Monday 17 June 2019

*Book Review* Broken Throne by Victoria Aveyard

Broken Throne is a sort of bonus book to conclude the Red Queen series. If you need a catch up (plus some spoilers) you can read my review of War Storm (book 4) here.

Broken Throne contains what I like to call 'Extras for Experts'. That is to say, extra content you don't need but if you are caught up in the series then this is a great extra.

It contains a collection of novellas, two of which have been published already in Cruel Crown (so not sure why they made it in here but oh well). There are also some historical maps, family trees and journal entries from Julian, Cal's uncle the historian.

To be honest it took me a long time to get into this book. I think it would have been better if I had come at it straight after finishing the series. So if you read it, that is what I recommend you do. I think the historical pages were super heavy going and it might have been better if it jumped into a novella.

The first novella Queen Song is about Coriane, Cal's mother. It tells how she, as a lowly servant, captured the kings heart. While doing so she made Elara jealous and use her mind-powers to make Coriane think she was crazy. It's quite a sad story and makes me really feel for her.

The second novella is Steel Scars and tells some of the story surrounding Captain Farley. Farley is part of the Scarlet Guard and is good at what she does. She also falls in love with Mare's brother, although this happens before the events of the main series. This novella annoyed me a little because half of it is written as communication to and from guard members so some of it is redacted and just generally hard to read and follow. In saying that though, seeing a softer side to Farley was nice and you come out of it understanding her better.

The third novella is World Behind. It follows a boatman in the disputed lands who unknowingly gives a ride to a runaway Silver princess.  It is completely unrelated to the Red Queen series and there is no character crossover. I found this a bit weird because I kept waiting for it to tie into the story. It does give another perspective to the changing world as the wars were taking place, and I did enjoy the dynamic characters of Ashe and Lyrisa.

The fourth novella is Iron Heart, following the fate of Evangeline as she gives up her title of Princess so she can live the way she dreams. There is a contrast of personalities here as the usually headstrong woman is now very introverted and indecisive. It makes for interesting reading and Evangeline has always been a great character to read about. She goes through a major character development over the series and this ties up the loose ends nicely for her.

The fifth novella is Fire Light. This is the one 'everyone was waiting for' as it focuses on the protagonists Mare and Cal. War Storm left them having time apart to adjust and attempt to heal and now they finally cross paths again and try to figure out what the future looks like for them. It is pretty angsty but an overall good conclusion for them. I like that they show that grief and trauma is something that is not just fleeting, and that they need to work on that separately as well as together to move forward.

Finally, Fare Well. It can't really be called a Novella at only 20 pages long, but it deals with Maven and Cal's final meeting, and then final goodbye. Maven chooses not to reveal something about himself to spare Cal more hurt, but nevertheless, Cal still loves his brother Maven despite everything he has done. It was a touching tribute to end the book.

This collection of novellas did add to the Red Queen series but I wouldn't say it is a necessary addition. If you make it through to the end of War Storm (well done!), and find yourself needing more then this is for sure the book to read.

I still highly recommend the Red Queen series, they are well written and full of the stuff great dystopian novels are made of. There is also the bonus war and politics thrown in, along with super-human abilities (and the dreaded YA love-triangle). I'm glad I got to read Broken Throne to tie up some loose threads and make more sense of the history surrounding the events of the series.

Thanks to Hachette for giving me a review copy of this book.

Monday 25 March 2019

Book Review *Sherlock Holmes Inspired YA*

I have recently been chewing through a bunch of great YA novels so I am planning a few bulk reviews. 

This first review contains two great series which have kept me guessing and have intriguing protagonists. They are both Sherlock-y style mysteries and have a few similarities. 

The first series is the Charlotte Holmes series by Brittany Cavallaro. It contains 3 novels – no make that 4! A new one has just been published – bear with me while I go and place a hold on that one! The book titles are: A Study in Charlotte, The Last of August, The Case for Jamie and A Question of Holmes.

The first three novels round out nicely so I’m picking that the fourth one will be an added bonus with more character progression which will be great.

Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson are the great-great-great grandchildren of the famous duo Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. Charlotte holds her heritage proud and has made it her mission to learn to observe and solve mysteries. She has lead a largely privileged life and now finds herself at a boarding school in the States. Charlotte is quirky, witty and has all manner of social issues. She is also partial to a wide range of heavy drugs which often help and hinder her efforts. 

Jamie Watson is also attending the same boarding school and tries to befriend Charlotte as he sees it as their fate. Charlotte is quick to shut him down but when she is indecently assaulted and the perpetrator is killed in a scene that mirrors a Holmes novel, it is clear that Charlotte and Jamie are being framed and they are only able to trust each other. There is plenty of quick thinking, explosions and awkward moments and the odd twist. It is a great first novel in the series. 

