Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Liebster Award Nomination

Hello everyone

Awhile ago I got nominated by Casual Book Reviews for the Liebster Award. I had only just begun blogging so I wanted to wait before replying via a blog because 1. I didn't feel like I deserved it and 2. I wanted to have a more substantial backing. The Liebster Award is about highlighting small blogs that you think deserve more support with less than 200 followers. I am most definitely a small blogger and I was very pleased when I got the nomination by Kelly. I had only just started and I was unsure if anyone other than friends were reading my posts or if I was just shouting into the void. So thank you Kelly, you helped me keep motivated with this blogging thing.

The rules for Liebster Award are simple:

1. Thank the person who nominated you

2. Answer the questions given by the nominator

3. Nominate another 11 bloggers (with 200 or less followers) and link them
4. Create 11 new questions for the nominees to answer
5. Notify all nominees by social media/blogs

Questions from Casual Book Reviews:

1. Why did you start blogging?
I've been wanting to blog for quite awhile but I never felt motivated to it or I didn't feel like I had time because of University or school. I think my self-confidence was also a reason I left it for awhile because I didn't think my writing was good enough. I decided to start this year because I had chosen to do the 2015 Reading Challenge as a fun resolution and I figured doing a blog would be a good way of illustrating my literature journey I was taking.

2. Indoors or outdoors?
I think I'm a mixture but I do tend to spend more time inside. I like being on my computer, reading books and watching movies/tv shows. The main sport I've played in the past was underwater hockey and that was in a pool inside so even my main exercise was inside... But I do enjoy going to the beach and going for walks. I've recently found a love of scenery and natural beauty, and have started to enjoy photography. Although I am very much an amateur, it is quite exciting when you take a really good picture.  

3. The last song you listened to?
Shatter Me by Lindsay Stirling feat. Lzzy Hale (the Halestorm lead singer)

4. A place you like to go to think?
Probably the place I have gone the most in the past to think is the Botanical Gardens in Dunedin as I used to live by there. To be honest, I mainly just need to go outside and go for a walk if I want to think. It's preferable if it is somewhere beautiful and serene. I also like long road trips in the car when I can just put in my headphones and daydream. 

5. Favourite thing to bake/cook?
I am not much of a baker or cook. It's more of a means to an ends for me. However, I do like making pikelets, I make them more frequently than anything else. Pikelets are my "I'm craving something sweet but we have nothing and it's two o'clock in morning" kinda thing. Cooking wise I would say my Grandma's chicken pie. It tastes so good.

6. Favourite day of the week?
I'm going to say Sunday or Monday as they are my weekend days. They switch around and sometimes one is better than the others.

7. A story that always makes you smile when looking back on it?
When I was three or four years old, I had a moon bouncer.
My moon bouncer looks something like this but I think it was green.
I loved my moon bouncer and one day my sister, Beth offered to help me. My sister is four, nearly five years older than me. She asked me if I wanted to make the moon bouncer more bouncy, so bouncy that I could jump as high as the roof (or something like that, my memory is kinda hazy). I, of course; agreed and asked how I could do that. She then told me that if I put a pin in my moon bouncer it would make it more bouncy. So of course, I obliged, I found a drawing pin and pushed the tip into the rubber of the moon bouncer. My moon bouncer obviously began to deflate and never bounced again. I was very upset and my mother refused to by me a new one despite it being my sisters fault. This memory has scarred me but at the same time I find it hilarious, at least now anyway. I think it's funny remembering how tricky my sister was. I also have never let her forget that she did this to me...

8. Chocolate or Vanilla
Chocolate, except in Upn'Gos (A morning cereal-esque milkshake), the vanilla is the best.

9. A book you never finished and why?
Boy, I have plenty of these. Atonement, I started reading this at school but got bored so stopped reading it. I might go back to it but at the time it bored me listening about a girl who had no problems kinda complaining about having no problems/secrets.  
P.S. Sorry if this is completely wrong but that's what I remember thinking at the time. I was only 16, that was 6 years ago... 

10. A book you will love forever?
The Harry Potter series, it needs no explanation.

11. Something people may not know about you?
I'm actually quite introverted. That probably isn't that surprising amongst the blogging world. I'm very social and I get along with new people fairly easily but I do love my alone time a lot. Sometimes, I like it more than being around people. I think I'm very much a mixture between extroverted and introverted.

