Blogging Life

Thirty-eight posts. Three months. Blogging certainly has been an interesting ride so far this year. Most of all I have enjoyed writing down my thoughts on the books I have read, archiving my opinions ready to look back on what I have read and to help better recommend books to those around me.

 

I have had some incredibly rewarding moments of late. An acquaintance, a friends girlfriend to be precise, who I had met only once before reached out to message me asking for book recommendations for an impending holiday. In the past we have had minor conversations on book related posts of each others and it felt so good to strike up a conversation with someone who has such a similar taste in books as I do. A work colleague read a book I lent her, a personal favourite of mine which she absolutely loved and now wants to purchase for her own. Several friends who were struggling through portions of books which they may have given up on without my insistence to push through, ended up doing jut that resulting in them loving these books. It is such an amazing feeling to have people that seek out, listen to and are appreciative of my bookish opinions, and these are even from people who have no idea I even blog. In fact I still have chosen to keep this part of my life separate from the rest, my little project. More for my own amusement than really expecting others to read along (If you do – it is an amazing bonus and if you enjoy my reviews and are inspired to read any suggestions, it makes it all worth while).

 

My book blogging/bookstagram is fairly consuming. First of all, finding quality time to read is difficult enough in life, with work, socialising, exercising and generally being good at life. I have a ridiculous TBR pile so I like to keep a list of what is on it, trying to make sure I get through the ones that have been sitting there a while, I keep lists of the books I plan to review, ideas of other bookish posts, future books to purchase or borrow from the library and so on. Then there is the photographing of books which, lets be honest, I’m not particularly skilled at and I should work at harder (I promise I’ll try harder), posting them to social media, writing the actual blog posts and then generally keeping up with everyone else’s posts to keep in the loop.

 

The point of all this is I have finally had my first slump. I ran out idea for interesting bookish posts, only having my reviews over the past month. Not to mention having a busy week socially a few weeks ago and encountered my first week this year that I did not finish a book (shock, horror) which I tried to make up for last week with extra reading and zero reviewing. All this culminating in a long weekend away for a family function (I had a baby shower – becoming a first time Auntie in about a months time…yay!) and a week going by without posting. Oopsie!

 

Luckily I’m back, feeling rejuvenated and ready to work through my backlog of reviews and with some fresh ideas for bookish posts. A week away has made me realise how much I enjoy writing down these thoughts, how it clears my mind and leaves me feeling as though I have achieved something that day, something productive, as opposed to just mindlessly watching TV each night. However, balance is important and sometimes life will get in the way and there is nothing better than riding with it and living in the moment. Oh, and see below for coming reviews and my current read.

 

Peace out. X

 

Screenshot_2016-04-27-21-33-11-1

Burial Rites – Hannah Kent

After hearing so much about this book around the place from reviews and friends I was excited when I finally got the chance to pick up Burial Rites. In particular considering it was written by a local author who attends the same university I studied at. Its great being able to support local writers, especially when their debut is this good. Burial Rites is a fictional narrative based on true events surrounding the last woman to be executed in Iceland. Many of the characters names and all the locations in the book are real. The amount of research the author would have put into writing as accurately as this would have been considerable but definitely pays off. The character, their actions and their personalities are fictional.

 

Kent describes hauntingly beautiful scenery in the novel showing a true passion for Iceland. A friend mentioned that part of what drew her into the book so much was how accurate the depiction of the Icelandic landscape was having travelled there herself. For me, it just makes me want to go and visit Iceland immediately. Kent paints a picture of a desolate and unforgiving landscape with a deadly beauty to it. You need to work together and fight to survive.

 

The characters she has built around the historical names were all fascinating and draw you in. Each is complicated and layered, none of them all good or all bad. Margaret, Toti and of course Agnes were all favourites. In particular I loved the way Agnes slowly told her story over the course of the novel as she became more comfortable in her surroundings. I appreciate that Kent has taken this infamous name along with all the stories and accounts labelling Agnes a witch, a murderess and created a more ambiguous character showing her humanity, making her real. The slow reveal of that fateful night made for a fast-paced read that had me entranced. The multiple perspectives used across the story along with the excerpts from letters, your documents and poems kept each chapter fresh and unique.

