March 2017 Wrap-Up

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March Blog Wrap-Up

So! As you can see from the image above, I read a lot less this month than I did last month. I read a total of 15 books which I think is pretty good considering that the new Zelda game came out this month and I’ve spent a lot of time playing it. I really enjoyed most of the books I read and I’m still trying to read as diversely as possible. 10/15 books I read were written by women so I’m doing really well on my goal of reading more books written by women and several of these will count towards my various reading challenges which is also great. I plan on doing a ReadHarder quarterly wrap-up post soon, I just need to finish my reviews first!

I’m not doing a book haul for this month because I had almost no views on my last one so I feel it’s something people aren’t interested in. However if people would like me to do one, I’d happily do that as I keep all my new purchases for each month separate (as I have a goal of trying to read at least one of my new books each “haul”)

Blogging wise, I’ve started my new Travel Thursday feature which I really enjoy. I’ve not had that many views on them yet so I’m only going to do them every other week but so far I’m really enjoying writing them and they’re a big help for my “Around the World” challenge. I’ve almost hit 100 followers so I’m very excited about that and I now have 300 followers on Twitter. I’ve not had as many posts this month, again mostly due to Zelda, and I’ve started setting aside time on Tuesday and Wednesday for blog hopping so that I can also spend more time reading other fantastic blogs. I’ve managed to slightly increase my views from February which is good given that I made less posts and I’m also quite happy to see that I’ve got views from across the world which is really cool. (I’ve also decided that for my “Around the World” challenge I’m going to focus first on the countries that my visitors are from so if you have a recommendation then please let me know!)

Finally, I’m about to start a new reading challenge/bingo focused on Fantasy books that I’m very excited about. I’ll be making a post about it soon and I expect I’ll be making a couple recommendation posts for a couple of the squares. I’m contemplating joining in on Diversity Bingo too, just because through my reading I’ve already completed a fair amount of the squares – I think I’m going to set aside a day to go through and see just how many squares I’ve completed as if it’s more than a quarter then I’ll definitely join (and if not, I probably will anyway but will wait until I’ve finished one of my other challenges first)

Life Wrap-Up

So, I didn’t do this last month but I know I’m certainly curious about the lives of the bloggers I read so figure you might be curious about me so I’ll add in a monthly feature to update you on my life (especially for those who don’t follow me on Twitter)

I’m currently unemployed but I’ve made good progress with job applications this month and I’m hopeful that I’ll find something soon. I currently volunteer for a fantastic charity while I job hunt so that’s really helping build my skills and they’ve said that they’ll write me a fantastic reference and asked me if there’s anything they can do to help which is so lovely of them.

As I mentioned above, I’ve been a bit obsessed with the new Zelda game as it’s just so fantastic. I’m a big fan of video games and if I’m not reading or playing board games (another hobby of mine) then I’m probably playing a video game. I just completed Zelda a couple days ago but there’s still so much more to do so I’ll probably still be playing it for quite a while. I’ve also started a game of Fire Emblem so I’ll probably be spending a lot of time on that this month.

My writing has been a bit slow lately as my mental health hasn’t been that great so I’ve put it on hold to have one less thing to stress about but I plan on returning to it this month and trying to hit 10k words on my Novella.

Goals for April:

  • Read at least 4 books for each challenge I’m doing
  • Get back to scheduling more posts in advance
  • Write reviews for all the ARCs I’ve finished
  • Make more recommendation posts
  • Get more views than last month
  • Eat healthier
  • Apply to more jobs
  • Start doing yoga again
  • Write at least 10k words

 

So! How was your March? Were you able to achieve your goals or was it a slow month for you? I love reading wrap-ups so if you have one, please comment with it so I can go check it out!

 

Travel Thursdays #2 – Nigeria

Travel Thursdays

So I’m back for my second Travel Thursday! I’ve decided these won’t be a weekly thing just due to the fact that I’ve now decided that I’d prefer to list three books from each place and so obviously that will require a lot more reading. Currently, my plan is to have them every other week, although that may go down to monthly depending on how easy it is for me to get these books.

