Thursday, 25 May 2017

Frogkisser! - Book Review



Frogkisser! - Book Review
Garth Nix
YA Fantasy / Fairytale
UK Publisher: Piccadilly Press

Synopsis:

The last thing she needs is a Prince. The first thing she needs is some magic.

Poor Princess Anya. Forced to live with her evil stepmother’s new husband, her evil stepstepfather. Plagued with an unfortunate ability to break curses with a magic-assisted kiss. And forced to go on the run when her stepstepfather decides to make the kingdom entirely his own.

Aided by a loyal talking dog, a boy thief trapped in the body of a newt, and some extraordinarily mischievous wizards, Anya sets off on a Quest that, if she plays it right, will ultimately free her land — and teach her a thing or two about the use of power, the effectiveness of a well-placed pucker, and the finding of friends in places both high and low.

Review:

This has been on of my favourite reads this year! A unique and original fairytale that has no romance, doesn’t try to take itself too seriously, and isn't afraid to make fun of the outdated notions of old school fairytales. It was a really unexpected read that I throughly enjoyed.

Princess Anya is second in line for the throne, and as such, cares only about reading books and practicing her sorcery. But when her evil step-step-father takes over the kingdom, transforming any who defy him into warty-amphibians, Anna is forced to flee the castle.

Now with a talking dog at her side, and accompanied by a boy/newt and an otter/maid, Anna sets off on a quest to create a magical lip balm - the only thing with enough power to transform each frog back to its human state. But the search for the ingredients is full of perils, and with her step-step-father’s minions shadowing her footsteps, Anya will need all her skill and cunning if she is to survive and win back her castle…

I adored this book and I think anyone from the age of eight upwards would enjoy it too. With a cast of unique characters - who come in all shapes and sizes -  this book is not your typical fairytale. 

Anya is a delicious, if reluctant heroine. Practical in her thinking, she uses her wits to defeat her opponents, yet is still naive enough about the world around her to learn some big, life-changing lessons along the way.

Nothing about this story is stereotypical. Each character comes with distinct personalities and together they really help drive this book forward. You never know who (or what) you’re going to meet next. 

What I liked most about Frogkisser! though was the humour in the writing. It's a book that isn't a afraid to make fun of the villain’s laugh, or roll its eyes at the swooning princess and her “true love”. 

The plot was also very imaginative and I was never bored. Admittedly I did figure out a few of the plot twists and guessed the direction the story was heading, but I still enjoyed the journey nonetheless. 

Overall a super cute fairytale that deserves to be gushed over! 5 stars!

Chat with Me!

Have you read this book? If not I hope you check out this one, along with Garth Nix's fabulous Abhorsen Series! Happy reading!


Friday, 19 May 2017

Mini Reviews 2017 #1



Hey everyone! So today I decided to post some mini-reviews, I’m on a role with my Goodreads reading challenge this year (already 44 books!) and I wanted to share with some of the books that didn't make the review list.

Echoes in Death by JD Robb #44 ****             

I am a huge fan of Nora Roberts futuristic detective series. I have read all the “In-Death” books to date and this was a really good one. Will plenty of red-herrings, it was hard to work out who the culprit was - and the ending had a really nice twist to it. Looking forward to the next release in September!

A Darker Shade of Magic #1 by V.E Schwab ****

This series has been on my TBR pile for long - I’m only sad I didn't pick it up sooner. I love the world-building so much and the ideas of multiple Londons and magic coats. The characters were also super interesting and  there was just so much about this book to like!

A Gathering of Shadows #2 by V.E Schwab ****      

I thought this story danced to a slower pace than the first book, but we got to meet some interesting new characters and explore more of the world. I really enjoyed the plot and loved how each character had their own problems to deal with - before ultimately gathering together for the bigger picture. Really looking forward to starting book 3!

The Gift by Alison Croggon ***
A proper old-school-style fantasy! This was actually a re-read since I first read this book back when I was a pre-teen. However I think I understood the world much better this time around, although the plot wasn't quite as deep as I remembered. Still this is a series I would like to continue with and I would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of High-fantasy. Aka, long and winding journeys, dark creatures, sword fights and of course, a foretold “chosen” hero. 

The Fate of the Tearing #3 by Erika Johansen **

This book was the biggest disappointment. The first 80% was fabulous but that ending?! Words cannot describe how much I hated it. Not only were so many questions left unanswered, but the ending essentially made the previous storyline completely redundant. As much as I loved the first two books in thus trilogy, I would now be wary to read anything else by this author….