 

Overall I immensely enjoyed this novel and would definitely recommend it to anyone. For a debut novel it had beguiling descriptions that took hold of you and wrapped you up in the story making you want more until you finally had brought the story to a close. I give Burial Rites four snowflakes from the beautiful yet harsh landscape that is Iceland.

 

Screenshot_2016-04-10-21-33-05-1

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter – Kim Edwards

Over the years I have picked this book up and put it back down again countless times in different book stores. Interested but not quite motivated enough to actually purchase it and read it. Then recently in our work book club of sorts my colleague put it forward. She had read the Memory Keeper’s Daughter years ago, enjoyed it and had a copy to lend me. The story is intriguing: A doctor forced into delivering his own baby on a story winter night in the 1960s discovers that not only is his wife having twins but the second twin, a daughter, is born with Down’s Syndrome. He sends his nurse to take the baby away to a home telling his wife she died at birth but the nurse take the baby and raises her as her own. The novel follows their lives over the decades, watching the twins grow, observing the consequences of their actions.

 

This book confronts some serious themes of keeping secrets, regret and guilt, morality and ethics. The main character, Doctor David Henry, makes the fated decision that will affect his life from that day onwards. He created this secret, a void between him and his wife, which eats away at him day by day. His motives behind his decision are clear and I immediately understood where his decision came from and had some genuine sympathy for him and his wife. The book jumps through the years visiting the central characters at each time point and we truly being to learn the effects of the guilt and regret on relationships in the future.  The ethics behind his decision are complicated and although you know they are wrong you can understand the though processes and of course,back then was a different time. I enjoyed these aspects of the book giving me something to think about beyond the story on the pages.

 

The characters in themselves were fascinating and intricate from Doctor Henry and his wife Norah and son Paul to the nurse Caroline Gill raising Phoebe. I appreciated the story being told from the perspectives of each of the characters across time. Understanding each character’s thoughts and actions was an integral part of the book and I enjoyed the format. My only criticism was that considering the focus of the book was Phoebe having been abandoned due to her Down’s  Syndrome and that Caroline spent her years fighting for Phoebe to be given equal rights as other children I found it disappointing that she was not afforded the same rights in the book. We didn’t get to see any chapters from her perspective. It would have been fascinating to have read her thoughts, her perceptions of the world. I felt like her character was let down and not given an equal opportunity in the book.

 

At times I found the story meandered a little off the track of the story and could have been a little more powerful if it focused more on the key elements of the plot. Truth be told there was just a little something missing for me in the end. I did not fully connect with the  characters and I think this was a defining factor that stopped me truly loving the book. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the story and would definitely recommend reading it, I just don’t think it will be one I need to revisit. Overall I give this book three kittens for Phoebe.

 

Screenshot_2016-04-10-21-34-10-1

Throne of Glass – Sarah J. Maas

This series has been popping up all over the place with so many people recommending it and giving it great reviews. Even my mum has a copy, which this past Easter I decided to borrow. After hearing so much about these books it was finally time to give them a go. I initially had a more serious book lined up to read but when it came down to it, the end of the long weekend, all I wanted was something easy that I could envelop myself in and just enjoy. Enjoy it I did because I finished Throne of Glass in less than 18 hours, including a full nights sleep. It was just what i craved at the time.

 

My favourite genre as a child and teenager was YA fantasy novels and I lost count of how many times I read my favourite Tamora Pierce books. Reading Throne of Glass was just like taking myself back to my younger days and I just loved it. Yes, I’ve read some YA books such as Red Queen and A Thousand Pieces of You and even adult fantasy such as The Name of The Wind in recent times but this book was like returning home. Comfortable with a semi-familiar storyline. Part of it may have been slightly cliche, a love triangle obvious from the very beginning, a sinister king, the charming prince with more to him than meets the eye and the tough guy with a heart of gold. However, these “cliches” were well written and flowed with the story, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

 

The best part of all was the kick-ass protagonist, Celaena. She was great! A female character who kicks butt and is as deadly as they come with plenty of sass to hand out. Yet, she enjoys the feminine side of life, dressing up and attending parties and has her softer side (and loves books!). I loved her character and instantly felt connected to her and the supporting characters around her. I immediately cared about their well-being and their outcomes. Not to mention the love triangle: Chaol or Dorian. I look forward to seeing the relationships develop over the coming books.

