August Mini Book Haul

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Phew it’s been a while since I’ve been able to blog! Or vlog…or do anything that isn’t related to moving house. XD

But now we’re (mostly) moved and (mostly) settled into the new place and LOVING it! We’ve been moving fairly slowly, so we can do some DIY projects at the house before we need to move everything out of the apartment. But I can confidently say that the last box of things will be in our house by the end of the weekend. Woo!

Then we can both relax…and build some bookshelves. 😉

So August hasn’t been a book-buying month really. I did buy one because I fell in love with pictures that a friend had posted online. And I got another book by happy accident – the previous owners left it (and some other things) in the house. Yay free book!

The book I bought was:

poisondiariesThe Poison Diaries by The Duchess of Northumberland
Amazon

This truly gothic tale—a “facsimile” of Weed’s journal found at Alnwick Castle, in England—is not only a story of the battle between good and evil, but an educational parable of the curative and lethal properties of plants.

Weed—an orphan boy who apprentices with an evil old apothecary—is both used and abused. His journal is part botanical workbook and part diary of his own relationship with poisonous plants.

Weed discovers that he is one of the few people whom the plants talk to, and they try to persuade him that, with their help, his master can easily be disposed of. Although he refuses at first, after Weed’s first love, Marigold, experiments with the poisons and dies, he is pushed over the edge and plots to kill his master with a taste of his own evil medicine.

Each chapter of the story begins with Weed’s botanical notes: a plant’s appearance and properties, where it is found, how it should be cared for, the most poisonous parts, and how poison is extracted and administered. Accompanied by Weed’s sketches of the plants in their natural form, his diary also reveals the “real” personalities of the plants.

The pictures in this book are just gorgeous! Beautifully drawn pen and ink drawings – I’d love to own some of the pictures to hang on a wall. (I show some of them in my YouTube video below.)

The book that came free with the purchase of our house (not such a great deal, when you think about it lol!) was:

threedaystoneverThree Days To Never by Tim Powers
Amazon

Albert Einstein’s groundbreaking scientific discoveries made possible the creation of the most terrible weapon the world had ever known. But he made another discovery that he chose to reveal to no one—to keep from human hands a power that dwarfed the atomic bomb.

When twelve-year-old Daphne Marrity takes a videotape labeled Pee-wee’s Big Adventure from her recently deceased grandmother’s house, neither she nor her college-professor father, Frank, realize what they now have in their possession. In an instant they are thrust into the center of a world-altering conspiracy, drawing the dangerous attentions of both the Israeli Secret Service and an ancient European cabal of occultists.

Now father and daughter have three days to learn the rules of a terrifying magical chess game in order to escape a fate more profound than death—because the Marritys hold the key to the ultimate destruction of not only what’s to come . . . but what already has been.

I hadn’t heard of Tim Powers before but I really like supernatural thrillers, and a quote on the back is by Dean Koontz (one of my favourite authors), so I’m looking forward to reading this.

I talk about the books in more detail on my latest YouTube video – and natter a bit about the house move and a few other things.

I’m going to be uploading more regularly on my YouTube channel, and I have a few new ideas to start over September. So if you enjoy my videos don’t forget to subscribe on YouTube! 🙂

As usual I’ll be taking part in Stacking The Shelves, and The Sunday Post – check out some of the other posts to find great reads 🙂

I purchased these books with my own money, and received no compensation for my honest opinion.
I am an Amazon Associate: they pay me a small commission if you use my link.

Review: The Edge of Nowhere by C. H. Armstrong

EdgeofNowhereThe Edge of Nowhere by C. H. Armstrong
Amazon

The year is 1992 and Victoria Hastings Harrison Greene—reviled matriarch of a sprawling family—is dying.

After surviving the Oklahoma Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, Victoria refuses to leave this earth before revealing the secrets she’s carried for decades.

Once the child of a loving family during peaceful times, a shocking death shattered her life. Victoria came face to face with the harshness of the world. As the warm days of childhood receded to distant memory, Victoria learns to survive.

No matter what it takes.

To keep her family alive in an Oklahoma blighted by dust storms and poverty, Victoria makes choices—harsh ones, desperate ones. Ones that eventually made her into the woman her grandchildren fear and whisper about. Ones that kept them all alive. Hers is a tale of tragedy, love, murder, and above all, the conviction to never stop fighting.

