Thursday, 30 March 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Mask Of Shadows

Title: Mask Of Shadows
Author: Linsey Miller
Published by: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication date: 5th September 2017
Format: Kindle
Source: Netgalley ARC

I have mixed emotions about this book. 

It's probably more of a 3.5 stars for me. 
I hovered over 4 stars for a while, but ultimately it was lacking a certain something that would have pushed it higher. 

It was interesting and gripping at times, yet also quite dull and confusing at others. 

These are our characters:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, and 23. 

And:

Ruby, Emerald and Amethyst. 

Confused?
I was!

Characters 1 through 23 also wear masks over their faces, so we are given no recognisable physical features either. (Except for 23, who is our main character)
Throw in some background characters with long, similar names and my brain just gave up. 
I mostly skimmed over who was who, and who was doing what until I got further through the book and we had less characters to deal with. 
A tournament to the death will do that thankfully!

The plot was interesting though. 

The story focuses on an audition for the job of 'Opal' - one of the queens skilled, deadly protectors and assassins. 
23 people are trying to win this job and to do so they must attend lessons on fighting, poisons, healing, archery and such, all while trying to kill each other off and not get caught doing it. 
The rules kept being changed and new tasks were thrown into the mix constantly. This kept the story interesting and tense. 

The main character, 23, was also quite interesting. 
I enjoyed how the book dealt with and explained the characters gender fluidity:
"Most everyone else wanted me to pick one, make addressing me easier on them my denying myself. I was already dressing so they could get it right. The least they could do was try. I didn't see why I had to choose."
"Address me however I look." I was both. I was neither. I was everything, but that wasn't exactly a friendly conversation between strangers trying to kill each other."
I haven't come across this in a book before and it was refreshing and nicely done. 
(at least in my opinion, but I have no real-life experience of this so please correct me if I'm wrong)
Yet, I felt like it didn't really add anything at all to the story. It didn't effect anything or anyone in any way. 
It was simply mentioned a few times and then forgotten about. 

23 also came across as quite big-headed and arrogant to me. This may have been totally intended, but I didn't like this aspect of the character so much. 
"Emerald and Amethyst would fail. But I was more... I was a thief and a killer, trained by a childhood of fear and violence."
Yes... because you're obviously going to be more skilled and deadly than the two characters who have shown throughout the whole book that they are better at everything than you. 
The characters that have been training you. 
23 needs a reality check!

I didn't feel like there was much character growth for the main character throughout the book, which I would have liked to see. 
23 goes into the audition arrogant and overly sure of themselves, and they come out of it exactly the same way. 
And I would have liked the chance to get to know some of the other auditioners a bit better.
I wanted to know who they were, why they were there, what their motivations were. 
I understand this is probably hard when everyone is dying with masks on, but it would have been nice. 

I am kind of excited to see what will happen in the next book though, so I'll definitely be checking that out in the future. 
And hopefully it won't be full of numbered characters with sacks on their heads. 
*fingers crossed*


Monday, 27 March 2017

Wolfwalkers - Irish folklore, myths, wolves and movies

"Wolfwalkers tells the story of 11-year-old Robyn Goodfellow, a young apprentice hunter who comes to Ireland with her father to wipe out the last pack of wolves. Her life changes though after she saves a native girl, Mebh, which leads to her discovery of the Wolfwalkers and transforms her into the very thing her father is tasked to destroy."

This beautiful new movie comes to us from Tomm Moore, who also brought us the amazing 'Secret of Kells' and 'Song of The Sea' - which is one of my all time favourite movies.
His visual style is noticeable straight away in this concept trailer and definitely connects it to his two previous films. 
The hand-drawn look of the movie is very important, as different techniques have been used to express different moods and to show the difference between characters. For example, army members are drawn in a woodblock style, while the wolfwalkers and animals and drawn in a freer, more expressive way.
“When we see the world from the point of view the wolves, it’s animated in charcoal with a very limited palette and color only where there are scents. In contrast to the block print style in Kilkenny we have a much looser look to the forest — lots of ink splats and loose watercolors and scribbly pencil lines.”