I’ve chosen Nigeria as my second location due to the fact that I’ve been reading a lot of Nigerian literature recently. I’d also never seen any photos of Nigeria and so thought it would be nice to research that to put images to the landscapes described in these fantastic novels.

If you’d like to take part too, then you can find more information here and please let me know as I’d love to see your posts!

Three Books I’ve Read from Nigeria:

Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor – I couldn’t not list one of Nnedi’s books and Lagoon seemed like the perfect choice given that it’s also set in Lagos. I adored this book and you can find my review of it here.

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo – I got this as an ARC and I just loved it. I chose it as my second choice as although there are lots of fantastic books, this one was set in a modern setting while most of the others ones I’ve read have had a more historical setting. You can find my review of it here.

Butterfly Fish by Irenosen Okojie – I chose this as my final book because I enjoyed the alternating stories of modern and historical and also because Irenosen Okojie’s collection of short stories was shortlisted for the fantastic Jhalak Prize. You can read my review of it here.

Three Books I’d Like to Read

The Famished Road by Ben Okri – I’ve had this on my to-read list for quite a while and I’ve actually started it already but only a tiny way in. I really enjoyed Ben Okri’s writing style in Astonishing the Gods and I’ve heard such good things about this that I can’t wait to sit down and read it.

The Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta – I’ve already read several of her books and I’ve adored every single one of them. Her writing is absolutely fantastic and I knew she definitely had to be one of the authors that I chose.

GraceLand by Chris Abani – This was a book I discovered while researching this post and it sounded absolutely fascinating and had some excellent reviews.

Three Photos of Nigeria

Lagos Island

Lagos Island and part of Lagos Harbour.

Jabi lake

Jabi Lake, Abuja

The bronze cast of his royal majesty. The Benin monarch

Statue of the Oba of Benin and his servants, Benin City

Book Review – The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

Goodreads Synopsis:

Our universe is ruled by physics and faster than light travel is not possible — until the discovery of The Flow, an extra-dimensional field we can access at certain points in space-time that transport us to other worlds, around other stars.

Humanity flows away from Earth, into space, and in time forgets our home world and creates a new empire, the Interdependency, whose ethos requires that no one human outpost can survive without the others. It’s a hedge against interstellar war — and a system of control for the rulers of the empire.

The Flow is eternal — but it is not static. Just as a river changes course, The Flow changes as well, cutting off worlds from the rest of humanity. When it’s discovered that The Flow is moving, possibly cutting off all human worlds from faster than light travel forever, three individuals — a scientist, a starship captain and the Empress of the Interdependency — are in a race against time to discover what, if anything, can be salvaged from an interstellar empire on the brink of collapse.

Review:

I got a copy of this from NetGalley to review and I was very excited as I really enjoyed Redshirts and have a lot of Scalzi’s other books on my TBR list. It’s been a while since I read a space-opera and this reminded me just how much I love them.

I won’t say too much about the plot, because I loved it so much that I don’t want to spoil a thing for anybody as it kept me gripped right until the end and I could barely put it down. The writing is fantastic, it flows so well and really helps you immerse yourself in the novel. The dialogue between the characters is great and they all have their unique voices.

The characters though, the characters are what really made me love this novel. Cardenia is the reluctant Emperox and I’m not usually a fan of the whole “reluctant ruler” trope but here it worked really well. I also loved how she was fully represented, including at one point describing how awful her cramps were from her period which is something I don’t think I’ve ever seen mentioned in a Sci-Fi novel before and I adored it. Then there’s the fantastic, sex-positive Kiva who will sleep with anybody and is very open and unashamed about it. At one point she’s trying to decide which of a pair of siblings would pleasure her the most. Her sexuality is never mentioned, but she’s definitely not straight (I read her as bisexual). These are the two main POV characters and so it was excellent getting to read a space-opera mostly from the view of very well-written women. The final of the three characters is Marce, a scholar from the planet End, whose father studied the Flow and he’s also great fun to read about and in particular, I really enjoyed his interactions with Cardenia.

The worldbuilding is excellent and I really like the system that has been set up with powerful families and guilds having monopolies on different items making all the systems dependent on each other, which of course is a massive problem now due to the issues with the Flow.

