15 December 2016

Worth the Lies - Mara Jacobs

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Oh, what a tangled web... 

Kelsey Cameron has spent the past four years thinking about a man she saw for only a minute. But it was a good minute.

Huck Beck is getting a second chance at fulfilling a dream. And he won't do anything to mess that up. Even if every time he looks at Kelsey he desperately wants to do just that.

Forced to pretend to be a married couple, Kelsey and Huck have to lie to Huck's family and friends. But in the end, are they really just lying to themselves?

Is the possibility of finding love... Worth The Lies 

Worth the Lies is the sixth full book and the seventh story released in Mara Jacobs worth series. I really enjoy returning to this series and seeing how characters from the earlier stories are moving on with their lives it's one of the things that has kept me going back to the series time after time. The sense of community that Mara Jacobs has built up with these books is brilliant, however I do feel slightly as though the group of people she's moving through, friends, are possibly just too close to have this many romances occur in such a short space of time. It's the cynic in me but my only criticism of the series.

What I live about Mara Jacobs storytelling is that the characters are fully fleshed out, they have unique back stories, unique attitudes and unique foibles. What's more is that because Mara Jacobs takes her time between books and gets to know her characters they feel real. Too often you find that with this kind of series the heroines are identical all the way down to their underwear. 

Specifically this story, between Huck and Kelsey, was good because the connection between them felt genuine. Yes there was a flavour of insta-love but it was backed up by something that had been churning away in the background for several years. 

I liked the way the undercover angle was worked into the story, it wasn't the main line but it had me turning the pages nearly as eagerly as the romance story did. It was particularly interesting to see how they each dealt with their guilt from lying to Buck's family and I'll even admit to being slightly disappointed there wasn't more fallout from the Lies they told each other. 

All in all it was a well rounded but comfortable story.

1 October 2016

The Mother in Law Cure - Farha Z. Hassan

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The Mother-in-Law Cure is a modern day fairy tale that chronicles the rise of the book's central character, Humara from orphan to power matriarch in an affluent family. Humara's influence spans generations and continents, but things are seldom as they appear. Humara's prosperity is not simply good fortune but stems from something dark and sinister - as those who encounter her quickly begin to realize. It seems that nothing can stand in Humara's way as she pulls the strings of those around her, until she meets the unlikeliest of nemesis. Another young orphan whose status in the household is little more than a servant will be the instrument of Humara's demise. The Mother-in-Law Cure is an urban fantasy that takes you from Pakistan to the Middle East and back to the United States.

The Mother-in-Law Cure wasn't a book I deliberately sought out, I received it as part of the Goodreads First Reads programme, where you can request any of the books listed by authors/editors/publishers and a predetermined number of people will be selected to receive a copy of the book. I've found the books received through this programme to be a little hit and miss so I've largely stopped requesting them. 

Out of all the books I did request The Mother-in-Law Cure was far and away the best. 

It's an interesting cycle and I suspect in some ways an interesting look into a culture many in the west, myself included, have never experienced and don't really understand. 

We begin with a young unmarried orphan, and we progressed through her life and through her marriage. With an oppressive mother in law she plots to fix it and eventually moves with her family to the states. The cycle continues on until she herself becomes the oppressive mother in law. 

Moving into the realms of the daughter in law we see a mirror of the same helpless situations. The same decisions to be made. We see the true difference between mother and daughter in law and how that first young girl has allowed that original oppression to poison her life.

If nothing else this book makes you think. Aside from that I think it's well written. It's been plotted out well and the tension is definitely there to keep you on the edge of your seat. 

30 September 2016

Sinner - Maggie Steifvater

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Cole St. Clair has come to California for one reason: to get Isabel Culpeper back. She fled from his damaged, drained life, and damaged and drained it even more. He doesn't just want her. He needs her.

Isabel is trying to build herself a life in Los Angeles. It's not really working. She can play the game as well as all the other fakes...but what's the point? What is there to win?

