Sunday, 30 April 2017

Weekly Round Up #30 : The One Where Everything is Outback Style



Here's my weekly roundup. I'm linking to The Sunday Post hosted by Kimba @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer and #IMWAYR hosted by Kathryn at the Book Date.


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Please leave a link to your blog (if you have one) in your comment or make sure your Disqus profile has your address so that I can visit you back! 


This week was a busy week for us! On Tuesday we had our ANZAC day memorial to get ready for which involved setting up the town hall and doing a bit of audio work.

Our local show was also on yesterday which, as only the outback can do, was full of whips cracking, dogs jumping, horses doing their ultimate, a helicopter lolly drop and a bullorama to finish it all off!

Some of the entertainment for the kids (the crackup sisters and jumping castles!)

The lolly drop (aka kid stampede)

Bullorama

What I read last week:


Crooked KingdomThe Kingmaker

Amy and I finished up our buddy reads of the Six of Crows duology with Crooked Kingdom and we both really enjoyed this series! I also finished The Kingmaker, an indie novel that is the part of a tr

What I am currently reading:


23168406A Court of Thorns and Roses

I'm just finishing up Rogue and then I'm starting in on my rereads of ACOTAR. I CANNOT WAIT.

Up Next:


Flame In The Mist

I'm having a scheduling dilemma since this one was pushed back to the 16th so I've decided to read it AFTER A Court of Thorns and Roses. Hopefully it can also pull me out of an inevitable book hangover?

New Arrivals:

None this week! My schedule is too full to add anything else right now!!!


And that's my week! How did yours go?
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Friday, 28 April 2017

The Blog Squad: A Blogger Collaboration Part X


We are a group of three book bloggers situated on different continents but brought together by our love for books and a penchant for talking about them. We’ve joined our forces to create a collaborative series of posts about book blogging and we hope you’ll enjoy the discussions.


BOOK REVIEWS BY DI - Di Hewlett




What is your reading schedule like?


Uma says...

Right now my reading schedule is pretty much unpredictable as my semester exams are going on! I’m working through a couple of books this month but keeping it light. Hopefully I’ll have more free time next month and I can catch up on my Goodreads Challenge (I’m currently 15 books behind!!)

There are some series I’m really excited about starting finishing (hopefully) in the summer holidays! Namely, The Mortal Instruments (I’m FREAKING EXCITED about this one!), and Six of Crows (I’M EVEN MORE EXCITED ABOUT THIS ONE)


Amy says...

   
My reading schedule typically consists of review copies and reading them in the order I receive them - and if it’s an ARC that has to be read and reviewed within a time frame, that’ll obviously come first.

Occasionally, I’ll fit in a library book, but only if it’s one I really want to read.  Books I’ve bought myself come last, but sometimes - if it’s one I’m DESPERATE to read - I’ll squeeze it in among review copies.

How much pressure do you put on yourself to meet your bookish goals?


Uma says...

So I used to put A LOT of pressure on my reading goals! I’d even make pretty impossible goals and push myself to go get them! Of late I’ve learned to let go of that...or more like forced to let go of that due to exams and more academic stuff. Whatever the reason maybe, I’m glad to have slowed down. When I put too much pressure, reading starts to feel like work and there’s no fun in that is there?

But I still do care about my Goodreads Challenge on which I’m currently A LOT behind. But hopefully I’ll catch up to that! I think it’s absolutely okay to have bookish goals as long as they don’t drag you out of your comfort zone. Books = Comfort , so trying to read books just for the sake of numbers at the cost of comfort is no fun.


Amy says...

Hmmm...
I don’t really have many bookish goals (except from my Goodreads challenge, obviously, and that’s the whole year. SCORE!), and so I don’t really pressurise myself too much with that.

The only bookish goal I can think of right now is making sure I finish a book within a month. In the next question I explain more about that, but basically I don’t like a book or its review to “overlap” into another month. That’s the only bookish pressure I put on myself.


