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Sunday, 12 April 2015

I just want to say a quick thank you to everyone that has been visiting this blog recently. Especially those of you in Ukraine, apparently!

I have not posted enough, considering I have not been at work these last 2 weeks. Equally, I have been on holiday. Chilling out, having fun, and, dun dun dun, reading books!

I have read a few good'uns this holiday (3 this week!) and I will be letting you know what they are soon!

Wish me luck for my first day at work tomorrow!


Thursday, 2 April 2015

March Wrap Up

As the title suggests, this is a wrap up of the books I read in March!

Here are the books I have physical copies of.
I read this book on my Kindle.

Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon

This is the second book in the highly popular 'Outlander' series. Now, I read the first book in the summer, so I could read it before the TV series came out. I loved it, and I loved the TV version. Yet it has taken me until now to read book number 2. I think I was intimidated by how big the book was, and how much I loved book one. I needn't have worried - I loved this book. Not as much as book one, I have to say, but the first books in series can rarely get beaten when it comes to keeping you hooked. I loved the character development of Jamie and Claire, I loved the suspense of waiting for events to happen, and I loved the plotline. I have to say, this series is one that threatens to overwhelm if you don't really focus on characters, their names and their roles. As someone who tends to read books ridiculously quickly, in as few sittings as possible, this can be a challenge. I did get confused a few times, which I wasn't surprised about. There were new locations and new characters, and then reintroductions to characters or places that small parts of book one involved. I'm sure I would have found it less confusing if I'd taken my time (both with this book and book one), and if I hadn't left such a long time to read it. Anyway, overall I loved this book, and continue to recommend the series to friends.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Maggie Stiefvater is the author of the Shiver series, books about werewolves. Now, although I enjoyed number one in this series I didn't really like the rest of the Shiver series. I'm hoping this series does not go the same way, as I really enjoyed this book. The story is set in a town where a girl called Blue lives with her aunts, who are all mediums or fortune tellers. Blue is the odd one out, as she does not have any skills in these areas. On the outskirts of the town is a private boys school, who's students are known as the Raven boys (due to the schools logo). I cant really say much more without giving some of the plot away, but there is involvement with the supernatural, links to the legend of a Welsh king (I love mythology in books!) and a mystery element as well. The characters are all really engaging and interesting, and I can't wait to see what happens in book 2.

Heir of Fire by Sarah J Maas

Heir of Fire is the third book in the Throne of Glass series. I was dreading reading this book, as the end of the second book made me worry about what was going to happen next. Not in a 'I don't like this plot' way, but in a 'I have become too emotionally attached' way. I can't really say too much, as it is the third book and I don't want to spoil the first 2, but I enjoyed reading it and was, again, very stressed by the ending. I am going to find it hard to wait for book 4!

Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs

I have a bit of an obsession with Urban Fantasy. I'm sure it comes from my love of Buffy growing up, and the fact that these books can often be funny, tense, steamy and well written at the same time. Sometimes they have pretty off putting covers, with half naked men and women all over them, which might appeal to some. Patricia Briggs' covers never get too ridiculous - I've put the 2 different versions here so they can be compared. I have the simpler, more silhouette-y one, but the first isn't too bad - I think it just doesn't look how I imagined the characters in my head.
Anyway, the Alpha and Omega series is Urban Fantasy, involving many different 'creatures' but focusing on werewolves. They're a spin off of the Mercy Thompson series, so follow the same timeline and include a lot of the same characters. As with Heir of Fire, this is the third book in the A and O series, and it is actually the twelfth book in this 'world' (only taking full sized books into account). To say much about the plot is a spoiler. It is more of a story progression book, and doesn't really have the thrill of the first book, or any crazy plot development. It is, however, a good book that I enjoyed. The characters are interesting, and the main and new characters go through some good development. 

The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
The Final Empire is the first in the Mistborn trilogy. set in an alternate world. It tells the story of an empire where, a thousand years ago, the 'bad guy' won. The upper class here often possess metal based abilities; by consuming metal they can draw on its power to use superhuman skills. However, sometimes these skills appear in the lower classes, which is a sign that a noble person somewhere has mixed their blood. This is illegal, and those with powers are often hunted down. People at risk of being murdered often join crime gangs, which is where we meet many of the characters. I enjoyed this book as I loved the idea of powers being used in this way, and the viewpoint of the main character Vin. Newly introduced to many of the other characters, she is the perfect eyes through which to see the plot unfold. I wasn't completely gripped by some of the story - I couldn't put my finger on which parts I didn't enjoy, I just know that I wasn't in love with the story. It wont stop my from continuing with the story, but it wont be at the top of my To Be Read list.

Doon by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon
This was the only book I read on my Kindle this month. Doon is about 2 best friends from America who travel to Scotland for a summer holiday. Weird choice of location for a summer get away, but I suppose if you come from a hot area of the USA then you can risk not having sunshine on your holiday. Before the holiday begins, one friend begins 'hallucinating' a rather attractive Scottish chap (in full kilt get up) following her around. She begins the holiday convinced she is going insane. However, a local folk tale from a neighbour encourages her to investigate more, and the story of 'Doon' is revealed. I had heard a lot about how good this series was, and wanting to read more about Scotland because of Outlander, I was excited. I was, unfortunately, a little disappointed. I normally love YA fantasy, despite the fact that at 25 I am no longer technically 'YA' (waaaaaaaaah) because they don't usually feel too young or too cheesy. In this case, however. I can't explain it. A good idea for a story (it's a retelling of the 'Brig' a Doon' tale, apparently) but the characters and plot felt flat and uninteresting. I'm not writing it off entirely as it wasn't badly written, but the plot and style of writing didn't fit what I was looking for.