Cole and Isabel share a past that never seemed to have a future. They have the power to save each other and the power to tear each other apart. The only thing for certain is that they cannot let go.

I read Shiver, Linger and Forever a while ago after purchasing them on impulse from my place of work. They were thoroughly enjoyable with a fairly unusual plot and a definitely interesting take on the whole werewolf thing. While the tension between Grace and Sam was what made the story the secondary characters had some good hooks in them too. 

I was never quite satisfied with how things ended between Isabel and Cole.

It was too Sterile.

This book in a nutshell resolves that. It takes all their loose ends and neatly wraps them up. The whole thing builds in a crescendo before reaching some sort of equilibrium.

This book in many ways is less about the wolves and more about the people behind the wolves.

There's very little of Grace and Sam in this story, but I think you're given fair warning of that just from the blurb. If you're looking for their continuation you're out of luck. If you just want to return to that world this is everything you're looking for. 

Me. I think I'll read just about anything Maggie Stiefvater puts out in this universe!

12 March 2016

The Blue Sword - Robin McKinley

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Harry Crewe is an orphan girl who comes to live in Damar, the desert country shared by the Homelanders and the secretive, magical Hillfolk. Her life is quiet and ordinary-until the night she is kidnapped by Corlath, the Hillfolk King, who takes her deep into the desert. She does not know the Hillfolk language; she does not know why she has been chosen. But Corlath does. Harry is to be trained in the arts of war until she is a match for any of his men. Does she have the courage to accept her true fate?

It's taken me longer to write this review than I would have liked. I read this book as the second book in my firsts series of the year, the second book in the first series selected for the Flights of Fantasy Reading Challenge. It was a good book. I realised after I'd read them that the challenge, and Goodreads, actually lists them the wrong way round. 

I think I lost something by reading the books in the order I did. The Hero and the Crown is about Aerin, who is a long lost hero from The Blue Sword, and by reading that first it was almost as though I knew too much about her. The Blue Sword relies quite heavily on the concept of Aerin and the discovery of Harry's similarity to her, I think you can tell this from early on and so you start to look for the book to fit the pattern which spoils it a bit. I can see why the author gets quite vocal in her defensive of the order she wrote the books.

If you can ignore the similarities between the books you get a good read. Written in the 1980s it fits well with the style of fantasy books widely published at that time. Harry's quest is interesting enough to captivate. I do feel that she fell too easily into the sway of her captor, it's a relatively minor niggle. 

My other niggle is that the characters didn't really feel in true danger at any point. Someone always comes sweeping in and just manages to save the day. In The Hero and the Crown, the danger to Aerin, and indeed to Tor, felt more genuine, more appropriate and as such more exciting.

At the end of the book all the loose ends are nicely tied up, which is good if you like that sort of thing. It's neater than you would generally get in a book published more recently and it doesn't leave room for sequels in my opinion. 

This review may leave you thinking I didn't enjoy the book, I did, however I can't help comparing it. 

10 March 2016

Divergent - Veronica Roth

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In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

What's it possible to say about Divergent that hasn't already been said? To be honest probably very little, this book is popular and with good reason. It's been nearly two years since I read Divergent and when I read it I did so in a single day. 

My good friend, and blushing bridesmaid, gave this to me for my birthday in the middle of my final exam season at uni. I'd been planning to buy it for a while, and in some ways her timing was perfect, I needed a break, it was my 21st and I had an exam, two more in the following week and was moving out of my student accommodation for the final time to boot. In some ways her timing was terrible, because after that first exam instead of studying I picked up the book and read it from cover to cover. 

Veronica Roth in Divergent has managed to explore humanity at both its best and its worst. In Tris she has created a powerful heroine, someone with willpower and determination, but also morals. At the opposite end she has explored what highly tense situations can do to people. 

The pace in this book is very fast, the whole events take place over a period of around a month, but the book feels faster. And yet within the story there are places to pause, gather your thoughts and your breath and get to know the characters. 

