Monday, 30 May 2016

Book Review: Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg

Why I read this: Requested and received via NetGalley. I was unsure about getting it because her Paper Magician series had so much potential, but a main character that ruined the books.

Genre: Fantasy

In a Nutshell: Magic, some violence, romance

Would suit fans ofAimee Bender and Amie Kaufman

Magic Bitter, Magic SweetMagic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Marie is 24 with no knowledge of her past, but discovers she can bake emotions into food. Soon she starts to have memories flash back which seem to be from a life so different from her own.

This was a very interesting concept, and a really creative story. I just found it too slow and I really had to push myself through to the conclusion. Holmberg has so much potential that I probably will continue to read her books, even though I always find myself a little frustrated with them.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Thursday, 26 May 2016

Book Review: Trapped by Kevin Hearne

Why I read this: Book 5 in the series and I am really enjoying it.

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Mythology

In a Nutshell: Fun series, some swearing, violence but not graphic

Would suit fans of: Jim Butcher and Ilona Andrews

Trapped (The Iron Druid Chronicles, #5)Trapped by Kevin Hearne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think there is always a risk setting a book so far in advance of the book before. In this case, it is 12 years after the events in Tricked, so I'm not quite used to Granuaile being a Druid.
This book concentrates on her needing the final act in her apprenticeship ; being bound to the earth and receiving the tattoos, but of course some Gods have worked out that Atticus is still alive and so mayhem and action ensue.
I enjoy the humour in these books, and Oberon is priceless. I think I will need to read the novellas between book 4 and 5 though because I feel like I missed out not having any info on those 12 years.

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Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Book Review: Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet by H.P Wood

Why I read this: I requested and received a copy from NetGalley. I thought the cover was awesome and the description really interesting. It is hard to resist a carnival novel!

Genre: Historical Fiction with a dash of magical realism

In a Nutshell: Coney island, plague, lots of death and some graphic scenes

Would suit fans ofJessie Burton and Alice Hoffman

Magruder's Curiosity CabinetMagruder's Curiosity Cabinet by H.P. Wood

Set on Coney Island in 1904, this story follows an unlikely group of friends as the island is thrown into quaratine due to an outbreak of the plague.
Although there is some historical basis for the book, the plague never did hit Coney Island (or the east coast of the US), so for the most part this is a work of fiction about what may have happened if it did
So, if not exploring historical events what is this book about? There is a quote that I highlighted
"...But here on Coney Island, we learn to take each other as we are"

and for me this is the overriding theme and purpose of the novel. We have such an interesting bunch of characters including a man with no legs, a young boy with a flea circus, a con artist, a politician's son, and English lady, a leopard trainer, a "half and half" (one side male, one side female) and even an automaton. This doesn't even cover all of the characters, who call themselves "unusuals", but gives you a flavour of whom you will meet.

Towards the end of the book there is quite a bit happening, and I think that the sheer volume of characters did the book a disservice as the end felt like it was a rushed attempt to let the reader know what happened to everyone. However, I did really enjoy this novel and felt like I was on Coney Island right along with them.

3.5 stars

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Book Review: Talon by Julie Kagawa

Why I read this: I've never read any of Kagawa's books, but they are quite popular. I saw this was available from the library on audio and the synopsis sounded interesting

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

In a Nutshell: Dragons, love triangle, fight for good v evil

Would suit fans of: Marie Lu and Sarah J Maas

  Talon (Talon, #1)Talon by Julie Kagawa

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This reminded me of Legend but with dragons. I suppose it was the rotating POVs between the male and female main characters and the idea of fighting for something and then discover that perhaps you are actually the enemy.

Talon is the first book I have read by Kagawa and I thought it was a solid, if formulaic, YA Fantasy novel. At times the female MC really got on my nerves, but I also think it was probably a realistic portrait of a naive 16 year old girl. The love triangle is nicely set for book 2 and I think this is an easy series to like and read, even if predictable.

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Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Book Review: Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier

Why I read this: This has been on my Goodreads "to read" list since 2012 and I read it this year as part of my reading challenge to clean out the TBR closet.

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

In a Nutshell: Quest, good v evil, high fantasy

Would suit fans of: Garth Nix and 

Shadowfell (Shadowfell, #1)Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In a world where those with magic have gone undergound, been killed, or forced to do work for the King, 15 year old Neryn unexpectedly finds herself on a quest to find the elusive Shadowfell where those with magical gifts can be safe.
This is high fantasy for young adults and very much a quest storyline. It is also a series where the books are all just parts of a whole and don't stand alone. So this book ends with no real conclusion, which is not the kind of series I really enjoy. I also found Neryn a bit frustrating and didn't really feel much of a connection to the characters.
I don't think I will continue with the series, but I can understand its appeal to young adults, particularly those new to Fantasy.

