Six of Crows & Crooked Kingdom – Leigh Bardugo

I found myself at home and sick this week. When I am sick all I crave are comfort reads. For me a comfort read is something not too challenging that I can wrap myself up in, enter a different world with a bunch of loveable characters. This week I found myself purchasing Six of Crows to satisfy my craving. Rookie error, I did not purchase Crooked Kingdom at the same time and found myself racing back to the shops the very next day. For those of you not familiar with this duology, it has been described as Game of Thrones crossed with Ocean’s Eleven. Kaz Brekker, criminal mastermind of the Dregs gang has been offered a deal that can make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. The catch: break into a court that has never been breached and retrieve a hostage several nations are fighting to acquire. These novels follow Kaz and his chosen crew across an ocean to the Ice Court and back to claim their reward.

 

In all honesty I knew I was going to love these books from the second paragraph in with the sentence “…her eyes were brown – lovely, dreamy…melted chocolate brown? Rabbit fur brown?”. These books were funny. Laugh out loud funny. The prose, particularly between the six, was witty and quick and I loved every minute of it. I was surprised at how intelligent and well-put together these novels were for YA. I don’t mean anything against YA but often the fantasy genre is rife with cliches and predictability (not always a bad thing!) and this series had none. There was one twist that I saw coming and to be honest, you expected it knowing that there was two books in this series.

 

The characters were also a strong point of these novels. They were perfectly unique and in my opinion the best squad going (sorry Harry, Ron & Hermione). I loved each and every one of these characters. They all played their role, each one of them was flawed and had so much room for development. I don’t think I could even pick a favourite (maybe Jesper, but only by a fraction). What I loved about the way the book was written was how the story was told from each of their points of view across the two books. I loved this technique as it allows the reader to see so much more in the novel without having to resort to making the lone protagonist unusually and unrealistically perceptive, which happens a lot in these types of novels. It also allows you to get to know what  makes each character tick, what makes them unique.

 

I couldn’t praise these books enough. They are fast-paced with many twists and turns you don’t see coming and laugh out loud funny which balances the tension perfectly. The characters are to die for and so diverse! We have disabilities, mental insecurities and even a same-sex relationship. Also, quite touching, was learning that one of the characters disabilities comes from the author herself. Something she wrote into the books to show that we can all be our own hero, even if we are flawed. I would highly recommend both of these novels, particularly if you enjoy a good fantasy world. I give both Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom four crows, both cracking reads.

 

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Happy 20th to one of the best…

Harry Potter. What self-respecting bibliophile hasn’t read possibly the most prolific series of all time? Hyperbolic? Maybe, it’s just my opinion. I grew up with Harry, Ron and Hermione and can still remember eagerly anticipating the next instalment, rushing out early in the morning the day it was released, sitting in my bean bag with a pile of snacks and not moving until I had finished the entire thing. I remember being devastated when the final instalment of The Deathly Hallows was released at the cinema because that was the last time I would have the excitement of waiting to return to Hogwarts. If I could go back and read a book for the first time again, it would most definitely be the Harry Potter series. I read them so long ago I can hardly remember life with out this magical world.

 

Today is the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone. How else is there to celebrate than with a reread of the entire series? It has been too long since I returned to Hogwarts and am so excited to put myself back in this world starting on this important days when 20 years ago it all started. Join me as I relive this series over the next month, finishing up on Harry’s birthday of course! Five weeks, seven books, a world of happiness.

 

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The Roanoke Girls – Amy Engel

The Roanoke Girls was like a car crash, you don’t want to look at it but once you are you can’t look away. This novel is about the beautiful and mysterious Roanoke girls, living on a grand estate where they appear to have it all, looks, money and yet every girl either dies young or runs away. Lane was lucky, she grew up away from it all until her mother died and she spent one summer living there, learning the mysteries of her family before disappearing and vowing to never return. That is until her cousin goes missing and she must return to find out what happened.