The animation takes inspiration from traditional block print artwork and is set in Ireland in the 1600's during the civil war. This was a time when religion was fierce and wolves were seen as demonic - leading to lots of folklore and myths surrounding them.

Wolves feature prominantly in lots of Irish folklore, so it's nice to see them coming to our screens now too.
One traditional Celtic tale tells of a group of people who have been cursed to turn into wolves every seven years, and must wait seven more before turning back into humans again. There are many more wolf transformation stories related to Irish folklore and myth too.

This movie is full of Irish folklore and history and is set in the same area as the base of the animation house creating it; keeping it very local and authentic!



If you absolutely loved 'Song of The Sea' (like I did), then this is definately one to watch out for!

And if you haven't seen Tomm Moore's other movies yet (WHY NOT?!), then be sure to check them out before this future gem comes out!
They're magical, steeped in folklore and myth, and completely beautful too! 

Sunday, 26 March 2017

BOOK REVIEW: A Crown Of Wishes (#2)

Title: A Crown Of Wishes
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Published by: St. Martin Griffin
Publication date: 28th March 2017
Format: Kindle
Source: Netgalley ARC

Read my review of the first book in this series HERE

I'm so disappointed that I didn't like this book anymore than the first one.
I have no idea why I expected to? But I did.
It sounded like the story had so much promise, but it just failed to enchant me. It didn't whisk me away on a magical adventure that I could feel myself drowning in.
And that's what I wanted.

The story felt like one huge rush to me.
Things conveniently happened at the right time, and people went along with things without question.
I thought it was unrealistic and lacking a lot of character and world building.

The start of the story focuses on Gauri and Vikram making their way to 'The Otherworld' where they plan to take part in a magical tournament where the winner receives a wish.
These two characters are from enemy kingdoms yet must work together in order to survive.
Sounds great, no?!
It wasn't great.
The constant 'banter' between these two characters was grating and irritating, and their journey seemed rushed with little explanation.
Vikram secretly frees Gauri from the prison where she is being held so that they can enter the tournament and she goes along with it soooo easily. She originally thinks she's going to be killed, but instead she is informed that magic exists and that they're traveling to the mystical Kingdom of Treasures so they can try to win a wish from the King there who also happens to be married to a river.
Does she question this?
No, not really.
She's all "oh okay enemy Prince who I have no reason to trust. Let's go." And off they rush.
And rush, and rush, and rush.

Things do slow down a little once the tournament begins.
And we have some beautiful and interesting imagery through poetically written descriptions.
The folklore and creatures were interesting (when is folklore not interesting?), and the settings are rich and beautiful (if a little confusing).
Yet things are still a little silly, odd, and not questioned.

At one point this happens:

Gauri - "when should we arrive?"
Yakshini - "The floor will turn to fire, my lady. That will be your signal to leave the room."
Gauri - "And when does the tournament start?"

HOLD UP!!!
Why is no one questioning this floor turning to fire business?!
I would be freaking out!
Is this a normal occurrence?
Won't they burn to death?
Why can't they just ring a bell or something?
I have so many questions!

Admittedly the scary fire floor does turn out to be formed out of cool flames.
But no one knew that before fire sprung to life under their feet!
Yet they all act like it's completely normal and expected.
What?

I also found the romance extremely unbelievable.
The two characters go from enemies who can barely stand each other, to being madly in love and besotted with each other over just a few short days.
A week maybe?
Maybe just over a week?
I'm unsure as time kept being conveniently skipped and lost so that the story could progress.
But it definitely was not a believable amount of time.

My favourite part of this book was when Kamala turns up.
Yay Kamala the human eating, demon horse returns!
But she was only around for about 2 or 3 pages *sigh*
And I did enjoy briefly seeing Maya again too, and she seemed way less annoying and stupid this time around. Hurrah!
But again, that was only for a couple of pages.
And I did like Aasha. She was probably the best character in this one by far!

