Musings of a Bibliophile

Avid reader, writer and music-geek living in Auckland with too many books and not enough shelves. I currently review books for NZ Booklovers, a site dedicated to all things book related - reviews, author interviews, articles, competitions and more.

 

You can find my writing on the website here.

 

The Bell Between Worlds

The Bell Between Worlds - Ian  Johnstone

There's nothing particularly wrong with The Bell Between Worlds at all - other than a tendency to over-describe, which is not unusual, and the fact that it starts off incredibly derivative (it does get more original as the plot moves on) - I simply think that there are children's books that transcend genre and age, and ones that don't. This is the latter. My ten-year-younger self would have absolutely adored this book, though, especially the take on mirror selves and the ravel runes. Infinitely better than anything like City of Bones.

The Gospel of Loki

The Gospel of Loki - Joanne M Harris

Having loved both Chocolat and the Norse Myths, the prospect of one by the author of the other is something I very much looked forward to! Luckily my hopes were not let down, as is so often the case with anticipated reads.

 

The tone of The Gospel of Loki is quite light, at odds with some of the darker and more twisted events straight from the myths. It feels as though it were written from the point-of-view of a modern Loki, reminiscing about the distant past, possibly while relaxing at a café with a coffee in one hand and a pen in the other. At times this can be a little jarring, but mainly the casual style adds to the experience, emphasising the cheery-trickster aspect of our narrator. In a running motif throughout the book, Loki warns us of various people we should never trust – a wise man, a relative, a friend – and inevitably we discover that no one can be trusted, including Loki himself. Harris clearly knows and is fascinated by the Norse myths – she is currently studying Old Norse – and, luckily for us, that fascination translates into a charming book.

I've always loved the Norse myths and legends, but they always seemed to stay in a confused jumble in my head - after reading this I've found that they make sense, chronologically - Thor's "wedding" to the ice giants, Loki's mouth being sewn shut, Balder's death etc.

Full review here

*Received direct from the publisher through NZ Booklovers.

Burn

Burn  - Julianna Baggott

21/2/14
Ok. Here's part of my more coherent "official" review (full review here)

Though Burn doesn’t quite meet the sheer perfection of Fuse, Baggot’s words are once again placed with meticulous care; her world is still darkly gorgeous, if a little more haunting than before. Her characters are more flawed than ever and - for the most part - they are wonderful for it. Something about her writing really draws the reader in, creating a visceral experiencing of the plot that lingers long after you finish reading. I literally did not (could not) put this down until I had devoured every word.

Baggot is a brave author, staying true to her story no matter how sorrowful the outcome. By the last page I was heartbroken (no happy endings here) but this is a fitting end to a stunning series: raw, desolate and ultimately hopeful.

20/2/14
Heartbroken. This book... She... He... The end... The end is perfect for the series but not nice, not nice at all. Heartbreakingly right but also awful. I'll write a coherent review later when I have moved on from my grief a little.

Ok, four stars would just be petty as it really is a five star book. But that last star... I want to take it away out of revenge for the heartbreak. (I won't. But I want to)

18/2/14
IT'S HERE
and... I have to go to work. Cruel world... Still, in just over five hours I can finally devour it and I'm terrified that it'll let me down but also have the utmost faith that Baggot's gorgeous writing will amaze me once more.

FIVE HOURS.

10/2/14
Apparently this is in the post. In the post. "Delivery may take from 7 to 10 working days" - so I could be reading it... tomorrow. Or next week. Or the week after if it gets delayed which could happen but I cannot deal with that because it's already been MONTHS and ahhhhhhhhh so much excitement and anticipation I need this in my hands NOW.

The Long Earth

The Long Earth - Stephen Baxter, Terry Pratchett

3.5

Though it feels in many parts like an awkward blend of The Hitch-hiker's Guide and The Time Machine, but lacking in Adams' trademark humour and oddities (and Pratchett's, come to think of it) The Long Earth is still an interesting read. Focusing on ideas rather than plot has been pretty unusual in recent releases so it's quite refreshing to be allowed to explore all these worlds - different earth versions - without having to keep up with multiple relationships and character developments.