 

Throne of Glass was a great read and I’m looking forward to going out and not only purchasing my own copy of the book but buying the entire series to binge read the next time I have a quiet weekend. A great story that left me wanting more. I give this book three (probably three and a half) of Chaol’s rings for Celaena.

 

Screenshot_2016-04-10-21-28-15-1

A Thousand Pieces of You & Ten Thousand Skies Above You

I read both of these books in succession and decided the easiest way to review them would be to combine them in to one review. First of all can I just say how amazing the cover artwork is and I’m not at all ashamed to say that was a big part of what drew me to these books. I’m glad that the covers captured my attention because I loved these books and devoured them both in the few days over the Easter break.

 

I loved the concept of the multiverse and alternate dimensions. I thoroughly enjoy fantasy novels but also relished stepping out and trying a sci-fi based series. Gray created a truly captivating story and some excellent universes to boot. I can only imagine the fun she had in coming up with all the different dimensions. Russiaverse, warverse and oceanverse are all so different and intriguing and I looked forward to seeing what she came up with next. All unique, all with their quirks and catches, I loved the surprises in each new dimension.

 

The characters are interesting and likeable. Not super complex and layered but you find yourself caring for them and getting caught up in their lives and hoping for the best for them. Yes, there is a slightly cliche love triangle. Yes, you initially think one of the love interests initially is a bad guy and shock, horror, he isn’t. I don’t even feel this is a spoiler because I don’t think I even believed it from the beginning. I guess there are a few cliched elements to this series that some people may not like but I loved them. I found the story well written and a great example of a YA series, so these things are to be expected and in my case thoroughly enjoyed. Although Team Paul or Team Theo is a tough one!

 

I loved the romantic notion of fate and how it was part of a scientific theory. It is a beautiful concept that the author introduces. The idea of people being fated to knowing and even loving each other in each dimension was adorable. I like that the concept is not quite so simple in the book and the theme is still being investigated in the plot, I expect continuing into the next one, due out later this year.

 

Another great aspect of the novel that really got my mind pondering was the subject of ethics across dimensions. Are people essentially the same across dimensions? How do their personalities differ because of different environmental factors? How much does it shape each character in their own dimensions? If these differing factors truly make them a different person where is the line between cheating? Are you cheating on you partner even if it is the same body but a distinct persona in another universe? Not to mention when you inhabit the alternate you’s mind in another dimension you are responsible for their actions. Is it fair to make decisions that may affect their body or mind in the long term? All great questions, so much to consider and I feel it added some extra depth to a fairly light and easy YA novel.

 

Overall I lovd both of these books. The characters, the multiverse, the plot. If you want an easy to read, yet mentally stimulating YA series I highly recommend trying A Thousand Pieces of You and dare you to not immediately want to read Ten Thousand Skies Above You. The only danger is finishing both of the books and not being able to wait for the next instalment. I give Claudia Gray’s Firebird series four of Marguerite’s pencils for her artistic flair enduring across the multiverses.

 

Screenshot_2016-04-06-22-21-47-1

The Natural Way of Things – Charlotte Wood

For a book with a beautiful, flowery cover this book was anything but light and pretty. If I had to describe this book in five words it would be “Female Lord of the Flies”. Two girls wake, drugged and confused on a remote property in outback Australia, kept in by a monstrous electric fence. They quickly learn that they aren’t the only women in this predicament, in fact eight other women join them in this misery. Why and how they got there isn’t yet clear but with a violent unbalanced minder and his offsider’s the girls are left terrified.