I can't recommend Divergent enough. I've even seen the film and can say that they didn't do too bad a job. 

3 March 2016

The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness

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Prentisstown isn't like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else's thoughts in an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise. Just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd and his dog, Manchee -- whose thoughts Todd can hear too, whether he wants to or not -- stumble upon an area of complete silence. They find that in a town where privacy is impossible, something terrible has been hidden -- a secret so awful that Todd and Manchee must run for their lives.

But how do you escape when your pursuers can hear your every thought?

The first book in this trilogy The Knife of Never Letting Go is unique. The concept of a world where you can hear the thoughts of men but not of women is genius. The way in which Todd's town is bound together in secrecy in what is such an open world is the perfect catalyst for this story.

When Todd and Manchee run for their lives the obstacles they face feel very real. With the world and background which Patrick Ness has created you can empathise with the people who oppose Todd, but also with the genuine fear Todd feels.

The Knife of Never Letting Go is a fantastic book for the teen audience because it raises the questions of acceptance and diversity in a way that provokes the reader into putting themselves into every pair of shoes. Our willingness to accept those who are different from ourselves is a very real issue these days with our huge ability to move from place to place, but this book puts that out there without actually cramming it down your throat.

Patrick Ness has a very easy writing style, even taking account of the intrusion of random thoughts. For me this was a brilliant page turner.

26 February 2016

Pyramids - Terry Pratchett

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It's bad enough being new on the job, but Teppic hasn't a clue as to what a pharaoh is supposed to do. After all, he's been trained at Ankh-Morpork's famed assassins' school, across the sea from the Kingdom of the Sun. First, there's the monumental task of building a suitable resting place for Dad -- a pyramid to end all pyramids. Then there are the myriad administrative duties, such as dealing with mad priests, sacred crocodiles, and marching mummies. And to top it all off, the adolescent pharaoh discovers deceit, betrayal - not to mention a headstrong handmaidlen - at the heart of his realm. 

I've found Terry Pratchett's Discworld books for adults to be a little hit and miss so far. I know a number of people who love them, the mum of one friend springs to mind, she's content to get any other book from the library but owns the entire Discworld series. On the other hand I have my Dad who has tried to read a couple of different books from the series and given up. I myself enjoyed the Discworld books for younger readers when I was younger. The trouble I've often heard is that it took a while for Terry Pratchett to hit his stride.

Reading the series in order Pyramids is the first book that has really hit the spot. The storyline was intriguing, what would happen when the biggest pyramid ever was built, I have to say I didn't see the ending coming.

I found the writing amusing, there were jokes in the book that I actually found funny, this has been missing from the Discworld books thus far. 

The character clicked with me. I could understand where he was coming from. I felt empathy. He amused me. I was positively behind his drive to stop the evil regent. 

Thus far Pyramids is a winner for me.

25 February 2016

The Maze Runner - James Dashner

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When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone.

Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive.

Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.

Remember. Survive. Run.

There was a lot of hype about the Maze Runner, I picked up the books because the film trailer intrigued me. Frankly I didn't enjoy the books, I know people who have and will acknowledge that perhaps this is a matter of personal preference. The concept of the Maze, as it was presented in this book, is still one which intrigues me. I think more could have been done with the plot, compared to what seemed like an endless series of arguments. 

In terms of the writing style it felt like there was a lot of tell and not much show going on, it wasn't really what I would have chosen.

As a character Thomas annoyed me. He had come in last, and while the other boys had no idea what was happening somehow he just knew. That didn't even take into account the weird stuff going on with Teresa.

It could be that I just wasn't the target audience for this story. Those I know who've enjoyed it fit more firmly into the category of teenager. Whatever the case this wasn't the book for me.

18 February 2016

The Final Empire - Brandon Sanderson

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In a world where ash falls from the sky, and mist dominates the night, an evil cloaks the land and stifles all life. The future of the empire rests on the shoulders of a troublemaker and his young apprentice. Together, can they fill the world with colour once more?

