Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Book Review: Accidentally on Purpose by Jill Shalvis

Title: Accidentally on Purpose
Author: Jill Shalvis
Series: Heartbreaker Bay #3
Publication Date: January 31st 2017

Synopsis: "Accidentally on Purpose is the third in New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis's Heartbreaker Bay series, featuring her trademark gift for humour, warmth and romance.

Elle Wheaton's priorities: friends, career, and kick-ass shoes. Then there's the muscular wall of stubbornness that's security expert Archer Hunt - who comes before everything else. No point in telling Mr. 'Feels-Free Zone' that, though. Elle will just see other men until she gets over Archer...which should only take a lifetime...

Archer's wanted the best for Elle ever since he sacrificed his law-enforcement career to save her. Their chemistry could start the next San Francisco earthquake and he craves her 24/7, but Archer doesn't want to be responsible for the damage. The alternative? Watch her go out with guys who aren't him... As far as Archer's concerned, nobody is good enough for Elle. But when he sets out to prove it by sabotaging he dates, she gets mad - and things get hot as hell. Now Archer has a new mission: prove to Elle that her perfect man has been here all along..."

My thoughts: If you follow me on Goodreads, you will know that I make no bones about enjoying romance, particularly romance from Jill Shalvis. I have always enjoyed that she explores both points of view in her books. I also find her female characters to be tough, smart, and believable, which helps a whole bunch. Not to mention, I tend to love the sex scenes in her books!

This one was really quite good. Occasionally, Shalvis' books can come across as a little formulaic, and I find that I can be a bit of a jumpy reader when that happens (that is, read a bit here, skip forward a few paragraphs, read a bit there, just so I get the gist of things before moving on). But in this one, I actually loved the dynamic between Archer and Elle, and how they both had their own versions of a past event that they shared.

Shalvis is so good in this at exploring each character's insecurities and misguided beliefs, so much so that when they do come together, it feels natural and not forced in any way. Her characters are not 2D, and they also aren't afraid to call someone out on their damaging behaviours or beliefs. Having said that, I did have a few small issues with some of the gender roles in this, but they were honestly tiny issues, and hardly worth mentioning (except for just then).

This is a great book to read of-a-weekend when you want to get swept away into a bit of romance. Do recommend!

A favourite line from the book: 'Kylie shook her head, still smiling. "Does the whole world always do exactly as you command?"
She got that question a lot. "When it knows what's good for it," she quipped.
Kylie smiled. "So are you going to laugh at me if I say I really want to believe the wish will come true?"
"Well, not to your face," Elle said.'

You would like this book if: You enjoy romance where the female characters stand up for themselves, instead of swooning all the time; you like Jill Shalvis!

Tea to drink while reading this book: I'd say something nice and sweet. And steamy (sorry, couldn't help myself!). Perhaps some caramel brownie tea from T2?

Rating:  7.5/10

If you'd like to keep up to date with what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads here!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Book Review: Happy and Whole by Magdalena Roze

Title: Happy and Whole
Author: Magdalena Roze
Publication Date: April 2017

Synopsis: "Magdalena's food is simple, nutritious and delicious. Her recipes celebrate traditional wholefoods that not only taste great, but also have great health benefits. It's the way our grandparents (or great grandparents) used to eat, but with a little bit of indulgence too. It's not about eliminating things such as sugar, dairy or carbs - although many recipes are free of these ingredients, but focusing more on what's in season, tastes the best and then enjoying every moment of what we make! It's about being more thoughtful or mindful about what we feed ourselves and our loved ones. The recipes are divided into chapters based on the weather and the kinds of foods we crave in those environments - sushi, seafood and cooling sorbets in humid weather; soups, stews and warm desserts in cloudy/cool weather; and fresh salads and smoothies in sunny weather.

Scattered between the recipes are spreads on living naturally as possible, covering everything from Magdalena's food philosophy, to DIY beauty tips, simple decorating ideas, and natural cleaning products."