I really didn't enjoy the first book in this series either, so I have no idea why I expected things to change this time around.
At least we did have a bit more of a plot this's time around. And this instalment may have been a little less annoying perhaps? The characters weren't quite as stupid as I found Maya to be in The Star-Touched Queen. But I still didn't love them or really care about what was going to happen to them.

At least this book doesn't take very long to read?

Unpopular opinion #1 goes to me!


Friday, 24 March 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Red Sister

Title: Red Sister
Author: Mark Lawrence
Published by: Harper Voyager
Publication date: 6th April 2017
Format: Kindle
Source: Netgalley ARC
"A book is as dangerous as any journey you might take. The person who closes the back cover may not be the same one that opened the front one."
Oh my gosh guys!
This book is immense. 

It has danger and fighting and adventure and magic and mystery and intrigue and swords and poisons and ice and powers and friendship and bravery and nuns. 

What more could you ask for?!

Nothing. 
You could ask for nothing more. 

The story follows Nona as she is given away by her mother and eventually ends up at the Sweet Mercy convent training to become a Red Sister. 
But Red Sisters aren't your average type of nun. 
Oh no!

While at Sweet Mercy Nona and her friends learn how to fight with fist, blade, arrow and spear. 
They learn about the world and all its mysteries. 
They learn how to brew poisons and create the antidotes all while trying to avoid being sneakily poisoned themselves by their teacher. 
They learn how to connect to the Ancestor and in turn learn patience, clarity and serenity. 
They learn how to weave shadows and pull the threads that connect all things. 
And they learn about The Path. 

I want to become a Red Sister. 
Please?!

Nona and her friends face many trials and dangers throughout this story and it never once got boring. 
The whole book sped along in one big heap of awesome!
The story and world were completely fascinating; I was hooked from the very first page. 

All of the characters we meet are so varied and interesting. 
Nona herself is incredibly likeable and easy to empathise with. She's brave, fierce, wild, and a true friend. Yet she's also scared, untrusting, secretive and violent. 
I loved her. 
In this story we have fierce friends, kindly teachers, terrifying enemies, sneaky liars and everything in between. 

You'll find no catty girl-girl hate here. Which is so refreshing
We see a flicker of some towards the start, but both parties quickly realise they're being stupid and decide to be friends instead.
YAS! Thank you Mark Lawrence!
There are also no signs of any heterosexual relationships. Though there are plenty of lesbian ones (a convent full of lonely girls? Yes, this would definitely be the case) and also some hints that our main character Nona may also be gay. Which I desperately hope to be the case! 

The world we are thrown into felt so real and fleshed out. 
From the cities and convent buildings where lessons took place, to the freezing wilds of the Corridor and dark underground tunnels. It was written amazingly well and now my life's goal is to gain admittance to the Sweet Mercy convent. 
I want to learn from the Sisters, have warm steamy baths, try to walk the whole of the blade path, visit the library with Sister Kettle, and go out on a ranging in the icy winds. 
Why is this world not real?!
"They're my babies. My old leathery babies. And I have a very unpleasant poison from Sister Apple for anyone who so much as folds a page." - Sister Kettle
I love my old leathery babies too Sister Kettle. 
And my new papery babies as well. 
I would totally poison anyone who harmed my books!
Sister Kettle knows what's up!

I am desperate to dive back into this world again as soon as possible. 
The sequel can't come soon enough!
"Your death has not been waiting for your arrival at the appointed hour: it has, for all the years of your life, been racing towards you with the fierce velocity of time's arrow. It cannot be evaded, it cannot be bargained with, deflected or placated. All that is given to you is the choice: meet it with open eyes and peace in your heart, go gentle to your reward. Or burn bright, take up arms, and fight the bitch."

Monday, 20 March 2017

A-Z Challenge 2017


Today is the day that I announce that I shall be taking part in the 2017 A-Z Challenge!