The next books explore more of the family’s dynamics and the dealings with the Moriarty family. It takes the pair around the globe as they get mixed up in a variety of issues. It is written from both of their perspectives which is definitely helpful in Charlotte's case as she has a very unique take on things and her thought process can be hard to follow when you aren’t in her head.
A great series for those who love quirky characters, anything Sherlock related and of course, a good mystery.

The second series in this review is by Maureen Johnson. I precede this review with a warning – if you are not the patient sort then you may wish to wait until the final book in the trilogy is out is January 2020. The cliff-hangers are real!

The first in the series is called Truly, Devious, the second is The Vanishing Stair and the third is The Hand in the Wall (yet to be published).

In 1936, the wife and young daughter of a wealthy gentleman disappeared under mysterious circumstances. A full investigation was carried out but the case is still unsolved. The gentleman was Mr Ellingham and he ran Ellingham Academy, a private and elite boarding school for the brightest and most creative minds. The school is filled with secret tunnels, riddles and quirks that make learning a game. Rumour has it that Ellingham would do anything to get them back and when a riddle signed Truly, Devious shows up, it seems there is more to the disappearance than it seems. 

In the present day, Stevie Bell – a true-crime aficionado – is accepted into Ellingham Academy and sets to work to solve the cold case.  Stevie is also very socially awkward and has chronic anxiety attacks which make her a very interesting and vulnerable character, although she tries her best to hide it from her classmates. Stevie has read everything about the case and gets herself into plenty of trouble snooping around but she makes friends and finds a few leads. Then a classmate dies in suspicious circumstances and it seems the past is repeating itself.

The series is told by jumping from the original events in 1936, to Stevie’s perspective. This makes for a slow chronological reveal of the mystery but it is quite complex so it works really well. By the end of book two we are still unsure of the clues we need to solve the bulk of the mystery but we do know some things. There are plenty of unanswered questions though so the next book will be epic. 

I enjoyed this series more than the Charlotte Holmes one. It is easier to read and flows better but they are both equally quirky and witty. I definitely recommend giving these series a try.

Tuesday 12 February 2019

Book Review: When You Read This by Mary Adkins

When You Read This by Mary Adkins is a novel with an interesting format. The entire novel is written in email snippets between a variety of people. Adkins is a playwright and it feels a bit like reading a play - it isn't seamless reading, you have to stop and double check the sender and recipient of each email before you keep going. This does take a bit of getting used to but Adkins slips in some pretty great treats in there, spam from dating services and gambling sites are an accurate nod to the state of plenty of inboxes!

Iris is in her early 30s and dying of lung cancer. She writes on a website called Dying to Blog, where she finds comfort in others on a similar journey. She also works at a small and struggling brand management company as an assistant to her boss Smith.

A while after Iris has passed away, Smith hires a (quite hilarious) ambitious young intern called Carl who discovers his predecessor and determines that her blog should most definitely be published. Unfortunately the copyright to the blog lies with Iris's sister Jade, who isn't taking her death very well and refuses to hand over the rights.

Smith and Jade begin emailing each other and find solace in their common grief. They both have family baggage and this shapes a lot of their conversation, along with processing what Iris may have wanted them to do as they continue their lives without her.

This isn't a sad book, I found the email format takes away a lot of the emotion that you would get when you are in a characters head. But I don't think that detracts from the book at all, it just gives a different perspective, more like what we let others see. Or the fact that emails can be drafted, scrapped and rewritten so we can say what needs to be said rather than something spur of the moment.

The characters are full of emotion however, and the processing and decisions that are made in the wake of a death seem to be quite accurate. Smith worked with Iris for quite a long time and their friendship was quite unique. Jade helped Iris at the end and struggles with the fact that Iris didn't fight harder, and left big dreams behind. Carl is just a great point of difference when he pops up in the narrative and is so oblivious to most things.

I quite enjoyed this novel, even though it is different to what I would usually read. I don't think the blurb accurately conveys the plot but I did like what I read and the format makes it quite quick to get through. I think it concludes quickly but ties up the loose threads. I liked that the characters are more than a little flawed and that cancer and death are dealt with in a raw and real, but not soppy way.
It also highlights the journey that grief can take people through and that it can be something done separately or together at different stages.

When You Read This is published by Hachette and is available from February 12.

Thanks to Hachette for my review copy of this book!

Wednesday 23 January 2019

Book Review *NZ AUTHOR* The Rift by Rachael Craw

You probably know by now that I have a soft spot for local authors. I found Rachael Craw through her previous trilogy: Spark, Stray and Shield. You can read my review here.