My thoughts: Boy, have I been spoiled with lovely cookbooks coming my way lately! This one was absolutely gorgeous: the photography is beautiful; Roze's ideas about eating seasonally resonating so well with my own; I just felt joy at being able to read through the recipes and suggestions for living naturally.

She even has a section in here about what houseplants you should get! And that is something that has been on my mind for some time, so I was overjoyed to find such a lovely list in here.

I love how this book is separated based on what the weather is doing - because I love eating seasonally, this just made so much sense to me. We seem to naturally crave warm, hearty meals in winter, and cool, refreshing meals in summer - so why not separate the cookbook out this way? 

Reading about Roze's own issues with diet and particularly skin issues at the beginning of the book was also helpful - seeing that she has looked after herself so well, and reading about her thoughts on how new mothers need to remember to care for themselves after the birth of their child, the reader just feels like she wants to share what she has learned and help others to improve their health naturally through wholefoods.

Overall, this is just a beautifully put together book, and has already become a part of my lovely collection.

[I received a review copy of this book from Pan Macmillan in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!!]

A favourite recipe from the book: Slow-roasted Tomato and Turmeric Soup is calling my name...

You would like this book if: You enjoy beautiful cookbooks with hints for living naturally, gorgeous photography, and cute babies.

Tea to drink while reading this book: Roze actually has some suggestions in here for making/growing your own tea, so I would recommend some natural herbal tea from your own garden!

Rating:  9.5/10

If you'd like to keep up to date with what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads here!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Book Review: The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

Title: The Collapsing Empire
Author: John Scalzi
Series: The Interdependency #1
Publication Date: April 1st 2017

Synopsis: "Does the biggest threat lie within?

In the far future, humanity has left Earth to create a glorious empire. Now this interstellar network of worlds faces disaster - but can three individuals save their people?

The empire's outposts are utterly dependent on each other for resources, a safeguard against war, and a way in which rulers can exert control. This relies on extra-dimensional pathways between the stars, connecting worlds. But this 'Flow' is changing course, which could plunge every colony into fatal isolation.

A scientist will risk his life to inform the empire's ruler. A scion of a Merchant House stumbles upon conspirators seeking power. And the new Empress of the Interdependency must battle lies, rebellion and treason. Yet as they work to save a civilization on the brink of collapse, others have very different plans..."

My thoughts: Yes! I have finally read a John Scalzi book! I have been meaning to for a very long time, and when I saw that a new book of his was coming out, I jumped at the chance to try it.

This was a wonderful, wonderful read. Scalzi's world-building is amazing, the whole idea of the 'Flow' and the way he explained it (and kind of didn't explain it) was great and also hilarious. Speaking of hilarious, his humour is so similar to my own in this book that the whole read was just a great experience. Even when bad things were happening (and yes, they happened relatively frequently), the sense of humour really kept me reading.

And the characters! The three main characters talked about in the synopsis above were all so individual and fantastic in their own ways. Occasionally I found one of them came on a little too strong for my taste, but even that was fine because she had her own personality. Side characters were also wonderful, and really helped to flesh out the whole story and made it feel real.

So, one Scalzi book and I seem to be a complete convert. I wanted more of this, and I really want the second book soon, but perhaps for now I will just go back and read more of Scalzi's other work.

[I received a review copy of this book from Pan Macmillan in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!!]

A favourite line from the book: "On the bridge of the Tell Me Another One, Captain Arullos Gineos was busy dealing with an actual mutiny, not a paper one, and if she was going to be really honest about it to herself, things didn't look like they were going very well for her at the moment."

You would like this book if: You enjoy space opera with awesome characters; you like witty, slightly biting humour.

Tea to drink while reading this book: I... don't know. Hmmm. This book cover is excellently green, so maybe brew some matcha to match!