I took part back in 2013 and thought it would be fun to give it another try.
And as a sneaky way to force myself to blog more

If you haven't heard about this then head on over to here to have a little look at what its all about, and maybe you can take part too! 
Its still not too late to join!

Today is the BIG REVEAL, where people taking part in the challenge can let everyone know what theme they will be using for their posts.

 
For my A-Z this year I shall be writing about Folklore & Fairytales

Traditional stories, fables and myths from all over the world!
Maybe with a splashing of mythical creatures thrown in too if you're lucky! 

I want to focus on the less well known tales, or the older telling with more violence, evil and gore! 
Because we all know they're much more interesting!

I'm hoping that we'll learn some interesting and obscure things along the way and I hope that you're willing to join me on this alphabet adventure!

I'll also be carrying on with my book review throughout April as well. Because I definitely won't stop reading, so be prepared for LOTS of blog content this month!

If anyone here is also doing the A-Z Challenge then please leave me a comment and I'll pop on over to take a look at your offerings too :)

Friday, 17 March 2017

BOOK REVIEW: More of Me

Title: More of Me
Author: Kathryn Evans
Published by: Amulet Books
Publication date: 13th June 2017
Format: Kindle
Source: Netgalley ARC

"I have grown in strength inside her. Filled her cells with mine until we must split apart. It's not my choice - that's how it's always been for us."
This is the tale of Teva. 
A girl who splits into two versions of herself every year. 
A girl who lives in a house with all of her previous selves who are never able to age. 
A girl who has chosen to fight to try to keep her life as her own. 

This book was quite an unexpected gem for me. 
I loved the idea of it but had no idea that I would enjoy it quite as much as I did. 

The story is written so well that I struggled to put it down. 
It kept me hooked the whole way through. 
NEEDED to know what was happening!

The author keeps us guessing about the nature of Teva's condition. 
Is it real?
Why does it happen?
Is she crazy?
Can it be stopped?
Who can she trust?
I had so many different theories about what was going on while I read this book. It kept throwing new things at me and making me reevaluate my ideas constantly. 

It was tense and mysterious and confusing and I loved it!

The characters were great and well written. 
All of the different Tevas were distinctly different and interesting. I really enjoyed reading about how their relationships worked and how they all interacted with each other. 
The current Teva was easy to like and sympathise with. 
I loved the fierce friendship between Teva and Maddy. 
Though I do wish there was less emphasis on boys/relationships being the thing that was holding Teva together and getting her through. 

I also enjoyed the interesting moral dilemmas that the current Teva faced once she had split away from 'Fifteen'. 
Was she stealing Fifteens life?
Was it her own life anyway?
Was Ollie Teva's boyfriend or Fifteen's?
Was she the same person?
Was it right that her mum locked all the previous Teva's away and didn't let them live their lives?
Should she bother working towards a future she would never be able to experience? 

I found this to be a really original and gripping story. 
Definitely worth a read!



Wednesday, 15 March 2017

BOOK REVIEW: The Black Witch

Title: The Black Witch
Author: Laurie Forest
Published by: Harlequin Teen
Publication date: 2nd May 2017
Format: Kindle
Source: Netgalley ARC


I just can't with this book. 
I can't. 

I had to stop at 45%. I just couldn't force myself to carry on any further. 
Even getting this far was a struggle. 

This book is sooo problematic. 

I'm aware the author is probably setting it up so that our oh-so-special MC can grow and change and become a better person and probably change the whole bloody world along the way. 
But no. 

It was racist and sexist and just awful. 

Was the author trying to make Lukas Grey seem attractive to the reader?
Because he really just comes across as a privileged, entitled, douche bag. 

When Elloren first meets him he hurries her away to a dark corridor within the first 5 minutes because she's never been kissed and he needs to rectify this right away apparently. 
No. 

When Elloren asks him to show her some magic what does he do?
Make some magic flowers for her?
Put on a beautiful, impressive display?
No. 
He wraps her up in dark tendrils of magic and pulls her to him forcibly. 
Gross. 