In Brandon Sanderson's intriguing tale of love, loss, despair and hope, a new kind of magic enters the stage - Allomancy, a magic of the metals.

The Final Empire is the first book in Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy and a book I'd been toying with picking up for a while. When I needed a new audio book to listen to on the approximately 12 hour car journey to our French holiday destination last summer I took the plunge and downloaded The Final Empire. I actually didn't start listening to The Final Empire until halfway through our holiday, the point in time at which severe storms kept the whole family shut in the Gite we'd rented for 2-3 days. Once I did there was no going back and on our return home the story ended just before we crossed the channel, and just before my battery died.

The Final Empire takes a slightly different stance to both a lot of classic fantasy novels and a lot of recently written fantasy novels in its introduction managing to combine the two approaches. Classic fantasy novels have a habit of starting with some kind of quote from a myth or legend or text. Modern fantasy novels have a habit of jumping right in to show the central character in action. The Final Empire starts by showing Kelsier, mentor to the central character Vin, in action, Kelsier who just so happens to be a living legend. It really worked, I was caught completely by the end of the first scene, so much so I questioned what had happened when the plot moved on to Vin!

There is a wide cast of characters used in the Mistborn books, not all of them are fully fleshed out in The Final Empire, although a number of them have amazing depth for so early in a trilogy. Fore amongst these are Kelsier and Vin. There is so much detail in their backgrounds. So much that you can tell Sanderson knows but isn't sharing. 

In comparison to his characters I would argue that the world developed in this book is weak. That's not to say that it's weak compared to wider works, just that his characters dwarf it. The world developed is intriguing, it has a lot of interesting ideas, a lot of fears that you wouldn't see in our world but which assist Sanderson nicely in driving the story, chief among these the Mist and the burning of metals. My problem with the world building was that it felt in some ways too much like a facade, like his characters the parts of the World we see are amazingly developed. Unlike his characters the world we don't see is a dim grey haze. We saw a very brief glimpse of the outskirts of the Empire in the prologue, beyond that we can barely glimpse what's outside Luthadel, we have no scope of the might of the Final Empire before it's overthrown. The later books do address that to some extent, but I would have liked to have seen more of the Empire in all its glory.

As this is an audio adaptation I have my mandatory comment on the narrator to make. This was my first interaction with Michael Kramer and initially he jarred on me and it was the only thing which made me question if the audio adaptation was a mistake. I think the main reason for this is twofold. Firstly I grew up in England and don't know any Americans while I watch American tv quite happily the audio narrator I grew up listening to was Stephen Fry reading Harry Potter, Stephen Fry who couldn't get any more British if he tried. After Stephen Fry an American narrator didn't sit naturally in my ear. Secondly I found Michael Kramer's pacing took a little while to get used to. He tends to read some sections really fast and others at quite an even pace, again I'm going to compare it to the Harry Potter audio I grew up with, and say Stephen Fry worked his way through the books at a consistent pace and implied drama through inflection rather than pace. Neither method is wrong, but adjusting took me a little while. Once I got used to Michael Kramer reading I loved listening to him, his voice for me doesn't hold the same natural beauty of Stephen Fry's voice, but he is a master narrator and really brought the characters to life. 

14 February 2016

Sunday recap:14th February 2016

It's been a few weeks since I last participated in the Sunday Post so I have a few things to recap. Don't forget to head over to the Caffeinated Book Reviewer to Sign up.

What I've been reading:

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan
The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan
The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett
  • I'm finally making progress on my goal to finish this series this year! 
Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth
  • The first book in my second series of the year Call the Midwife is just as good as the tv series it inspired. Now just to see if I can read the rest of the series this month!

What I've Posted:

My Bookish Resolutions

Reading Challenges:
  • I have read 9/41 Discworld books
  • I have read 9/100 books in 2016 so far
Blogging Challenges:

I've been making reasonable progress with my blogging challenges. I'm working my way through reviews of books I've read over the last few years and have been writing, if not posting, reviews of more recent reads.