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Monday, 23 May 2016

Book Review: Real Murders by Charlaine Harris

Why I read this: I have really enjoyed Harris' more recent work and I was able to get this from the library on audio so I thought I would give the series a try

Genre: Cozy Mystery

In a Nutshell: Small town USA, serial killer murder mystery

Would suit fans ofJanet Evanovich, Elly Griffiths

Rating: 3 stars

Real Murders (Aurora Teagarden, #1)Real Murders by Charlaine Harris
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a good little mystery from Harris, but it does show how much she has developed in her writing over the years. 
I think her ability to develop characters with just something a little "off" is one of the best things about her books, and this story didn't quite have that, but nonetheless it had very good characters in a small US town. I will continue the series to see how it develops

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Sunday, 22 May 2016

Book Review: Orphan Number 8 by Kim van Alkemade

Why I read this: It was chosen as a Book of the Month at NBRC.

Genre: Historical Fiction

In a Nutshell: Early 20th century New York, medical ethics, LGBT themes

Would suit fans ofSusan Meissner, Elizabeth Wein

Rating: 4 stars

Orphan Number 8Orphan Number 8 by Kim van Alkemade

Lovely debut historical fiction novel exploring the Jewish orphanages in New York, and the ethics around medical experimentation on people without consent or knowledge that they are in an experiment.
Rachel and her brother Sam are suddenly orphaned in 1919 and are separated when taken to into the Jewish orphange system in New York where Rachel unknowingly becomes part of a medical experiment. Years later, in the 1950s, Rachel discovers the truth when she meets with one of the Doctors who was responsible for the experiment and so the novel weaves its way through the past 40 years of Rachel's life.

There is a lot to like about this book. The historical fiction element is interesting and perhaps not widely known and can create good discussion about medical ethics - somewhat like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. In addition is a very human story though about family and relationships and the impact of others on our life. The characters are well crafted and the pacing of the story leaves you wanting more, even when the subject becomes difficult to read.

I will be looking forward to more of Kim van Alkemade's work in the future.

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Saturday, 21 May 2016

Book Review: Uncanny! by Paul Jennings

Why I read this: I needed a book starting with U or with a U character to complete my Eurovision Reading Challenge.

Genre: Middle Grade Humour

In a Nutshell: Humorous Short stories with a supernatural bent

Would suit fans of: Andy Griffiths

Rating: 3 stars

Uncanny! (Uncollected)Uncanny! by Paul Jennings

Cute set of short stories told with Jennings' trademark humour and easy style.
This is a perfect book for that 8-12 year age group that want books which are fun and easy to read with a side of spooky or supernatural.
The audio narration is also very well done and at less than 4 hours would be great for a road trip with the kids.

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Friday, 20 May 2016

Book Review: Emerald Green by Kerstin Gier

Why I read this: It is book three in the trilogy and these books work really well for reading challenges. In this case, I needed a green cover that also started with E or had a character with a name starting with E. So.. tada!

Genre: Young Adult Sci-Fi / Fantasy

In a Nutshell: Time travel, conspiracy theories (need to save the world), romance is insta-love

Would suit fans ofMarissa MeyerSarah Rees Brennan, Gail Carriger

Rating: 2 stars

Emerald Green (Ruby Red Trilogy, #3)Emerald Green by Kerstin Gier
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Just when I didn't think Gier could make Gwendolyn any more irritating, along came book three.
This series had so much potential, but was really a great idea poorly executed.
I'm sure there are loads of people that love the "Insta-Love" stuff, but add to that the ENDLESS babbling about it from our main character and it really ruined this book for me. I also agree with some other reviews, that it really didn't feel like there was enough material for three books, and so this one dragged quite a bit.

I still think this could be made into a very good TV series with the right casting and some good screenwriters to make Gwendolyn much more likeable. Also, to try and extend the time period as all of these events over 3 books supposedly happen in only a week?

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Thursday, 19 May 2016

Book Review: Earthly Delights by Kerry Greenwood

Why I read this: I loved the Phryne Fisher series and was intrigued to read more of Greenwood's work

Genre: Cozy mystery

In a Nutshell: Strong female heroine, Melbourne setting, interesting characters

Would suit fans of: Charlaine Harris, Janet Evanovich

Rating: 4 stars

Find more about this book on Goodreads here

Having read an loved the Phryne Fisher books, I started this with trepidation. Could Greenwood really make another series with the same level of fun and humour ? Well, the answer is, absolutely!

Corinna is a fantastic heroine. She is a mature woman who is self confident, funny, runs her own bakery and loves her cat. She is also surrounded by some pretty off-beat characters which combined together makes for a great read. There are a few comparisons with Phryne (independent woman, open minded, loves to take baths), but the time period being completely different creates a whole new setting and personality for this new MC.