And then later after Elloren has just said she needs to stay away from him and is LITERALLY stepping backwards away from him, he 'binds' her with a spell to pull her closer to him and starts getting all kissy-kissy with her neck and chuckling. 
No, no, no!
She just said no to you dude!
Not okay!

All of the females were bitchy and catty and hating on each other. 

One of the main tensions in the book is Elloren and a nasty, bitchy girl fighting over the terrible Lukas Grey. 

Certain races were slaves, sold him cages, described as 'deranged hordes' and 'half-breeds'. 
Our charming Lukas threatens their families (including a 5 year old child!) because they hurt poor, precious Elloren. 

What with all the racism, classism, arranged marriages, and such I couldn't give this book anymore of my time. 

Not to mention it's incredibly dull and slow. 
Nothing seemed to happen. 
And all that nothing happened at an incredibly slow pace. 
I just didn't care about any of it other than how offensive it is. 

I'm totally aware that Elloren will probably realise the error of her ways at some point in the story. 
But at 45% in I feel like she should already be making strides towards this?
Not still hating everyone of a different race to her and judging other girls for being 'ugly'. 
Come on. 

No thank you.



Monday, 13 March 2017

My top 5 dystopian novels.


I love a good bit of dystopia!
Who doesn't?
(Well, probably loads of people don't, but shhh!)

Here are my top 5 picks!










Have you read any of these? 
If so, what did you think? 
If not, then WHY NOT??? Go read them right now!!! RUN!
...and then let me know what you think of them :)

What's your favourite dystopian novel?

Sunday, 12 March 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Strange The Dreamer

Title: Strange The Dreamer
Author: Laini Taylor
Published by: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication date: 28th March 2017
Format: Kindle
Source: ARC


Oh my gosh.
This book!

I don't even know what to say.

It was everything I was hoping for and so much more!

It has everything:
Orphans, libraries, magical cities, grand adventures, mysteries, danger, dreams, impossible feats, alchemy, vengeance, love, Gods and monsters.

And the characters!
THE CHARACTERS!!!

They were all so perfect and flawed and even more perfect because of those flaws!
Sometimes I hated the heroes
At other times I felt sympathy for the nasty ones.

No one was evil without cause and reason.
No one was a hero without suffering.

Some characters were both hero and villain.
It was perfect.

And can we take a second to talk about Lazlo.
Lazlo is a DREAM.
He is perfect and I want to hug him forever and listen to him tell me magical stories from far off lands.
I'll bake him cakes and we can be BFF's.

And Sarai was so heatbreakingly lovely.
And damaged.
And kind.
And confused.
And brave.

Even the romance was perfect.
And coming from me that's a pretty big deal because I normally hate pretty much all romance in books.
(I'm a heartless reader apparently)
But not with this book!
Oh no!
This was beautiful, moving, achingly lovely.

I actually had no idea this was part of a series until I reached the end.
I thought it was a stand-alone novel.
When I realised that there will be more I screamed.

More of Weep and magic and Gods and dreams and mystery and hope and fear and adventure.

I can't wait!

 

Saturday, 11 March 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Annihilation

Title: Annihilation
Author: Jeff VanderMeer
Published by: Fourth Estate
Publication date: 30th July 2015
Format: Paperback
Source: Library


This was a hard one to rate for me.

It would have been a solid 4 stars if the ending had of been better.
Different.
With more explanation and finality.

I understand that there are more books in this series and the author may not want to explain things in more detail until later, but I was just left wanting so much more.
needed to know more!

The first 3/4 of the book was so strong.
It was mysterious, dark, scary, confusing (in a good way) and all terribly interesting!
Yet it all seemed to just fizzle out towards the end with a lot of waffle and not much actual explaination.
Lots of big words strung together in a beautiful way masquerading as plot.

I am not fooled you tricksy book! 

