Thursday, 31 July 2014

Review: The Scar by China Miéville

The second Bas-Lag novel form the author of Perdido Street Station, an epic and breathtaking fantasy of extraordinary imagination.

A human cargo bound for servitude in exile.

A pirate city hauled across the ocean.

A hidden miracle about be revealed.

This is the story of a prisoner's journey. The search for the island of a forgotten people, for the most astonishing beast in the seas, and ultimately for a fabled place - a massive wound in reality, a source of unthinkable power and danger...

The Scar.
Reading Format: Kindle eBook
Year read: 2014
Star Rating: 5 stars

This is the second book in the Bas-Lag series. It's not like other fantasy series where the setting and characters are the same in all the books. Mieville always likes to do things differently. So in this series, all of the books are set in the same world, Bas-Lag, but the setting and characters are completely different. So personally, I don't think it matters too much which order you read them in. The events in The Scar happen after that in Perdido Street Station but you don't need to have read Perdido in order to understand the goings on in The Scar.

I loved Perdido so much. I think I rated it 4.5 stars and the only reason it didn't get the 5 was because it was very very descriptive and took an age to read. So I was expecting more of the same with this book but I was pleasantly surprised. This book could easily have been very wordy especially because we had new characters, a new setting and several new alien races introduced. Mieville really hit the right balance with descriptiveness in this one. Or maybe I'm just more used to his writing style now. Either way, I was gripped by the story straight away, I couldn't put it down and I read it much quicker than the first one (this one is much shorter though).

The story focuses on Bellis Coldwine, who has fled New Crobuzon on a ship destined for one of its colonies. Bellis has been recruited as an interpreter as she is able to speak various different languages. The ship she is on is full of a real mix of people, including a large number of Remade. While on route, their ship is commandeered by an agent of New Crobuzon and then quite quickly besieged by pirates. The ship and its crew are taken to Armada, a huge floating pirate city in the middle of the ocean. It's dark, seedy, unsettling and dangerous for the newly arrived. This city was described beautifully and I have a great imagining of what it looked like and what it must have been like to live there. It was great being there during the book but it's a place I'd definitely stay clear of in reality!

So on Armada, those who are still loyal to New Crobuzon are locked up while the others are given jobs and a wage to help grow the society. Everyone is equal. While they are free, they cannot leave Armada. Ever!

Then the craziness begins and I can't even begin to explain what went on. It's all good though. If you like pirates, mythical sea creatures, alien races, strange magical/technological machines, double crossing, and sea battles then you'll love this book. I did! And I have to say that I enjoyed it much more than the first book in the series. I can't wait for the third, Iron Council, which I have just bought.

The Scar: View on Amazon || View on Goodreads

Related posts:
Review: Perdido Street Station by China Miéville

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Review: Splintered by A.G. Howard

This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.

When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.
Reading Format: Kindle eBook
Year Read: 2013
Star Rating: 5 stars

I chose to read this book as part of a challenge - I had to read a book by a debut author. I looked at the Goodreads list for 2013 debut authors and this was the only one which really jumped out at me - perhaps because I really liked the cover!

Prior to seeing the list of debut authors and their books, I hadn't heard of Splintered so I had no expectations of what it would be like. Obviously, I read the synopsis of the book and saw that it was a retelling of Alice in Wonderland, but other than that, I wasn't sure what it was going to be like. I'm so pleased I chose this one as I was fully engaged straight away. I thought the world building was great and the characters were great too.

I really liked Alyssa, the main character, whose perspective the book is told from. She was very quirky, keeping electric eels and trapping and killing bugs for her art to name but a few. Later in the book we find out why she focuses on those things in particular.

I also liked the focus on mental health and the happenings in the psychiatric hospital in which her mother Alison was residing. It would seem that the women in the family, who all descend from Alice Liddell, the inspiration behind Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, have all in the past developed mental health problems of some kind and been institutionalised and Alyssa will do anything to stop that from happening to her. She already hears bugs and flowers talk so she is determined to get to the bottom of it even if it means entering Wonderland and throwing out the window what she thought was reality. Loved it!

Towards the end, I got a little lost but I think that was just my attention waning as I was probably listening to it while doing something which perhaps required slightly more attention than just washing up!

I listened to the audiobook and I thought the narrator was very good, although her attempt at an English "Cockney" accent had me smiling every time I heard it!

I will definitely read the follow up book in the series at some point.

Splintered: View on Amazon || View on Goodreads

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

First Chapter - First Paragraph - Tuesday Intro: Miss Peregrine's School for Peculiar Children

First Paragraph - First Chapter - Tuesday Intro is hosted by Bibliophile By the Sea.

I am currently reading and listening to Miss Peregrine's School for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.

"I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen. The first of these came as a terrible shock and, like anything that changes you forever, split my life into halves: Before and After. Like many of the extraordinary things to come, it involved my grandfather, Abraham Portman.

