Books Books

Spellcaster Review

When I started reading Two Dark Reigns on Wednesday, I assumed that I would be giving my review for that series today. However, as I got closer to the end of the novel, it became increasingly clear to me that this would not be the case. It’s fine, I managed to be quite composed when I finished the novel, and didn’t throw it at the wall when I realised that the series wasn’t quite over yet. Dangit Kendare Blake!

So, I won’t be reviewing that series today, because the series has not yet finished, and with the exception of newly released novels I’m trying to stick to reviewing finished series. Well, newly released novels, and Indie novels I suppose. Instead of reviewing the Three Dark Crowns series by Kendare Blake today, that will wait until sometime next year, when I manage to get my hands on the next (and hopefully final) book. Well, I wouldn’t be unhappy if it weren’t the end of the series. I’d actually be quite happy in some ways, because I do really enjoy the world and the series. That being said, I’m now stuck with that annoying feeling of waiting for the next book in an amazing series. It always seems to take forever.

Instead, today I’ll be reviewing the Spellcaster series, by Claudia Gray. I had no idea what I was getting into when I picked up the first book in this series. All I knew was that it was YA, and it had something to do with magic. I was sold enough on that.

I found the characters incredibly investing. Nadia was a compelling protagonist, Mateo was an interesting and sympathetic romantic interest. Elizabeth was an outstanding villain. Then there was my favourite character, the lovely dynamic Verlaine. It would be safe to say that Verlaine utterly captured my heart. Mateo was cool and all, but Verlaine stole the show for me when it came to characters.

As interesting as the characters were, I would have to say it was the magic system which really drew me deep into my love for this series. Instead of the typical wands and magic spells, or chanting and using will, each “spell” was crafted by using the spellcaster’s memories. This method of spellcasting absolutely floored me.

The story itself was also quite interesting, and again, the world and magic system were absolutely stunning. I will most definitely be recommending this book to lovers of YA, romance, urban fantasy, and anyone who has any interest in interesting magic systems.

It’s also on my to be read again pile. When I make it through my to be read for the first time pile. <_< I’ll get there.

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Advice on Advice

No two people are exactly alike. What works well for one person, won’t necessarily work well for you, or for someone else. There might be times when you’re given advice and when trying it out it works well for you. That does not mean you always need to try advice from that person, or similar seeming advice if you don’t feel comfortable with it.

I have been seeing a lot about Marie Kondo lately. Mostly on some book lovers pages I’m on on facebook, which is usually focused on her advice to ideally keep less than thirty books. This advice is definitely not for everyone. I know that I, for one, would be absolutely unable to cull my library down to only thirty books. Especially if I go by her other advice of “keep it if it sparks joy.”

This blog post isn’t going to be about Marie Kondo. At least, not entirely. My point today is that advice that works for someone else might not necessarily work for you, and there will be times you will have to accept that, and work things out for yourself. For example, I can’t take Marie Kondo’s advice, because to me, having my collections of books, DVDs, games, and plushies? They make me happy. Each one makes me happy. I will rewatch the DVDs, I will reread the books, I will replay the games, and I will find comfort in my plushies.

I could give you advice which I have worked out for myself over my life. Do what makes you happy. Work hard on your studies. Always have a book to read. Don’t be afraid to leave people behind in your life if they don’t make you happy. Always live with a pet. These are things that I have found which work for me. I am in no way saying that they will work for you.

Then there are times when you’ve found advice that works for you, but it might be hard to enact. For example, I should always wear sunscreen when I’m going to be outside for more than ten minutes. I just burn up in the sun. The other day I was out with some friends, and sitting under the shade, and I did indeed put sunscreen on after a little while. I still got burned. Often it’s a case of me forgetting to put it on, or there not being sunscreen available. In this case I mustn’t have gotten it on quick enough. Some people might think “always have sunscreen in your bag” would be a great way to remedy at least part of that, so I always have it with me when I need it, however my anxiety prevents me from doing so, because I’m absolutely certain it would leak, and there would be sunscreen throughout my bag. (I can’t even put a bottle of liquid in there for the same reason. Especially not if it’s cold. Condensation would just ruin the books I have in my bag!)