This is a book I would highly recommend and not only did I adore it, but it’s made me put the rest of Scalzi’s books to the top of my TBR list because I just really enjoy his writing style.

Book Review – Brother’s Ruin by Emma Newman

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Goodreads Synopsis:

The year is 1850 and Great Britain is flourishing, thanks to the Royal Society of the Esoteric Arts. When a new mage is discovered, Royal Society elites descend like buzzards to snatch up a new apprentice. Talented mages are bought from their families at a tremendous price, while weak mages are snapped up for a pittance. For a lower middle class family like the Gunns, the loss of a son can be disastrous, so when seemingly magical incidents begin cropping up at home, they fear for their Ben’s life and their own livelihoods.

But Benjamin Gunn isn’t a talented mage. His sister Charlotte is, and to prevent her brother from being imprisoned for false reporting she combines her powers with his to make him seem a better prospect.

When she discovers a nefarious plot by the sinister Doctor Ledbetter, Charlotte must use all her cunning and guile to protect her family, her secret and her city.

Brother’s Ruin is the first in a new gaslamp fantasy series by Emma Newman.

Review:

I got this as an eARC from NetGalley and was extremely excited because the setting sounded fantastic! Steampunk Victorian London with magic? Count me in!

The story follows that of Charlotte who is gifted with strong magical powers however she has been hiding them due to the fact that in their society, mages are “bought” by the colleges and are then trained and no longer have their own freedom. Charlotte doesn’t wish this to be her future and so she hides her magic. Unfortunately, at one point it is noticed and blamed on her brother. The penalties for false reporting are high and their family are desperate for money so Charlotte uses her powers to aid her brother in the mage tests so that not only will her secret remain safe, but they will receive a higher price for her brother.

During all this however, there are events going on in the background involving rogue mages and Charlotte becomes entangled with these while attempting to help her father out of his debt.

The story itself was really great and I enjoyed the strong sibling bond and found Charlotte a fantastic character. Through the tests, we were given glimpses of the different schools of magic and a brief idea of the society that they lived in. I really enjoyed the worldbuilding and definitely felt that the author had created a rich, vibrant world. The characters were all well written too and had their own agendas which were interesting to see and figure out.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story and it was one that I didn’t want to end. It’s a great introduction to a fantastic world and I’m eagerly awaiting the next in the series.

TTT – Ten Short SFF Books You Can Read in One Sitting

Top Ten Tuesday

So, this is my first time taking part in Top Ten Tuesday but when I saw the prompt for this week, I just had to take part as there are so many fantastic short books/novellas out there! TTT is hosted by Broke and Bookish and they have a link-up so if you enjoy this topic you can find lots more posts about it!

I’m a fast reader so I can read a lot in a day, so I’ve tried to stick to picking books under 200 pages and I’ve stuck to SFF because those are my favourite genres. I would heartily recommend all the books on this list and it was a struggle to pick just ten!

In no particular order, here are 10 short books that I adored!

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  1. The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson

I’m a huge fan of Brandon Sanderson and so I couldn’t make a list of quick reads without including this in it! Not only is it short, but it’s also one of my favourites by him and I’d definitely recommend it.

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2. The Cybernetic Tea Shop by Meredith Katz

It’s a charming f/f asexual sci-fi novella. What’s not to love? Seriously though, it’s great. You can find my review of it here

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3. The Drowning Eyes by Emily Foster

I’m a huge fan of weather magic and will instantly read any book that features it. Not only does this novella include it, but it includes fantastic female characters, queer pirates and POC (just look at that cover – it’s stunning!).

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4. Brother’s Ruin by Emma Newman

It’s a fantastic steampunk fantasy novella that has some fantastic worldbuilding and sets the ground for what I expect will be a fantastic series. I’m in the middle of writing my review of it, so expect that up soon!

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5. Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds

A great sci-fi novella featuring a group of mismatched individuals waking up on an abandoned ship. You can read my review of it here.

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6. Runtime by RoAnna Sylver

I felt Chameleon Moon (which I adore) was a bit too long to be included here, but Runtime is a fantastic short story and an excellent introduction to several characters along with the world of Parole so it definitely deserves a place on here. You can find my review here.

