Thursday, 26 November 2015

From a High Tower (The Elemental Masters, #11)

From a High Tower
by Mercedes Lackey

Pages: 320 pages, paperback

Publication: June 22, 2015/Titan Books

Source: eARC

When a man is caught stealing from a walled garden owned by a strange woman, he bargains away his youngest daughter in return for food for his family. The woman, rumored to be a witch, takes the golden-haired child and locks her away in a high tower. Sixteen years later, Giselle has lived an isolated life, but her adoptive mother has trained her in Air magic, and Giselle must use her new skills on a quest to avenge her broken heart...

I was expecting great things from this. Mercedes Lackey is a goddess in fantasy fiction, so I stumbled in expecting to be awed. How wrong I was. I thought that with so many books under her belt that she'd have flawless writing and pacing, and no flat characters, but there you go.
I'm writing this weeks after I'd read it, and I honestly couldn't read her name, until I looked the information on Goodreads.

Basically, Giselle, being the best shot in all the land (of course..... *eye roll*) gets taken in by a circus troop. Among the troop are a bunch of Native Americans touring with the hopes of getting enough money to buy back their land back in America. I'm not sure I want to comment on the way that these Native Americans are treated, since I'm not one myself. I'lll leave it up to the Native Americans to decide for themselves.

Three quarters of the book was detailed description of Giselle's life in the circus, from the travelling, to the cleaning of her guns, to every single conversation, and every single circus performance. It was tedious and so so boring. I was expecting a retelling of Rapunzel, yet those features only show up in the first dozen or so pages of the book, and during the very rushed ending.

All in all, I was severely disappointed. And due to this book being her, like, 20th or even 30th book, I don't think I'm interested in reading anything else by her.

 two sad clouds

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Review: The Thief

The Thief
by Megan Whalen Turner

Pages: 280, paperback

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Date Published: December 2005 (first published in 1996)

Source: library


The king's scholar, the magus, believes he knows the site of an ancient treasure. To attain it for his king, he needs a skillful thief, and he selects Gen from the king's prison. The magus is interested only in the thief's abilities. 
What Gen is interested in is anyone's guess. Their journey toward the treasure is both dangerous and difficult, lightened only imperceptibly by the tales they tell of the old gods and goddesses.

"I can steal anything," so says Gen, the best thief in the land, yet he can't steal himself from prison. When the magus decides to free Gen on the condition of finding a rare, ancient artefact, Gen has no no other choice than to comply.

I think the world building is on point. It is so rich, and the fables of the gods and goddesses feel real and magical. I want to immerse myself into the world, stay there forever. Which is awesome that there are several more books in the series.

This is the kind of book where nothing happens for the first hundred pages, except for the party traveling from point A to point B, much like in Lord of the Rings. If you don't mind that sort of thing, then this book is for you; if not, you'll have to slog through the walking and talking and even more walking parts.

I found the second half of the book to be lacking. I wasn't interested in the adventurous path of the party, I was more interested in the journey. There was just something about Gen being by himself, without the constant companionship of his travel buddies, that was just lonely and monotonous. By himself, Gen was a flat character who boasted to be able to steal things, but we don't actually see it, we're merely told it.

I just couldn't find myself liking it as much as everyone else did, which is a shame, because I'd been looking forward to this for a long while.

3 stars

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Review: The Beast's Garden

The Beast's Garden
by Kate Forsyth

Pages: 429, paperback

Publication: August 3rd, 2015, Random House Australia

Source: library

A retelling of The Beauty and The Beast set in Nazi Germany 
Kate Forsyth retells this German fairy tale as an historical novel set in Germany during the Nazi regime. A young woman marries a Nazi officer in order to save her father, but hates and fears her new husband. Gradually she comes to realise that he is a good man at heart, and part of an underground resistance movement in Berlin called the Red Orchestra. However, her realisation comes too late. She has unwittingly betrayed him, and must find some way to rescue him and smuggle him out of the country before he is killed.The Beast's Garden is a compelling and beautiful love story, filled with drama and intrigue and heartbreak, taking place between 1938 and 1943, in Berlin, Germany.

I'm a huge fan of Kate Forsyth, so I was eagerly awaiting this release.