And the sections that focused on our main characters marriage were just dull.
Less of that please!

I am as yet unsure about whether or not to carry on with this series...
I desperately want to know the secrets of Area X, but I don't think I can cope if book two has the same amount of explanation as this first instalment. 

Watch this space I guess?



Friday, 10 March 2017

The Moon Rabbit

Have you ever looked to the night sky and felt sure you could see a rabbit on the moon?

If so you've been lucky enough to see Tsuki no Usagi.
The Moon Rabbit from Japanese folklore!

This myth is extremely ancient, originating in India and China, making its way over to Japan along with Buddhism and from there blending into the local Japanese folklore.

It is said that the dark spots we can see on the moon's surface resemble the shape of a rabbit pounding mochi (sticky rice sweets) in his pestle and mortar.
Though in China he is believed to be mixing a potion of eternal youth.


Here is a version of Tsuki no Usagi's origin story:
"Many years ago, the Old Man of the Moon decided to visit the Earth. He disguised himself as a beggar and asked Fox (Kitsune), Monkey (Saru), and Rabbit (Usagi) for some food. 
Monkey climbed a tree and brought him some fruit. Fox went to a stream, caught a fish, and brought it back to him. But Rabbit had nothing to offer him but some grass. So he asked the beggar to build a fire. After the beggar started the fire, Rabbit jumped into it and offered himself as a meal for the beggar to eat. 
Quickly the beggar changed back into the Old Man of the Moon and pulled Rabbit from the fire. He said "You are most kind, Rabbit, but don't do anything to harm yourself. Since you were the kindest of all to me, I'll take you back to the moon to live with me." 
The Old Man carried Rabbit in his arms back to the moon and he is still there to this very day exactly where the Old Man left him. Just look at the moon in the night sky and the rabbit is there!"


During Japan's moon viewing festival, children sing to the Moon Rabbit and ask:

‘Why are you only staring at the moon? You should be jumping up to it! Don’t sleep, the party’s just beginning!’

It is said that the Moon Rabbit is sometimes hard to see due to the smoke still coming off his body from his time in the fire. 


The Moon Rabbit also features in Aztec mythology too. In this tale a god throws a rabbit at the moon to dim its light, so that it won't outshine the sun. This is why you can see the shape of a rabbit on its surface. 


Have you ever seen Tsuki no Usagi yourself?

BOOK REVIEW: Bone Gap

Title: Bone Gap
Author: Laura Ruby
Published by: Faber & Faber
Publication date: 29th December 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Library

** spoiler alert ** 

I was ultimately and unfortunately a bit disappointed with this book. 

I love a bit of magical realism but this example just fell a bit flat in my opinion. 

The "magic" seemed to serve no real overall point. 
It was just shoved in here and there to pad out the plot a bit. 

Roza could quite easily have been kidnapped by a normal man who prized her for her beauty and kept prisoner in a normal house instead of a confusing magical realm. 

A lot of the "magic" was confusing to be honest. 

What was the corn about?

I thought they said that scarecrows were used to scare the corn instead of crows. 
So why was the the kidnapper called The Scarecrow?
Did he scare the corn?
And what about the crows?
Were they magic?
Why did they help de-toilet paper Finns yard?
Who gave Charlie Valentine the horse?
How come Charlie Valentine is like 500 years old?
WHAT is he?! 
What's going on?!?! 

I did enjoy the parts about face-blindness though. 
I thought those parts were very cleverly written. 
After it was revealed I flicked back to earlier sections about Finn and how he saw the world and said "oh yeah!" to myself a lot. 

I also quite liked the message that women are more than just their appearance. 
It would have been even nicer if there were more girl-girl friendships/relationships (or even conversations!) going on. 
WAY better if Roza had been allowed to save herself and if Petey had realised she didn't need ANYONE to think she was pretty to be happy. 

Can we have a new ending where Roza escapes by herself and runs off back to Poland taking Petey with her, and they become BFF's growing vegetables and keeping bees?