Judged by Liz De Jager (Blackheart #3) ****

The final book in the Blackhearts trilogy, I utterly and thoroughly enjoyed this book. The characters had such great dynamics, I loved the world-building and the plot was super intriguing. It was a brilliant end to the series and I’m really looking forward to reading more books by Liz De Jager. 

Talk to Me!

Have you read any of these books? If so I would love to know your thoughts on the comments :)

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Writing Hacks & Tricks

My Current Writing Space...

Writing Hacks and Tricks

So these past few weeks have been strangely productive for me in terms of writing - and by that I mean I’m managing 1000 + words a day. Its a pretty awesome feeling, and if I keep it up, I should hopefully have my MG fantasy drafted by the end of the month!

With that in mind, I thought I would share with you some of the things that keep me upbeat, productive and accountable towards hitting my writing goals.

Apart from the weekend I took off, doesn't it look pretty?

#1 - V.E Schwab’s “good students get a star” method.

I imagine many of you are familiar with the amazing author, Victoria Schwab, and her most loved, A Darker Shade of Magic series (If not, I implore you to go pick it up right now) However this author has released quite a few Youtube videos on her channel where she talks about the craft of writing. One of her best suggestions I found was this:

Get a basic, month view calendar (I already have one inside my diary) and for every day/500 or 1000 words you write - you get to award yourself a sticky star!

It sounds simple - but the reward of getting a star is highly addictive. I felt quite sad on the days I don't hit my goals - especially as I feel my calendar looks incomplete.

Ultimately its a great way to hold yourself accountable to writing!

Who is this for: 

  • Anyone who loved playing “teacher” at school
  • People who liked seeing a line of stars by their name
  • People who collect/hoard stickers 
  • Anyone who has OCD and can’t stand seeing things incomplete

You will come to both love and fear this page...

#2 Writers Block

You’re probably wondering at the title, and once I explain, I hope you will also laugh at the irony. Because essentially Writers Block is a FREE app that once opened, fills your screen with a word document and won’t close until you hit your target settings.

You can programme it in one of two ways:

To stay open until you hit a number of words

or

To stay open for number of minutes

For the most part, I try to hit a target number of words because once you hit enter, you're stuck with the task of finishing what you pledged.


The only down side to Writers Block is its easy to procrastinate about opening the app itself. Sometimes it better to have someone take the initiative and do it for you...

Once you hit enter, there is no going back!

 Although in AN EMERGENCY tying A A A A A A A  A A A A akhsdjahs ausgoausfhafh etc will eventually trick the programme into thinking you hit your goals, but you will be cursed with shame - and you won’t deserve your sticky star!

Better to stick with your pledge, as you will soon see your word count rising. 

Who’s it for?
  • Procrastinators
  • Twitter-Holics
  • Anyone struggling to just “Start”
  • People who like to torture themselves by writing, even when they don't want to!

Today's bullet points + target word count

#3 Outlining - Bullet Pointing

I can already here the pantsers screaming in protest, but I promise, these is still plenty of creative freedom. However I’ve found when I finish writing for the day, I like to plan out my next scene so I can jump right in the next morning. This can be done in a few ways depending on the scene I’m writing.

Dialog - If the scene is centred around a conversation, sometimes I will script it out first. The setting and action parts can always be threaded in later. For example:

P - Pass the salt
L - What’s it worth?
P - My undying love and affection (window smashes - convo interrupted) What was that?
L - ...  Maybe you should go check it out


Note: this isn't my actual writing, this was just the best I could come up on the spot lol, but you get my point.

Plot Threading - When I write, I want each scene to do and capture at least a couple of things. Often I will bullet point these down so that when I start writing, I can make sure I’ve included everything… even if I don't know “how” it will happen.

Today I wrote a whole scene based around these 5 bullet points -

  • Miranda’s sister
  • Burn recipe
  • Steal Candy - Foreshadow Ajax awakening
  • Family made “Donation” 
  • Kodama Cries - Hope Gone

Thanks to these five little lines, I wrote 1286 words in less than an hour. They probably look like nonsense to all of you, but to me these were guiding lights that sparked even larger ideas.

 Planning (even just a little) makes a huge difference to my writing. It takes away the daunting terror of the blank page, meaning I can open my document each day knowing I have something to add.

Who is it for?
  • The stuck writer
  • Foreward Planners
  • Note-book/paper enthusiasts 
  • People who enjoy using pretty pens
  • Doodlers

Pages and Pages of notes.... Its so satisfying!