 

This book I found truly captivating and finished within 48 hours. The reasons for the girls imprisonment is a mystery that is slowly, yet not fully revealed. Part of the intrigue of this novel is that not everything is clearly explained even by the conclusion of the story and you are left to piece together your impression of what really happened. Who imprisoned the girls? And why? Wood has created a terrifying, vivid landscape that is where nightmares come from and has woven an intricate narrative around how the human spirit survives in high stress situations.

 

Each of the ten captive girls has their own method of protection from the physical and psychological torture that they have suddenly found themselves in. Each seems to have a different obsession to focus their energies upon in order to distract themselves from their pitiful situation. Some obsess over physical cleanliness (as much as you can wearing the same clothes day in day out over months with no sanitary products and hard labour), others find consolation in day to day activities such as stoking the fire and tending the cooking pot. Hallucinations and insane attachments to makeshift child toys keep the distractions interesting.

 

Verla and Yolande are the two protagonists of the novel. We learn some of their background leading to their current situation and find how different they are for each other. As vast as their differences are they develop a camaraderie helping each other through the harrowing situations also dealing with the trauma in their own unique ways. Yolande turns to the role of hunter, providing their girls and their captors with rabbit meat to survive. Vera slips into hallucinations and delusions to keep herself sane. At times you think they are almost the most sane of the group of imprisoned girls. Other times their decisions shock you, in particular the last ones we witness at the conclusion of the story.

 

This book will stay with you long after you finish reading the final pages. There is much to ponder within the conclusion of the story for the characters, as well as the larger themes of the book. In particular a current debate that even I have felt affecting me and my daily life. I give this book four of Verla’s magic mushrooms and urge you all to give this book a go and will leave you with a particularly strong passage from the book to contemplate.

 

Would it be said they were abandoned or taken, the way people said a girl was attacked, a woman was raped, this femaleness always at the centre, as if womanhood itself were the cause of these things? As if girls somehow, through the natural way of things, did it to themselves. – Charlotte Wood

 

Screenshot_2016-03-29-21-00-09-1

The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden – Jonas Jonasson

Well it finally happened, I came across a book this year that I actively did not enjoy. I tried, I tried really hard to enjoy it. I had heard good things prior to reading it and Jonasson’s first novel comes highly acclaimed but unfortunately The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden just was not my cup of tea. In short this book follows Nombeko, a South African girl who starts her life in the slums and things go from bad to worse when she is hit by a drunk engineer and sentenced to working off her debts to him for seven years. Lucky for Nombeko she is incredibly smart and schemes her way out of service and into Sweden. There she runs in to Holger Two, the twin who technically doesn’t exist thanks to his crazy obsessed father. Throw in an atomic bomb, an idiotic brother and Israeli Mossad agents and you have a lot things that can go wrong and go wrong they did.

 

My first issue with the book was there was a lot of political background of not only the countries where the story was set but of the whole world at the time. I understand that the political climate of the time was related to the plot but I found the excessive detail distracting and irritating at times. I also wasn’t a fan of the tone of the novel. I can appreciate how other may enjoy it and in a different novel I may enjoy the style but the detached conversational tone seemed to jump from one thought process to another and go off on tangents than seemed to get further and further away from the original story.

 

While there were a range of vivid and intriguing characters in the story I found the protagonists were hard to get to know beyond a superficial level. Not once did I find myself truly feeling for Nombeko and Holger. They didn’t seem to want their life together enough to go out there and get it together. Instead they ambled along from problem to problem. There was no passion, no zest and I found it difficult to really care about their outcome. The range of supporting characters were loveable and hilarious but they could’t make up for the other shortcoming of the novel for me.

 

My last issue was that the whole novel just seemed like a comedy of errors. One thing went wrong after another to the extent that it all just seemed ridiculous. How can so many things go wrong for two people? I found myself forcing the last part of the book down feeling exasperated when the next problem occurred. I really hope that I’m missing some big message in the overall story, something that ties it all together as I hate being so negative about a book. I can appreciate how people will enjoy it, the style just did not suit me.

 

I give the Girl Who Saved The King of Sweden two of the diamonds that initially brought Nombeko luck, if only it had continued.

 

Screenshot_2016-03-22-20-48-21-1