It comes to my attention here that I read and reviewed The Mime Order in February...oops! 

Clair's 2015 Reading Challenge:
  • A book you read in a day - Dreamfever/ Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning (3rd January 2015)
  • A book with magic in it - The Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare, Maureen Johnson and Sarah Rees Brennan (9th January 2015)
  • A book written by someone under 30 - The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon (21st February 2015)
  • A book with a colour in the title - The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory (18th February 2015)
  • A book that takes place in your hometown - The Darkest London series by Kristen Callihan (February 2015)
  • A book set in a different country - Delilah by Eleanor Jong (15th February 2015)
  • A book with nonhuman characters - Burned by Karen Marie Moning (February 2015)
  • A book with a female author - A Crown of Midnight by Sarah J Maas (10th February 2015)
  • A book published this year - Dead Heat by Patricia Briggs (2nd March 2015)
  • A book set in high school (well, they're all high school age and some parts mention their school - that counts right) - The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (2nd March)
  • A book with more than 500 pages - Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon (10th March 2015)
  • A book a friend recommended - Heir of Fire by Sarah J Maas (12th March)
  • A book by an author you've never read before - The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson (17th March)
  • A book with a one word title - Doon by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon (30th March)

~to be added to as time passes~

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Happy Easter Holiday!

It's the time of the year that teachers and students look forward to - the Easter holiday! Let me tell you, I could not wait for this holiday. Even though it came after the shortest half term (only 5 weeks) I was shattered by the end of school on Friday.

I have had a great start to the two weeks off, and I'll try not to ramble.

The weekend before the holiday started (so, a week and a half ago) I went to a 500 year anniversary sleep over at Hampton Court Palace, which was incredible. We had a champagne reception, multiple themed tours (including a ghost one after midnight), a Georgian dancing lesson, a Tudor dinner, a Shakespeare re-enactment (I was Lady MacBeth!) and free entry to the house the next day, after spending the night sleeping in a portrait galley. To make it even more awesome, we were given goody bags the next day, which is where we got the terrifying masks in the photo below. It was an incredible experience, and I loved every minute. Check out Hampton Court Palace at http://www.hrp.org.uk/HamptonCourtPalace/

On Wednesday evening my housemate had free entry to a restaurants tasting event. It was aaaamazing. The restaurant was on the South side of the Thames, very close to London Bridge, so we had a lovely view. There was a great selection of food and drink which I obviously loved.

 Then on the Thursday evening I went on a bit of a random stroll around Hoxton and Shoreditch with two of my workmates. We work in the area, but being teachers we never get to do much after work. We had really unique cocktails in The White Lyan on Hoxton Street. I say unique because they were so different to everything I've drunk before. The bar makes all it's own alcohol, and doesn't have any external brands or mixers. I must admit, I prefer traditional drinks (I love a fruity cocktail!) but my friends absolutely loved their drinks. Afterwards we went to Hache and had some brilliant burgers.

Finally, Friday arrived. After school ended, I helped a friend take her class guinea pigs home before we met our work friends for a meal in a great Vietnamese on Kingland Road. Yummy! After that, we went to a mini house party where a lot of wine was drunk!

Despite the hangover I woke up at 7 to go to Oxford with my friend Alice. Luckily I recovered on the train because we had a Oxford Literary Festival Philip Pullman event to go to. Philip Pullman has long been one of my favourite authors, with His Dark Materials topping my favourite book lists since I was 13 (that's 12 years. Ah!). The talk was really interesting and exciting; there were lots of questions from young fans who were still reading the series for the first time, which was great. We learnt that there is a short story about Lyra coming out soon, and that The Book of Dust will (hopefully) be published next year. Afterwards, I was able to get my copy of Northern Lights signed, and I bought a beautiful binding of the trilogy that was signed as well. Instant treasured possessions! Alice and I spent the rest of the day eating waffles, visiting the bench in the Botanic Gardens, and then eating and drinking even more in The Eagle and Child, the pub where the 'inklings' (which JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis were a part of!) met to discuss literature.

I headed straight to my friend Caroline's house once I was back in London, where we chatted, snacked and drank tea until 2.30 am. I spent Sunday relaxing (and sleeping), which was perfect.

On Monday I met my friend Georgia, who I work with, and after a bit of 'which tube stop are you at?!' we wandered through Hampstead Heath till we found Kenwood House. I love historic days out! After staring at all the art we went to a pub down the road (that both Alice and my mom recommended). We only meant to have a drink and dinner, but ended up staying there for 6 hours, and forcing a work friend to join us. A wee bit drunk, we stumbled to the tube to go home.

Another (mini) hangover the next day, when I caught the train home to my mom's house, and that is where I am now. I'm enjoying the chance to raid charity shops for books for my classroom and to sort out the clothes I left here before I moved. It's nice to have some lazy days before I get busy again on Saturday!