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7. The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

This post-apocalyptic novel features giant killer plants. I picked up it for that reason alone because I adore books with odd apocalypses and this did not disappoint!

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8. The Second Mango by Shira Glassman

The first in the fantastic Mangoverse series, it’s full of diversity and is just such a positive, happy read. Find my review here.

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9. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

I think this is the longest on here, but it’s just such a fantastic read that I couldn’t put it down. I loved the concept which is “conflict is light years away so hundreds of years pass between deployment and the return home of soldiers” and I really enjoyed both seeing humanity progress between each deployment and how the returning soldiers coped with the changes in society.

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10. Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Stardust is one of the few books where I love the film adaption almost as much as the book itself. I saw the film first and was a huge fan and so obviously had to go read the novel. It’s wonderful, and I’d definitely recommend it.

So! That’s my first Top Ten Tuesday! What did you think? Have you read and enjoyed any of these books? Are there are you would recommend to me based on my choices here?

Book Review – Sea Foam and Silence by Lynn E O’Connacht

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Be careful what you wish for…

She warned of the pain. She did.
But no warning can prepare you.
Nothing can.

How could I have known
What it is like on the dry sand?
We just watched.

It’s hard, not being able to ask
Questions, though I have learned some speech
With my hands. ˆ_ˆ

I miss my sisters.

I have made friends here.
I have laughed with them,
Learned with them, played with them.
I love them.

She said I would die if he loves someone else.
Will I die? At the beginning I wanted to. It hurts
So much. Life isn’t easy, will never be easy, but…
I don’t want to become sea foam.

Review:

This is another book I read thanks to the fantastic Ace Book Club on Twitter and when they announced it I thought it sounded amazing! A little mermaid re-telling in verse with an asexual character? Wow! Unfortunately, this book was just not for me, however, the reasons I didn’t love it were all personal to me and so other people will likely love it for the exact reasons I didn’t enjoy it.

First I’ll start with the writing itself. It’s written in verse and I’m a huge fan of verse novels. Unfortunately, this is in free verse and so to me and my background in very strict forms it was something I struggled with a lot. However, to people that aren’t used to verse novels then free verse is the perfect way to introduce them to the concept because it’s much easier to read. It’s also written in first person and I’m also not a big fan of that. There are also a lot of emoticons used in the text and again, that’s just my personal preference but all these things combined to make me really dislike the way it was written but since it was so short, I kept reading the entire thing. What I’d say is that the extract from Goodreads is a perfect example and if you enjoy that, you’re likely to enjoy it all.

Now that we’ve got the parts I didn’t like out of the way, let’s focus on the amazing parts. For example, the world building in this is really, really good. Unfortunately, we’re restricted a lot in what we see due to the first-person narrative and so just get wonderful glimpses of mermaid society. I also really enjoyed the characters and their interactions and although the main character seemed incredibly naive at points which is something I usually dislike, it makes total sense for somebody not used to human society to appear very naive. I shouldn’t really need to mention it given that it was for Ace Book Club so seems self explanatory but obviously the fact that there are asexual characters was another fantastic inclusion and I really enjoyed that interpretation (Not only is the main character asexual, she also definitely seems aromantic too)

Despite personally not being a fan, I would definitely still recommend this to others because it was just my own personal preferences that stopped me from enjoying it and there was nothing objectively bad about it – I’m just super picky in my verse narratives and found it difficult to get over that. However, for those that enjoy free verse (or have never read any verse narratives) then you should definitely read it as the world and the characters are just enchanting and you’ll be left wanting to know so much more and wishing you could spend more time with them in the fantastic world that has been created.

Book Review – The Bone Readers by Jacob Ross

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Secrets can be buried, but bones can speak… When Michael (Digger) Digson is recruited into DS Chilman’s new plain clothes squad in the small Caribbean island of Camaho he brings his own mission to discover who amongst a renegade police squad killed his mother in a political demonstration.

