Posts Tagged ‘4.5/5’

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

Another LibraryThing recommendation and one that worked very well for me, perfect for cosy snuggled up with a blanket reading.

The Waverleys have lived in Bascom for generations and there’s always been something a little bit magical about them and, especially, their garden. Sidney left as soon as she could while older sister Claire stayed and now runs a successful catering business, popular because of the special ingredients she uses from her garden. When Sidney is forced to return everything is stirred up – Claire has to learn to open up and accept a bit of chaos in her usually ordered life, and Sidney has to accept who she is.

It’s very similar to Practical magic in a lot of ways but no less enjoyable for that. You find yourself drawn to this family and their magic which isn’t overdone, it’s very subtle and fits well with the book which is really about the Waverleys and their lives rather than the magic. It was a quick read but I loved it. Recommended.

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Again this was one of those “if you liked x, you may also like” type recommendations, I can’t remember where it came from but was probably based on some of the urban fantasy stuff I’ve been reading.

This is another book I really enjoyed. I was immediately drawn in by the blurb (well, that’s what it’s for, but this particularly grabbed me) describing the three rules Aislinn, our heroine, has been taught to live by:

Rule 3: Never stare at invisible faeries.

Rule 2: Never speak to invisible faeries.

Rule 1: Don’t ever attract their attention.

Aislinn has always been able to see faeries but has carefully built up the ability to pretend she can’t, because she knows how dangerous they are. Unfortunately she does unwittingly attract the attention of Keenan, the Summer King, and once she does there’s no going back really.

The faeries in this world aren’t the happy fluffy tree dwelling type at all and that’s one thing I really liked about the book. Aislinn is great, her relationship with Seth is really well described and you do end up rooting for them. The faerie world is great, creepy but in a way that makes you want to learn more about it.

The book is young adult fiction and there are a couple of places – but only very minor points, where that shows. Towards the beginning the exact track that Aislinn chooses is mentioned which jarred a bit, it’s a really minor thing and I’m not sure why it stood out so much but it did. Aislinn’s concerns about her virginity stuck out too, although again I’m not sure why, probably because I’m much older! But they’re realistic concerns for a girl of her age. However I wouldn’t let the fact that it’s a YA book put you off – it’s really well written, a good story and gets pretty dark in places. I was initially surprised at the age recommendation on the back (13+) but I ended up thinking even 13 might be a little bit young (it’s a long time since I was 13 though).

I’ll probably be picking the sequel up over the weekend, and am now following the author on Twitter, so definitely hooked!

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

I can’t remember where I got the recommendation for this from, but it popped up on the basis of me liking the Sookie Stackhouse books.

Elena is a journalist living in Toronto with her boyfriend Philip, living a reasonably normal life. At least, as normal as you can when you’re the only female werewolf and somehow have to balance that with city life, a job, a relationship etc. Elena left The Pack, rebelling against the whole werewolf thing, but they need her help and summon her back.

I really enjoyed this book, possibly even more than Sookie Stackhouse. It’s a bit darker than that series and Dead Witch Walking, and somehow I warmed to this more than Dead Witch Walking although I can’t really put my finger on why. Elena was great, similar personality traits to Sookie and Rachel Morgan (the aforementioned witch) but equally she has her flaws, so you don’t always approve of what she’s doing. Her relationship with Clay does a great job of holding your interest without getting too sappy, and the central plot is definitely gripping. I did get slightly frustrated waiting for Elena to come to the fairly obvious conclusion about what she’s really looking for out of life, but that had to wait until the end of the book really and, intelligent though she is, she’s also really stubborn, so that delay isn’t particularly unbelievable.

I recommend giving this a go.

The Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Hay

This is a book that caught my eye in Borders a couple of years ago but for some reason I didn’t buy it. I was reminded of it by LibraryThing (great website, but doing nothing to help me reduce the To Read pile!) and picked it up from the library.

The book is about Rosemary, a young girl from Tasmania who moves to New York following her mother’s death. She finds work in a second-hand book shop staffed by an eccentric collection of people. It’s great fun getting to know them and soaking up the atmosphere of the shop, and to watch Rosemary develop in confidence as she experiences all of the early adulthood milestones like falling in love.

I really enoyed this book, it has the perfect pace and atmosphere to just curl up with it and enjoy the ride. I’ll probably be buying my own copy because it’s great comfort reading.

Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik

This is the second book in the Temeraire series, set in an alternative version of the Napoleonic War in which England has an Air Corps consisting of fighting dragons. Temeraire is one such dragon, and the one I completely fell in love with in the first book. Thank to the author I’m genuinely quite upset that dragons don’t really exist and I can’t ever have one 😉

I loved this book almost as much as the first. I say ‘almost’ not because it isn’t as good but because I was so excited at discovering a new series I knew I’d love when I read Temeraire, and as much as I loved this one it was less of a surprise if that makes sense. So no fault of the author’s there, the book is still fabulous and Temeraire is just as awesome. Possibly more so, because he can now speak three languages. There were also a few very minor editing quibbles I had which jarred a bit because I really can’t fault the rest of it. These are so minor, however, that it would be churlish to focus on them.