My Nominations:

Spencer - Science to a Student 
Carmen - Carmen Huter 
Kristelle - Forever Dreaming 
Sam - Life of Sam
Amber - Fawntales 
Dallas - Sister Blog 2

P.S. It took me ages to find these blogs, I wanted to make sure they were good and they all are!
P.P.S I have assumed all these bloggers have less than 200 followers but sometimes it is hard to tell so bear with me...

My Questions for Nominees:

1. Favourite memory?
2. What is the top location in the world you would like to visit?
3. Why did you start blogging?
4. Favourite book at the moment?
5. If you could only eat one food for the rest of you life, what would it be?
6. Favourite song at the moment?
7. A place you go to get away from everything?
8. What is a weird dream you've had recently?
9. Who inspires you?
10. Who is your favourite blogger? 
11. What is quote to you find inspiring?

Thank you Casual Book Review once again for nominating me.

Highland Guard by Hannah Howell

2015 Reading Challenge

8. A book your Mum loves: Highland Guard by Hannah Howell

Well, I have a confession to make. I sometimes like reading Mummy porn-esque books. They're my guilty pleasure, don't judge me. I wasn't initially going to write a review about this book but then I thought "I'm an adult and I shouldn't be embarrassed." I'm quite picky on what books of this kind I read because I still want a good story. (So I guess 50 Shades is out of the running...) If I wanted to read pure smut I would just go online and google it. If I'm honest, the main reason I read these books is they don't make me over think and the endings are always happy. When I was studying these were the the main kind of books I would read if any because I couldn't deal with anything really substantial. My Mum loves Hannah Howell's books and she has got me hooked as well. Howell has a couple of different series, the Murray/Highlander one, the Wherlocke one and the MacNachton Vampires one. I've read most of her books except for the vampire one because I really dislike vampires. This is the newest book out and I had to read it straight away. It was perfect timing because I really needed a silly book like this.

This book is set in historic highland Scotland, they don't give a specific date in this one but sometimes she does. The book is centred around Annys MacQueen and her difficulties in keeping her young son's lands safe from a cruel kinsman after her husband has died. This is quite a typical storyline for Howell to make. She requests help from Harcourt Murray to come and help her as her deceased husband once saved his life. They have a bit of a complicated history that gets unravelled during the course of the book. The book is full of intrigue, action and sexual tension. Howell's book always contain strong female characters which is pretty refreshing. Though there is always a level of submission involved but that's usually because of historic setting.

I really enjoyed this book because although there was an aspect of the storyline which was quite typical to Howell's other books, she managed to mix it up a bit. The romance aspect was quite different as for once the female protagonist wasn't a virgin. I know shock, horror but seriously some of the previous books where the female protagonist had been married, she still managed to be a virgin. These highland men love their virgins, I tell ya. But you don't expect much in that regard so its not that big of a deal and if I'm honest Annys is nearly a virgin in this book too. Another aspect Howell mixed things up with was the two main characters had this complicated past. I won't get into it because it may ruin the beginning of the book but it is quite intriguing and unique. But ultimately this book was full of cliches. However, the silver linings are that you read these books because you want cliches and Howell managed to make them difficult to see coming, at least to an extent. I also appreciated that she didn't over do the sex scenes. Sometimes in other books I'm thinking "Guys, can you stop with all the sex, there's a murderer on the loose! You need to focus!" but then I continue reading...

I'm really quite a fan of Howell's books even if I don't hold them in the highest regard. Her books have been great for me when I just want to read something with a happy ending, that won't make me think to hard and has a small sprinkling of smut... I recommend that you should try out these type of books if you are a bit stressed and like a sweet love story. I rate this book 3 out of 5 stars. I do really enjoy them but they are still more of a guilty pleasure rather than my favourite books.

Thank you for reading!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief By Rick Riordan

2015 Reading Challenge

7. A book that became a movie: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief By Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson and The Olympians #1)

I've been meaning to start this series of books since I became aware of them, when the movie came. I always like to read the book first so I still haven't seen the movie but now I can since I've finally finished the book. I've loved Greek mythology for a really long time, it's probably a huge reason why I wanted to study archaeology. Though admittedly I never continued with Classics after first year at University. I liked Classics but I couldn't fit it in and I prefer and was better at History. So because of my love of mythology I was really looking forward to some fictional books on it. Especially since I knew they were highly recommended. Helen had the first three books so added them to my pile of books from her. So expect a review for those two soon because I freaking love this series.