Growing up, Grandpa Portman was the most fascinating person I knew. He had lived in an orphanage, fought in wars, crossed oceans by steamship and deserts on horseback, performed in circuses, knew everything about guns and self-defense and surviving in the wilderness, and spoke at least three languages that weren't English. It all seemed unfathomably exotic to a kid who'd never left Florida, and I begged him to regale me with stories whenever I saw him. He always obliged, telling them like secrets that could be entrusted only to me."

Miss Peregrine's School for Peculiar Children: View on Amazon || View on Goodreads

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Monday, 28 July 2014

Mailbox Monday (3)

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at Mailbox Monday blog.

Well, I was doing so well this week not buying any books at all and then I went and blew it last night and bought three books for my kindle. This week has been a shocking week of news what with the Malaysian Airlines plane being shot down, the mounting tensions in Ukraine, and the devastation in Gaza, and I had started to feel pretty overwhelmed by it all and extremely helpless. So I thought I'd try a bit of retail therapy to see if it might take the edge of things a bit. Only a quick, short-term fix unfortunately but hey ho! Do you use the excuse of "retail therapy" to buy books?

So while the retail therapy wasn't all that therapeutic, reading them will be. The main reason I read is for pure escapism, which is why I mainly read fantasy and science fiction - because I know that the events are definitely made up and not based in reality. Reality can suck at times. What do you get from reading?

Here is what made it in to my house this week for future reading:

Personal Kindle Purchases:

The Eye of the World: View on Amazon || View on Goodreads
Iron Council: View on Amazon || View on Goodreads
The Republic of Thieves: View on Amazon || View on Goodreads

Books for Review on NetGalley:

Age of Iron: View on Amazon || View on Goodreads
The Steampunk Trilogy: View on Amazon || View on Goodreads

I've already started reading Age of Iron - so far so good!

Related Articles:
First Chapter - First Paragraph - Tuesday Intro: Age of Iron

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Review: The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness

The extraordinary happens every day...

One night, George Duncan - decent man, a good man - is woken by a noise in his garden. Impossibly, a great white crane has tumbled to earth, shot through its wing by an arrow. Unexpectedly moved, George helps the bird, and from the moment he watches it fly off, his life is transformed.

The next day, a kind but enigmatic woman walks into George's shop. Suddenly a new world opens up for George, and one night she starts to tell him the most extraordinary story.

Wise, romantic, magical and funny, The Crane Wife is a hymn to the creative imagination and a celebration of the disruptive and redemptive power of love.
Reading Format: Audiobook
Year Read: 2014
Star Rating: 3.5 stars

This is the first Patrick Ness book that I have read. I listened to the audiobook which was narrated by Jamie Glover. The narration was fantastic as was Ness’ writing.

I thought the book started really well with getting to know George who encounters an injured crane in his garden and then the story line changed and George’s daughter and her friends were introduced and I was left feeling a little “off track” and left wanting to know more about the original strain of the story. It did make its way back to George though and him meeting Kumiko, whom he falls in love with.

It kind of reminds me of The Snow Child in which a little girl “appears” out of nowhere when a couple build a snow girl in their garden. Magic or coincidence? I was left wondering throughout whether Kumiko was the crane, or was the crane foretelling the arrival of Kumiko or love in general, or was it just coincidence. I like books like this which do not always tie up everything and leaves it open to the readers interpretation – it allows it to be magical and not at the same time.

I loved the joint art projects that George and Kumiko come up with and the enthusiasm of everyone towards them. I so wish I could have seen them!

The main thread of the story is interwoven with the story which Kumiko tells of the crane wife through the art tiles she has created. I found that my mind wandered quite a bit when the story changed from the main thread to this one. I’m not sure why really because it was captivating and magical. Because of my wandering mind, I feel that I may have missed some of the symbolism of this story and the parallels between it and the main story.

I really enjoyed the book but I was struggling to rate it after I had finished, mainly because while reading it one minute I thought this was an amazing book and the next I was lost and wishing the other thread of the story (or character focus) would return. So I couldn’t decide between 3 stars and 4 stars and I’m still not 100% certain on it. I think I might go for 3.5!

The Crane Wife: View on Amazon || View on Goodreads

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Review: The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker

If you were bewitched by The Night Circus…
If you were mesmerised by A Discovery of Witches…
If you were enthralled by Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell…
You will be enchanted by

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master, the husband who commissioned her, dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York in 1899.

Ahmad is a djinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop. Though he is no longer imprisoned, Ahmad is not entirely free – an unbreakable band of iron binds him to the physical world.

The Golem & The Djinni is their magical, unforgettable story; unlikely friends whose tenuous attachment challenges their opposing natures – until the night a terrifying incident drives them back into their separate worlds. But a powerful threat will soon bring Chava and Ahmad together again, challenging their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice.
Reading Format: Kindle eBook
Year Read: 2014
Star Rating: 5 stars

In the synopsis, it mentions that if you liked any of the three books The Night Circus, A Discovery of Witches or Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, then you'd love this one too. If I had based my reading selection on this first part of the synopsis, then I might have passed it by. I loved The Night Circus, I have A Discovery of Witches on my kindle ready to read soon but I had to abandon Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell as it bored me to death! Anyway, I am glad I didn't let this stop me reading The Golem and the Djinni. This book was fantastic!