But if the book I’m reading is a review copy - or an ARC - then I won’t allow myself to put it down until I’ve read a decent number of pages per day. I’ll read the book regularly until it’s finished, and definitely within a month.

How has blogging changed your reading habits?



Uma says...


Blogging has definitely changed the way I read. Back before I started blogging, I read purely for entertainment value. Now I’ve started looking at books with a more critical eye and started seeing things I’d ignored before. Before I started blogging, I didn’t even know how important diversity in books are, how sexist some books were and such. After starting to blog and exploring the bookish community on the internet I’ve learnt so much!

Also since I started blogging I’ve started prioritizing my TBR pile a lot differently than I used to. Earlier it was about books I wanted to read the most but now i have to take into consideration ARCs, review copies and make sure I’m posting reviews close to the publishing date. This has of course caused my TBR pile to explode but oh well, no one said blogging was easy :P

Amy says...

Blogging about books has definitely made me analyse what I’m reading more thoroughly, and look at it with a critical eye. I also don’t read just any book I want to, because ARCs and review copies come first and I have to find time to review them all.
I’ve also cut back drastically on getting library books.

Because I like to have things “neat and tidy”, I always make sure I never read a book over two months. I like to wrap the month up cleanly by being able to say, for example, “I read Six of Crows in April. I read it and reviewed it then.” So that means I won’t start a new book on like the third last day of the month, because it’s highly unlikely that I’ll be able to read and review it by the time the next month’s rolled in! I don’t like overlapping, so to speak. It’s kinda like a pet peeve for me, but it’s what I’m comfortable with.      



To see my answers make sure to visit the other collab posts!


We hope you’ve enjoyed our discussion post! Please talk to us and let us know YOUR answers below. What do you think of our responses? If you have any specific questions you’d like us to address in the future, please let us know in the comments section below. Stay tuned for next week’s questions!

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Thursday, 27 April 2017

Review: Crooked Kingdom - Leigh Bardugo

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Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
Series: Six of Crows #2

My rating: {★★★★☆}

YA Fantasy

Source: Purchased
Welcome to the world of the Grisha.

After pulling off a seemingly impossible heist in the notorious Ice Court, criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker feels unstoppable. But life is about to take a dangerous turn—and with friends who are among the deadliest outcasts in Ketterdam city, Kaz is going to need more than luck to survive in this unforgiving underworld.

“This city’s price is blood,” said Kaz, “and I’m happy to pay with yours.”

I buddy read Crooked Kingdom with the amazing Amy from A Magical World of Words! We jumped straight from buddy reading Six of Crows into the sequel and we had a fantastic time chatting incessantly about every detail!! Have a look at her review here.

I know, I know! This one only got four stars compared to Six of Crows being a five star read for me but let me tell you something - it was still masterful and a really incredible book.

There's something about Bardugo's writing that brings the world into instant clarity - a crispness that's hard to explain but that you just have to experience for yourself. There's six main characters here with POVs and each is unique, complex and their stories are woven together seamlessly into an intricate plot full of heists and schemes that you won't see coming until they're on top of you.

This book kept me on the edge of my seat from the very first chapter and there were so many swooping twists and turns my heart was racing 99% of the time. However there were times when the pacing was just too fast and I couldn't completely appreciate the more sombre, heavier moments because they just flew past too quickly - the heights of my FEELS could have soared if I had had more time to simply process stuff. I also felt like I just didn't get enough closure on a few issues (which I'm happy to discuss with spoiler tags in the comments below!). It still made me cry - a couple of times in fact, but I know it could have ripped my heart out more than it did (WHY DO I WANT THIS????).

In fact, I felt as though the ending was more of a setup for future series in this world and while I don't mind that (at all!!! I'm thrilled to maybe have a chance to read more Grisha universe books!) I do feel that as the end of a duology there should have been more of a winding up.

The characters were just as amazing as they were in the first book and we got even more depth to them, learning more and more of their backstories. I did feel like we were missing a bit of the camaraderie and banter that Bardugo excelled at in Six of Crows: it was still there, but just not quite as much as I wanted.