Sent to London to train in forensics, Digger becomes enmeshed in Chilman’s obsession with a cold case – the disappearance of a young man whose mother is sure has been murdered. But along with his new skill in forensics, Digger makes rich use of the cultural knowledge he has gained from the Fire Baptist grandmother who brought him up, another kind of reader of bones. And when the enigmatic Miss K. Stanislaus, another of Chilman’s recruits, joins him on the case, Digger finds that his science is more than outmatched by her observational skills. Together, they find themselves dragged into a world of secrets, disappearances and danger that demands every ounce of their brains, persistence and courage to survive.

Jacob Ross brings the best traditions of crime fiction to the Caribbean novel with a fast-moving narrative, richly observed characters, a powerful evocation of place and a denouement that will leave readers breathless. Along the way, The Bone Readers has much to say about power, wilful amnesia and the need for truth. In Digger and Miss Stanislaus, The Bone Readers introduces characters to rival Leonardo Padura’s Cuban detective, Mario Conde, and Timothy Williams’ Anne Marie Laveaud.

Review:

So, this book was announced as the winner of the Jhalak Prize last night and soI knew it was definitely time to read it. It’s a crime fiction novel which is a genre I rarely ever touch as I’m not a huge fan of it, however, this novel is just wonderful and I’m definitely going to pay more attention to crime novels in the future!

As it’s a crime novel, I can’t say too much about the plot because that will spoil all the fun of the secrets and reveals as you read through. The characters are all fantastic and very well fleshed out and I really enjoyed the interactions between them all. The book is set on the fictional island of Camaho in the Caribbean which is based on Grenada, the author’s home. Because of this, it’s showing us a very gritty, realistic view of life on the island and doesn’t hold back from criticising certain traditions. One thing that I absolutely adored about the novel was that the characters spoke in their own language and it’s not adapted to Standard English. Although this may make it harder for some readers to understand (particularly those who do not speak English as a first language), I felt it really helped add to the immersion of the novel and I personally adore it when authors write dialogue the way it would be spoken by the characters.

I found the authors writing absolutely beautiful and I’m very excited to hear that this is the first in a planned quartet as I look forward to reading more about these characters and I really enjoyed the reveals as they worked on their case as I was kept in constant suspense and constantly surprised. This book has definitely both made me want to read more of his work, and made me want to read more crime fiction.

I would highly recommend this novel and I can definitely see why it was chosen as the very first winner of the Jhalak Prize – something which it definitely, definitely deserves. It’s so hard to put down that I read it in just two sittings (and I only stopped the first time because I had to go eat!)

 

Travel Thursday #1 – Scotland

Travel Thursdays

Welcome to the first Travel Thursday post! For those that missed my post last week, you can find it here explaining what I’m doing.

Anyway, the first place I’m doing is my own country, Scotland! Now, Scotland has a lot of literature to choose from and so at first I thought “Ahh, how will I manage to cover it all!” so instead, I’m just going to pick a few books that I have read, and a few that are on my TBR list.

Three Scottish Books I’ve read:

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The Comet Seekers – This is the most recent book I’ve read and I just adored it. I’ll be writing a review soon so won’t say too much, but it’s basically the story of two characters and how their lives intertwine until they eventually meet. However, we only get to see them when there is a comet in the sky which means we only get small glimpses into their lives.

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – Well, this is a classic and I know a lot of people have heard of it but probably haven’t read it so I decided to include it. This is just a short novella, but it’s very enjoyable and I’d definitely recommend it.

Robert Burns – This is poems, rather than a novel, but I love them so much I just had to include them. You can’t make a post about Scottish literature and not include him! My favourite poem is “To a mouse” although Tam O’ Shanter is also fantastic. Best part is, you can find a lot of these online!

Three Scottish Books on my TBR list:

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The Sunlight Pilgrims – I found this book on a list of “Excellent Scottish Novels of 2016” and so picked it at random because I liked the cover (same place I found The Comet Seekers which I chose for the same reason) and so I don’t know too much about it as I think going in knowing nothing will be fun.

Sunset Song – Well, this is another Scottish classic and has been on my TBR list far too long. As you may be able to see from the picture, it’s considered one of the best Scottish Books and it’s set not far from where I grew up. I definitely need to get around to reading this soon!