 

I read this book in one sitting on a Saturday night. It was horrific and fascinating and I could not put it down. Much of the fascination with this book lies in the persuasive characters that Engel writes. If you didn’t believe the motivations, the strengths of certain characters in this novel the concept would not work. Engel takes this unfathomable situation and makes it believable. I enjoyed the format of this book. We read most of it from Lane’s perspective jumping from the past to the present, slowly revealing Roanoke’s secrets. These time points are mixed with snippets of perspective of each of the missing or dead Roanoke girls, telling each of their stories.

 

Some of the prettiest book covers house the most horrific of stories and this book is no exception. The novel is physchomogically thrilling with plenty of good twists. The pacing is excellent, keeping the reader on their toes wanting to know more, see how it all ends. There isn’t much to discuss without giving away plot points but if you do pick it up be aware there is some strong content. I do recommend this one if you are after a creepy, psychological read. I found it reprehensible, yet engrossing. A true testament to strong writing. I give the Roanoke girls four carousel horses.

 

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The Dangers of Truffle Hunting – Sunni Overend

The Dangers of Truffle Hunting was very different from my usual read, which is the beauty of my Sensei Subscription. I get to sample books that I generally would not have picked for myself, although, if anything is a cover buy, it is this. The cover is beautiful and alluring. Despite this being far from my usual genre I very much enjoyed the story. In fact I read this in one day. Kit Gossard is your typical young woman in Australia, she has her life together. Her finance, Scott, is an up and coming furniture designer, she just secured a full-time job in her chosen field of food photography and she spends extra time home on the family winery. All is well and running to plan. Until she finds herself feeling bored, constrained, not sure this path is for her. This all comes about when she meets the mysterious Raph (seriously, for the first half of this book I read his name as Ralph until a certain point where it blew my mind and I realised I had been reading it wrong the entire time). And then it all goes wrong.

 

This book is a romance/finding yourself type story with the narrator at the end of her twenties. As someone of a similar age I found this quite relatable. You think by this age you would have your life together, perfectly sorted, however, that is not necessarily the case and isn’t for most of my peers. I found this aspect quite realistic and something that many people could identify with. I also loved that it was set around a winery, this appeals to all my fantasies and in case you didn’t know, I love wine and visiting wineries. In fact, even little old Adelaide and the Barossa are scenes within the novel. Although, I knew I didn’t like Scott after his comments about my home (haha).

 

I did find myself incredibly frustrated with Kit for the whole middle portion of the novel. Of course the reader can see all her flaws and what the right path or her is (well, what the wrong path is at the very least). Of course it takes her a good part of the novel to figure that out, I guess there wouldn’t be much of a novel if she did figure it out. That didn’t stop me face-palming when she continually refuses to see what is in front of her face. What Overhand captures perfectly and what makes this better than your average romance is the way she describes the passion with food and wine. Love, like good food and wine can be messy, artful, hungry and passionate. All of that is captured within the pages and shows a true understanding of the underbelly of life. Lets all be honest, safe and clean is boring and restrictive.

 

I also appreciated that Overhand threw in some greats twists that I didn’t see coming. From early on you have a good idea of how the book will end so keeping the reader on their toes and removing much of the predictability in the core of the novel ket it interesting. This novel was insightful and intriguing and I would most definitely recommend picking it up. I give the Dangers of Truffle Hunting three glasses of wine.

 

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Hidden Bodies – Caroline Kepnes

Hidden Bodies is the second instalment of Joe Goldberg’s story. We met Joe first in You and we watch as his relationship with Beck blossoms and then breaks to disastrous consequences . In Hidden Bodies we see Joe leave New York and his cage behind to greener pastures in Los Angeles to start again, meet someone new. In LA he finds Love, everything he has been hoping for. The question is, can he keep what his heart desires most? Will the bodies of his past stay hidden?

 

Sadly for me Hidden Bodies just didn’t hold the same allure as You. In particular I found the first half of Hidden Bodies repetitive and boring. In You, Joe’s inner monologue was an absolute highlight, a view into his twisted mind. In Hidden Bodies, it just feels annoying because we have heard this all before. The second half of this novel yes pick up and become more interesting. In doing so, however, it loses it’s believability. You was particularly creepy because every though it was out there, it was still very plausible and the stalking and the way Joe gained his information was realistic. Too realistic that it may make you reconsider how you use social media. Hidden Bodies, for me, became way too far fetched, not at all believable. In doing that it lost a certain amount of it’s appeal for me.