I have no knowledge of Jewish or Syrian folklore so I found those aspects of the story very interesting.

This book tells the story of a free spirited Djinni who becomes enslaved and trapped in a flask by a wizard and an obedient slave of a Golem set free when her master dies. Both "arrive" in New York, in a world and culture they do not understand, with their true natures limited by their circumstances. They are forced to lie to keep their true nature from the general populace which in itself causes them problems. Then the Golem and Djinni cross paths, they find solace in each other as each know what the other is feeling, although that doesn't mean they see everything eye to eye as after all, they have opposing natures. Then things turn disastrous and they find their lives are on the line.

I really enjoyed the writing in this book. It felt very exotic! And I really liked the characters, I had a really good sense of what they looked like and what they were like as people. I particularly liked the Djinni and the Golem but also the extended cast of characters were very likable too (except the baddie and I despised him as much as I loved the others which is I suppose what you want from a villain).

I thoroughly enjoyed this debut novel by Helene Wecker and I will be waiting with anticipation for her next release.

The Golem and the Djinni: View on Amazon || View on Goodreads

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Review: Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

Locke and his trusted sidekick, Jean, target the grandest prize of all: the Sinspire, the most exclusive and heavily guarded gambling house in the world. Its nine floors attract the wealthiest clientele—and to rise to the top, one must impress with good credit, amusing behavior... and excruciatingly impeccable play. For there is one cardinal rule, enforced by Requin, the house's cold-blooded master: it is death to cheat at any game at the Sinspire.

But someone in Tal Verrar has uncovered the duo's secret. Someone from their past who has every intention of making the impudent criminals pay for their sins. Now it will take every ounce of cunning to save their mercenary souls. And even that may not be enough.
Reading Format: Paperback
Year Read: 2014
Star Rating: 5 stars

This is the second book in the Gentleman Bastards series (and the second Scott Lynch book) that I have read. What a Prologue! It made me want to give up my job so that I could dedicate every waking minute to reading this book to find out what happened! That’s how good it was. I so wanted to find out whether the scene in the prologue was part of one of their hare-brained schemes or whether something had gone so badly wrong to affect Locke and Jean’s friendship so dramatically. The first paragraph of the prologue featured in my first First Chapter - First Paragraph - Tuesday Intro post, so be sure to check it out.

And it wasn't just the prologue. I thought the quarter half of the book started much stronger than the first book and was full of action. I found myself immersed in the world much quicker and it was great to be reacquainted with Locke and Jean. We also had a brief appearance of Chains in one of the “Reminiscence” chapters. These reminiscences in the last book confused me to start off with but then I really grew to like them as it helped build the story and the characters so it was good to see that Lynch was consistent and brought these chapters through in to this book, at least for the first third of the book. And one of my favourite scenes from the first book was included in one of these reminiscences again which was great (Locke as a child travelling on the back of a Gentled goat to see Barsavi with an almighty hangover).

In this book we see how Locke and Jean cope with losing their comrades in arms and set their sights on a new “project” in Tal Verrar. They find themselves in the thick of it, not just in their own long con at The Sunspire Gaming Hall (which makes me think of this book like a Fantasy version of Ocean's Eleven) but also the Bondsmagi catch up with them and they are drawn in to a game which is not of their own making by the Archon of Tal Verrar. They are sent to Sea against their wishes but with very little options given the fact they have been poisoned and must do as they are told in order to keep up a supply of the antidote. Is everyone manipulative bastards on the take in this world? Seems that way! So, new city, new characters and new scrapes for Locke and Jean to get themselves into (and out of). Half of the book is set on dry land while the latter half is set at sea with a good dose of pirate shenanigans. Another great book to the series.

For those of you who loved the first book, you’ll love this one even more and for those who thought the first one was just ok, I’d say give this one a go as I personally thought this was the better book of the two.

Red Seas Under Red Skies: View on Amazon || View on Goodreads

Related Articles:
First Paragraph - First Chapter - Tuesday Intro: Red Seas Under Red Skies
Review: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

First Paragraph - First Chapter - Tuesday Intro: Age of Iron

First Paragraph - First Chapter - Tuesday Intro is hosted by Bibliophile By the Sea.

I started reading Age of Iron by Angus Watson just this morning. In fact, I have read the exact amount as what you have read with this post. It is the first book in a new fantasy series and the author's fictional debut. The book isn't due out until September but I received a copy from NetGalley for review.

"Mind your spears, coming through!"

Dug Sealskinner shouldered his way back through the ranks. front rank was for young people who hadn't learned to fear battle and old men who thought they could compete with the young.

Dug put himself halway in that last catergory. He;s been alive for about forty tears, so he was old. And he wanted to compete with the young, but grim experience had unequivocally, and sometimes humiliatingly, demonstrated that the young won every time. even when they didn't win they won because they were young and he wasn't.

Age of Iron: View on Amazon || View on Goodreads

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Monday, 21 July 2014

Mailbox Monday (2)

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at Mailbox Monday blog.

