and This Side of Salvation ticks a whole lot of boxes.

David and Mara's parents have always been religious, but when their older brother John is killed in tragic circumstances, they begin to become more and more involved in a radical religious movement, which focuses on the Rush - the more 'modern' version of the Rapture.  David's father especially embraces religion as a lifestyle, most notably by speaking in bible quotations all the time.

This Side of Salvation is told in 'then' and 'now' alternating chapters, which works fairly well for the plot - as it begins with the disappearance of David's parents, rather than starting from the beginning and climaxing later in the story, its definitely an attention-holder.

My favourite thing about This Side of Salvation is the relationship between Mara and David - despite the fact that they have different beliefs and respond to the change in their parents differently, they actually become closer, especially once their parents disappear.

Whilst I enjoyed the romance between David and Bailey, at times it felt like it was a little 'thrown in for good measure' - I had much more invested in the sibling relationship, and even David's relationship with his best friend than in the actual romance itself.  However, as characters David and Bailey had good chemistry and complimented each other pretty well.

What really stands out for me in This Side of Salvation is the depth of the grief felt by David's family - it's almost palpable in places and I could understand why his parents chose to cling to their beliefs - because they just didn't know how to deal with the death of their son.

Incredibly readable, with a fabulous sibling dynamic and an intimate study of how grief impacts people in different ways, it was a good read and I'm glad I picked it up.


23 March 2014

Showcase Sunday #71 - Business as Usual

Showcase Sunday is hosted by the fabulous Vicky at Books, Biscuits and Tea and is all about sharing our new books - beg, borrowed or bought.

Hello lovelies!  It's been so busy lately with work, I'm feeling like I'm behind on absolutely everything else and it's driving me C-razy.  I want to get back to normal!

But hey, at least spring has finally sprung, and I got some awesome books this week!


Purchased
Split Second (Pivot Point #2) by Kasie West
Ruins (Partials Sequence #3) by Dan Wells
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirsten Cronn-Mills
Jumpstart the World by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Ebooks for review
The Forever Song (Blood of Eden #3) by Julie Kagawa
Deep Blue (Waterfire Saga #1) by Jennifer Donnelly

I hope you got some awesome books this week too - have a marvellous week!

20 March 2014

Review: Under the Dome by Stephen King


Under the Dome by Stephen King

Published: 10 November 2009 by Scribner

Pages: 1074 (hardcover)

Genre/s: Adult, Horror, Science Fiction


Source: Own library

Synopsis

On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester's Mill, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and fall from the sky in flaming wreckage, a gardener's hand is severed as "the dome" comes down on it, people running errands in the neighboring town are divided from their families, and cars explode on impact. No one can fathom what this barrier is, where it came from, and when -- or if -- it will go away.
Dale Barbara, Iraq vet and now a short-order cook, finds himself teamed with a few intrepid citizens -- town newspaper owner Julia Shumway, a physician's assistant at the hospital, a select-woman, and three brave kids. Against them stands Big Jim Rennie, a politician who will stop at nothing -- even murder -- to hold the reins of power, and his son, who is keeping a horrible secret in a dark pantry. But their main adversary is the Dome itself. Because time isn't just short. It's running out.

My Thoughts

I first read Under the Dome in 2010, just after it was first released.  A long time fan of Stephen King, I was looking forward to getting stuck into another King epic.  For me, Stephen King has the ability to make even a 1074 page book into a fast, addictive, page-turner, and Under the Dome was no exception (I read it for the first time over a weekend - yep, in two days).

Since I've read about 300 books in between readings, my memory was pretty hazy as to the details, but I knew the major plot line - a small town in Maine is suddenly cut off from the outside world by a invisible, impenetrable dome.  What follows is the story of what happens to the townspeople inside as shit starts to get real.

I was a huge fan of the opening of Under the Dome the first time, and the second time was no exception.  It's a real attention grabber - the dome falls within the first few pages, and the amount of detail in which King describes the event is so imaginative that once I started reading, I found it difficult to stop.