At first I was a bit weary about this, thinking it would romanticise Nazism, but thankfully--and this is not a spoiler, it's on the back of the book--the nazi soldier is a spy working to assassinate Hitler.

As always, her writing is gorgeous, though this time I noticed that she used colours to describe noises, and noises to describe colours, which I found artistic and appealing, since the main character, Ava, is a singer.

But unfortunately, the story failed to grip me. It felt like a traditional romance from the 80's: I love him, but he's a monster, but he's actually just a good guy after all. (The amount of bodice rippers I read with that sort of plot structure is ridiculous).

Despite my qualms with it, it was a good book. With her gorgeous prose, and her main characters (the rest of the characters got lost in a jumble of German sounds in my head, unfortunately), this book really was a beauty. It's just not something I'd expected after Bitter Greens or Wild Girl. It showed the war within Germany, showing how Germans treated each other during the war: the betrayal, the loss, the unknowing terror. I was mesmerised by how much pain this book showed in both the camps--where most WW2 books are set--and within the very world it all started.

As for the Beauty and the Beast retelling, you'll find none of that here. He was never a beast, it was always love at first sight, blah blah blah.

The end was rushed, a swift storm of telling instead of showing which gave me vertigo after Ava's impossible and intense show of bravery.

I'm confused as to how I feel about it. On the one hand, it's a Kate Forsyth book; on the other, it just didn't make me feel much.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Feature Follow Friday 21/08

Feature Follow Friday is hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read, and is a way to meet and greet new followers.
So hello any new followers! Feel free to say hi on this post.

If you could have any animal in the world as a pet, what would you pick? Fictional ones count too! - Suggested by Book Cat Pin

I would love to have a fox; they're my favourite animals ever. In the next state over there's a charity that adopts and rehomes foxes, and I so so so sooooooo wish I lived there. Either that or pay $9000 for a domesticated fox from Russia >_>

What about you guys? Any thoughts on foxes as pets?

Friday, 14 August 2015

Feature Follow Friday 14/08

Feature Follow Friday is hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read, and is a way to meet and greet new followers.
So hello any new followers! Feel free to say hi on this post.

If you could have an endless supply of food what would it be? - Suggested by Not Tonight, I'm Reading
If I could have an endless supply of tacos and tea, my life would be complete.

What about you? What foods couldn't you live without?

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Review: Retold: Six Fairytales Reimagined

Retold: Six Fairytales Reimagined
edited by The Book Smugglers

Pages: 145, ebook

Source: bought ebook

Publisher: Book Smugglers Publishing

Released: December 25th, 2014

From Beauty and the Beast to Scheherazade, and Baba Yaga to the North Wind, fairy tales have inspired readers for generations. In Retold, six fables from across the globe are re-imagined--with a subversive twist. This anthology collects six short stories from diverse, feminist, and original perspectives. 
- Hunting Monsters by S.L. Huang
-In Her Head, In Her Eyes by Yukimi Ogawa 
- Mrs. Yaga by Michal Wojcik 
- The Mussel Eater by Octavia Cade 
- The Astronomer Who Met the North Wind by Kate Hall 
- The Ninety-Ninth Bride by Catherine F. King 
These aren't your storybook fairy tales.
Hunting Monsters:
This was a story that attempted to define the boundaries between good and evil in monsters and humans alike. It describes a world where otherkin have the same rights as humans, whether they're monsters or not. This is a story based loosely on what happens after Little Red Riding Hood, and Beauty and the Beast.
What I loved most about this story was the deviation from a traditional family setting. Xiao Hong lives with her mother, and is raised by both her and an estranged woman whom she calls Auntie Rosa. This alteration in the traditional family setting, as well as creating a Chinese main character in a white, traditional world creates a richer world and makes her mother a far more complex character than previously believed.
Loved it. 5/5 stars

In Her Head, In Her Eyes
Hase is a woman with a pot over her head, covering her eyes. As such, she is ridiculed not only by her fellow servants but the wives of her masters. She comes from the Island, where patterns are made up and people are born with them. Hase has been sent to get inspiration for pattern ideas.
This was certainly an imaginative tale, a retelling of a Japanese tale that I've never heard of.
This story changed tones very quickly, and I found that to be jarring at some points, and as a result, I'm giving it 3/5 stars.