But n Ben A-Go-Go – This is a book I just discovered today while making this post and I just had to add it to my list. It’s set in the future where global warming has caused the oceans to rise and the only dry land in Britain is the Scottish Highlands. Not only that, but the entire novel is written in Scots and so I just had to have it. I’ve already ordered a copy so will dive in as soon as it arrives.

Three Photos of Scotland:

DSC03332Ring of Brodgar, Orkney

DSC03803Somewhere in the Cairngorms

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So, have you been to Scotland? Read any Scottish literature? Added any of these to your own TBR list? Let me know!

(All book covers from Goodreads, all photos of Scotland are my own)

Book Review – The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

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Goodreads Synopsis:

“One evening, my father asked me if I would like to become a ghost bride…”

Though ruled by British overlords, the Chinese of colonial Malaya still cling to ancient customs. And in the sleepy port town of Malacca, ghosts and superstitions abound.

Li Lan, the daughter of a genteel but bankrupt family, has few prospects. But fate intervenes when she receives an unusual proposal from the wealthy and powerful Lim family. They want her to become a ghost bride for the family’s only son, who recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, a traditional ghost marriage is used to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at a terrible price.

After an ominous visit to the opulent Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted not only by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also by her desire for the Lim’s handsome new heir, Tian Bai. Night after night, she is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities, paper funeral offerings, vengeful spirits and monstrous bureaucracy—including the mysterious Er Lang, a charming but unpredictable guardian spirit. Li Lan must uncover the Lim family’s darkest secrets—and the truth about her own family—before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever.

Review:

So, this is another of the books I read back in January for #DiverseAThon and I adored it. It took me a while to get around to writing my review just because I found it difficult to describe how much I loved this book. This book also works well as the book for Malaysia in my Around the World challenge which is perfect as I enjoyed it so much.

The book is part historical fiction, part fantasy and the combination works really well.

The thing that definitely grabs you is the portrayal of Malaysia at the end of the 19th century. The descriptions of the setting are beautiful and create a stunning image of life at that time, and from what I’ve seen in other reviews it’s also a very accurate portrayal. Not only is the physical world excellently described, but the afterlife is also very detailed and again, from what I’ve read, accurate portrayal. Through reading this book, I feel I’ve learned a lot and definitely now have a desire to visit Malaysia myself because of how lovingly it was portrayed.

Next up is the characters, who again are all fantastic and feel very real. They all have their flaws, for example Li Lan is very sheltered, but this contributes greatly to the story and seeing them grow is really lovely. There is some romance in the story, and even a love triangle which I usually despise but I actually really liked how it was handled in this story which is a testament to how much I enjoyed the writing.

Plot-wise, I don’t want to say too much as there are a lot of mysteries in the book that are revealed as you read and I don’t want to spoil anything. I will say though that I really enjoyed the story and it gripped me so much that I didn’t want to put the book down!

I’d definitely recommend this book because it is just delightful and I was just charmed by everything about it. It also has a stunning cover and the descriptions are just so fantastic – especially as a lot of the more traditional things are explained for those unfamiliar with the culture.

 

 

Travel Thursdays – Introductory Post

Travel Thursdays

Welcome to Travel Thursdays! It’s a brand new bookish meme that I’ve decided to host as it ties in really nicely with my Read Around the World challenge, and also because I know there’s just so much fantastic literature out there from other countries that people might not realise exists.

What it involves:

Each week, you’ll choose one place. It’s up to you what you choose – whether it’s somewhere as large as a country or as small as a particular city. Then, once you’ve chosen it you need to find books that are either set there or written by somebody from there and make a post discussing them. Have you read any of them? Have you found any you’d like to read?

Also, as well as finding books, I’d also like you to learn a little about the place you’ve chosen and share something about it such as a photo or an interesting fact.

This meme will start on the 16th March so you have a full week to prepare for it! For the first post, I highly recommend picking somewhere personal to you such as where you’re from, or somewhere you’ve lived.

Rules Summary:

  • Choose a place
  • Discuss books from that place
  • Share something interesting relating to that place

If you take part then please link back to this post so that others can join it if they’re interested. You can also feel free to use the graphic I’ve made for your own posts.