As with many King novels, the cast of characters is huge, but there are only a few key characters - some of them average guys just trying to do the right thing and others are just plain crazy evil bastards.  I love me a good baddie, and the baddies in Under the Dome are pretty despicable.  Despite all the characters, I really liked how it gave me more perspectives - although I'm definitely a reader that will disregard less-than-stellar characterisation for a good plot line, so readers who need that strong character connection may not be able to forgive as readily as myself.

Under the Dome sounds like it couldn't possibly stretch to over 1000 pages - it's a bunch of people stuck in a small area and it sounds like the problems they face could become pretty repetitive, but King finds ways to make each persons' story unique.  A pretty big deal considering the multitude of characters, but as always the amount of imagination and planning that goes into Under the Dome is pretty typical of King, and one of the reasons I enjoy reading his books so much.

Perhaps my only disappointment in the book as a whole is the actual reason behind the dome and the ending.  It's kinda cool, and unique, but it also felt in the scheme of the plot it was over and done with pretty quickly - just not as balanced as I would have liked it to be, and perhaps even no real explanation would have worked better for me.

On the second reading, I've rated it slightly lower than my first reading, but before blogging my ratings were pretty much on gut feeling and the speed of which I read a book rather than weighing up the pros and cons, but I still really enjoyed Under the Dome, and it's definitely one of the most memorable Stephen King books I've read.

17 March 2014

Review: If You Stay by Courtney Cole


If You Stay (Beautifully Broken #1) by Courtney Cole

Published: 7 February 2013

Pages: 220 (ebook)

Genre/s: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Source: Review copy

Synopsis

24-year old Pax Tate is an asshole. 

Seriously. 

He’s a tattooed, rock-hard bad-boy with a bad attitude to match. 
But he’s got his reasons. 

His mother died when Pax was seven, leaving a hole in his heart filled with guilt although he doesn’t understand why. What he does know is that he and his dad are left alone and with more issues than they can count. 

As Pax grew up, he tried to be the kid his father always wanted; the perfect golden boy, but it didn’t work. His dad couldn’t overcome his grief long enough to notice and Pax couldn’t keep up the impossible perfect fa├žade. 
So he slipped far, far from it. 

Now, he uses drugs and women to cope with the ugliness, the black void that he doesn’t want to deal with. If he pretends that the emptiness isn’t there, then it isn’t, right? 
Wrong. 

And it’s never more apparent than when he meets Mila. 

Sweet, beautiful Mila Hill is the fresh air to his hardened frown, the beauty to his ugly heart. He doesn’t know how to not hurt her, but he quickly realizes that he'd better figure it out because he needs her to breathe.

When memories of his mother’s death resurface from where he’s repressed them for so long, Mila is there to catch him when the guilt starts making sense. Mila is the one…the one who can save him from his broken troubled heart; from his issues, from the emptiness. 

But only if he can stop being an asshole long enough to allow it. 

He knows that. And he’s working on it. 

But is that enough to make her stay?

My Thoughts

When I read the first chapter of If You Stay I was completely, um, captivated.  OK, to be honest I was equal parts shocked and intrigued.  It begins with a rather graphic sex scene that pretty much sums up Pax's whole attitude to women, and I wasn't sure that this book would be for me.

It all changes rather quickly when Pax takes things one step too far and meets Mila - the quintessential good girl who is his complete opposite, and there's an instant attraction.  It's definitely not insta-love, it's a far more physical attraction, but there's also the underlying fact that Pax has some serious baggage.

Although I liked Pax, and his struggles to come to terms with his past were more than admirable and made me very sympathetic towards him, I found it more difficult to connect with Mila.  She's definitely sweet and perhaps a little naive, but she lacked that fire that I find appealing in female romantic leads - I wanted her to serve a little bit more back to Pax than she did for the majority of the book.