I received an e-copy of this book via NetGalley. My views and opinions of the book are my own, and I received no compensation for my honest review.

A friend on twitter recommended this book to NetGalley users, and the description sounded interesting so I requested it. It was labelled as “women’s fiction” but really I think it’s historical fiction foremost. I wish I’d realised that before requesting it, as I’m not a big fan of historical fiction. The description made it sound as though the story was set in 1992, but in reality it’s all set in the past – from 1913 to 1939.

The Edge of Nowhere is a narration of the protagonist, Victoria’s, life. What I mean by narration is that the whole book read very much as telling instead of showing – which is a big no-no in the writing world – and I felt more like I was reading a padded out list of events. There wasn’t any “showing” to help me become immersed in the story, and each character and situation felt flat because of it.

The story starts with the protagonist saying this is a letter to her family so they can understand what she went through, and it ends in much the same way. But at 358 pages I think it could have been better executed as a brief letter at the start saying something like “the following is a book about my life, for my grandchildren” and then show us her life instead of just telling us a series of events. (It’s pretty unbelievable that she wrote a 358 page letter lol!)

On top of the “telling instead of showing” issue, the dialogue wasn’t very good, in my opinion. Every character sounded the same as the rest (you could make a drinking game for whenever anyone said “I don’t have much but I can share”). And confusingly, at the start of the book Victoria (and her family) seemed to speak with a mostly “proper” accent, but as the book went on the author changed the way Victoria and everyone around her spoke, giving them more of a drawl including missing letters from words. This change seems to be trying to drive home that Victoria wasn’t from an affluent family, but it was inconsistent with how the story started.

Which also caused some confusion for me because at the start of the story I thought she was living in a Victorian affluent setting, due to the names and how everyone was speaking and interacting, but also the way certain characters finances were talked about. Will, in particular, was made to sound like a very wealthy gentleman at first, but within a couple of chapters they were talking about how much of a hard working farmer he is and about what little money they made from even great farming years.

The writing style as a whole made it a struggle to get through the book, which is a shame because the idea for the story is a good one and the topics covered are important things that should be discussed – not just from history but in modern day too. Topics such as starvation, misogyny, sex work (the book briefly touches on this), survival, infant death, and grief.

Victoria goes through a vast list of trials and suffering. I felt angry at everything she had to endure, but at the same time I didn’t actually care about Victoria at all. Her character – even though her demeanor changed through the book – fell flat for me. I like to see character development that actually develops the character in a way that shows us the changes, and doesn’t just write the character telling us how they changed.

I wouldn’t recommend The Edge of Nowhere to anyone but, as I hadn’t ever heard of the Oklahoma Dust Bowl before, I have learned something from reading this book. And even though the “telling” and dialogue were a struggle to get through, I do feel as though I’ve learned a little about what it was like for some families during that time.

Due to learning something new, my rating isn’t as low as it would have been.

Rating: 2.5/5

I received this ebook via NetGalley. The opinions are my own and I received no compensation for my honest review.
I am an Amazon Associate: they pay me a small commission if you use my link.

June Book Haul!

JuneBookHaul

I know, it’s been a bit longer than expected since my last post. Sorry!  We went to visit some family, and then started house hunting. Which takes a lot of time – who knew?! (Well, we did but oh well!) What we didn’t realise is how quickly property sells here, especially if it is a “good deal” in a good area.

We ended up in a sort of bidding war, where our offer was one of 5 and everyone had to submit a “best and final” offer. It was really nerve wracking! You don’t know what everyone else is going to do, so we really went all in – the house is just so perfect for us and we didn’t want to lose it. I even wrote a letter to the seller to let them know just how much the house meant to us.  So after a very tense 24 hours of not knowing what would happen… we got the house! 😀  We don’t close on it yet, but it’s so great to know we will be moving to “our house” soon…because it really did feel like home right away.

In the midst of all the busyness I did still find time to buy some books – not much of a surprise there! It’s a slightly mixed bunch, with a few authors I haven’t read before.