“Pick up the pace,” Kaz said, eyeing his watch.
“If I spill a single drop of this, it will burn straight through the floor onto my father’s dinner guests.”
“Take your time.”

I really enjoyed the way that Bardugo dealt with so many 'big issues' in these books, especially addiction and this was in relation to gambling AND drugs (in two separate characters). It's a truly diverse cast and I bow down to her skillful creativity and exquisite construction of both plot and characters.

The romance aspect of this book was more pronounced than in Six of Crows however it is never really at the forefront of the plot and it enhanced rather than grappled with the main story.

“I would have come for you.
And if I couldn't walk, I'd crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we'd fight our way out together-knives drawn, pistols blazing.

Because that's what we do. We never stop fighting.”
It's a roller-coaster ride of action, adventure and emotions and while I didn't rate it as highly as the first in the series, I totally recommend it!

They would survive this night. They would free themselves of this damp, misbegotten city, and then … Well, then they’d change the world.

 ←Six Of Crows (Six of Crows #1)
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Monday, 24 April 2017

Review: Six of Crows - Leigh Bardugo

Six Of Crows
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Series: Six of Crows #1
My rating: {★★★★★}

YA Fantasy

Source: Purchased
Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he'll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:

Break into the notorious Ice Court
(a military stronghold that has never been breached)

Retrieve a hostage
(who could unleash magical havoc on the world)

Survive long enough to collect his reward
(and spend it)

Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done - and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable - if they don't kill each other first.
I buddy read Six of Crows with the amazing Amy from A Magical World of Words! For both of us it was our first foray into the Grisha universe AND our first Bardugo book ever. Have a look at her review here.

Six of Crows is a dark, gritty, tightly plotted heist adventure focusing on a ragtag group of young adults all with their own stories to tell.

“No Mourners.
No Funerals.”

Bardugo is one heck of a story teller; this book kept me on my toes the entire time, never knowing what was about to happen and what might crawl out from the next rock she overturned. The world, the characters and the plot are all unravelled slowly, and when I say unravelled I mean it - it's a pretty tangled mess in the beginning and I was floundering there for a long moment, unsure of who these people were, what this world was, what the Grisha were capable of etc. etc. etc. That being said, obviously you CAN read this without having read the Grisha trilogy AND you can enjoy it immensely. I'm going to go back and read all the Grisha books and then I'm going to indulge in this world all over again because I KNOW it's the kind of book that will benefit from a re-read.

I completely enjoyed ALL of the characters in this story - and there are quite a lot of them to keep track of. It's complex, but I love that in a story and each of the characters had such a distinctive voice that it wasn't a struggle to keep them all separate in my head. There's wonderful nuances of camaraderie and great friendships as well as plenty of ships to get behind, even though any romance is pretty understated. The characters are all complex, multi-faceted and flawed; it's so easy to get behind this group of thieves, criminals, gamblers, cheats and misfits. They are bolder and more badass than I could ever hope to be and they (particularly Kaz and Nina) say things that I would LOVE to say, and yet never would. Isn't that just the best thing about the antihero?

Initially I found it difficult to connect to Kaz (yes, the infamous Kaz Brekker I had heard sooooo much about!) but once I saw his vulnerabilities and insecurities and realised how deeply flawed and quirky he was - I was a goner. I think my moral compass has been broken.

“Greed is your god, Kaz."
He almost laughed at that. "No, Inej. Greed bows to me. It is my servant and my lever.”


There's some really meaningful interactions, some great banter and witty humour to keep you entertained throughout. I tossed up whether I was rounding this one up to five stars or down to four stars and in the end I just felt like four stars wasn't quite enough. This book is beautifully written with rich detail and a plot to thrill and surprise. Even after all the hype I WAS NOT DISAPPOINTED.