The Lightning Thief is based around 12 year old Percy Jackson. He is dyslexic and unintentionally a troublemaker, who has been expelled from six schools. He tries to do his best but things always seem to go wrong. Things get worse when he accidentally vaporises his maths teacher. He then discovers he is a Half-blood, a child of a God and human, which explains all the problems he has at school. Percy is sent to Camp Half-Blood, a safe haven for Half-blood children to spend their summer. Percy begins to train as a hero but then is thrust into a quest with two of his friends to find Zeus' lightning bolt that was stolen from him to prevent a war between the gods.

I was a little bit surprised with how much I enjoyed this book. I mean it is meant for children aged 9 and up but I loved it. I think it has similar qualities to Harry Potter where it is written for children and young adults but adults can still enjoy it. I also realised I don't usually read books where the protagonist is a male but like Harry Potter I still really loved it. I found Annabeth, Percy's friend to be very similar to Hermione. She is the daughter of Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom, War and Useful Arts. Annabeth is brilliantly clever and really skilled at fighting like Hermione. But unlike her, Annabeth is really creative and wants to be a architect. I enjoyed their similarities because Hermione is such an awesome character and more people should be like her.

I loved the references in  this book. The mythological references were perfect. Though admittedly, because I'm such a mythology nerd; I found myself correcting it ever so slightly. They may not have been incorrect, I may have just remembered them wrong or they were just interpreted differently. But the small inaccuracies I found, didn't bother me, I still was really pleased with it. I loved the Hilary Duff references because they were hilarious and because I love her. She was one of my idols growing up and still remains one. Though admittedly it is more in a more ironic sense now. I was surprised that there was a Barry Gibb reference. I assume it was put there for the parents or adults who read because I imagine there would be few children who know who he is. But I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The plot was written really well by Riordan. The pace was great, I didn't want to put my book down. Though I felt like Percy was sent on his quest really quickly considering he only just got to the camp but that kept the story moving so I understand why they did it. I found the story really funny too. The only negative I felt was because of my age. I just found it strange that it's normal to send a 12 year out on a dangerous quest, half-blood or not. But that is the way of children and young adults books. I'm just old enough now that it seems a little ridiculous. I'm going to give this book a 4.5 out 5 stars. I highly recommend this book especially to anyone who liked Harry Potter and mythology.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Star Crossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce

A Non-Challenge Book Review

6. Star Crossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce (Thief Errant #1)

One day while I was perusing Goodreads, I came across this book. I was really interested by the blurb so added it to my To Read list and added it to my wishlist on my Kobo. By my latest reviews, you've probably noticed that I love fantasy books and that currently I am in a young adult fantasy funk which I am thoroughly enjoying. So despite the fact that it fills none of the Reading Challenge's categories I decided to read it anyway. However, I still wanted to write a review and add it to my total of 2015 books so here we are.

Star Crossed is set in a fantasy alternative universe, in the classic medieval-esque way. The world has several moons surrounding it and these have become their gods The king of this land has outlawed magic, any academic study and any worship of other gods other than his own. Their had been a war 18 years before the time the book is set, it was a Sarist (magic believers) rebellion which was unsuccessful. Our protagonist is 16 year old Digger, she grew up on the streets and is a thief. During a routine job, Tegen her beloved and the only person she trusts is killed by the Green men (the police force). She runs and is unintentionally helped by a group of merry young noblemen and ladies. She is accepted as a maid to one of the young ladies and Digger intends to hideout there until the she is forgotten by the Green men. However, she is caught stealing by one of the lords and is then blackmailed by him to be his spy. She is unwittingly thrown into a world of intrigue and politics. It is from here that story picks up pace.

I loved this book so much. I really enjoyed the fact that there was no love story other than Digger's memories of Tegen. I do love a good romance but it was quite refreshing to read a young adult book that didn't use a love interest as a main plot device. There was no distraction from the main story line. There was enough drama and interest in the main plot that I don't think you could have fit in a love story anyway. The pace of this book was superb. I found it difficult to put this book down. There wasn't a huge rush to go from big event to big event but at the same time it was never slow. I loved how the story unfolded and how we slowly pieced together the back story of Digger and of the world she resides in. I found the intrigue in this story really interesting and suspenseful.

The character development in this story was done really well by Bunce. Digger was a really well rounded character as were many of the other characters. I loved the slow change in Digger when she realised she had come to care for these people and that she couldn't take advantage of them like she used to or had planned. She reminded me a lot of Aly from the Trickster books by Tamora Pierce. But it wasn't annoyingly so. They are still distinct characters but I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed the Trickster books. I also really enjoyed how the secondary characters were developed. Bunce didn't demonise the characters but she showed how the people had been misguided or blackmailed into doing things aren't considered moral. I especially like how Bunce developed the character Marlytt, a courtesan of sorts and Merista, the young lady who Digger serves.