On to the good stuff: in this installment Temeraire and Captain Laurence must travel to China. China is not at all happy that a Celestial is in active service, as they are only intended to have royal companions, and demand his return. Neither Temeraire nor Laurence are at all happy with this and the journey is made in the hope that they won’t be separated. It’s a long and arduous journey, too far to fly and so made on an enormous dragon-transporting ship. The journey makes up most of the book, and just when you think it’s nearly over there’s the stay in China itself.

There’s so much packed into this book that again I had real problems putting it down. There are sea battles, sumptuous blankets, conspiracies, assassination attempts, gorgeous descriptions of China, meeting Temeraire’s family and an emperor, ghostly goings on, Christmas, Chinese New Year, a bit of not-so-friendly rivalry, a quite nasty skirmish on land and Temeraire’s growing realisation that, actually, his treatment in England isn’t all that great. It’s also laugh-out-loud funny  in places, and again managed to make me shed a tear (although admittedly I am soft beyond belief).

I definitely recommend this series and will be rushing out for the next one as soon as I can. Only being in a hotel in the middle of nowhere for the last few days has delayed me.

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

This is my second non-fiction read, so I’m going reasonably well with that goal I think. It’s one I’ve been looking at on and off for a while – it sounded like the kind of thing I’d enjoy but often seemed to be marketed as a kind of self-help book, which put me off a bit. Guess I should have gone with my first instinct…

…which is what this book is all about. It looks at our ability to process a huge amount of complex information in a very short space of time – the time it takes to blink – and act accordingly. Illustrated with very accessibly examples and with the science described in an easily digestible way it covers why we should trust our gut reaction and what happens when we don’t, but also at the sometimes catastrophic consequences of when it goes wrong. It’s interesting that there are times when adding that extra time makes a huge difference and how that has affected, for example, police procedures. The author is based in the US and therefore draws examples from there but that in no way reduces their relevance.

I’d definitely recommend this and will be looking out for his other books.

Death: The High Cost of Living and Death: The Time of Your Life by Neil Gaiman

I’d have enjoyed these more if I’d read them the right way round… They were both still very good though.

I’ve been looking at graphic novels more this year and have read the first collection in the Sandman Library. In the last story Death turns up and I think I preferred her character. I went back to the library for more Sandman but the next book wasn’t there, so I picked up these instead, and I still think I like her more.

The High Cost of Living tells the story of her day as a mortal, takinggreat delight in simple things like eating, going to a nightclub etc while also searching for a 250 year-old mad woman’s heart. The Time of Your Life concentrates more on some characters who pop up briefly in the first one (which made more sense once I’d realised that). I didn’t like this as much, but it was still very good.

Definitely looking forward to more Sandman now 🙂

Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Raybourn

I picked up Silent in the Grave, the first book in this series, following a glowing recommendation on another blog and I wasn’t disappointed. It started with a death, which turned out to have been a murder, and followed the investigation by Nicholas Brisbane, a slightly grouchy mysterious figure, and Lady Julia Grey, the victims wife. It was great, and I’d been very excited about reading the sequel.

Silent in the Sanctuary gets off to a necessarily gentler start – you can’t really start in the thick of the action in a sequel and it had to cover what Julia Grey had been up to, and manoeuvre her and Brisbane back together. It was well done, and the story didn’t lose anything for it. In fact I quite liked the chance to get to know the family and characters a bit better.

It didn’t take me long to read, mostly because I was enjoying it so much I raced my way through it. Grey and Brisbane are fantastic characters and work really well as a double act and the tension between them never gets tiresome or ridiculous – the will-they-won’t-they provides an edge to the story and a more pleasant backdrop to some of the grizzly goings on. The incidental characters are all likeable and believable. I didn’t guess whodunnit and there was plenty of humour along the way.

The next book in the series is due out in March I believe, and I’m really looking forward to it.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This was another book club read, but one I’d suggested after I was intrigued by the title and heard numerous recommendations.

It’s about a young girl, the Book Thief of the title, who is living with foster parents in Germany during WWII. It’s pretty much about her life and it’s various dramas – some relatively small but important to her, and some huge. Oh, and it’s narrated by Death.

I thought I was going to be disappointed at first. The flow of the narrative kept being interrupted by little snippets in bold type that either expanded on a point, gave some extra information or told you what was coming up, and that was quite difficult to get used to. It kind of creeps up on you though and after a while I realised I was completely hooked and genuinely worried about what was coming up which, in a war, isn’t usually good.

Death tells you quite early on that he doesn’t believe in building mystery, so each part begins with a list of what’s coming up. This actually works well to build tension because, as much as the unknown is scary, sometimes knowing what’s coming can be terrifying too. The ending is bittersweet – as you’d expect it doesn’t end happily for everyone, and it would have spoiled the book if it did, but it’s satisfying enough. I cried (fortunately I wasn’t reading it in public when I finished it!).