Personal Challenges:

My personal challenges could be going better. I'm at a neutral weight to my last loss, so not exactly on target. My swimming has been getting better and I'm up to quarter mile sets (when I was younger I used to do half mile warm ups). I've also done my first tumble turns for years in the last couple of weeks. 

12 February 2016

Mort - Terry Pratchett

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In this Discworld installment, Death comes to Mort with an offer he can't refuse -- especially since being, well, dead isn't compulsory. As Death's apprentice, he'll have free board and lodging, use of the company horse, and he won't need time off for family funerals. The position is everything Mort thought he'd ever wanted, until he discovers that this perfect job can be a killer on his love life. 

Mort for me was a strange book. I was expecting to love it, I've loved all of the glimpses of death I've ever seen in the Discworld books or screen adaptations. I loved death in this book. I didn't love this book though, because I was expecting it to focus on death. 

Mort didn't focus on death it focused on Mort, death's assistant. When I first picked the book up Mort annoyed me, he was kind of whiny, a bit too unsure what to do with his life. He grew on me. I think he started to grow on me about the time he became more assertive, about the time he started to show some of the traits I enjoyed in death.

Come the close of the book I think I'm glad we'll get to ser more of Mort in other books. I'm also glad this wasn't a long book. 

11 February 2016

Emperor of Thorns - Mark Lawrence

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King Jorg Ancrath is twenty now—and king of seven nations. His goal—revenge against his father—has not yet been realized, and the demons that haunt him have only grown stronger. Yet no matter how tortured his path, he intends to take the next step in his upward climb.

Jorg would be emperor. It is a position not to be gained by the sword but rather by vote. And never in living memory has anyone secured a majority of the vote, leaving the Broken Empire long without a leader. Jorg plans to change that. He’s uncovered the lost technology of the land, and he won’t hesitate to use it.

But he soon finds an adversary standing in his way, a necromancer unlike any he has ever faced—a figure hated and feared even more than himself: the Dead King.

Emperor of Thorns was a really fitting conclusion to the Broken Empire trilogy. I felt like it did a really good job of tying up loose ends. 

We saw massive changes in Jorg in this book, he was perhaps less selfish than he was in the first book,  or even the first two books. While he went about trying to save the world he did so in a manner that I felt was very Jorg. 

There were some interesting developments in Builder technologies discovered and I really enjoyed seeing Jorg get to grips with what appears to be hologram technology. 

It's been nearly two years since I read this book, and yet it's stuck with me. Or maybe it hasn't stuck with me. Maybe that was just Jorg. He's a favourite character. He has nothing to recommend him, and yet you can't help loving him.

9 February 2016

Anne of Green Gables - L. M. Montgomery

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Orphan Anne has always dreamed of being part of a proper family. So when she’s chosen to go and live with the Cuthberts, life looks grand. But the Cuthberts wanted a little boy to help them on Green Gables farm, not a girl. They cannot keep her. . . .

Meet the girl who soon wins a place in everyone’s heart!

I read Anne of Green Gables as my January book for the 12 Months Classics Challenge 's book you've always wanted to read', strictly speaking I haven't always wanted to read it, I have however heard it mentioned in a number of places over the last few years which has built a desire to read it. My particular motivator was when Andrew used it to win Imogen in Neighbours last year. I'm counting that as good enough. 

When looking into this book I saw a number of people had placed it above the Little Women books in their estimation, while others defended Little Women. I have to say that I fall on the Little Women side of the wall. I liked the exploits of the four girls, which involved less sheer stupidity, better than the exploits of the one girl.

Anne of Green Gables is not a bad book, if somewhat a product of its time in terms of rampant sexism. It is a series of three chapter arcs for most of its length and tells the story of Anne growing up and finding a home reasonably well. You can definitely relate to some of the feelings she displays, her isolation and gratitude when she first arrives at Green Gables, through to her anger and humiliation when someone makes fun of her hair. 

