Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Trick (Natalia Jaster)

Jaster, Natalia - Foolish Kingdoms 1 Trick

★★★★★★

Title: Trick (Foolish Kingdoms #1)
Author: Natalia Jaster
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Romance/New Adult   Pages: 300
First published: 2015
Edition: Paperback, self-published in 2018

It’s only the most cunning, most manipulative soul who can play the fool. Poet guards a secret. one the Crown would shackle him for. One that he’ll risk everything to protect.
Alas, it will take more than clever words to deceive Princess Briar.

Fantasy Romance is not a genre I read that much of. As with paranormal romance I very rarely love these books. But, I also like being surprised and this one had been on my radar for a while. A princess and a jester? Yes, please! For some reason, I felt in the mood for it, so I picked it up on a whim. I am glad I did.

Despite the fact that the writing started out a little shaky, I pretty soon knew I was going to enjoy this one. As the book progressed I liked where the author took the story. Yes, it is pretty light on the fantasy, but neither is it not too heavy handed on the romance side. The characters have backstories that are interesting enough and I felt the dynamic between them was really good.

The few love scenes were well enough written that they did not make me cringe, as they too often do. The romance was not just about sex and I much prefer it that way. I don’t think I did an eyeroll once, which is a bonus.

Although a bit limited in this book, I liked the world Natalia Jaster has created and I hope to find out more about it in the rest of the series, which I hope to pick up soon. There are definitely some issues with the world building, but it was a decent enough start.

I feel my rating is a little bit on the high side, as there were areas where the writing let me down a little bit, but overall I did really enjoy it and therefore I feel this rating is fair.

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Winter Princess (Skye MacKinnon)

MacKinnon, Skye - Winter Princess

★★★★☆☆☆

Title:  Winter Princess (Daughter of Winter #1)
Author: Skye MacKinnon
Genre: Fiction / Romance / Reverse Harem / Paranormal Pages: 236
First published: 2017
Edition: Kindle e-book

As a demi-goddess, Wyn has always stood out from the human crowd. And now, on her 22nd birthday, her magic finally surfaces with a bang. A Big bang. She’ll need the help of not one, but four (sexy) guardians to control her destructive powers. If only they weren’t so distracting… 

I had never read a  reverse harem book before, but I have now! It is basically a girl having more than one love interest and indulging in that fact 🙂

So, this was fun. I was feeling a little slumpy and I went through the books on my Kindle and decided to go for this one. Actually, it was a good choice as a light read.

This is a paranormal romance novel centered around a young woman, who discovers she is a demi goddess and ends up with four hunky guardians. Yes, it is pretty smutty, but actually not annoyingly so. It is sort of set in Scotland, but you can tell the author herself is not Scottish. The writing is not spectacular, but it does not take itself too seriously and I appreciated the novel for that. It is definitely enjoyable for what it is. To be honest, considering my history with paranormal romance books, Winter Princess fared pretty well.

Is it that sexy? No, but it is a good time and very easy to read. I think it served my purpose of a light read pretty well and I would not be averse to reading more books by this author.

This book is part of a series and I may read the next one at some point

4 out of 7 stars

 

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Siege and Storm (Leigh Bardugo)

Bardugo, Leigh - Siege and Storm

★★★★★☆☆

Title:  Grishaverse #2 – Siege and Storm
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy / YA   Pages: 386
First published: 2013
Edition: 2018 Paperback edition, published by Orion

With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

It had been five months since I read Shadow and Bone and I probably left it a little too long to continue the series. It took me a little while to get back into this world, but I got there in the end.

The world is interesting, though I never feel we find out much about it. As far as the main character Alina is concerned, she is likeable enough, but always stays a little bland in my honest opinion. There is nothing about her that I dislike, but I never feel like I got to know her properly either. The same goes for the magic system and Alina’s powers. It is an interesting concept, but it is simply not quite explored enough for my liking.

Some of the other characters are certainly intriguing, especially the Darkling and Nikolai and some of the side characters piqued my interest as well. The plot was well enough executed and I am actually interested to see where the story goes from here.

I definitely will not wait five months to read Ruin and Rising.