Here is what made it in to my house this week for future reading:

Personal Kindle Purchases:

Howl's Moving Castle: View on Amazon || View on Goodreads
Dark Eden: View on Amazon || View on Goodreads
The Night Watch: View on Amazon || View on Goodreads

Do you ever regret buying a book after you've done so? I did this week! I bought The Night Watch as it's been on my wishlist for ages and my local library has the follow up books available on ebook. However, the Russian author of this book has been getting himself in to a spot of bother recently by expressing some wild views about neighbouring country Ukraine and banning his books from being translated in to Ukrainian. Do you find it easy to separate the Art from the Author? I generally give a book a go even if I don't agree with the author's views as most of the time their views are not woven in to their books. However, if they creep in then I might not bother with them in the future.

Books for Review on NetGalley:

The Queen of the Tearling: View on Amazon || View on Goodreads
I, Morgana: View on Amazon || View on Goodreads
MaddAddam: View on Amazon || View on Goodreads

I've already started reading MaddAddam as it's the last in the series and I wanted to find out how it all ended.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Review: Perdido Street Station by China Miéville

The iconic first Bas-Lag novel from an award-winning author.

The metropolis of New Crobuzon sprawls at the centre of its own bewildering world. Humans and mutants and arcane races throng the gloom beneath its chimneys, where the rivers are sluggish with unnatural effluent, and factories and foundries pound into the night. For more than a thousand years, the parliament and its brutal militia have ruled over a vast array of workers and artists, spies, magicians, junkies and whores.

Now a stranger has come, with a pocketful of gold and an impossible demand, and inadvertently something unthinkable is released.

As the city becomes gripped by an alien terror, the fate of millions depends on a clutch of outcasts on the run from lawmakers and crimelords alike. The urban nightscape becomes a hunting ground. Battles rage in the shadows of bizarre buildings. And a reckoning is due at the city's heart, under the vast chaotic vaults of Perdido Street Station.
Reading Format: Paperback
Year Read:2014
Star Rating 4.5 stars

I had wanted to read Perdido Street Station for ages so I am pleased I can finally tick it off my list. It seemed to take forever to get through it but I loved every minute of it! It's a long book!

In many ways, the world of Bas-Lag mirrored ours - different cultures/races living in close proximity of each other with prejudices towards the others; corrupt governments and conspiracies; poverty and homelessness; fundamentalists; crime lords and the criminal underworld; drug dealers and users; underpaid and exploited workers and the jobless - basically all the aspects of our world that we could do without! The city of New Crobuzon where this book is based didn't appeal to me at all. It is dark and uninviting and has no mercy on its inhabitants. That said, there are some very likeable characters living there including Lin, Isaac, Derkhan, Lemuel and Yagharek who are the main characters in this book.

For all the similarities to our world, there were a whole host of differences too – steam powered engines, new technology and scientific theories, a plethora of alien races and animals to get your head around which made the world a very complex place to spend time. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it all, but because of the addition of all these alien things to me it took me time to read and digest the story. Although the world is complex and detailed, the story was much simpler so the two balanced themselves out somewhat I thought.

Within the first 20 pages, I had to look up about 15 words which I’d never even heard of let alone know what they meant. This seemed to lessen as the book went on as many of the same words cropped up again. Plus I think I was just becoming more used to China Miéville's style of writing.

I was left feeling a bit dirty after reading this book. I’m not sure how to explain it really. And unsettled. It was a dark tale and seedy too – perhaps that was why it made me feel like this. This isn't necessarily a bad thing though. I did love this book.

How to describe this book?!? Dark and disturbing. Interesting and intriguing. Weird and Wonderful.

I was really torn as to what to rate it - 4 or 5 stars. Decisions, decisions! I loved everything about it so by rights I should have given it 5 stars but because of the complexity of the world with all the descriptiveness (and it was very descriptive but that meant it was firmly fixed it in my mind) which made it a more difficult read for me, I decided to give it 4 stars (on Goodreads as they don't allow for half stars) but on here I give it 4.5 stars!

I have already purchased the second in the Bas-Lag world, The Scar, which I'm hoping to read over the Summer - I just needed a vacation from Bas Lag for a bit before returning. I am quite intrigued about it as it is not set in the same city nor does it have the same characters in it. Looking forward to it!

Perdido Street Station: View on Amazon || View on Goodreads

Friday, 18 July 2014

Review: Paradigm by Ceri A Lowe

What if the end of the world was just the beginning?

Alice Davenport awakens from a fever to find her mother gone and the city she lives in ravaged by storms – with few survivors.

When Alice is finally rescued, she is taken to a huge underground bunker owned by the mysterious Paradigm Industries. As the storms worsen, the hatches close.

87 years later, amidst the ruins of London, the survivors of the Storms have reinvented society. The Model maintains a perfect balance – with inhabitants routinely frozen until they are needed by the Industry.

Fifteen-year-old Carter Warren knows his time has come. Awoken from the catacombs as a contender for the role of Controller General, it is his destiny to succeed – where his parents failed.