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1. Burned by Karen Marie Moning. Amazon
2. The Girl in 6E by A. R. Torre. Amazon (How gorgeous is that cover!)
3. Sweep In Peace by Ilona Andrews. Amazon

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4. Would-Be Witch by Kimberly Frost. Amazon
5. Tempting Danger by Eileen Wilks. Amazon
6. You’re Never Weird On The Internet (almost) by Felicia Day. Amazon
7. Vivian Versus The Apocalypse by Katie Coyle. Amazon | Book Depository (the US version has a different title/cover, but I like the UK title/cover more so I bought my copy from Book Depository)

My vlog talks about the books in more detail 🙂

As usual I’ll be taking part in Stacking The Shelves, and The Sunday Post – check out some of the other posts to find great reads 🙂

I purchased these books with my own money, and received no compensation for my honest opinion.
I am a Book Depository and Amazon Associate: they pay me a small commission if you use my link.

Review: Night Shift by Charlaine Harris

NightShiftNight Shift by Charlaine Harris
Amazon

At Midnight’s local pawnshop, weapons are flying off the shelves—only to be used in sudden and dramatic suicides right at the main crossroads in town.

Who better to figure out why blood is being spilled than the vampire Lemuel, who, while translating mysterious texts, discovers what makes Midnight the town it is. There’s a reason why witches and werewolves, killers and psychics, have been drawn to this place.

And now they must come together to stop the bloodshed in the heart of Midnight. For if all hell breaks loose—which just might happen—it will put the secretive town on the map, where no one wants it to be.

I received an e-copy of this book via NetGalley. My views and opinions of the book are my own, and I received no compensation for my honest review.

When I requested Night Shift I didn’t realise it was book 3 in the “Midnight Texas” series. But that didn’t cause any issues, it worked as a stand alone novel – I only realised it wasn’t book one after I’d finished reading it.

I read quite a few of the Sookie Stackhouse series when it first came out, and I’ve read (and loved!) the Harper Connelly series, so I was really looking forward to reading Night Shift!

In Night Shift there are a couple of crossover characters from both of those series – one I didn’t recognize (from later in the Sookie series that I hadn’t reached yet), and one from the Harper Connelly series.  It was a fun twist to have this kind of crossover but I don’t remember vampires being around in Harper’s world, so the crossover of them living in the same town was a little strange.

Night Shift focuses on several different characters, all with their own unique skills: Fiji is a witch, Lemuel is a vampire, Manfred is a psychic/medium, Quinn is a weretiger…the list goes on.

The main plot is about the town needing to come together to stop strange suicides that have been happening, and to put an end to what has been causing that to happen. I was interested enough to keep reading, and wanted to know more about the sub plots that take place through the book. Manfred, Lemuel and Olivier were my favourite characters, and they seemed the most developed. The other characters weren’t underdeveloped, they just didn’t feel as substantial to me.

I liked that Manfred has a great psychic ability which is triggered by touch, and that he saw a lot more into people’s lives than they probably realised. Just a simple friendly gesture from someone (a pat on the arm) could end up with Manfred seeing everything they were hiding from the outside world. Seeing him here made me want to re-read the Harper Connelly series.

Fiji is a witch who is more powerful than she realises, and I really enjoyed the portrayal of witches in Night Shift (or at least the way Fiji’s magic was shown). She has a draw of “trinkets” which I loved seeing, and the reason for them (no spoilers, so I won’t go into more detail), and I love the way she casts spells and channels her power.

Mr. Snuggly is just fab 😀

As for negatives, a lot of the backstory for each character was “told” to us, almost just listing out what had happened, and sometimes felt more like padding as it didn’t add anything to the current story.

In fact, a lot of the book felt like padding. One character is in town throughout the entire book and gives a very vague “warning” at the start, then at the very end says (I’m paraphrasing) “So I’ve always known what’s happening, I came here for the sole purpose of telling you how to deal with it…but I just didn’t tell you since I’ve been here, even though it could have saved lives and given you all a head start on fixing things”. It was the most “wtf” moment in the book for me. Their whole purpose was to be the character who knew what was going on…yet they waited until literally the last moment (after Lemuel had already finished his decoding) to tell anyone. Basically if this character had said what he knew at the start, there would have been no book.

And then the whole thing felt like such a forced plot – just pushing us along toward what was ultimately a very disappointing ending. After a build up through the whole book, the finale is 2 pages of basically nothing exciting. Just a totally fizzled out ending.

Then in the final few pages of “and they all lived happily ever after” summaries there is a very homophobic comment (said as though it’s a positive thing), and a conversation that’s very degrading to women. I don’t know if those will be edited out before the final release but I certainly hope so! It left me with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.