For what I think is a perfect way to sum up this book, check out Teri-K's review here. I'm looking forward to continuing the series!

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Book Review: Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner

Why I read this: I think I added this to my "to read" list back in 2012 based on a review in the weekend newspaper

Genre: Young Adult Sci-Fi, Dysopia

In a Nutshell: 1984 for a modern audience

Would suit fans ofDeborah Install, George Orwell, Lois Lowry

Rating: 4 stars

Find more about this book on Goodreads here

I an alternate 1956, Standish Treadwell lives in a society much like today's North Korea. He and his Gramps try to eke out an existence in "Zone Seven" while the Motherland is set to attempt a moon landing to show the rest of the world how almighty and powerful they are.

This book just throws you into this world with no preamble or lengthy descriptions. The chapters are short, sometimes not even a whole page, and throughout the novel is a bit of a side story told with graphics of small insects/rodents at the edges of the pages. I found this novel, at times, a bit head-scratching, but also completely engaging. You will start and finish it the same day. I suppose dystopia that is well done never gets old, and this book is unique in its simplicity. 

There are some graphic scenes and foul language, so I would aim this more at older teens.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Book Review: Mary Bennet by Jennifer Paynter

Why I read this: I read a review for this a few years ago and it intrigued me as an alternate viewpoint to Pride and Prejudice

Genre: Historical Fiction, Retellings

In a Nutshell: A retelling (or is that fan fiction?) of 
Pride and Prejudice all from Mary's point of view

Would suit fans of: Jane Austen

Rating: 3.5 stars

Find more about this book on Goodreads here

I enjoyed this take on Pride and Prejudice which is all from Mary's point of view. Although she really only has two main scenes in the original novel,so the author has quite a bit of freedom to create a life for her during this time period. New characters and storylines were provided that sat outside of the purview of Elizabeth and Jane and that also meant that thank fully we were saved from too much of Mr Collins and Lady Catherine De Bourgh!

A lovely book for fans.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Book Review: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Why I read this: This first came to my attention when it was nominated in the Goodreads Choice Awards in 2014. The cover is very eye catching!

Genre: Young Adult Sci-Fi

In a Nutshell: Two rotating points of view, romance, sci-fi suspense

Would suit fans ofBeth RevisMarissa MeyerSarah Rees Brennan

Rating: 3.5 stars

Find more about this book on Goodreads here

Lilac is the heiress of the richest man in the world, and Tarver is a young and decorated soldier. Told through alternating POVs, we join Lilac and Tarver as they become the only survivors of a spaceship incident which has them stranded on an unknown planet.
Coming from very different backgrounds, Lilac and Tarver don't find much to like in each other at first and the novel reads very much like Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas from the movie "Romancing the Stone". This first part of the novel was the most enjoyable to me as there is humour and suspense. As the novel gets towards the end, it does drift a little into YA love story-ville where declarations of love and angst can be a little drawn out and I didn't enjoy the last part of the novel as much. 
So wavering between 3 and 4 stars I think it is a 3.5

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Book Review: When We Were Alive by C.J. Fisher

Why I read this: I requested and received this from Netgalley. I like contemporary fiction and the synopsis appealed to me. It was published on March 1, 2016 so I was a little behind in reading and reviewing. 

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

In a Nutshell: Families, relationships, not an uplifting book

Would suit fans of: Julian Barnes

Rating: 3 stars

Find more about this book on Goodreads here

Final thoughts? Colour me confused.
To begin, this book is letters from Myles in 2011 to his mother he has never met. It is not a spoiler to tell you that he was adopted and his adoptive parents were honest with him very quickly that he was adopted. Then we jump back to 1936 and follow the story of Bobby and Rose, with Myles' letters making an appearance as we flip back and forth between the two timelines.
Unexpectedly at about 40% we are introduced to 1972 and William and Dawn.

As we get close to the end of the book the connection between these characters starts to become apparent, but I found myself trying to remember who-was-who and when ; and with an ebook it is not as easy just to flip back and remind yourself. In hindsight, I wish I had been prepared for all the characters and timelines and kept notes on them. Because by the end I found myself stumped as to what had happened and shaking my head. I will have to find a review with spoilers in it to answer some of my questions I think!!

Still, I thought the writing was well done and the author has a large vocabulary so the kindle dictionary function came in handy ;). I would probably try more of Fisher's work in the future, but perhaps next time I will read a few more reviews before I start to ensure that I have a better idea of what I am in for.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Why does E=mc²? by Brian Cox and Jeffrey R.Forshaw

Why I read this: Every so often I grab an interesting non-fiction audiobook from the library. I like Brian Cox's style on TV so I decided to try this to see if made the subject just as accessible in a written form.