Rating:  8.5/10

If you'd like to keep up to date with what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads here!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Reading // March 2017

Books read:
~ The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
~ Frogkisser by Garth Nix (review)
~ Truthwitch (The Witchlands #1) by Susan Dennard
~ Miracles Happen by Dr Brian L. Weiss
~ Woman in the Wilderness by Miriam Lancewood (review)
~ Same Soul, Many Bodies by Dr Brian L. Weiss
~ The Birdman's Wife by Melissa Ashley
~ Happy and Whole by Magdalena Roze (review)
~ The Collapsing Empire (The Interdependency #1) by John Scalzi (review)

Currently reading:
~ A Writer's Diary: Being Extracts from the Diary of Virginia Woolf, edited by Leonard Woolf
~ Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada (review)
~ Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

I decided to change the structure of these wrap-ups again, because the new style just wasn't working for me. I prefer being able to look at a list, as it gives me more of an idea of what I have actually gotten through, and how many review books I have gotten through each month.

I am really pleased with how much I got through this month, and I think - in a weird way - that I have the multiple illnesses I had during the month to thank for that. I didn't get a whole lot of sleep this month because of being sick, and that meant I was distracting myself from discomfort through reading and watching things.

I read a lot of fantastic books this month, and I branched out a little bit, too, which was great. Two of the books were the ones I got from the Perth Writer's Festival in February - The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton and The Birdman's Wife by Melissa Ashley. Both were absolutely fantastic. The underlying sense of threat and the character development in The Miniaturist had me enthralled, and the wonderful nature writing and beautiful way Ashley weaved together the tale of Elizabeth Gould gave me such a warm glow.

All of the review books I read in this month were fantastic, too. There was a range there as well - one fantasy, one memoir, one cookbook, and one scifi. That might also have something to do with how much I read, actually, as the variety made each book nice and fresh.

On to April! I am currently really loving Virginia Woolf's diaries - her writing is so honest and involved... I find it hard to properly describe. Maybe I will have more luck next month!

Love to all who read.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Book Review: Woman in the Wilderness by Miriam Lancewood

Title: Woman in the Wilderness
Author: Miriam Lancewood
Publication Date: March 29th 2017

Synopsis: "This inspirational story of adventure and bravery tells how one woman learned to dig deep and push the boundaries in order to discover what really matters in life.

Miriam is a young Dutch woman living a primitive, nomadic life in the heart of the mountains with her New Zealand husband. She lives simply in a tent or hut, and survives by hunting wild animals and foraging edible plants, relying on only minimal supplies. For the last six years she has lived this way, through all seasons, often cold, hungry and isolated in the bush. She loves her life and feels free, connected to the land and happy.

There's a lot of drama out there in the wild, and Miriam knows how to spin a good yarn. This is a gripping and engaging read reminiscent of both adventure writing like Wild and nature writing like H is for Hawk, and is perfect for anyone exploring the idea of living a more authentic, real life."

My thoughts: I was definitely interested in the premise of this book - I have really gotten into nature writing in the last year or so (and H is for Hawk has been one of my favourite forays into that genre), so I definitely wanted to give this one a go.

At first I was a little underwhelmed, honestly. Lancewood's writing initially came across as a little confused, and the statements she made to describe others often had me scratching my head as to what she meant. The dialogue also came across as kind of stilted and I was worried I had made a bit of a mistake here.

But then I had a few nights - thanks to an illness not letting me sleep regular hours - where I sat down and could only read for a while, and then I really started to get into this book. I started to really appreciate Lancewood's direct descriptions and the way she would describe the landscape. The discussions she had with her husband, while they never quite lost that slightly stilted quality for me, were interesting and I found a lot of what they discussed were things I find myself thinking about - the dependence that seems to be inherent in relationships, where happiness comes from for different people, whether we have completely lost touch with the natural world.

I got quite lost in this book. I appreciated Lancewood's honest portrayal of learning to hunt for meat when she had been a vegetarian for most of her life, and how she still confronts it from time to time, unsure of what way is correct. Lancewood isn't making overall rules for living 'a good life' here, she is simply showing what works for her, what makes her happy. For others, her way of life may seem a little extreme, but to her it makes sense and gives her freedom. And that is something I enjoy reading about.