But Carter soon discovers that the world has changed, in ways that make him begin to question everything that he believes in. As Carter is forced to fight for those he loves and even for his life, it seems that the key to the future lies in the secrets of the past...
Reading Format: eBook
Year Read: 2014
Star Rating: 3.5 stars

I requested through NetGalley to receive this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This is my first disclosure. My second disclosure is that I am a thirty-something reading a YA book so I am not it’s intended audience.
“You have five minutes of this life left.”
The first line of the book is a great opener and really draws you in. But then just a few sentences later it mentions something about the over thirties which gets my back up.
“If he could keep himself together, then surely the old-timers should be able to manage it. It just confirmed everything he knew about anyone over thirty.”
So a bit of a mixed start for me! Despite the inference that I’m an old-timer, I carried on with the story. ;-)

I really like how the story was told. It is written in third person from two different POVs and two different time frames. Confused? Well there’s no need to be as it’s really well done. Carter Warren, a 15-year old boy, shows us what it’s like in a present day post-apocalyptic world while Alice Davenport shows us how life as we know it changed forever and how the new society was formed. I thought this was quite unique among the dystopian/post-apocalyptic stories out there as we generally see what it’s like after the s**t has hit the fan as opposed to as it’s happening. Each chapter switches POV to progress the story and each story line makes things fall in to place in the other.

While we don’t know exactly what has caused the Storms, it’s obviously global warming related in some way. The Storms came followed by floods then people died. Any remaining stragglers were picked up by Paradigm Industry and taken underground to sit it out until a society could be established above ground again. This is the bit I found scary! Not in a horror story kind of way but that this could happen; Corporations gaining control and being in charge is where we’re heading now. While we still have a government in our country many of the MPs have shares or some other involvement in big businesses and banks, so laws are passed to favour themselves, we have schools sponsored by companies and things being tendered out to private companies such as homeland security and prisons to name just a few.

So Back to the story! 87 years down the line, technology has advanced significantly and people are chosen by the Industry to go back in to the catacombs underground to be frozen in stasis for an unknown period of time to be awakened in the future to bring balance to society. Carter Warren is one of those people who were chosen and frozen just aged 15 to be brought back in the future as a contender to be Controller General, the person in charge of the Industry and Society as a whole.

I forgot to mention that the book is set in London too which I also liked being a Brit myself. There are so many books set in the US within this genre so it's good to see we get our own one now.

Whilst reading, I felt like I was waiting for the obligatory romance to start which always seems to crop up in YA books. But it didn’t happen which was quite refreshing. There were some mentions of crushes and love and the odd kiss and cuddle but it wasn’t the main focus of the story. And no angst!

A few interesting issues are raised in this book. Carter has sex for the first time, aged 15 on his going away party, and gets a girl pregnant with twins. I thought this sends a clear message to the YA audience to practice safe sex and that even on the first time you can get pregnant, although the message is more implied rather than being spelled out. It also briefly addresses paedophilia/sexual assault with Alice being attacked by an old man whilst she was under his care. Difficult topics to broach but they were woven in to the story nicely and sensitively.

I felt that some of the things that happened were predictable while other things happened which were really unexpected (but were good) and blew me away. I also felt that some characters were well thought out and developed, for example Alice and Carter, while others not so and it was difficult to understand who they were and what they stood for. At times things happened and I wasn't sure what, leaving me feeling confused although that eased off as things were explained later in the book.

I really liked that it covered the creation of a post-apocalyptic world and the reasons why they made the choices they did and the omissions they made to society and life. I also get why those restrictions which once worked no longer do when time moves on and why 87 years later people are rebelling against the rules.

All in all I thought it was an enjoyable read. Will I be reading the sequels? I’d quite like to know how the story progresses so I probably will.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Review: Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson

Sisters Vivenna and Siri are princesses of Idris. Susebron is the God King one must marry. Lightsong is the reluctant minor god of bravery. Vasher is an immortal still trying to undo mistakes of centuries before. Magic from individual breath from everyday objects can perform all manner of miracles and mischief.

All revisions of this book starting from the rough draft, except the copyediting stage, were published by Brandon Sanderson under a Creative Commons license and can be read online as well as downloaded from his website.
Reading Format: Audiobook
Year Read: 2013
Star Rating: 5 stars

This is the first book by Brandon Sanderson that I have read (or in this case listened to) and I thought it was fantastic. In fact, I immediately started to read another of his books, Elantris, ater I put down Warbreaker because I liked his writing style so much.

I really liked how he introduced each of the main characters, how he portrayed them - their interests, what they stood for, what they looked like etc. and how the characters progressed and grew as people (and Gods and Returned). The viewpoint shifted between four main characters - Siri, Vivenna, Lightsong, and Vasher, and it alternated between them throughout to progress the story. I always knew who was the focus and each character was very distinct.

Warbreaker tells the story of two princesses of Idris. It was agreed that the eldest daughter, Vivenna, would be sent to marry the God King, Susebron, of the rival nation Hallendren. Instead, the younger of the two, Siri, ends up being sent. Both sisters become involved in very different ways in the events leading up to a war which seems imminent between the two nations.