This book is everything I would want and I love in fantasy books. It was awesome and I can't wait to read the second book, Liar's Moon. Which I believe may have a love story in it, which I'm looking forward to after enjoying a book without it. I highly recommend this book. I'm giving it 5 out of 5 stars, that's how much I enjoyed it.

Thank you for reading!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Pain Merchants - The Healing Wars: Book One by Janice Hardy

2015 Reading Challenge

5. A book with magic: The Pain Merchant - The Healing Wars: Book One by Janice Hardy

The Pain Merchants was another book from the book pile Helen lent me. As you can see I went through a binge on her books. I got overly excited by her books, that I forgot that I was going to have a mixture of books on this blog. Instead I've had three similar books in a row. Whoops. I had never heard of it before but the blurb intrigued me and with Helen's recommendation, I decided to give it a go.

The Pain Merchants was set in a alternative fantasy universe, there has been a war and the city, Geveg is under control by the all powerful Duke. The protagonist is Nya, a fifteen year old; who barely survives by working odd jobs. Her younger sister is a apprentice at the Healer's League but Nya was unable to join so remains on the streets.  She is a Taker, a healer who can pull pain and injury from others. However, she is unable to release the pain into pynvium, an enchanted metal that can store pain like other healers. She has the unusual ability to only shift pain from person to person. This is a dangerous ability that she must keep hidden from the various forces within Geveg. However, a bungled egg theft exposes her to the pain merchants and the Healer's League. Nya now has to protect herself and discover why League apprentices are going missing before her sister is taken.

The plot of the story was written fairly well. It flowed well and was full of surprises, you were not always sure what was going to happen next. However, I found the ending to occur too suddenly, when in the rest of the book the issues the characters faced and how they were resolved happened at a reasonable pace. The conclusion happened so quickly and the main issue in the story was resolved but there had been no real thought put into it. It just happened. I found it quite unsatisfying, Hardy kind of bungled the climax.

Also, the story fell into the classic young adult cliche of making the protagonist the most skilled and powerful character. It's fine but its quite frustrating. I would love the main character to not be the best thing ever. I think it's a good lesson to teach people that you don't have to be all powerful to be a important or brave person. However, in other books that I have enjoyed more it hasn't bothered me. It could be bothering me because its the third young adult book I've read in a row.

The main issue I found with The Pain Merchants was the character development. Nya's character was well developed and she was likeable. However, all the other minor main characters were terribly developed. I felt no real connection to any of them. I first noticed this with the love interest, I just didn't really like him. There was no really reason to not like him but he appeared bland, there was nothing special about the character. He barely had chemistry with Nya and their intimate dialogue was uninspired. The only chemistry you could see was what Nya told you about, like she can't stop looking at him and thought he was cute. Her sister was just as poorly developed, you as a reader felt no real connection to her. When she (spoiler alert) disappears, I found I only cared because Nya was so upset but I wasn't hugely worried if she was only used as character development for Nya or not. The other main character was Aylin, who is initially introduced as someone Nya knew but wasn't really friends with and not someone she can trust but then suddenly she is "like a sister". It was bizarre and a little unsettling.

I found this book alright. I think I will read the next one, hopefully the character are better developed. Overall, it was a okay read, I did enjoy it and found the storyline to be fairly unique. Though there is a part when they are worried they can't heal anymore and I was thinking, "Haven't you learned how to heal without it like we deal with everyday especially if no one can affords it." But of course this a different universe with different norms. I give this book a 3 out 5 stars. I wouldn't really recommend this book unless you like fantasy and magic and are curious by the blurb.

Thank you, I hoped you enjoyed reading.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The First Adventure Of Travelling Donkey

A Day Trip To Cromwell, New Zealand

I recently took a small day trip with my friends to Cromwell in Central Otago. Two of my best friends, Tyler and Emily were heading up there for a day trip. They knew I'd be doing nothing... So asked me along for the ride. I'm quite a big fan of car rides, I love letting my mind wander and just listen to music and daydream. It was also really nice to hang out and catch up with my friends.
Me. Emily and Tyler taking a selfie (I know embarrassing) in front of the giant fruit in Cromwell.
 I love travelling through Central Otago. I have done it many times before as my Nana lives in Wanaka so the trip is full of nostalgia. Recently, I've found a love of scenery and New Zealand is full of that kind of beauty. It's quite novel to really appreciate the beauty of the land that you had always taken for granted. 
Looking back towards Clyde, along the Clyde River
Photo taken by Emily
Along Clyde River, between Clyde Dam and Cromwell.
Photo taken by Me

My favourite part of the journey has always been the Clyde Dam. It's one of the industrial structures that I think has this unique beauty, that I just love. I always marvel at it. Dams are just so grand. I hope one day I can visit the Three Gorge Dam in China as it's the biggest Dam in the world. 