5 out of 7 stars

 

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Betty Church and the Suffolk Vampire (M R C Kasasian)

Kasasian, M R C - Betty Church and the Suffolk Vampire

★★★★★☆☆

Title: Betty Church and the Suffolk Vampire
Author: M R C Kasasian
Genre: Fiction / Mystery   Pages: 432
First published: 2018
Edition: e-book, courtesy of NetGalley & the publisher

September 1939: A new day dawns in Sackwater, not that this sleepy backwater is taking much notice…

Inspector Betty Church – one of UK’s first female police officers – has arrived from London to fill a vacancy at Sackwater police station. But Betty isn’t new here. This is the place she grew up. The place she thought she’d left behind for good.

I do love a mystery every now and then and this one was quite a fun one. There were a few things that I did not love about this book, but overall it was an enjoyable read.

Betty Church, a savvy no-nonsense woman in her late thirties, was a great main character. I wish her actual character shone through a bit more, but I did like her a lot. However, why did all the side characters need to be so no-sensical? Pretty much every single one of them! I think that detracted a little bit for me.

I did love the humour in this book. I am a big fan of sarcasm and there was plenty of that in there. The tone of writing was right up my street.

I also thought the setting and time period were pretty good, with first the threat of war and then the actual war (WWII) going on. It was interesting to read what measures government was taking to protect the country from the characters’ point of view.

The mystery itself and its resolution was just ok for me. Much of it I already guessed unfortunately. However, that did not take away from the fact that as a whole I enjoyed this novel quite a bit.

Will I read the next Betty Church mystery when it comes out? Yes, I probably will.

5 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The Gifts of Reading (Robert Macfarlane)

1902 Macfarlane

★★★★★★☆

Title: The Gifts of Reading
Author: Robert Macfarlane
Genre: Non-Fiction/Essay/Pamphlet   Pages: 34
First published: 2016
Edition: Paperback, published by Penguin Books in 2016

In this luminous essay, Robert Macfarlane reflects on the unique emotional response resonance of books given and received – and how such gifts have shaped his own life.

This little pamphlet was a joy to read. It did not take me long and within its 34 pages it managed to inspire me.

I love Macfarlane’s way of celebrating life and nature and it shines through in these pages, where he celebrates gifting books and receiving books as gifts and how it can change and touch us. I will try and find at least some of the books he mentions, as I trust his opinion.

I must also read some of the author’s other books and I encourage you to do the same.

A lovely little piece of uncomplicated, but touching, writing. A small treasure.

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Vogel/The Bird (Oh Jung-hee)

 

jung-hee, oh - vogel

★★☆☆☆☆☆

Title: Vogel (Eng: The Bird)  Translators: Remco Beunker / Imke van Gardingen
Author: Oh Jung-hee
Genre: Fiction / Literary     Pages: 159
First published: 1996
Edition: Hardback in Dutch, published by De Geus/Oxfam Novib in 2007

After the death of their mother, U-mi and her little brother, U-il, are shuttled between relatives until their father retrieves them. He puts the children in the care of a young stepmother, fresh from a brothel, who looks after them during the week while he works at a remote building site.

I am sure this little South-Korean novel has literary merit, but it really was not for me. It was written in a style that reminds me of the books I had to read for school. Therefore it felt too much like a chore to read it. Luckily it was only short, otherwise I would likely not have finished it.

I did not like the characters or the story itself. Some grim things happened that I really did not want to read about. I understand what the author was trying to show, highlighting the effects the economic change in South-Korea had on the lives of the poor, but I really disliked the style. For me it did not delve deep enough and the story never felt quite engaging enough. I understand why it had a child narrator, but it just did not work for me.

I do want reiterate that this is a matter of personal taste and this is by no means a bad novel. It just really did not sit well with me.

2 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Winter’s Heart (Robert Jordan)

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★★★★★☆☆

Title: Winter’s Heart (The Wheel of Time #9)
Author: Robert Jordan
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy     Pages: 678
First published: 2000
Edition: Mass Market Paperback, published by Orbit in 2001

I went back into Robert Jordan’s world for the ninth book of The Wheel of Time series and I have to say I had fun there.

Yes, it’s one of those dreaded middle books in a gigantic series and drags a little in places, but overall I enjoyed this re-read. It was laid out a little oddly, with focus on certain characters in the first half the book and different ones in the second part. I did not mind that, as I sort of know the storylines anyway, but I can imagine if this is your first read that might be a little grating.