After following her on social media I became curious about her newest novel - The Rift. It seemed totally different to her previous offerings and I was intrigued. I have just finished the novel and I must say that I am sad to say goodbye to these characters, they are very well written and have found a place in my heart. I am sure I am not alone in having my fingers and toes crossed for a follow-up.

The Rift is a Young Adult fantasy novel set on Black Water Island. The island is laced with magical ley lines and is home to the Old Herd, deer who's horns have amazing healing powers and can communicate to the Rangers who protect them through telepathy. These Rangers live on the island and ensure that none of the ancient Old Herd are hurt by Rift Hounds, other-worldly demon dogs who can only be seen by those who have Rift Sight. These hounds appear when the moon is full and the Rift on the island opens.

Cal is an apprentice Ranger who has an unusual set of powers that came about from a Hound bite when he was young. Meg was injured at the same time as Cal but has lived on the Mainland until recently. As Meg returns, tensions arise from the Head Ranger's dealings with Nutris - a pharmaceutical company trying to capitalize on the powerful deer horn.
Meg has always wanted to be a Ranger but has no training, Cal is being pushed into something he doesn't want, and Meg and Cal have a connection that is more than electric. They must work through physical and psychological wounds to save the Head Ranger and the Old Herd as the Rift opens for its most dangerous time yet.

This novel dives straight into the intricacies of Black Water Island and the first third of the book feels like you are running to catch up with the story. The world is well constructed and conjures beautiful imagery of New Zealand-esque scenery - with thermal pools and a rugged, harsh landscape. The fantasy-side of the story takes a little to get your head around, but it doesn't make it any less mind-blowing. As I read the book, I was transported to the island and I could clearly see everything in my mind. It takes a great wordsmith to bring a world to life, and Rachael does this so well.

I loved the characters of Meg and Cal. They are both so intense and physically and mentally scarred which creates a broody mood that is eased by Meg's humor and quick wit. Meg is a great female lead who isn't afraid to get dirty and shows plenty of courage. There is a bit of PG romance that compliments the intense action plot well. The novel really ramps up on the tension-scale and has some great twists that surprised me. I did feel that one of the major plot lines was left unresolved, hence the request for a sequel.

I could go on and on but I won't. You will just have to find out yourself. The Rift gets a huge go-and-read-this-now tick from me!

As a bonus, I messaged Rachael with a typo I found - she replied straight away and proved me wrong, turns out there is a weird turn-of-phrase that both she and I think is just so wrong but her editor and the Macquarie Dictionary says is right - check out her post below:

Who knew?

Anyway, if you are in the mood for a faced-paced action novel with zombie space dogs, then get your hands on this book. Keep em' coming Rachael!

Tuesday 1 January 2019

2018 Makes

As 2018 has drawn to a close, I thought I'd do my usual round up of crafty things I got up to this year in between study, work, parenting and general life! Most of my crafting happens between 8pm-12am when the small one sleeps. I enjoy that time, the quietness of the end of the day. It is also why most of my photos are pretty terrible - they have been taken pretty close to midnight in low light! I like keeping my hands busy and so I keep find new ways to challenge my hands and mind.
Buckle up guys, this post is a long one.

I'll post my photos in categories to satisfy the librarian in me.

First up is Coats and Vests. I make these to order through my little Amy & Addy side-gig. They also make great gifts for little ones so many of these have been gifted as well.

Awhi Coat Pattern from - my friend Sophie designs them!

Next up - Hot Water Bottle Covers. These are so cute, I'm a huge sucker for a fox and general woodland creatures so these are right up my alley. The pattern is fun to hack too so there are a few interesting versions in the photo round up.

Thunderbird 4 Hottie cover

Hottie pattern mashed into some Christmas stockings
Next up is other sewing items. I dabble.

Another pattern

Sadly the best photo I got of this awesome fox quilt for my friends wee girl

The Manuka Skirt by

This is a custom cushion for my in-law's caravan they named 'Nampara'

Go ahead and laugh, these are custom towel ponchos for my ocean loving friend

Second poncho in progress

Super awesome and sturdy wing pattern. They use layers of stiff interfacing to keep their shape.

Larger size wings

Fluoro wings
Crochet crafts - I took a big break from crochet this year, every so often I feel the desire to whip out a project and it is starting to come back to me now!

Crochet T-Rex

Reusable shopping bag
Miscellaneous projects

$5 artwork before...

... And after with a little (a lot) of white spraypaint

Felt headband

Paper flowers

String art
If you made it this far then well done! I want to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who has supported me in 2018 in any way. Thanks for trusting me with your requests and believing in me when sometimes I don't. I look forward to another year of learning and making in as many forms as I can.