At times Anne's flowery language irritated me. I'm not sure it was necessary to name every place more poetically, although it did do a good job of shoving Anne's characteristics in your face. Anne herself grew on me through the book, halfway through I would have said I wouldn't pick up Anne of Avonlea, having finished the book I can no longer say I'm so sure. 

The final thing I feel I have to mention, as it has perhaps coloured my review, is that I didn't realise this was a children's book until I picked it up. It very probably is perfect for its intended audience.

The Hero and the Crown - Robin McKinley

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Aerin could not remember a time when she had not known the story; she had grown up knowing it.
It was the story of her mother, the witchwoman who enspelled the king into marrying her, to get an heir that would rule Damar; and it was told that she turned her face to the wall and died of despair when she found she had borne a daughter instead of a son.
Aerin was that daughter.
But there was more of the story yet to be told; Aerin's destiny was greater than even she had dreamed--for she was to be the true hero who wouldn't wield the power of the Blue Sword...

I read this book because it was the first book in the first series nominated for the Flights of Fantasy Book Club hosted by Alexa Loves Reading. I'm not sure that I would necessarily have given this book a chance otherwise since the cover doesn't really appeal to me. To be honest that would have been a shame because it is a really good book. 

I liked the fairly unique take on dragons, there have been a lot of books recently where dragons in general have been either good or neutral. I don't think I've ever read a book where they're considered vermin and the profession of Dragon-hunting is considered shameful. It made the section with the red Dragon seem significantly more dangerous.

In terms of characters I felt that Aerin and Tor we're well rounded individuals, Galanna seemed to be all spite, Arlbeth was all benevolence although with something deeper there and Luthe made next to no impression at all. I do wonder whether that was due to me reading The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword in the wrong order. As an immortal Luthe is the only character likely to appear in The Blue Sword.

This book is definitely worth reading and I'll definitely be reading The Blue Sword, I'm not sure that this will prompt me to seek out Robin McKinley's other works though.

4 February 2016

The Spellsong War - L. E. Modesitt Jr

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With The Soprano Sorceress L.E. Modesitt started The Spellsong Cycle, an innovative and compelling new fantasy series that won Modesitt tons of new readers. The Spellsong War will enthrall its readers and continue to build Modesitt's increasingly loyal following.

Anna Marshal is regent of the kingdom of Defalk only a few months after a sorcerer pulled her from her boring life as a music instructor in Ames, Iowa to the world of Erde. With her ability and her integrity she saved Defalk from invasion and became it's regent, now she must defend it against the greedy rulers of neighboring kingdoms who see a weakened state and a possible opportunity.

The Spellsong War was ok. I have to say it was my least favourite L. E. Modesitt book of all the ones I've read to date. I've read only a fraction of the books he's written but it still covers a significant number of books. I thought I'd read enough to say that I'd like pretty much any book he wrote, but this book has revised that opinion.

The main trouble I found with this book was the main character. Anna, who in The Soprano Sorceress is a slightly uncertain woman with a reasonably strong moral compass has become a character with such strong moral views that she wants to force them onto other people and is willing to kill in order to do so. I'm not sure if this is a set up of some description for the rest of the series, maybe we'll see her knocked down a peg in a later book, but I'm not sure. She's too willing and eager to justify her actions, and what we're seeing is a dictatorship in the formation.

This book does have plenty to recommend it. The magic system in use is still an interesting concept, although I'm still struggling to get my head around the fact that she's losing weight by singing no matter how much magic it channels. 

Some of the other characters are interesting to see. I particularly like the child characters, they seem well developed for essentially tertiary characters. 

I'm not saying this book isn't worth picking up, but there are other books, and especially other Modesitt books that I would pick up first. When I read the Soprano Sorceress I was immediately reaching for The Spellsong War. On reading The Spellsong War I didn't feel that same drive.