Clyde Dam
Photo taken by me
When Emily, Tyler and I made it to Cromwell we went to the historic part to explore. I really enjoyed this, it was interesting seeing some of the equipment and then recognising some that I had seen during my archaeological dig at field school. I also enjoyed going through the art galleries. I only wish I could afford to but some of the art. One day, one day. While in Old Cromwell I spied a second-hand book store (we nearly missed it!). I, of course had to check it out. There weren't any books I was super keen on but They had these awesome cards and postcards of old photos. The photos had been taken by the owner's father in the 1920s. I thought they were really cool so I had to buy a few.
Postcards made from photos taken in the 1920s.
Next, we went and got lunch at a Turkish place, which was nice if classically greasy. After that we headed to a cherry farm where we could pick our own cherries. I hadn't done this since I was a kid so I was quite excited. There's something quite novel about picking your own berries. Though, I imagine people who do it for a living would not feel the same, the work must be quite grueling. However, for us it was a fun way to obtain some yummy fruit. I'm also kinda picky about my fruit not having blemishes or bruises so I really liked picking the best. Emily proved to be the most efficient berry picker, while Tyler ate most he picked and I enjoyed making jokes about popping out cherries... In the end we picked ourselves a lot of cherries, too much in my case (NZL$20 worth...). They were really good though.
The Yummy Cherries
Photo taken by Emily
 We headed home after that, all of us rather tuckered out, despite sitting down most of the day. We were really lucky as a thunder storm hit Dunedin and Otago during the day and we managed to miss it all except for a small shower. We enjoyed a lovely summery day, I love it when the weather works in my favour. 

Thanks Emily and Tyler for inviting me out on your adventure, especially to Tyler for driving the whole way and for enduring Emily and my music. I hope I didn't cramp a romantic trip! Hahaha

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

2015 Reading Challenge

4. A book by an author you've never read before: Graceling by Kristin Cashore.

This was probably the easiest category in the Reading Challenge. Most of the books I read are written by authors I have never read or even heard of before. As previously stated in my last blog, I had acquired a lot of books from my cousin, Helen. This was one of the books that I had received that I immediately wanted to start reading so I have just squeezed it into one of the easy categories. I had seen this book on Goodreads and was looking forward to diving into it. I was not disappointed.

Graceling is set in an alternative universe in the usual medieval style standard of fantasy novels. There are people throughout this world who are born with an exceptional skill, known as a Grace. These people are both feared and exploited. The protagonist of this story is Katsa, she has the unfortunate Grace of killing and her uncle, King Randa; makes use of her Grace. She despises having no control over her life and of the killing. She wants to use her Grace for good and not at the whim of a King. The story details how she does this and follows her part in the investigation into the kidnapping into the King of Lienid's father.

I really loved this book, I thought that Katsa's character was just the right amount of spunky and headstrong. I enjoyed her relationship with her love interest, Po. I was surprised how much I liked it because he was the perfect person, with no real flaws that I could see. Usually that frustrates me to no end but I didn't really mind. He was just such a good person and I loved that he had complete faith in Katsa's skills as a fighter. He never tried to play that chivalrous role, which I hate a lot of time. I found their romance really sweet and realistic. They didn't suddenly change their goals and opinions of love and relationships, despite their love for each other. It was nice to see a female protagonist that still had control over herself around the guy she likes.

The plot in Graceling was written really well, it flowed really nicely and wasn't predictable. There wasn't always a clear idea of where they were heading but that reflected how the characters were feeling themselves about the investigation. However, I found the end to the antagonist quite abrupt, it all happened rather quickly but it was unexpected so that was refreshing. I liked how Cashore sorted out all loose ends and that it was smoothly done, rather than lengthening the book for no reason.

This review ended being a bit smaller than usual. I really enjoyed this book so I'll give it a 4 out 5 stars. I highly recommend this book if you love fantasy books and especially if you enjoy any of Tamora Pierce books like I do.
Thanks for reading.