I cannot stress enough that the same advice will not necessarily work for two different people. Let’s look at advice like medication. There are plenty of different types and brands, for different diseases. You might take some cough medicine one day, to find that your cough is fixed perfectly. That doesn’t mean you should recommend it to someone with chicken pox. Or to look at the same metaphor in a different way: two people may have depression. One pill might work for one of them, though that doesn’t mean the same pill is going to work for the other person as well.

Decluttering can be great, and I do need to get into my stuff and declutter. I am even going through my books and choosing some to give up, as hard as that may be to believe. I’m not going to follow Marie Kondo’s advice for doing so, however. I’m simply going to go through in my own little way and go through things that I don’t or won’t use or wear in the immediate future.

I would call it Spring Cleaning, but it’s a bit late for that, with it being the exact middle of Summer right now more or less. I wish luck to anyone else who might be going through the same, and my advice of: Don’t just follow every bit of advice you hear. Work things out for yourself, and find what works for you.

Books Books

The Laughing Man

I have some amazing friends, and some of my amazing friends are amazingly talented. One such friend, who I have known since High School, has recently published his second book. Just because it’s with an Indie publisher does not make that any less impressive. I’ve even had the pleasure, though a lot more recently, and through a different friend (amazing how your friends can know each other without you when you all like writing!) to meet the main brains behind Ouroborus Books, which is the Indie publishing company several of my friends have been published through.

In an even more amazing coincidence, I was at a different friend’s party a little while before Christmas. This is a friend I knew from my first high school, before I met the previous fr5iend I was talking about, who I’ll get to again shortly. While talking with the other people there, I discovered that one of her work colleagues is also published through Ouroborus Books. Okay, well, I thought it was an insane and amazing coincidence, though I can understand if you don’t find it the same.

So, my friend from high school. Let’s call him… Robert J. Barlow. Although I mostly knew him as just Rob in high school. I honestly don’t think I could tell you what his middle name is, aside from the fact that the initial is J. I wouldn’t even be able to tell you that much if he hadn’t opted to include it for his nom de plume with his debut novel The Laughing Man.

So. The Laughing Man. There’s a lot I could talk about here. Both Rob, the author, and Sabrina, the publisher, are my friends, so I don’t want to chew him out, but I also want to be truthful. So, here goes:

The story: I was, like everyone I know who has read this book, captivated by the story. It’s an amazing story, well written, with an incredibly interesting world, and some fabulous (some in more ways than one) characters.

The characters: I can’t fault anything here, they were all wonderfully well written. They were engaging, dynamic, thoroughly interesting, and all wonderfully individual.

I was absolutely honestly thoroughly into this book, the world, the plot, the story. It was incredible.

My issues? There were a few places where the editing could have been a bit tighter. The copyediter didn’t seem to do the best job. I feel kinda bad saying this, but it took me so long to get through this book (I started reading it last month) because there were moments I just had to massage my brain to get through it.

On a passing glance, it would absolutely pass muster. Unfortunately, there were some paragraphs in later chapters that weren’t indented properly. Sometimes a single paragraph contained two different characters speaking (Something I distinctly remember being a huge no-no in one of my classes last semester, when my tutor thought two different characters were speaking, when it was just the one…) which made me unfortunately a bit confused at times. There were a few cases of “in” in the place of “on” and vice versa, or other similar slip ups, and a few little spelling errors.

That, and there were a few phrases here and there which I found I had to stare at for a while in order to understand what it was that was trying to be conveyed. Though honestly I’m not sure how much of that was my not necessarily being 100% engaged in the book at that time for whatever reason, or something that might have been able to be clarified by a little bit of editing.

So, on the whole, absolutely do love and would recommend the book. (Not just because one of my friends wrote it and another published it) It might have a few kinks still, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an absolutely stunning read. I will absolutely be reading this book again, and hopefully when I have money again sometime I’ll be able to buy The Spinning Sister, which is the second book in the series, and has already been out. (Okay, so it took me a while to get around to buying the book, and then reading it… I’m not the best at reading books I buy promptly. Also not always great at buying books immediately when they come out, which is mostly a money thing, and sometimes a “that book caught my eye more immediately” thing.

Books Books

The Lunar Chronicles

I mentioned in my latest blog how I was originally sceptical regarding the quality of a finished NaNo product. After all, writing fifty thousand words within a single month is a lot, and given one of the core tenets of NaNo is not editing what you write until the month’s finished, I found it hard to believe that the finished product would be as good as something someone took their time to write.