The plot itself is rather predictable, but as the reason behind Pax's behaviour comes to light, it's far more intense and gritty than I expected it would be.  There are also some pretty hot smexy times, although there is one with 'accessories' (not THAT kind), that kinda had me tilting my head and wondering if it was actually safe and how the fuck you would clean that up properly.

If You Stay took me a little bit by surprise, because despite it not being in my normal reading genre, it has some aspects that are a little outside the 'normal' that make it a more memorable experience.  It's a shame that I didn't feel the same connection to Mila that I did with Pax, but overall I really enjoyed it.

16 March 2014

Showcase Sunday #70 - Why I Shouldn't Post Book Hauls Once a Month

Showcase Sunday is hosted by the fabulous Vicky at Books, Biscuits and Tea and is all about sharing our new books - beg, borrowed or bought.

So it's been a month since I last posted a book haul.  Partly from laziness but also from guilt - I've started to feel terrible about how much I spend every month on books.  Not because I'm sacrificing important things like food or heating for it, but more because I was starting to get paranoid that people thought I was showing off.  Therefore today is a purge of my guilt - I'm lucky that I can afford to buy books when I feel like it, so I shouldn't feel guilty.  Something for me to work on - and please feel free to skip this post if you don't want to see the real impact of my habit for whatever reason!


E-books for review

Through to You by Lauren Barnholdt
Blazed by Jason Myers
The Three by Sarah Lotz 
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell )
Quarantine: The Burnouts (Quarantine #3) by Lex Thomas 
Of Monsters and Madness by Jessica Verday
Such Good Girls by R.D. Rosen 
Zombie, Indiana by Scott Kenemore 
The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld

E-books & Audiobooks purchased

My Book of Life by Angel by Martine Leavitt
The Assault by Harry Mulisch
One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest by Ken Kesey
Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
To Find a Mountain by Dani Amore
Outsider in Amsterdam (Grijpstra & de Gier Mystery #1) by Janwillem van de Wetering
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (audio)
A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Walker (audio)


Books Purchased (too lazy for pictures)
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
Hollow City (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children #2) by Ransom Riggs
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Metro 2033 (METRO #1) by Dmitry Glukhovsky
Shattered (Slated #3) by Teri Terry
S. by J.J. Abrams
The Watch That Ends the Night by Allan Wolf
Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer
The Martian by Andy Weir
Into that Forest by Lois Nowra
Gold by Chris Cleve
Drowning Instinct by Ilsa J. Bick
The Sea Sisters by Lucy Clarke
Everybody Jam by Ali Lewis
Gone, Gone, Gone by Hannah Moskowitz
Earthfall (Earthfall #1) by Mark Walden
Vicious (Vicious #1) by V.E. Schwab
The Distance Between Us by Kasie West
Thin by Grace Bowman
How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr
Slow Apocalypse by John Varley
The Misbegotten by Katherine Webb

Purging complete!

Have a fabulous week!

14 March 2014

Review: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo


Siege and Storm (The Grisha #2) by Leigh Bardugo

Published: 4 July 2013 by Henry Holt & Co

Pages: 432 (hardcover)

Genre/s: YA, Fantasy

Source: Gift

Synopsis

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her--or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

My (rather incoherent, rambling, fan-girling) Thoughts

To everyone who told me I would love Sturmhond, I state unequivocally 'YOU WERE RIGHT'.

Now that the formalities are out of the way, I have to say that I am even more in love with this series after Siege and Storm than I was after Shadow and Bone - which I thought was pretty much impossible.  Bardugo just proved me completely wrong.

The biggest drawcard for me in this series is the writing.  It's magical, visual and just completely sucks me in.  As with Shadow and Bone, I read Siege and Storm in a day because I just could not put it down.  It's a huge testament to this series' success that readers push this book relentlessly, and for readers like me, it's the writing that keeps me coming back once the initial peer pressure wears off.  Bardugo for the auto-buy!