Kaz leaned back. "What's the easiest way to steal a man's wallet?"
"Knife to the throat?" asked Inej.
"Gun to the back?" said Jesper.
"Poison in his cup?" suggested Nina.
"You're all horrible," said Matthias.
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Sunday, 23 April 2017

Weekly Round Up #29 : The One Where I've Been Super Lazy



Here's my weekly roundup. I'm linking to The Sunday Post hosted by Kimba @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer and #IMWAYR hosted by Kathryn at the Book Date.


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Please leave a link to your blog (if you have one) in your comment or make sure your Disqus profile has your address so that I can visit you back! 


Well, I'm not sure what happened to last week but I really didn't achieve very much! I think that the holiday has caught up with me and I'm just in super, super chill mode.

I've been to the physio a couple of times in an effort to try and loosen up my neck and shoulder muscles and every time I go I come back in agony. I just have to hope that it's helping in the long run and that the stretches he's getting me to do will start working soon! 

What I read last week:

23437156


Amy and I started buddy reading Six of Crows together and I think we sped through it considering we're in vastly different timezones and can only catch up at certain times! We often have differing opinions on books but this is one that we both loved a lot and I'm so glad we chose it to buddy read together!

We immediately started reading Crooked Kingdom together and our reviews of Six of Crows will be up this week!

What I am currently reading:

Crooked Kingdom
The Kingmaker23168406

I made a bit of progress with both The Kingmaker and Rogue but have really been focused on Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom. Miss Bardugo really knows how to keep you guessing and I'm loving the Grisha universe so much I definitely need to get the trilogy ASAP. 

Up Next:

A Court of Thorns and RosesA Court of Mist and Fury

As soon as I finish all of my current reads I'm diving into the world of A Court of Thorns and Roses! I cannot wait for the release of the third book! Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

New Arrivals:

The Immortals Quartet Scholastic

Nothing new for review this week but the library just happened to get in a new 'series in a box' box set and it's one of my all time favourite childhood authors and I couldn't help myself.  This was one of my very, very favourite series when I was a tween!



And that's my week! How did yours go?
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Saturday, 22 April 2017

Review: The Black Lotus & Blood Orchid - Claire Warner

The Black Lotus
The Black Lotus & Blood Orchid by Claire Warner
Series: Night Flower Books 1&2

My rating: {★★★☆☆}

YA Historical Fantasy PNR

Source: YA Bound Book Tours
It's 1752 and Melissa meets the man who will change her life forever. At her disastrous debut, Melissa meets the handsome Justin Lestrade and finds herself falling into his world. But Justin has secrets and many enemies. His dark past will not only ensnare her, but damage everything she knows and understands. Join Melissa as she sinks into a world of old feuds and ancient magic.
Blood Orchid
Tied to Justin with bonds stronger than blood, Melissa De Vire heads into her new life with fear and anger. Anger at Emily, at Katherine and most of all, anger at Justin, fuels her resolve to find a cure for the curse. From the English court in 1752 to the fires of the French Revolution, Melissa struggles to survive her new existence and find forgiveness for Justin as clues to a cure begin to surface.
I received books one and two of the Night Flower series from YA Bound Book Tours. I hadn't heard of the series previously but the premise interested me immensely and the fact that this was a historical PNR was the clincher. I'm going to be reviewing books one and two together and I will not include any spoilers.

I really struggled with a rating for both of these books (both three to three and a half stars from me) because I did really enjoy them and they were great entertainment value for me. They kept me reading until late in the night and while some of the great reveals weren't hard to guess, I just enjoyed the books for what they were. Unfortunately both books suffered from editing issues and while I don't mind a spelling error or two or a grammatical faux-pas here and there I also think that both of these books could have had some scenes cut and some re-writes done in order to make the plot tighter and to make the books even more engaging.

The books are set in the 1700s with Melissa as our main protagonist. A woman before her time and a young debutante she is not happy being shunted off into the best possible marriage by her parents and is jealous of the freedom and autonomy of the men of her era.

The historical aspects of the story seem to have been researched and represented well although we could have had even more detail in order to give us a broader scope of the setting. The paranormal facets are both unique and interesting and I love the idea of the curse and how the characters deal with their immortality.