#4 Good old Pen & Paper

If all else fails me, sometimes I will just whip out my notebook and write whatever comes into my head. There is something very satisfying about filling up a notebook with words, even if you never read them again and just flick through and see all those pretty, handwritten pages.

However writing with a pencil (I always chose a pencil - generally the mechanical kind -because I think I can write faster) is a way for me to just spew out everything in my head.

 I actually find I write my best descriptions this way. After I fill an A5 page with pretty words, I can then cherry pick through the better sentences :)

There is also no chance of accidentally deleting anything! 

Who’s it for?

  • Frustrated, Stressed, Tearing-their-hair-out writers. 
  • People with too many blank notebooks
  • Those who like drawing in the margins
  • People who are unafraid to make lots of spellings mistakes!

*Talk to Me!*

I would love to know everyone else writing tricks and tips! I’m always on the lookout for new things to try.

Also writing is something very important to me, but it isn't something I talk about much on my blog. Out of curiosity, would you guys mind if I did more writing-ish posts? 


Don’t be afraid to let your opinion fly!



Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Frail Human Heart - Book Review


Frail Human Heart - Book Review
Zoe Marriott
YA Fantasy
(Name of the Blade Trilogy Book #3)
UK Publisher: Walker Books

Other books in the Series:

Synopsis:

Mio has succeeded in banishing the Goddess of Death’s plague-spreading monsters - by making the most terrible sacrifice. Now Mio’s love Shinobu is lost forever, the Goddess is rising from the underworld, and hell is literally breaking loose in London.

To save the city from the catastrophic war between the Gods, Mio must journey into the perilous dream realm to learn the final secret of the Katana’s origins, and its true powers. With secrets from her own family’s past emerging, and more impossible choices to be made, she will need every bit of help available from her remaining friends and her allies in the Kitsune Kingdom just to escape her quest alive.

Because in the end, the only thing standing between the human world and the apocalypse… is Mio. And her sword. 

Review:

This book brought about a perfect end to the trilogy - I’m only sad that I put off reading it for so long. With a cast of loveable characters, The Name of the Blade books have been a rollercoaster of a journey and are the perfect teen adventure. 

In this third book, Mio and her friends have no choice but to travel into the dream realm. Only there can they unlock the swords final name and gain the true power of the Katana, which they will need to face the dark goddess. But the dream realm is full of perils and Mio will have to overcome her biggest fears if she is to have any hope of saving her family… and the world.

Surprisingly what I loved most about this book, was the romance that developed between two of the secondary characters. The twist to their relationship and how it was introduced had me laughing in delight, and I was so so happy to see my two favourite characters get together.

However I must admit, the romance between Mio and Shinobu I enjoyed less. Simply because I hate when books pull the trick card of “reincarnated lovers” as I feel it makes the initial meeting and romantic buildup during the first two books totally redundant. 

The involvement of Mio’s parents in the story though was something that I thought was really well done. Rarely do parents play a role in YA fantasy so it was nice to see them on board and fighting by Mio’s side.

As for the plot, I thought this book held less adventure and mystery than the previous two books. Mainly because most of the journey happens in the dream land and I didn't feel the stakes were all that high. Having said that, I enjoyed the books ending and felt the story as a whole came to a very satisfying, if slightly predictable conclusion. 

Overall though I have adored this series. As I’ve said in my reviews of the other two books, this story reads just like a manga. Full of Japanese culture and myth, it's a book that will not be fast forgotten.

4 stars!

Friday, 5 May 2017

Fire & Flood, Salt & Stone - Book Review


Fire and Flood & Salt and Stone
Victoria Scott
YA Dystopian
UK PUBLISHER: Chicken House

Synopsis:

Tella’s brother is dying. He’s got cancer, and Tella is helpless to save him. Or so she thought. When an invitation arrives for Tella to complete in the Brimstone Bleed, a deadly competition that will lead her through treacherous jungle and scorching desert, she doesn't think twice. Because the prize is a cure to any illness. But Tella will be facing more than just the elements…

Review:

It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a story so much. FIRE AND FLOOD gripped me from the first chapter and I devoured the whole thing in less than a day. I couldn't wait to see what happened next, and immediately sort out the sequel, which I found to be equally thrilling. However I’m gutted there is no third book (why publishers? WHY!) because I still feel this story has so much more to offer … and I want to see the heroes take out the bad guys once and for all! 

However lack of book three aside, Victoria Scott created an action packed, page turning read that fans of the Hunger Games will definitely love. Think an every-man-for-himself , long distance race but with super-animal companions and evil scientists. 