I will say that because I was given an advanced copy of the book there were quite a few things I think (I hope!) will be edited out. From small things like typos, to bigger things like character A telling character B that they hear voices in their mind and character B saying “I think I know what that is! I’ll go check something and let you know!”, then a couple of chapters later character A tells character B again as though it’s the first time talking about it and character B wonders why character A didn’t say something sooner.

The interaction between all of the characters was interesting, and because of that the sub plots drew me along through the story (perhaps more so than the “main” plot). Olivier is someone I would really love to read more about – she could have her own series and I’d jump at reading it!

But for Night Shift… Overall I didn’t dislike this book, but I didn’t love it either. It’s just an average book, nothing special. I don’t feel like checking out the previous two in the series because it didn’t pique my interest enough, and I doubt I’ll be reaching for any future books in the series unless I’m really stuck for something to read.

I feel this book is closer to a 2.5 rating, but I’m feeling generous because I did enjoy Manfred, Lemuel and Olivier’s characters.

Rating: 3/5

I received this ebook via NetGalley. The opinions are my own and I received no compensation for my honest review.
I am an Amazon Associate: they pay me a small commission if you use my link.

Libraries, GISHWHES, and NetGalley – Oh My!

I was almost tempted to say the past week had been uneventful, but that’s not really true. It’s just been a more chilled out kind of event filled week, instead of the manic weeks I seem to have had a lot of lately!

It started off great when I found out The Library Project wanted my face. Ok let me back up a bit here lol! I recently wrote a blog about my favourite childhood book to help promote The Library Project – an organisation which donates books and libraries to children in under-financed rural schools and orphanages in Asia. When they first reached out to bloggers to help promote their organisation I jumped at the chance!

Well now they want to grow that into even more bloggers being part of it and have set up a specific section of their website…which now has my face (and the other bloggers who took part in the original blog posts) on it! 🙂

LibraryFace

For any bloggers interested in joining in the fun and helping to spread the word about the organisation, there are full details on The Library Project website on how to take part.

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I also got a few of ebooks from NetGalley – my first time ever requesting from them! I was rejected for several, which I expected, but I got approved for a handful of titles so now I’m working my way through them. I’ve written a review for Henchgirl already, and am about 75% of the way through Night Shift.

Henchgirl by Rita Stradling  Amazon | My Review

Night Shift by Charlaine Harris  Amazon

gishwhes2016

Then some online friends told me about something called GISHWHES. I’d never heard of it before! It’s an annual “scavenger hunt” run by Misha Collins (who plays Castiel on Supernatural), where teams work to complete fun and creative challenges. You don’t have to live local to anyone on your team (I don’t!) and you can create your own team or join a team of random people to get to meet new friends.

From what I can tell, there are a LOT of different challenges and you just do as many as you can – they vary from something simple (like taking a photo with a stormtrooper) to something really hard (like writing GISHWHES in space!). The aim of the hunt isn’t just a creative outlet though, it’s also to help and inspire others in your community.  It sounded like way too much fun to pass up so I’ve registered 😀 The hunt starts in July – I’m a bit nervous but definitely excited!

Finally, it was Penny’s “birthday” yesterday! She turned 2-ish. It’s been a year since we took her in and I can’t believe it’s been so long already. She definitely feels like she’s been part of the family for way longer than that!

penny2ndBirthday

I made a vlog about some of these things (and other bits going on in my life) while the dog and cat are crazy in the background lol!

As usual I’ll be taking part in Stacking The Shelves, and The Sunday Post – check out some of the other posts to find great reads 🙂

I received the ebooks via NetGalley, and received no compensation for my honest opinion.
I am an Amazon Associate: they pay me a small commission if you use my link.

Review: Henchgirl by Rita Stradling

HenchgirlHenchgirl by Rita Stradling
Amazon

The children of dragons and humans, the dracons, control eighty percent of the world’s governments. Humans worldwide are either subservient or prey. On the small vacation island of Mabi, humans call for war.

Sixteen year old Dakota Kekoa lives a double life. By day, she pretends to be a human to infiltrate Mabi Academy, a ‘human’s only’ high-school. At night, she works as a henchman for her draconic mafia family, utilizing her ability to steal and manipulate emotions.

Dakota’s life is not ideal but it is manageable, until the rich and famous half-dragon, Wyvern Manderson, shows up and starts sabotaging Dakota’s missions. And for some bewildering reason, he is always angry at her.