The writing, while not perfect, was vivid and I loved the descriptions that Warner gave us and I was able to envisage the world with great clarity. Characters were developed satisfactorily in book one and by the second book I think Warner really hit her stride and I enjoyed learning more of their backgrounds and seeing their interactions.

The romance started off as a bit of insta-lust but I think that it turned into something sweeter and more believable as the books went on and this wasn't a problem for me at all.

Overall the second book was better than the first being more tightly plotted (and shorter), better character development and faster pacing however it's obviously necessary to read them both!

If you're a fan of YA PNR and/or historical romance, give this one a try!
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Friday, 21 April 2017

The Blog Squad: A Blogger Collaboration Part IX


We are a group of three book bloggers situated on different continents but brought together by our love for books and a penchant for talking about them. We’ve joined our forces to create a collaborative series of posts about book blogging and we hope you’ll enjoy the discussions.


BOOK REVIEWS BY DI - Di Hewlett




What do you think is important about blog layout? How did you decide on your particular one?


Uma says...

Of course there’s no fixed way as to how your layout should be or not. Go ahead, edit it and make it “you”. I think the blog design is a way of expression and it should be your very own. Of course you can be inspired by other blogs but don’t try to recreate others’ blog designs.


That being said, there are some things that are important to layout. Some things that readers like to see and some things that can put off your visitors. One big thing to remember while deciding your layout and design is -


Blog layout = easily navigable and MUST NOT HURT EYES.


Things about Layout and design that make yours truly cry and burn down the building-
  • Finding a wonderful blog but WHERE IS THAT FOLLOW BUTTON?!
  • Sidebars dressed in flashy widgets from head to toe
  • Fonts so fancy that I have a headache!
  • I love me some graphics but WHAT IS THAT THING GLOWING AND FLASHING? “My eyes! MY EYES” (Read that in Phoebe’s voice)
  • What an amazing discussion post, let me leave a comment -*searches for comment box* - *Can’t find comment box*- *cry*
  • So graphic heavy that the page takes an eternity to load. #messingwithmytimemanagement


As for my layout, I went with two sidebars because I didn’t want my readers to have to scroll down for too long to get to the links in my sidebars. Also since my header is kind of ‘filling’ and heavy, I kept my background plain to even it out. And I decided on flowers because well, I LOVE flowers. Even my bookstagram looks like an explosion of flowers! (but in a good way!)(I think?)



Amy says...



I think it’s important that your blog layout shows you: Your style, your tastes, your choice of colours….don’t try copy someone else’s, be true to what you like and who you are. I guess that applies to more to design than actual layout, but still. It’s your blog, so make it yours.   Design it and arrange the layout in the way you’re comfortable with. Make it your blog :)


That said, I do think another important thing you should probably consider when designing and layouting (I think I just made up a word?!) is your readers and their impressions. I personally think a blog layout should be very organised, with fonts and graphics that are easy to read and don’t hurt the eyes, and preferably without too much clutter in the sidebars, etc. It should be easy to navigate and very reader-friendly. With my layout, I’ve tried to keep it tidy, simple, and organised, and have resisted the urge to fill up my sidebars. Your personal tastes play hugely into this, but I do think it’s important to remember your readers - however much you design for yourself.  Keep it your style, your colours, etc, but make it easy for your readers to search for posts, read your reviews, and if you want them to stalk you elsewhere, make your social media links in your sidebar easy to find.


Yes, it definitely comes down to your personal preferences, but thinking of your readers as a whole, consider how to make their visit easier and more enjoyable - especially if you want them to stick around. First impressions are a HUGE part of blogging, and most bloggers won’t hang around trying to find your menu bar or social media links if it takes them more than a few seconds.

Layout can be a real pain, but most of the time I’ve found that keeping it simple is better.    

Is there one thing you wish you’d done differently to your blog from the start? One thing you regret?



Uma says...