Champion: A Legend Novel

Champion: A Legend Novel - Marie Lu Though this was still a very enjoyable book, and concluded the series fairly nicely, it simply... pales in comparison to the previous two. The three stars are definitely the "good" kind, not the "I was very disappointed but this wasn't too bad I guess" kind, but I simply wasn't blown away like with the prequels. Also now that I'm finished I'm trying to work out if June actually really... did anything the entire time. Still, happy endings are good and the characters developed fairly nicely and the plot was fine and I'm probably just having a little complain for nothing.

The Pattern of Fear

The Pattern of Fear - Drew Chapman Though The Patter of Fear is a debut novel, it doesn’t read as one: Drew Chapman handles his characters and storyline with ease. Once a few awkward character introductions are out of the way the story takes off, and it’s no-holds-barred the entire time. Reilly is a compelling antihero, and most of the cast of characters that surround him are equally engaging. The plot itself is nail-bitingly tense, with a semi-fictional present setting allowing for some very interesting questions to be considered. How far would a government go to stop its own people rebelling? What happens when the line between “good” and “bad” is blurred? How could our reliance on technology be used to start – and win – a bloodless war?

I will admit to knowing absolutely nothing about stocks and shares and Wall Street, and almost nothing about computers and hacking, and very little about China or even America. None of this hindered my enjoyment in the slightest, and I also felt that nothing rang false for me in terms of the written manipulations and interactions of all these elements. I really enjoyed reading this - far more than I expected to, in fact.

Full review here

*Received direct from the publisher through NZ Booklovers.

Inside HBO's Game of Thrones

Inside HBO's Game of Thrones - George R.R. Martin, D.B. Weiss, David Benioff, Bryan Cogman Great book, interesting read and the little insights into characters from the actors and writers is great, but I think there simply isn't quite... enough.

Fairie Ality Style: A Sourcebook Of Inspirations From Nature

Fairie Ality Style: A Sourcebook Of Inspirations From Nature - David Ellwand Very different from the first book, but equally gorgeous. Style is a little more abstract, more art focused with beautiful images of nature, and corresponding colour swatches making this an interesting book to consider if renovating. The creations themselves are so painstakingly constructed, and so stunning that I find myself envious of any creature small enough to actually use them. Almost no words throughout the entire book, but I can imagine coming back and looking through the images often for inspiration.

The Shadow Tracer

The Shadow Tracer - Meg Gardiner 3.75

The Shadow Tracer is M. G. Gardiner’s eleventh crime thriller, and from the very first page it is clear that we are in the hands of a professional. The reader is taken on a nail-biting ride through the Southern States, and, as Sarah’s story gains complexity, the chance of anyone getting out alive becomes doubtful.

The characters are generally well rounded, with clear motivations that fit the plot well. However, a few things are touched on that are never quite explained or developed further. Zoe seems to have a hint of a supernatural ability, or at the very least incredible intuition, but it seems to only be used when the characters need to know something to further the plot, rather than as an interesting plot point on its own. I'm still really curious to know whether this intuitive power is actually going to be utilised in later books, or if it remains a crutch for the author to lean on when fore-shadowing is needed or the character wouldn't get out of a situation without knowing something impossible to know. Luckily none of this gets in the way of the story, and for the most part, The Shadow Tracer is thoroughly enjoyable.

Full review here

**Advanced review copy received from the publisher through Nz Booklovers

Tiny Food Party!: Bite-Size Recipes for Miniature Meals

Tiny Food Party!: Bite-Size Recipes for Miniature Meals - Teri Lyn Fisher, Jenny Park Great book - most of these foods look so ridiculously tasty and the tiniest just adds another interesting element. I've found myself wanting to throw dinner parties just to have these little canapes and snacks!