The story is about Tella, whose brother is slowly dying from a mysterious sickness. But as the doctors tell the family to prepare for the worst, Tella receives a strange message: An invitation to participate in the Brimstone Bleed. A three month race, trekked across four eco systems with one ultimate prize: the cure for any illness.  

It is a race that could save her brother’s life… or end Tella’s.

I can’t gush enough over how much I enjoyed this book - even cliche riddled as it was. True, if this had been real life and not fiction, Tella probably would have died several times over, but the story was just SO GOOD! Full of adventure, drama, high stakes and romance, the story packs a real punch.

Admittedly though the modern setting confused me at first - I wasn't quite sure what sort of book I was reading. Once the race begins though, the pace really picks up and the world and its backstory are nicely explained. 

Tella too is a surprising character. I actually found her a little annoying at first, but once you accept she’s just a normal girl, trying to make light of a scary situation, you soon connect with thoughts and humour. 

My favourite parts of the books though were the scenes that involved the Pandoras (the animal like companions given to each contender) because lets face it, if a human character dies, its fairly easy to shrug off. If something happens to a cute and fuzzy animal though - oh boy! 

Not only is each Pandora fantastically unique but they also created so much tension/heartache/humour. They helped make up the soul of the book and I was super invested in the outcome of each creature. No spoilers, but reading the second book, SALT AND STONE was particularly brutal where the pandoras were concerned, but I couldn't stop turning the pages.

Another thing I loved were the backstories of the secondary characters. They are given in hints and dribbles throughout both books and I adored how so many seemingly unrelated subplots were eventually tied together. 

The ending of each book was also nicely done - however I still desperately want a third book! I can only hope with enough attention and clamouring fans, Book 3 will one day appear! With that in mind, I urge all you lovely people to go buy these books. They have been some of my favourite reads this year!

5 stars!

Chat with Me

Have any of you read these books? If so I would love to know your thoughts in the comments!


Tuesday, 2 May 2017

April in Review

(Vancouver at sunset)

April in Review

Hey everyone, hope you all had a fantastic April! Mine has been full of reading, writing, sighting seeing and a crazy amount of jumping timezones. I am exhausted!

Here are this months highlights:

  • TWO WEEKS IN AUSTRALIA where I got to catch up with some friends, make a bunch of new ones. Plus I got to spend some well deserved down time reading by my aunty’s pool. 

  • GROUNDHOG DAY? So I left Australia at 10am on Wednesdays the 12th of April… and I arrived in Canada at 7am on Wednesday the 12th of April. I hereby declare myself an official time traveller! I got to live the 12th of April 2017 TWICE! And yes that included two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners… and the consumption of so many cups of coffee that I lost count!

  • VANCOUVER TAKE 2! Back in March I said goodbye to my boyfriend in Hong Kong airport with plans to reunite with him in August. Due to some surreal but tragic, TV show style dramas with his younger siblings… I’ve arrived a little early. But its awesome to be back!

  • FALLING BACK IN LOVE - and no, I’m not talking about my boyfriend, but my middle grade WIP. It’s been over a month since I gave it proper attention, but reading it over yesterday has made my heart race and my fingers itch to get back on the keyboard. Lol, it's also much better than I remember. 

  • RE-DISCOVRING LIBRARIES! After four years of travelling foreign lands I’ve come to rely so much on my kindle. Yet now, back in an English speaking country I’m making great use of my boyfriends library card. I forgot how awesome it is to HOLD an actual book. So much so that I lost control and spent almost three hours walking around the shelves… and I came home with ten books! I’ve already read them all…

  • READING. Thanks to long plane rides, cyclones and hours and hours of queues (be it through customs, immigration, traffic or just line ups to get into a restaurant!) along with a couple of days by the pool, I have managed to sneak in so much reading this month. A total of ten books - and some of them weren't so skinny either! Although now I want to challenge myself to try for eleven next month lol

Books Read

  1. King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard ****
  2. Frail Human Heart by Zoe Marriott ****
  3. The Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury ****
  4. Cruel Crown by Victoria Aveyard ***
  5. The Lost Property Office by James. R. Hannibal ****
  6. The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein ***
  7. Frogkisser by Garth Nix *****  (I loved this one so much!)
  8. The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski ***
  9. And I Darken by Kirsten White ***
  10. A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir ****

Currently Reading

  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater - I got a physical copy from the library so hopefully that will push me to finish it
  • Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas - I’ve been putting it off for awhile but to quote the Lion King - “IT IS TIME!”

Book Reviews


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And that’s it for this month? How is life treating the rest of you? Tell me everything.