29 January 2016

Equal Rites - Terry Pratchett

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On Discworld, a dying wizard tries to pass on his powers to an eighth son of an eighth son, who is just at that moment being born. The fact that the son is actually a daughter is discovered just a little too late. The town witch insists on turning the baby into a perfectly normal witch, thus mending the magical damage of the wizard's mistake. But now the young girl will be forced to penetrate the inner sanctum of the Unseen University--and attempt to save the world with one well-placed kick in some enchanted shins! Reissue.

If you’re working your way through the Discworld this will be the third book you come to. It’s the first book featuring the witches of the Disc and as with many of Terry Pratchett’s books it’s an interesting social commentary. Equal Rites as you may have guessed is about Equal Rights.

It focuses on Esk the eighth son of an eighth son who actually turned out to be a daughter. She inherits a staff, some bad stuff happens and she sets off with Granny Weatherwax for Ankh Morpork. Esk is a determined character and when she arrives at the unseen University and is told that she cannot be a wizard because wizardry is only for men she causes some trouble.

While she does prove that women are as good at wizardry as men, she didn’t feel solid as a character. I think the intention was probably to make her appear headstrong and as though she felt she knew more than she actually did, but in actuality she felt as if she did actually know all of this stuff. As a cub leader I have a lot of experience with eight year olds and I ask you what eight year old actually does know everything, whatever they believe?

I did enjoy meeting Granny Weatherwax. Ostensibly for the first time, although since I’d read the first two Tiffany Aching books as a child this was more like my third encounter with her. In this book she didn’t come across as all-powerful as she had been in the Tiffany Aching stories, but she also didn’t seem as old.  I don’t know if this is my relative age or an intention of the stories.

I would hesitantly say that I enjoyed this book more than either the Colour of Magic or The Light Fantastic, however not as much as the Childrens books Pratchett had written. I’m not sure whether this is down to my introduction to him as a child, his comparative writing style for adults and children, or the fact that this book was written relatively early in his career.

Whichever way you look at it this book is worth picking up for any fantasy fan.

28 January 2016

The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins

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Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

The Girl on the Train was the free book I received when I first signed up to Audible, so it should come as no surprise that I listened to it as an audio book. If you look on audible you will find mixed reviews for the story but next to no mention of the women who read it. 

Firstly the story. This story is a mystery of sorts. It tells the intertwined lives of three women who have little to do with each other. Each woman tells her own story from its own perspective and it gives a good idea how perspective can to an extent change events. 

The main character in the story is Rachel. The alcoholic ex-wife of Tom who becomes obsessed with 'Jess and Jason's a couple she has never met but whose lives she has built up in her mind to be perfection. Rachel comes across as an interesting woman who allowed the dissolution of her marriage to destroy her life, although perhaps it was the dissolution of her life which destroyed her marriage.

Secondly we have Anna. The second wife of Tom whose affair with him ended Rachel's marriage. Frankly to me she always came across as unlikeable, this may have been because we are first invited to put ourselves into Rachel's shoes. It may have been because the tone of her chapters was cold. I did warm to her as the story went on and we saw more of her own problems appear and I could understand how Rachel would have appeared to her.

Finally we have Megan, Rachel's Jess, she was my favourite of the three women and as her own story and background unfolded my heart went out to her. She is in some ways the centre of the story, as the woman who has gone missing, but I feel like the story was in many ways more about Rachel and Anna's personal development. Nonetheless without the Megan perspective I think I may have been tempted to give up long before the end. 

Overall the story wasn't too complicated, you could figure out where Megan went early on, despite red herrings. There was a twist at the end but while I didn't necessarily expect it I found it didn't surprise me. 

In terms of the narrator's I have to say I wasn't keen on any of them. The Rachel narrator was the one I leaned towards, she was the most matter of fact but also was able to distinguish different characters. The Megan narrator wasn't too bad, if a touch langorous and insipid. The Anna narrator, much like the character, really annoyed me. I found her to be whiny, having said this I've not heard anything else she has read and she could have been doing a perfect characterisation of Anna. 