Hardly the first or last time I’ve been wrong. Today’s review, in honour of National Novel Writing Month, is the Lunar Chronicles, by Marissa Meyer. Not only did Meyer win NaNo, and go on to later publish a book from what she’d written, but during November 2008 she wrote three novels in a single month, which she later edited, and finally published, as the first three novels in the Lunar Chronicles. Knowing that made me eat my thoughts in regards to quality of a NaNo novel.

Of course, I know that much of the work that goes into a novel is done in the editing stages, though as a perfectionist who likes to get things write the first time, it can sometimes be hard for me to accept that. Yet I want to be an editor, involved mainly in that process. Yeah, I know I’m weird and illogical.

I have yet to read Fairest, but last year I bought Cinder on a whim. Once I’d finished it, I immediately had to go out and buy Scarlett, Cress, and Winter. I may have a bit of a problem when it comes to buying books. What can I say, I like to support fellow authors. While enjoying their wonderful words.

When I reviewed The Selection series, by Kiera Cass, I mentioned how I regretted judging the books by the covers, which is what lead to me taking so long to get around to reading them. The same thing happened with this series. Except, instead of expecting some sappy romance, I was expecting… Well, Twilight. The focus of red on the black cover for a Young Adult novel series gave me flash backs. Eventually, however, I bit the bullet, and I’m very glad I did.

On the scale of genres, I usually sit very far on the fantasy side, though now and then it’s nice to dip my toe into science fiction. I found that Meyer managed to blend both genres together perfectly. While there was a lovely science fiction setting, there was some classic fantasy tropes which worked together quite well. Then again, when you’re retelling fairy tales, the tropes are easy enough to fit in there.

I found the characters all amazing. As with Richelle Mead’s Glittering Court series, she manages to create four unique and strong heroines. Each heroine is strong in their own way. They all have their own goals and motivations, which are entirely different from each other. There’s Cinder, a genius mechanic cyborg, who also happens to be the lost Lunar princess. What starts for her as a pull towards a handsome prince, becomes a fight for the freedom of the people on the moon, whom she barely knew to begin with.

Scarlett lost her grandmother, and fell for the Big Bad Wolf. She stands up for the side of right, and for those who can’t stand up for themselves. While not the mechanical genius that Cinder is, she’s pretty handy with a gun.

Cress is a genius computer whiz, who grew up isolated on a satellite. She becomes attached to Cinder and her Prince, and dreams of her own handsome rogue saving her.

Finally, there’s Winter, the loving Princess, who’s equally loved by her people, although hated by her step mother (what is it with fairy tales and step mothers?). She has a strong attachment to a childhood friend, and an aversion to the glamour that is popular among Lunars.

The series is wonderfully written, with a cast of captivating characters, a compelling plot, and a fantastic setting.

I highly recommend it, and will almost certainly read it again at some point.

Not bad for something where three whole novels were written in the space of a single month.

Blog Posts, Books Books

Myself as a Reader/Books Books

I have been a reader for as long as I can remember. I grew up with Harry Potter, with the first book coming out when I was in my first year of primary school, through to the seventh book coming out when I was in my second-to-last year of high school. Even in my final year, I had Rowling’s wizarding fairy tale book, Tales of Beadle the Bard to entertain me and keep me going through the school year.

I can vividly remember starting a new school in year five, clutching my copy of the fourth book to my chest. I regret to say that as a child, I wasn’t necessarily good at looking after books, and with my intense love for this series, my copies were so well-read that the hard covers ended up off the books, and the books themselves rather water-logged due to an unfortunate habit of reading in a bath. I have since perfected this habit, along with one of reading in a pool, to the point where any book is perfectly safe within my hands while I soak in the water that I love. Though, that can be a tale for another day.

For father’s day when I was five years old I read my first ever book aloud to my grandfather, at Pancake Manor. He was appropriately delighted as I regaled him with the story of Sam I am, while reading Green Eggs and Ham. My love for books has only grown as I have. I can now appreciate the Harry Potter series as more than just an entertaining children’s story. Just as I can now appreciate the amazing story behind Green Eggs and Ham, as Dr Seuss. An entire story, written with only 50 words.