I listened to the audio book and the narrator (James Yaegashi) was fantastic! He had slightly different voices for each character and I thought they each fitted really well with their personality and the voices were believable too (and not annoying).

I really liked all the characters, even the bad guys, but I particularly liked Siri (one of the Idrian Princesses sent to marry the God King), Susebron (the God King), Lightsong (one of the Returned), and Vasher.

I quickly became engrossed in the story and I loved the magic system that Sanderson created within in. Because the magic system was based on colour, it made the descriptions of objects, places and events very visual which I loved and I had a great imagining and understanding of what the characters and the fantasy world looked like.

Sanderson is a prolific writer and since reading this book, I have read many of his (and have many awaiting my attention on my book shelves/kindle). It's good that he writes a lot as it means that you don't have to wait too long for the next book in a series like some fantasy authors out there. It's looking like Sanderson is going to be writing another book based in the same world as Warbreaker although I don't know whether it is a continuation of the story or not as yet. I eagerly await it's release!

Warbreaker: View on Amazon || View on Goodreads

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Review: Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman

According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (the world's only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner.

So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon—both of whom have lived amongst Earth's mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle—are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture.

And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist . . .

Reading Format: Paperback
Year Read: 2014
Star Rating: 5 stars

I love Terry Pratchett's books. And I love Neil Gaiman's books. So naturally I was really excited about reading Good Omens, a collaboration between these two fantastic authors. It was so good and I really hope that they consider writing another book together at some point as their individual writing styles really compliment each other.

The humour of Pratchett's writing was present as were the footnotes that can be found in his Discworld series. This combined with Gaiman's penchant for creating dark and disturbing tales made this story utter perfection in my eyes.

In this story, a direct descendent of Agnes Nutter, a Witch and prophet, is in possession of a book which contains all her prophecies which are very accurate indeed. The prophecies (and therefore the book) ends on a Saturday with Armageddon. The end of the world is coming about because the Antichrist has been placed on Earth, a young boy placed in the care of a normal human family, and representatives from Heaven and Hell are placed on Earth to ensure that the Divine Plan is kept on track. Lot's of mishaps and confusion results and everyone (on both sides) is left scrambling around trying to avert the destruction of life as we know it.

I loved all the individual characters and there was quite a cast (luckily at the front of the book there was a list of characters for reference although I only used it at the beginning of the book) and I thought they were all really well developed. I really liked Crowley and Aziriphale and I enjoyed how they interacted with each other.

All in all, a fantastically, humorous time was had by me while reading this book!

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch: View on Amazon || View on Goodreads

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

First Paragraph - First Chapter - Tuesday Intro: Red Seas Under Red Skies

I found this book meme idea on the blog Bibliophile By the Sea. As the title suggests, the idea is to post the first paragraph of the first chapter of a book that I am currently reading.

So this is my first First Paragraph - First Chapter - Tuesday Intro.

I am currently reading Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch which is the second book in the Gentleman Bastards series.

"Locke Lamora stood on the pier in Tal Verrar with the hot wind of a burning ship at his back and the cold bite of a loaded crossbow's bolt at his neck.

He grinned and concentrated on holding his own crossbow level with the left eye of his opponent; they were close enough that they would catch most of one another's blood, should they both twitch their fingers at the same time."
Red Seas Under Red Skies: View on Amazon || View on Goodreads

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Monday, 14 July 2014

Mailbox Monday (1)

This is my first Mailbox Monday post.

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at Mailbox Monday blog.

Mailbox? This is not a word I use in my vocabulary. I'm English don't you know! So Post Box would be more appropriate. However I don't have a Post Box! All my post comes through my letter box. So Letter Box Monday it shall be although it doesn't have the same ring to it as Mailbox Monday. Hey ho!

Each week I will post what books have made it through my letter box, come home in my shopping bag with me, or downloaded on to my kindle. I do occasionally still buy paperbacks, especially from the local charity shops, but more often than not, I will buy ebooks for my kindle.

Here is what made it in to my house for future reading:

Personal Kindle Purchases:

Night Watch: View on Amazon || View on Goodreads
Ancillary Justice: View on Amazon || View on Goodreads

Both books are the first books in series. Over the last three months, I have been making a concerted effort to finish off series that I'm currently invested in. It has felt really good to complete these as I now feel able to start some new ones. And there are so many fantasy series out there now.

Books for Review on NetGalley:

Paradigm: View on Amazon || View on Goodreads
The Monster's Wife: View on Amazon

Books from local library ebook/audio resource:

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: View on Amazon || View on Goodreads
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children: View on Amazon || View on Goodreads

In addition to my book acquisitions, I also bought a Kindle Fire HDX and a case.

Kindle Fire HDX: View on Amazon
Kindle Fire Case: View on Amazon

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Review: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

They say that the Thorn of Camorr can beat anyone in a fight. They say he steals from the rich and gives to the poor. They say he's part man, part myth, and mostly street-corner rumor. And they are wrong on every count.