On a positive note, I know Jordan is always slated a bit for his female characters, but actually I thought they were handled much better in this book. They were not as annoying and there are definitely plenty of kick-ass women in it. In fact, most leaders are women and they are boss leaders too, not just wimpering queens. I like that aspect quite a bit. Our main male characters get bossed around by the ladies more than they would like, with varying degrees of success.

Our main protagonist Rand is a bit more human in this book, and I liked the way his storyline was handled. I was also happy to see the introduction of Tuon, who is a really interesting character.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this re-read and though it gets bogged down in details sometimes, the world building remains incredible. I am looking forward to re-reading the next one in a couple of months’ time.

5 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The Snow Child (Eowyn Ivey)

ivey, eowyn - the snow child

★★★★★☆☆

Title: The Snow Child
Author: Eowyn Ivet
Genre: Fiction / Magical Realism / Fantasy  Pages: 390
First published: 2012
Edition: Paperback, published in Reagan Arthur in 2012

Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart–he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season’s first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone–but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees.

Without doubt this is a beautiful story underpinned by beautiful writing, but somehow it did not grab me the way I wanted it to.

I was definitely in the mood for the story and I did feel immersed in the narrative, but something somewhere was missing for me and I have absolutely no clue what it was.

I liked Jack and Mabel as characters. They were believeable and flawed, and I could not help but root for them. I liked the way the girl, Faina, was introduced and how the story developed from there.

Somehow the setting felt hostile to me and maybe that is where my unease stems from. I never felt at ease in the story’s surroundings as Jack and Mabel did and maybe that made me feel a little more distant than I wanted to be.

I did shed a little tear at the end, so it clearly grabbed me enough. There is nothing wrong with this novel. It is a good book, but I don’t think it is one I would re-read.

5 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The Godolphin Arabian (Eugene Sue)

sue, eugene - the godolphin arabian

★★★★★★☆

Title: The Godolphin Arabian
Author: Eugène Sue Translator: Alex de Jonge (from French)
Genre: Fiction  Pages: 152
First published: 1846
Edition: Hardback, published in 2003 by Derrydale Press

Here now is Alex de Jonge’s immensely readable translation of the original tale an imaginative mixture of fact and legend recreating the life of the Godolphin Arabian and his constant companion, Grimalkin the cat.

Originally written in 1846, this is the fictionalised story of The Godolphin Arabian, one of the founding sires of the modern thoroughbred. It is only a small little book about the horse, an mute Arab groom devoted to him and the cat that always kept him company.

As far as I can tell, the groom was made up, but there was actually a cat that went wherever the horse went.

This was such a delightfully told story. A simple, but effective tale about hardship and ultimate glory and the groom’s unshakeable belief in the horse he loves.

The translator adapted the story slightly and corrected some facts, which he explains in the foreword. I have not read the original of course, as I don’t know enough French, but this translated version reads very well.

If you are into horses at all, read this little gem. It’s worth the couple of hours it takes to read and it will put a smile on your face. The fact that it is based on a horse that actually existed and ended up being so important is a bonus.

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The Wrath and the Dawn (Renée Ahdieh)

ahdieh, renee - the wrath and the dawn

★★★★☆☆☆

Title: The Wrath and the Dawn
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Genre: Fiction / YA Fantasy / Retelling Pages: 388
First published: 2015
Edition: Kindle e-book

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. 

After reading the final page of this first part of Khalid and Shahrzad’s story, I am not quite sure whether to shrug my shoulders or say that I enjoyed it.

It was a pleasant enough book. I liked the romance, even if I did not quite understand it and the setting added a bit of magic. However, I do not feel Shahrzad’s character is explored enough. I never felt like I got to know her that well. I felt it was strange she did not seem to have emotions regarding her physical relationships at all. Surely, a young girl of her age would have lots of thoughts and feelings about such things.

Unfortunately, although I did enjoy The Wrath and the Dawn, especially the first half, in the end it fell a bit flat for me. it really did not have enough substance for my personal tastes. I simply wanted more from it. I doubt it will stay with me very long. Just to clarify, it is not because this is YA, as there are plenty of YA books that do satisfy that itch.

It was entertaining enough, but I do not think I will be continuing this series.

4 out of 7 stars