The world building in Siege and Storm is just as genius as in Shadow and Bone - the imagery is fantastic and the feeling of darkness and tension just seeps through the pages.  Despite the fact that fantasy isn't my cup of tea, I can completely buy into the world that Bardugo has created - with more than a splash of Russian it feels so well-rounded.

OK let's get to Sturmhond in a little more detail.  My opinion?  Just throw away all the other male characters in the book, and keep Sturmhond.  That is all.

To be fair, I feel kinda sorry for Mal though.  He's like the puppy dog that no one wants - and he is kinda sweet in his own way.  However the Darkling holds absolutely NO appeal to me at all and just gives me the jeebies.


I'll keep this short and sweet - I think you've probably gotten the hint on how much I loved Siege and Storm and there's only a few short months until Ruin and Rising - and I just can't wait!

13 March 2014

Life of a Blogger - My Favourite Place


Life of a Blogger is a weekly feature hosted by Jessi at Novel Heartbeat, which is all about what us bloggers do when we aren't blogging.

For me, this is one of the easiest questions ever - my favourite place in the whole world is my home state of Tasmania!  Sadly, I don't get to see it all that often (three times in the last six years), but knowing it's there waiting for me makes it much more bearable.

And here are the reasons why:

Beaches like this


Countryside like this


Views like this

But all of that wouldn't be quite so great without people like this


Don't think I need to say much more than that :-D

12 March 2014

Review: How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr


How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

Published: 18 October 2011 by Little, Brown BYR

Pages: 341 (hardcover)

Genre/s: Young Adult, Contemporary

Source: Own library

Synopsis

Jill's life lost all meaning when her dad died. Friends, boyfriend, college – nothing matters any more. Then her mom drops a bombshell: she's going to adopt a baby.

Mandy is desperate for her life to change. Seventeen, pregnant and leaving home, she is sure of only one thing – her baby must never have a life like hers, whatever it takes.

As their worlds change around them, Jill and Mandy must learn both how to hold on and how to let go, finding that nothing is as easy - or as difficult - as it seems.

My Thoughts

I don't know why it takes me forever to read books that are very highly rated by the blogger community.  How to Save a Life is one of those books - a lot of bloggers that I have similar tastes to loved it, and yet it took me a long time to get to reading it.  And yes, I do wish I had picked it up sooner.

How to Save a Life is a book that clicked with me from the first page. Jill is dealing with the death of her father the only way she knows how - by pushing people away and shutting them out of her life, including her boyfriend Dylan.  And when her mother decides to adopt a baby, Jill is immediately completely against the idea.  The connection that Jill had to her father is the thing that really resonated with me - her love and respect for him, and her overwhelming grief at her death felt so personal, so real and was so heartbreaking.

Although she felt closest to her father, she also has a lot in common with her mother, which she doesn't seem to see in her grief - they are both intelligent, focused women and I loved them both as characters.  Even their questionable decisions and reactions endeared them to me, because throughout everything both of their hearts were in the right place.  Jill is independent, strong minded and I liked that she embraced her feelings and went with her instincts, whether they were right or wrong.

Told in alternating POVs, Mandy irritated me at first - she's the kind of person I would have a similar reaction to as Jill, but as the story progressed and more of her life and background was revealed, I also started to feel sympathy towards her.  It's just another example of how good How to Save a Life really is - that Zarr could make me feel that I was in Jill's seat, and my emotions changed along with hers.

I also liked how Zarr handled Dylan and Jill's relationship - as it was already in play before the book began, rather than being a romance, it was more focused on how relationships change and grow as the characters did.    There are two male characters, Dylan and Ravi, in Jill's life, and both of them are fabulous - they're caring, kind and not afraid to say what they are thinking - there's no good boy vs bad boy battle, it's simply two nice guys that are prominent in Jill's life for different reasons and I loved them both.

The ending could have been a big cop-out, but Zarr handles it superbly - there's emotion, indecision and finally tough things need to happen, and there's a huge amount of character development in both Jill and Mandy.