Okay this is going to sound cheesy but I’m gonna say - no regrets. Sometimes, like Di, I do wonder if i should have started off with a WordPress blog but truthfully I’m content with my blog and how it looks right now. I am kind of having some technical problems with blogger currently but hopefully I can sort that out soon.


I think blogging is a learning process and while some things like blog name, platform among others must be decided right at first, it’s perfectly okay to plan everything else as it comes. For example, I didn’t know about Bloglovin until quite later and I learnt a bit of CSS when I had some problems with my layout. Do I wish I’d known about these beforehand? Maybe. Do I regret not having known them? Nope.



Amy says...



I think the thing I’d do differently to my blog if I could is change the name. It’s not that I’m not happy with A Magical World Of Words, it’s just that - if I’d given myself time to think carefully about it - I don’t think I would’ve chosen that particular title.   
When I first created my blog, it was called Words of a Wordaholic. THANKFULLY I changed it. But because I was in a rush to get the URL sorted out and get a new name before I lost visitors or followers or whatever, I scrambled for a name that would encompass what I wanted my blog to stand for and one that would fit my personal tastes.  I wanted it to have Words in the title, and so in rush I decided upon A Magic World Of Words - since I believe words are magical, and obviously words encompasses every single post I write.
To cut a long story short, I eventually ended up with the title I have now. I do regret being in such a rush that I chose about the first name I thought of, and if I could do things differently, I’d change my blog name to something shorter.


So here’s some advice!! Think about your blog name long and hard before choosing one and don’t rush! It’s isn’t a nice thing to be unhappy with :(  


What is the next item on your blogging ‘To Do’ list?


Uma says...




Writing more discussion posts, posting more about writing, and exploring the blogosphere more! I’ve been posting only twice a week lately due to having exams and once that’s over I hope to get back to posting 3-4 times a week. I also want to find new blogs and make more friends. Hopefully I’ll get to accomplishing all of these in the summer holidays!

Amy says...


 I really really really want to do more discussion posts! I’ve got a few lined up in my head, but haven’t gotten round to them yet. Also, I’m kinda nervous about doing them (#procrastination) because discussing can be daunting and intimidating and SCARY BECAUSE IT’S YOUR OPINION, but hopefully I’ll be able to tackle them soon.




To see my answers make sure to visit the other collab posts!


We hope you’ve enjoyed our discussion post! Please talk to us and let us know YOUR answers below. What do you think of our responses? If you have any specific questions you’d like us to address in the future, please let us know in the comments section below. Stay tuned for next week’s questions!

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Sunday, 16 April 2017

Weekly Round Up #28 : Happy Easter Everyone!!



Here's my weekly roundup. I'm linking to The Sunday Post hosted by Kimba @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer and #IMWAYR hosted by Kathryn at the Book Date.


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Please leave a link to your blog (if you have one) in your comment or make sure your Disqus profile has your address so that I can visit you back! 


Happy Easter everyone! I hope you are all having a lovely weekend. We have consumed far too much chocolate already and hopefully will actually get around to having a proper meal for dinner. The Easter bunny was very generous this year and we're all in a sort of chocolate coma! 

What I read last week:


Red WinterDark Tempest
32862986

Red Winter surprised me by being almost a 5 star read. I really enjoyed it and once I finished that one I simply devoured the other two books (both five stars for me) by opening them up in the evening and just reading through the night! It's been a LONG time since a series has consumed me so entirely and I really enjoyed being sucked into that Japanese based fantasy world. The only problem now is the very serious book hangover that I've now sunk into...

What I am currently reading:


The Kingmaker23168406

Still going with these two since the Red Winter series took over my life last week! 


Up Next:

23437156

I'll be buddy reading Six of Crows with Amy from A Magical World of Words and I can't wait! This should be enough to suck me out of my book hangover, right?? 

New Arrivals:

Flame In The Mist

YAASS! I'm not sure how this happened but I'm super excited. I'm avoiding all reviews right now so I go in with a total blank slate! I LOVED TW&TD so I'm super excited for this Mulan retelling.


And that's my week! How did yours go?
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