While my love for books has eventually evolved to wanting to write, to leave my own mark on the world, and to edit, to help others achieve their goals, my love of reading rarely waivers. I have my slumps, of course. Most people do. Even in the middle of my deepest slumps, however, I can always be found with at least one book in my bag. (Though most often it’s two or more. In case I finish one.) In the past I have tried having ereaders, for the convenience of a library in my bag, along with cheaper books. However, at the end of the day, for me in particular—although I am certain there are others who share my preference—nothing will ever beat the feeling of a real book in my hands.

In January, I set myself three book-related goals to achieve by the end of the year. At the moment, it isn’t looking like I will achieve two of them, although that’s not to say it’s impossible. My first goal was to read at least 100 books by the end of the year. This is after I achieved last years goal of reading 52 books, of which I achieved a little over 70. It is currently the tenth month, and I am sitting on 76 books read. Not where I would ideally be sitting, this late in the year, although that does not mean it’s not still achievable.

My second goal has already been achieved, although half by accident. Recently, I made a promise to myself to stop buying so many books. My hope is to save my money, so that I might move down to Victoria after I have finished my study. I broke that just this Wednesday, however, after I finished A Promise of Fire, the first book in The Kingmaker Chronicles by Amanda Bouchet. I had to immediately go out and purchase the next two books in the series. I may also have bought The House with a Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs while I was there, after having watched the recent film adaptation. These three books apparently helped me move up from my gold QBD card, to a platinum one, which was my second book-related goal.

Finally, my third goal for the year, which I am a mere thirteen books away from completing, is to read the entirety of Terry Pratchett’s wonderful Discworld series. Through the year, I have been working through the books.

My third goal is one two things which has been helping me toward my first goal, with the second thing being a subscription to the wonderful YA book-to-your-door service of Owl Crate. I have been subscribed since early last year, and never once regretted it. Once a month I have a package delivered to me, with a new book, along with a number of wonderful things related to the book. I have two beautiful and unique Harry Potter mugs. (One day I’ll have to find which crate I missed had the first one, so I can collect what I am certain will eventually be a beautiful set.)

Last month’s book was Mirage by Somaiya Daud. When I receive my Owl Crate, I refrain from looking anything up about the author or the book, until I have finished it. So with every one of the books I have read from them, I have gone in unaware as to what I might expect. This is how I read Mirage. Naturally, just with every other book I have received so far from this service, I absolutely loved it.

So, this is where I plan to start something that I have been wanting to do for a while. For a few years now, I have been thinking about starting a YouTube channel, where I discuss books that I have read, and my thoughts regarding them. However, without a good webcam or microphone, this isn’t something that I am likely to begin any time soon. Instead, I will begin slowly by simply posting my reviews online. Conveniently I now have a blog for it!

I hope to commit to posting a review every Friday. Please, wish me luck in this endeavour for the future. Along with the entire endeavour to put myself out there as a freelance Creative Writer, and Editor.

Book’s Books

In Daud’s note to readers that accompanied her book in its Owl Crate packaging, she mentioned that she has written other novels, though Mirage is her debut. What an absolutely stunning debut it is. It wasn’t hard for me to find myself on Andala and its moons among a conquered populace. I felt for Amani’s plight as she struggled to become someone so different to the kind and loving person she is at heart.

Amani was a lovely protagonist, a poet with a heart big enough to love even those who pulled her from her family. Through the course of the novel she grows from a simple farmer’s daughter, to someone who can hold her own amid a court of vipers.

The tale was a beautiful rendition of The Prince and the Pauper with its own wonderful twists and turns. While look-alikes Marim and Amani hardly trade places for fun, Amani still has a chance to enjoy the splendours of life as a Princess for a change, while Marim finds herself with a confidante.

I am most desperately looking forward to a sequel already. While I was nearing the end I found myself convinced that Amani’s tale could not yet be over. As I came to the last few pages I grew more certain, until I closed the book with a delicious sense of unsatisfaction. The first story has been told, certainly, but there is more to come which I shall no doubt relish reading.

Perhaps one day I will devise some sort of rating system for the novels I review, although for now I think I’ll simply leave things in a different manner. For me, a true test of a book is whether or not I wish to reread it. While some books lead me on with promises of sequels, I may not necessarily go back and reread them. Mirage however, is certainly something that I can envision myself reading at least once more in the future.