27 January 2016

Prince of Fools - Mark Lawrence

Image from Goodreads
I’m a liar and a cheat and a coward, but I will never, ever, let a friend down. Unless of course not letting them down requires honesty, fair play or bravery.

The Red Queen is dreaded by the kings of the Broken Empire as they dread no other.

Her grandson Jalan Kendeth – womaniser, gambler and all-out cad – is tenth in line to the throne. While his grandmother shapes the destiny of millions, Prince Jalan pursues his debauched pleasures.

Until, that is, he gets entangled with Snorri ver Snagason, a huge Norse axeman and dragged against his will to the icy north…

My Review of The Prince of Fools on Goodreads consisted of a single line ‘ A bit like loving Jorg all over again, except a Character so different from Jorg at the Same time!’. Suffice it to say I loved it and was beyond exited when Mark Lawrence liked my review. I could leave it at that but I won’t.

Prince of Fools has every bit of excitement the Broken Empire has to offer, it’s a thrilling look at the dead things lurking, and we see them much earlier and with a much more honest opinion than with Jorg. These are terrifying monsters that leave you gripping the edge of your seat. Months after reading the story I can still see them clawing their way towards Jalan.

While Jorg wanted to appear brave, and I think often more so than he was, Jalan wants to appear cowardly, usually more so than he was. In the blurb he claims to be a liar and a cheat and a coward, and to an extent he is all three. But from a different perspective I think he is perhaps too harsh on himself, throughout the story we find hidden depths to him, and if there is some dishonesty and cowardice in his actions so too is there bravery and caring.

I’m not saying this story will be for everyone, Mark Lawrence’s stories offer up people’s flaws in a way that is not always appealing. I however loved it and will definitely be reading the second instalment once it comes out in paperback

24 January 2016

Sunday recap: 24th January 2016

I've not managed so well this week. I felt a little under the weather and it kind of put thoughts of healthy eating, reading and swimming out of my mind. I have managed to listen to most of a 30 hour audio book however.

Don't forget to head over to the Caffeinated Book Reviewer and sign up.

What I've been reading:

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan
What I've Posted This Week:

I've only managed one post this week
My Bookish Resolutions

Reading Challenges:
  • I have read 9/41 Discworld books
  • I have read 3/100 books in 2016 so far
Blogging Challenges:
  • I feel like a blogging routine is something that is evading me.
  • I have made progress towards cataloguing my 'library', here. 
  • So far I have managed to review all of the books I've finished so far this year! Huzzah, one New Years Resolution going well.
  • I've set up the basics for some reviews I'm planning to write.
Personal Challenges:
  • I managed to maintain a neutral weight this week.
  • I only went swimming once this week and only managed 42 lengths.
  • I had 2 fizzy drinks this week. A step backwards.
A Couple of Interesting Articles I've seen this week
  • This post from Math With Bad Drawings which draws together two of my greatest loves; Maths and Storytelling. It's a relatively intense look at life from the perspective of some of the most prominent numbers we can be taught.
  • This post about the semantics of translating from maths into other languages. In school we were taught the two different definitions of a Billion, on the basis that financially we as a nation now use the short-scale version and that historically we have used the long scale version. As a maths graduate and computer programmer I do wish they'd tidied up the code they inserted into the article however as I feel there are a couple of steps which can only cause confusion.
  • And finally this post which says that Dirty Dancing is to be remade. I have mixed feelings on the subject. On the one hand I love the film and am a bit concerned a remake could ruin the charm of the original. On the other I always wanted to know what happened after the summer ended and a part of me hopes this may open up avenues for that to be explored. 
A quote from the bible for the week

Purer were her Nazarites than snow, Whiter than milk, ruddier of body than rubies, Of sapphire their form. - Lamentations 4:7