Mrs Yaga
I love that this story uses Polish words; it makes me feel right at home, just like Uprooted did. It also explores a mother-daughter relationship that isn't fully noticeable until the very end, when Aurelia realises that Yaga is sending all those boys on hopeless quests because she knows they're not good enough for her daughter.
It's very reminiscent of Brave, in which the daughter claims herself, instead of letting a boy do it for her.
4/5 stars

The Mussel Eater
This is a retelling of a Maori myth, which is a category I'm very unfamiliar with. Even so, the tone of the story feels ideally exotic and foreign, yet still familiar enough that I can understand some of the concepts (with Australia being so close to New Zealand).
The story is utterly seductive, with food being a way to seduce--and ultimately, shackle--the Pania. Food is the focal point of the story, with Karitoki attempting to lure the Pania with cooked food and rubbing her with scented oils in a way to humanise her, to make her his. The ending is wonderful, paying homage to the imagery of food, and is a delightfully dark feminist twist.
5/5 stars

The Astronomer Who Met the North Wind
I wasn't too much a fan of this story. It was mainly the constant telling versus showing. That sort of thing feels jarring to me, and I've never really liked it.
The sotry felt rushed, and while it was a beautiful premise with interesting characters--I loved the tricksy North Wind--it never felt fully formed to me.
I liked the honesty of the story, of Minka being defiant of all the people who try to dissuade her from being an astronomer because of her age or because of her gender. Her resistance to this wall of negativity is what drives the story, and I really liked the strength and will she displays.
3/5 stars

The Ninety-Ninth Bride
This was the longest tale, and once again, relied on telling instead of showing. As a retelling of the 1001 Nights, of course there's going to be some quick recapping of some of the stories, but it just felt so derivative. The big reveal at the end, though, was what made it stand out.
4/5 stars

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Review: Finding Audrey

Finding Audrey
by Sophie Kinsella

Pages: 288, paperback

Publisher: Doubleday Children's

Publication Date: 9th June, 2015

Source: library


Audrey can't leave the house. she can't even take off her dark glasses inside the house.
Then her brother's friend Linus stumbles into her life. With his friendly, orange-slice smile and his funny notes, he starts to entice Audrey out again - well, Starbucks is a start.And with Linus at her side, Audrey feels like she can do the things she'd thought were too scary. Suddenly, finding her way back to the real world seems achievable.
Be prepared to laugh, dream and hope with Audrey as she learns that even when you feel like you have lost yourself, love can still find you . . .

I have severe anxiety. Leaving the house is sometimes a dreaded chore. Talking to people makes me want to cry. Everything feels too much in my brain.
This is how Finding Audrey feels, as well. And it's amazing to finally find a character who is like me in so many ways. To be honest, my anxiety isn't near as bad as Audrey's, but anxiety is anxiety, no matter how bad.

I kept tearing up at how real her struggle is, because I know what it's like to have a panic attack. I know what it's like to avoid eye contact. I placed myself in Audrey's shoes and it was a brilliant experience.

Audrey's anxiety makes her unable to look people in the eyes, so she wear big, dark glasses everywhere, even inside the house. Her struggle is real and poignant, and it hurts so much because I know where she's coming from.
I can't look people in the eyes properly, I get shaky when someone talks to me, even if it's a loved one, and I stutter when I speak to people because the words just don't want to come out. I understand her pain, and it makes the novel all the more realistic. It's obvious that Kinsella has researched for this book.
There is one segment in the book where Audrey decides to stop taking her pills, just out of the blue. It takes a careful eye--one that perhaps only someone who takes pills would notice--but her behaviour becomes more erratic and unpredictable. This is the first time in a novel I've seen someone praise the use of medication for mentally unwell people. Most of the time, they stop taking their pills and are all better, but here, Audrey learns that she needs her pills to keep her stable. This was a big selling point for the book.

Other stellar mentions were the writing: it was fun, lighthearted, and I could barely put it down. This is such a brilliant book, and I love love love it. It's made me want to read more of Sophie Kinsella's books.

Cover: 4
Plot: 4
Writing: 5
Characters: 5
Investment: 5 

4 stars!