 

In saying all of this, I still read this book in a day but overallI am not a huge fan. I prefer to think of You as a standalone, although you will see if you read Hidden Bodies that the door is left open for another and lets be honest if there is I will still read it. I cannot recommend You enough but go into this one prepared that it isn’t quite the same. It is of no fault to the author in the sense that her writing is still spot on, I think this is just a story for me that only really works once, anything after than feels a little repetitive. f you loved You and still want to try Hidden Bodies, by all means do so. I can see how others will enjoy the continuation of Joe’s story. I give Hidden Bodies two and a half Hollywood films.

 

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The Sellout – Paul Beatty

The Sellout by Paul Beatty look out 2016’s Man Booker Prize. The Sellout is a satire that starts with our protagonist in the nation’s Supreme Court for bringing back slavery. A negro in present day society who has chosen to bring back racial segregation in his home town. What follows is a biting and hilarious story of how he came to be a black man with a slave sitting in front of the nation’s highest court.

 

The Sellout was very well written and laugh out loud funny. I found myself giggling along to this novel more than once. Unfortunately for me a lot of the cultural references went over my head, perhaps due to the fact that it is set in America and I’m not quite as familiar with all of their culture (have it set in Australia and I certainly wouldn’t miss a beat). I do have to say after studying psychology at university I did appreciate all the psychological references from his childhood. I do think though I have discovered that satire may not be my genre – I tried and did better than I have in the past, however, I just don’t enjoy them like I should. Personally I also found the author’s side anecdotes, the probably hilarious jokes that others found funny, distracting from the plot and it really disrupted the flow of the book for me.

 

My favourite part of the book was the character Hominy. He was crazy, unpredictable and put a smile on my face the most by far. I definitely have not come across a character like him and will likely not again. In fact, a real highlight of The Sellout is in the character of the book. They were each very unique, rich characters that you are unlikely to forget anytime soon. This is the part I look back on with fondness and is what I will remember further down the track.

 

I can understand why The Sellout won the Man Booker Prize last year. This novel is so culturally relevant to American culture and is presented in an eloquent and hilarious manner. It makes some interesting points and is well worth a read if you have an interest in and an understanding of American culture and if you do enjoy a good satire. If you do not, I would perhaps not recommend this one. Unfortunately this book was not the right fit for me and I give The Sellout two of Hominy’s precious Little Rascals tapes.

 

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Wine & Words Wednesday 14/06

Officially winter means one thing: red wine season is definitely here. Let’s celebrate with a bottle of said red. Still clearly obsessed with new current favourite Artwine lets check out the other bottle I bought on my recent visit to their Adelaide Hills cellar door. The Saint Vincent Pinot Noir is grown in the Adelaide Hills and has a palate of cherries, spices and earthy tones. Pinot Noir is not huge here in SA but is one of my favourite varietals. Condemn me if you must but despite being a South Australian local I’m not a huge fan of super heavy reds that you tend to find in the Barossa. I often prefer Pinot Noir’s and Cabernet Sauvignon’s as my go too. I was delighted to discover a local Pinot Noir that was delicious and well-priced and could not resist walking away without a bottle.

 

To book I will be pairing this special wine with is one that I adored and found to appeal to my soul. Where The Trees Were by Inga Simpson is a beautiful story set here in Australia, telling the story of Jay and her friends growing up in the country and discovering an important secret, sacred tree carvings of the Aboriginal people, or arborglyphs. Further down the track we see Jay as an adult, working as an art curator and still trying to protect these sacred trees. Why pair these two? Well, a major focus of this novel is the amazing artwork that is these sacred and culturally significant trees. It is important to Jay that there significant items are treated with respect and returned to their true custodians. Plus, adult Jay is a woman after my own heart, she loves good food and good wine and much of her conversations with her partner in this book occur in her kitchen, glass of wine in hand and food being prepared. This is a truly magical book that tells an important aspect of our Australian history, one we should all understand. It deserves to be savoured, much like this drop of wine. Bring the two together when you have the time to sit and appreciate both to their full extent. A greater pairing you will not find.

 

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