Genre: Non Fiction

In a Nutshell: Physics for dummies

Would suit fans ofStephen Hawking

Rating: 4 stars

Find more about this book on Goodreads here

If, like me, you never really "got" physics in school, but find yourself watching documentaries by Prof. Brian Cox and others regardless, then this is the book for you. I would also recommend it to teenagers as a good introduction to physics before they get bogged down in all those theories and equations in school.
There are times that my brain was still playing catch up with what was said, but most of the time that was because I was too busy thinking "Wow!" or "Whaaaaat?! That's amazing!". I will definitely read this again in the future.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Book Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Why I read this: NBRC Book of the Month. I remember when it was nominated in the Goodreads Choice Awards and was always on the fence as to if I would read it.

Genre: Contemporary Young Adult 

In a Nutshell: Story about two best friends, Glbt themes

Would suit fans of: Jennifer Niven and Celeste Ng

Rating: 3.5 stars

Find more about this book on Goodreads here

This was an easy enough "coming of age" story about two very different friends ; Aristotle and Dante. I found the style of the book interesting - it is all from Aristotle's point of view and sometimes the chapters are quite long when he is feeling good, and others when he isn't are quite short. I also enjoyed the development of the characters. 
I didn't LOVE it, but it also wasn't a bad book. I guess it just doesn't stick out above many other YA books I've read on similar topics. It does have an amazing cover though :)

So don't read this part if you haven't read the book.

I didn't really believe in the ending. It felt forced to me that the parents were the ones to enlighten Ari, and to be honest, I was a little surprised at their announcement, but also their conviction of what Ari's feelings are. I didn't really ever feel like Ari had explored his sexuality and then was just told. It was a bit abrupt and I didn't finish the book convinced that Ari and Dante would stay together.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Book Review: No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July

No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July

Why I read this: For a reading challenge I needed a book with a yellow cover. They are surprisingly difficult to find! Even more so when you need a yellow cover that also starts with N!

Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Short Stories

In a Nutshell: Short stories, foul language and general 18+ content, author narrates audio

Would suit fans of: Possibly Jenny Lawson

Rating: 2 stars

Find more about this book on Goodreads here

I'm wavering between 2 and 3 stars because some of these stories were really funny, off-beat and original. Others were just crass and unnecessary.
One of the things I didn't like about the audio version is that Miranda narrates it herself (which I usually LOVE it when authors do that), but because they are short stories, and she keeps the same almost monotone voice for every MC it means the stories can just slide into each other and some of them seemed a bit too much same-same.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Book Review: The Royal Ranger by John Flanagan

The Royal Ranger by John Flanagan

Why I read this: Book number 12 in the series, and I think the last in the series :(

Genre: Young Adult, Middle Grade, Adventure/Fantasy

In a Nutshell: Friendships, coming-of-age, adventure, fictional middle-ages setting

Would suit fans of: Rick Riordan, Eoin Colfer

Rating: 4 stars. This book was back to the series' best

Find more about this book on Goodreads here

If you haven't yet started the series, then I recommend it for easy, fun reads. They start off with Will as a tween and are Middle Grade books, and as the series progresses and Will ages, the audience for the books does too.
This was a very fitting ending to the series, I'm so glad Flanagan decided to write this book. It takes us well into the future with Will as an experienced Ranger taking on a new apprentice. It was able to capture the magic of the first books so well, and the narration by William Zappa is great, as always.

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Book review: You Were Here by Cori McCarthy

You Were Here by Cori McCarthy

Why I read this: Accepted by NetGalley. Published 1 March, 2016 so I was a little behind

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

In a Nutshell: Unique, friendships, coming-of-age

Would suit fans of: E. Lockhart, Rainbow Rowell, Melina Marchetta

Rating: 4 stars. 3.5 for the story and an extra half for the addition of a few graphics

Find more about this book on Goodreads here

Five years ago, Jaycee's daredevil brother, Jake, died in a freak accident. In her grief and anger she has become a difficult person to like and doesn't connect with others easily. Every year she meets up with Mik, who was a friend of her brother, to try and remember Jake, but it is obvious she is still not moving on.

Told through rotating POVs of five teenagers, this books concentrates on friendships and relationships and the difficulties in making and maintaining these. It is a coming-of-age story as these older teens try and work through their feelings about Jake's death, and each other, before moving out of town and on to College.

I wasn't sure about this book to begin with as I really didn't like Jaycee. But, that is quite intentional, as it seems not many people like being around her either! As the book progresses it does become easier to like her and feel empathy for her. I found that by about 50% whenever I put the book down I would start wondering what the characters would be up to next. And therein lies why this book is a real winner. You don't feel like an observer, rather a silent participant to this short period in the lives of these five very different characters. 
Two of the POVs are told through graphics. Mik's sections are all short comic strips and Bishop's are graffiti art. This was a really interesting way to convey their feelings, and once you start the book and get to know the characters, you realise how fitting and very clever this is.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest view
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