I adored How to Save a Life - the characters are larger than life, the plot kept my attention and it was completely addictive.  Sad, happy and funny, sometimes separately and sometimes all at once, I can highly recommend it.

10 March 2014

Review: Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke


Mind of Winter by 

Expected Publication: 25 March 2014 by HarperCollins

Pages: 288 (hardcover)

Genre/s:
 Mystery, Psychological


Source: Publisher for review

Synopsis

On a snowy Christmas morning, Holly Judge awakens, the fragments of a nightmare-something she must write down-floating on the edge of her consciousness.

Something followed them from Russia.

On another Christmas morning thirteen years ago, she and her husband Eric were in Siberia to meet the sweet, dark-haired Rapunzel they desperately wanted. How they laughed at the nurses of Pokrovka Orphanage #2 with their garlic and their superstitions, and ignored their gentle warnings. After all, their fairy princess Tatiana-baby Tatty-was perfect.

As the snow falls, enveloping the world in its white silence, Holly senses that something is not right, has not been right in the years since they brought their daughter-now a dangerously beautiful, petulant, sometimes erratic teenager-home. There is something evil inside this house. Inside themselves. How else to explain the accidents, the seemingly random and banal misfortunes. Trixie, the cat. The growth on Eric's hand. Sally the hen, their favorite, how the other chickens turned on her. The housekeeper, that ice, a bad fall. The CDs scratched, every one.

But Holly must not think of these things. She and Tatiana are all alone. Eric is stuck on the roads and none of their guests will be able to make it through the snow. With each passing hour, the blizzard rages and Tatiana's mood darkens, her behavior becoming increasingly disturbing and frightening. Until, in every mother's worst nightmare, Holly finds she no longer recognizes her daughter.


My Thoughts

The strangest thing about Mind of Winter is just how much I enjoyed it, despite the fact there's not really a lot of plot action going on.  Normally this is a huge bug-bear for me - I need things to happen to keep me entertained.  But I actually didn't even realise the lack of plot action until I was nearly finished, because I was completely sucked in.

Holly had a difficult childhood and adolescence, with both her mother and sister dying of breast cancer at a young age and Holly herself testing positive for a gene that almost guarantees she herself will get breast cancer, she decides that prevention is better than cure and has her ovaries removed and a full mastectomy at age 24.  Apart from the motivation of avoiding cancer herself, she also wants to prevent passing the gene down, and as such she and her husband, Eric, adopt baby Tatiana (known as Tatty) from a run-down Russian orphanage.

Mind of Winter takes place over just one day - Christmas Day - during a huge snowstorm.  Holly's strange premonition that something followed them home from Russia begins to take over her every moment as she notices more and more changes to her daughters behaviour.  Isolated from everyone except Tatty, she picks apart every inconsistency in minute detail.

There are a couple of things that didn't work for me in Mind of Winter - there's an overuse of exclamation points that irritated me right from the beginning, and repeated descriptions of the colour of Tatiana's skin - after the first time I got it that her skin was so pale it was almost tinged with blue, I didn't need to be reminded multiple times.

I also found some inconsistencies in the ending - a few plot lines, such as Eric's absence, weren't completely resolved, and things are left quite open - often I enjoy open endings but this one wasn't particularly satisfying - I wanted more explanation or a more drawn-out conclusion to make it feel more rounded.

However, it's the intensity of Holly's character and dissection of every tiny detail that makes Mind of Winter such an addictive read - and the fact that I desperately wanted to find out what was happening.  The way that Mind of Winter is written also made me start to doubt what was real and what was in Holly's imagination - yet another reason why I found this book so readable - I really didn't know if I was seeing everything rationally or if Holly's thoughts were starting to influence how I perceived Tatty and her inconsistencies.


I'm conflicted about how exactly I feel about Mind of Winter - it definitely wins bonus points for keeping me reading despite the lack of plot, and it's certainly chilling, especially coupled with Holly's mindset and the isolation of the two characters, but there were some small issues that prevented me from loving it completely.

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