Big House, Small House: New Homes by New Zealand Architects

Big House, Small House: New Homes by New Zealand Architects - John Walsh, Patrick Reynolds Beautifully written, beautifully presented and some of these homes are absolutely phenomenal. It's really interesting to see how even with all the differences in design, New Zealand architecture has a very definite aesthetic: natural elements, wooden square exteriors that blend with the environment and a lot of glass placed in a very unobtrusive manner. This was a wonderful read.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, #1)

Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, #1) - Laini Taylor, Khristine Hvam HALFWAY THROUGH:
So far, my main thoughts are: The story is fairly original; interesting plot; but frustrated by how long the author is holding this "secret" of Karou's identity over the reader - especially as I'm pretty sure I figured it out around 80 pages ago. We'll see - if I'm wrong, then I suppose the author's intentions worked. But it does feel a little like she's saying "here's the secret! I'm gonna tell you.... I'm gonna tell you... OH no sorry I'm not." (repeat this a few hundred times) The story so far has kept my attention captive, which is generally a book's most desirable trait.

FINISHED: Okay, so I was right about who Karou is. I wish it had been less obvious - the whole climax of the book is dependent on this "big reveal", and while it was interesting to find out all the logistics of how everything happened, the basic facts were completely unsurprising. The ending however was unexpected, and definitely leads (perhaps a little too well) the reader into wanting the sequel.

I've also changed my mind about the writing - it really grew on me, I think I've grown to love the style. It has it's own strange beauty that kind of sticks with you long after finishing.

I didn't adore this book as many others seem to but it was a quick easy read, and required little thought - in this case, I count this as a good thing. I will definitely be reading the sequel.

MUCH MUCH LATER - AS IN, MONTHS AND MONTHS:
Audio review to come - actually, damn it, entire new review to come, my opinion on this book is so so different now after a little time and with a second re-reading! I'm not sure why this is - maybe I was in an overly critical mood through the first reading?

And again, even later:

This book in hardcover (the one with the purple feathers) is one of the most beautiful objects I own. Yes, I bought the book. It sticks with you, it really does. After a third re-read, I've realised what it is - the first third is wondrously intriguing, and I adore it. The middle third (Karou and Akiva) gets a little... bland and purplish, in comparison to the rest of the story, and at this point I always seem to think "maybe it's not quite as great as I remembered?". Then the final third is once again incredible, I am recaptured by it and forget that I had second thoughts ever at any point.

This is turning into such a bit-and-pieces review - maybe I'll have to come back and write it all out coherently at some point. Anyway.

Film castings - I don't usually get too attached to this because it'll happen regardless of what I think and either be perfect or not. But I couldn't resist - Christina Hendricks as Issa and Anton Yelchin as Mik (I know, I know, Mik isn't Russian but since when has Hollywood cared about this kind of thing? He can change his accent to suit, and better that than some American playing him with an American accent) And he's who I imagine every time I read about him) would be perfection!

Beth Levine Shoes

Beth Levine Shoes - Helene Verin, Harold Koda, David Hamsley Beautifully laid out, beautifully photographed and beautifully written. Some very quirky (unwearable, even) shoes but most are stunning, and it's really interesting to know these little extra bits of fashion history - such as, who is the inspiration for for those super thin stiletto heels I gaze at longingly every time I go past a shoe store...

The Never List

The Never List - Koethi Zan The Never List is a debut novel and unfortunately suffers from this, as despite its promising beginning, the story’s full potential is never quite reached. The horror is kept just enough out of sight – more implied than blatant – to make parts genuinely frightening, but something about the writing tones down the terror, and the result is tamer reading than would be expected from the content. The awkward first-person narration detracts from the overall atmosphere, and I found myself underwhelmed where I should have been terrified.

Full review here

*Received from the publisher through NZ Booklovers.

Linda, As in the Linda Murder

Linda, As in the Linda Murder - Leif G.W. Persson This book will not be to everyone's tastes, but should appeal to fans of Steig Larsson (though I liked this better than The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) or J.K Rowling's latest, The Cuckoo's Calling. Maybe not quite 4 stars, but not quite 3.5 either. Full review to come.

*Advanced review copy received from Random House through Nz Booklovers

The New Watch (Watch #5)

The New Watch (Watch #5) - Sergei Lukyanenko Review to come

*Advanced review copy received from Random House through Nz Booklovers

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