Within days of Wyvern’s arrival, Dakota is suspended from future missions and in desperate need of money. When Wyvern offers to hire Dakota to find his kidnapped human half-sister, she accepts despite knowing she’ll have to spend all day, every day, with Wyvern and his gigantic ego. This is not just any mission though; she is diving head first into the escalating conflict between humans and dracons. As more girls disappear and some are discovered dead, Dakota realizes her first honorable mission may also be her last.

I received an e-copy of this book via NetGalley – my first book from there! My views and opinions of the book are my own, and I received no compensation for my honest review.

Henchgirl is a fantasy/YA novel, and the first book in the Dakota Kekoa series. I hadn’t read anything by Rita Stradling before, but the description about dragons (who doesn’t love dragons?!) and the gorgeous island-themed cover made me want to dive right in.

The story follows a 16 year old dracon girl, Dakota Kekoa, who works for her Grandfather as something of a collections agent. She is part dragon (as are most of her family) but her ability is particularly useful as she can manipulate souls. I hadn’t ever seen that in a book before so it was an interesting plot point!

She uses her ability to be able to remove emotions from people, or add them, for example adding fear into someone she’s trying to intimidate for her Grandfather, or removing doubt from someone to make a deal. Her gift has it’s limitations and I enjoyed seeing how Dakota dealt with those and how her family had worked to make the most of even the negative aspects of her ability.

The novel is set in the fictional islands of Mabi (which were very clearly based on Hawaii) and I really enjoyed reading about somewhere different from the usual states/cities you see in fantasy/YA novels. The cover (shown above) is also a gorgeous representation of this, however that’s the paperback cover. The ebook cover seems to have been a little whitewashed – Dakota often talks about her darker skin tone, dark eyes and hair, yet the ebook cover has a very pale white girl with light brown hair – I’m not sure why the beautiful island cover isn’t used for both versions.

That aside, I really enjoyed reading this book! The dragon “history” was unusual and interesting. For example: dragons can’t stay on the earth’s surface for long because it’s too cold for them, they live far underground near the earth’s core. There are a lot of strengths with full dragons, and part-dragons, but also a number of weaknesses and I enjoyed that balance.

Dakota is a character who I think will develop more as the series progresses. I kept having to remind myself that she was only 16 because she got a little annoying at times with her thoughts or reactions. Especially when you team it with the fact she’d been working as a henchgirl for her Grandfather for several years, yet she didn’t seem prepared at all for taking/following orders or making logical conclusions over some situations (no spoilers). But as I said, she is only 16 so reminding myself of that helped a little to ease the frustrations.

Wyvern is a character I also want to see more of. He’s interesting but has a lot of negatives – he’s the pushy/dominating/controlling kind of man I don’t find attractive at all nor want to read about. But his character does seem to be changing and “learning” as he goes, so I’m actually really interested to see where his character ends up.  Hopefully it will be a case of him changing the way he does things because he realises women aren’t objects, and not just him changing only to please one girl.

The romance elements got heavier and heavier through the book. At first the story was a fun fantasy read, but ended up feeling more like a romance novel. So I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the romance doesn’t become the main story – I want to read more about the girl with the interesting talent, and her siblings (who also have talents of their own), and learn more about the dragons, with the romance as a subplot not the main plot.

There were quite a few open ended plot points that I hope get answered in the next book. Specifically about Dakota’s father, something that was given to her at the end of the book (no spoilers), and why Wyvern is how he is (and why her Grandfather knows). Hopefully these get more weight to them than the romance.

The pace of the novel is a bit slow at times – I felt a couple of scenes were padding that weren’t really needed and the main plot became a back story. For trying to save someone’s life, and rescue someone in possible mortal danger, they sure do have a lot of fancy dinners and not seeming to care about saving lives until after the dinner has ended. But the plot does move at a nice pace for the most part and kept me guessing at a couple of things, which is always fun!

I definitely enjoyed the book 🙂 It was a fairly quick read and a world I definitely want to read more of. I’m keeping my fingers crossed the series stays on the fantasy track and doesn’t become mainly romance.

Rating: 4/5

I received this ebook via NetGalley. The opinions are my own and I received no compensation for my honest review.
I am an Amazon Associate: they pay me a small commission if you use my link.