Only averagely tall, slender, and god-awful with a sword, Locke Lamora is the fabled Thorn, and the greatest weapons at his disposal are his wit and cunning. He steals from the rich - they're the only ones worth stealing from - but the poor can go steal for themselves. What Locke cons, wheedles and tricks into his possession is strictly for him and his band of fellow con-artists and thieves: the Gentleman Bastards.

Together their domain is the city of Camorr. Built of Elderglass by a race no-one remembers, it's a city of shifting revels, filthy canals, baroque palaces and crowded cemeteries. Home to Dons, merchants, soldiers, beggars, cripples, and feral children. And to Capa Barsavi, the criminal mastermind who runs the city.

But there are whispers of a challenge to the Capa's power. A challenge from a man no one has ever seen, a man no blade can touch. The Grey King is coming.

A man would be well advised not to be caught between Capa Barsavi and The Grey King. Even such a master of the sword as the Thorn of Camorr. As for Locke Lamora . . .

Reading Format: Kindle eBook
Year Read: 2014
Star Rating: 4 stars

I really enjoyed Lynch’s writing style and the way he built the characters and the world they lived in. I enjoyed getting to know Camorr, the town in which the book is set, and how life worked there. Locke Lamora is a strong character which I think has been developed really well. This is quite possibly the first book I have read which focuses on thieves and I really enjoyed the mischievousness of the characters and the banter that goes on between them.

I did think it started a little slowly – just the first 20-30 pages perhaps but then all of a sudden I was sucked in and I can’t say at what point or why. I just was! This book just got better and better as I read!

This books tells the story of orphan boy Locke Lamora, who is taken under the wing of a “priest” who in reality is the garrista (leader) of the band of thieves known as The Gentleman Bastards. These are not just ordinary thieves though – they are confidence men and play the long game. And they are good at it!

The narrative switches around a little, detailing both Locke Lamora's childhood when he first becomes a member of the Gentleman Bastards, and him grown up as their leader. At first I thought this was going to make for a complicated read but I soon got in to the flow of things and I really enjoyed it. This style also fleshed out the characters allowing us to get to know them better.

One of my favourite parts was the women’s shark fighting contests in the first quarter of the book. I also loved the fact that there were floating trees in the canals – random I know! I found it hilarious reading about young Locke Lamora going to see the Capa on the back of a Gentled goat because he had a hang over. This is just one example of humour being included throughout the book which I really liked.

The book finished in the exact opposite way to which I thought the book started – those last 100 pages flew by and was action-packed to say the least.

This book was a great start to the series. I am currently reading the sequel, Red Seas Under Red Skies, which I will review and post on here once I'm finished.

The Lies of Locke Lamora: View on Amazon || View on Goodreads

Friday, 11 July 2014

Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

"Errand requiring immediate attention. Come.

The note was on vellum, pierced by the talons of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. 'He never says please', she sighed, but she gathered up her things. When Brimstone called, she always came."

In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she's a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in 'Elsewhere', she has never understood Brimstone's dark work - buying teeth from hunters and murderers - nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn't whole.

Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.

Reading Format: Paperback
Year Read: 2013
Star Rating: 5 stars

Although I was intrigued by the book before reading it, I had been putting it off as I went through a bit of an "avoiding YA books because I'm an adult" phase. I'm so pleased I got over that!

While it is aimed at young adults, the main character is old for her age so it had a different feel to other books in this genre that I have read.

I fell in love with this book and the characters right from the start. It is about Karou, a blue-haired, 17 year old girl living in Prague who is trying to juggle two lives; one normal in this world where she is an art student and the other where she runs errands for a monstrous creature called Brimstone and is surrounded by fantastical creatures called chimaera. There is a lot about her past and present that she doesn't know so she has a sense of feeling incomplete.

The descriptions of the characters is great and I could really imagine what they looked like - I bet the people who like drawing fan art will have a field day on Laini Taylor's creations! They were all really interesting too and I liked their uniqueness's.

I especially felt drawn into the setting in Prague as only the week before I read the book I had visited there so I was able to really visualise where Karou and the other characters were and what they were seeing and experiencing.

I have since read the two follow up books in the series, Days of Blood & Starlight and Dreams of Gods & Monsters which I will post reviews for at a later date.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone: View on Amazon || View on Goodreads

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. The black sign, painted in white letters that hangs upon the gates, reads: Opens at Nightfall Closes at Dawn. As the sun disappears beyond the horizon, all over the tents small lights begin to flicker, as though the entirety of the circus is covered in particularly bright fireflies. When the tents are all aglow, sparkling against the night sky, the sign appears. Le Cirque des Reves. The Circus of Dreams. Now the circus is open. Now you may enter.

Reading Format: Paperback
Year Read: 2013
Star Rating: 5 stars

I'm not going to go in to a description of what the book is about as I do not want to give anything away plus any synopsis that I could write of the book would simply not do it justice. Even the description of the book above which was listed on the Goodreads site doesn't give much away about what the book is about. I like to see this book as a big circus tent, you know it's going to be fun and there will be surprises and enjoyment but you don't know exactly what it will entail until you go inside.