[I received a review copy of this book from Allen & Unwin in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!!]

A favourite line from the book: "I walked into the white forest. The beech trees with their evergreen leaves were bending under the heavy snow. I saw little paw prints in the white carpet" possums had been running around in the night. The snow absorbed all sounds and everything was soft, silent and new."

You would like this book if: You enjoy nature writing; you like books with wilderness and fierce honesty.

Tea to drink while reading this book: Billy tea, I think. Tea made through actually boiling water over the fire perhaps. Or something fresh and herbal, like fresh mint leaf tea.

Rating:  9/10

If you'd like to keep up to date with what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads here!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

New Anthology from Unsung Stories

Back in 1948, George Orwell wrote 1984, the dystopian Classic many still turn to today (especially this year) to try and understand what is happening to the world, or what could happen.

In a similar style, Unsung Stories, known for publishing literary and ambitious speculative fiction, has asked 11 writers to put their pens to paper (or fingers to keyboards) and write short stories predicting what they believe 2084 will look like. The stories are all being collected in an anthology titled, aptly, 2084.

Interested? Then you better head over here and check out the kickstarter page for the anthology! Unsung Stories are crowdfunding the project and have multiple levels of contribution, with different rewards. I am definitely thinking of helping out, and I thought I would spread the word!

For a better idea of what Unsung Stories publish, please see my review of Pseudotooth by Verity Holloway or check out the Unsung Stories website.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Book Review: Frogkisser! by Garth Nix

Title: Frogkisser!
Author: Garth Nix
Publication Date: March 2017

Synopsis: "Talking Dogs
Mischievous Wizards
An Evil Stepstepfather
An abundance of amphibians
Such is the life of a Frogkisser!

Princess Anya needs to see a wizard about a frog. It's not her frog, it's her sister's. And it's not a frog, it's actually a prince. A prince who was once in love with Anya's sister, but has now been turned into a frog by their evil stepstepfather. And Anya has made a 'sister promise' that she will find a way to return Prince Denholm to human form...
So begins an exciting, hilarious, irreverent quest through the Kingdom of Trallonia and out the other side, in a fantastical tale for all ages, full of laughs and danger, surprises and delights, and an immense population of frogs."

My thoughts: What a wonderful cover and story idea! I jumped into this book very quickly. I am a fan of Garth Nix's Old Kingdom books (though I haven't read a couple of the more recent ones) and I was eager to see what he would do with a fairytale-style novel.

Nix did not disappoint. This book is filled with wondrous creatures, interesting ideas, and tale of good and evil that people can sink into. Anya, our heroine, is thrown into a Quest and is as confused as anyone, despite studying sorcery for some time. Along with a Royal Dog (who is still kind-of in training) and Prince-Denholm-the-frog in a little cage, she sets off, soon to be joined by a motley crew of supporting characters.

There is so much magic and whimsy in this tale that I am surprised at the extent of Nix's imagination. He has linked in some fairytales people may recognise (not going to list them, that would be telling!) and introduced characters that reminded me a lot of some of the books I used to read, and also kind of like Brian Jacques' novels...

I enjoyed my romp with this one, but I did find I didn't have the time to really get to know the characters and understand their motivations, which sometimes left them feeling a little flat to me. While I enjoyed the book, and the ending was great, I wanted more, and ended up feeling just a touch dissatisfied. I still recommend this book, though, as I feel that other people could definitely get a lot more out of it than I did.

[I received a review copy of this book from Allen & Unwin in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!]

A favourite line from the book: "It was the middle of an ice storm, the wind howling across the frozen moat to hurl hailstones against the walls of the castle and its tightly shuttered windows. But despite wind and hail and the full chill panoply of winter, it was deliciously warm in the Great Hall."

You would like this book if: You enjoy sweet fairytales; you want some Garth Nix writing!

Tea to drink while reading this book: I would suggest a nice green tea, to match your book. My current favourite is salted caramel green tea from Twinings!

Rating:  7/10

If you'd like to keep up to date with what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads here!
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