This is the first book I have read which I have wanted to start again immediately after I finished it. I didn't want it to end. It firmly made it on to my favourite books of all time shelf!

The book is beautifully written and really sucks you in to the magical world of Le Cirque des Rêves. I particularly liked the sections which addressed the reader directly, getting you to see, hear and feel the circus around you and drawing you in deeper.

When I took a break from reading the book and returned to real life, I felt a little sad and I missed the Night Circus. I would so be a Rêveur (a member of a group called the Rêveurs who are an unofficial fan club of the Night Circus who follow the circus from town to town)! And on many occasions I wished it were a real place so that I could visit and experience its wonderment! And as the book approached the end, I kept wishing that my visit at the Circus didn't have to end. But then my outlook changed once I read the beautiful words of Friedrick Thiessen at the beginning of Part V - Divination
"I find I think of myself not as a writer so much as someone who provides a gateway, a tangential route for readers to reach the circus. To visit the circus again, if only in their minds, when they are unable to attend it physically. I relay it through printed words on crumpled newsprint, words that they can read again and again, regardless of time of day or physical location. Transporting them at will. When put that way, it sounds rather like magic, doesn't it?"
Yes it does! So the Night Circus may not exist in reality but this book has allowed me to visit it, if only in my own mind, and I can do so again and again by reading this book whenever I want to. This book is truly magical!

There were many quotes in the book which I made a note of in addition to the one already mentioned. Two of my favourites are:
“You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone's soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows that they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.”
“You think, as you walk away from Le Cirque des Rêves and into the creeping dawn, that you felt more awake within the confines of the circus. You are no longer quite certain which side of the fence is the dream.”
The book I read was a library book but as I loved it so much and will definitely be re-reading it in the future (something I don't tend to do very often), I am going to buy myself my own copy.

The Night Circus: View on Amazon || View on Goodreads

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Review: Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb

In a faraway land where members of the royal family are named for the virtues they embody, one young boy will become a walking enigma.

Born on the wrong side of the sheets, Fitz, son of Chivalry Farseer, is a royal bastard, cast out into the world, friendless and lonely. Only his magical link with animals - the old art known as the Wit - gives him solace and companionship. But the Wit, if used too often, is a perilous magic, and one abhorred by the nobility.

So when Fitz is finally adopted into the royal household, he must give up his old ways and embrace a new life of weaponry, scribing, courtly manners; and how to kill a man secretly, as he trains to become a royal assassin.

Reading Format: Kindle ebook
Year Read: 2013
Star Rating: 4 stars

This is the first book by Robin Hobb that I have read and it won't be the last.It is the first book in the Farseer Trilogy although I believe that a couple of her other series also take place in the same world.

I thought that Assassin's Apprentice started out a bit slow and I found myself wishing I was reading something else instead but then once I got to the part where Fitz (the bastard son of Prince Chivalry) and Burrich (his father's right hand man) start talking about "The Wit", it started to catch my interest and then I became quickly sucked in.

Fitz possesses "The Wit", an ancient and distrusted magic which allows him to bond telepathically with animals. He forms a relationship with a young puppy called Nosy shortly after he is left with his father's men; he was dumped on their doorstep by his maternal grandfather. Fitz's relationship with Nosy doesn't last too long once Burrich realises that Fitz has "The Wit" and he dispatches the dog.

"The Wit" was what had originally drawn me to the book as it is a similar skill to that possessed by the Stark children in Game of Thrones. And I love everything about Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series.

After a few years in the care of Burrich, Fitz goes in to the King's service (his paternal grandfather). His father isn't around as he went in to exile once it became known that he had a bastard son.

What I like about the book is how Fitz goes from being a small boy who nobody wants or has use for to a boy who lots of people want (in a way). After being in the service of the King for a while, he becomes an Assassin's Apprentice and even the Keep's Scribe wants Fitz to become his apprentice. He learns "The Skill" which proves to be both good and bad for him.

Fitz does assassinate people in the book but it doesn't detail them as such just that he's done it or is preparing to do it which I quite liked. Normally I like a good helping of blood and gore but I found the lack of it in this book quite refreshing. I have the second book of the series, Royal Assassin, ready and waiting on my kindle so I will get to it at some point soon hopefully.

Assassin's Apprentice: View on Amazon || View on Goodreads


Welcome to my book blog! My name is Sarah and I've been thinking of setting up a blog for ages. I wanted somewhere to record my reviews on books that I have read and discuss all things reading and book related. I already do a good amount of chatting about books on the Goodreads site but I wanted to be able to consolidate it all in to one easily accessible place.

So "It's a Kind of Magic...Book" is born! As I mainly read Fantasy and Science Fiction books, this is what I will be focusing on on this blog. Especially books which have some kind of magic system featured, hence the name of the blog.

I have read many books over the last couple of years which I have reviewed on Goodreads and over the next few weeks I will be posting some of those reviews here too.

I hope you like the blog. I hope that it inspires you to read those book that you perhaps weren't sure about, or one that you wouldn't normally read, or maybe you were waiting to see what others thought about it first before spending your hard earned cash!