Water (Akasha #1) by Terra Harmony: A Rant  Review

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Elemental powers in the palm of her hand…and it won’t be enough to save her. When Kaitlyn Alder is involuntarily introduced to a life of magic, she becomes part of an organization hell-bent on saving the Earth. Just as her new-found life holds promises of purpose, romance, and friendship, the organization divides and a rogue member holds Kaitlyn hostage. Now one of the most terrifying men the human race has to offer stands between her and Earth’s survival. Image and synopsis from Goodreads. Click the image to go there.

I was really fascinated by this book as it sounded new and different to me. I’ve also been a bit obsessed by the idea of eco-villages lately and part of me would love to just disappear somewhere, build my own hut and live a simple, non-materialistic existence so the eco part of this ‘Eco-Fantasy’ series excited me too.

Basically, Kaitlyn is harboring some serious elemental magic but doesn’t know it. Everywhere she goes, natural disasters follow which she was oblivious to until she is kidnapped by what can only really be described as a cult. A cult who want to save the save the world, no matter who gets hurt in the process. Excellent premise, yes? Well, yes, but unfortunately so many things didn’t work for me with this book.

For one, the way Kaitlyn was kidnapped was all good and exciting but she didn’t really seem to be that bothered about it. I mean, she had a bit of a rant, and was upset that they’d gone through her apartment and packed it up but she didn’t really hold it against them, and she definitely didn’t ever seem to want to leave.

If I’d been kidnapped by a cult who told me I was essentially their Goddess and they wanted to use me to help save the world I think I’d have a few more questions and doubts than she did. Maybe it was supposed to be a bit of the old Stockholm Syndrome going on, but she never really felt like a hostage, she just excepted that this was her life now. Odd.

Also, you can be forgiven for thinking this is a YA book because it certainly reads like one. The narration feels very ‘young’ which is pretty disturbing when the very non-sexy, sexy times start. I didn’t like that it was a given that Micah, ‘the love interest’ and Kaitlyn belonged together. They had barely said two words to each other and he’s kissing her to calm her down or something. Likely story. Plus, the fact that he’s just kidnapped her…oh it’s all a bit unrealistic really.

To me it sounded like all of the characters apart from Cato -the leader of sorts – were in their early teens. But at some point Shawn, the villain, is described and I realised that he was relatively old. I don’t want to give to any big spoilers away to those who don’t know but let’s just say that it was bad enough as it was, but then to realise that was pretty horrific. He was a great villain though, hats off to Harmony for that – it made for some very uncomfortable but riveting reading.

I really loved what a quick read Water was, and even with its faults it was interesting to say the least. It made me wish I knew more about elemental magic and the real science behind it so I could judge just how ‘fantastical’ some parts were.

There were a few laughs too – mainly from Kaitlyn’s quips – that I enjoyed, but then I also found myself laughing at parts that weren’t supposed to be funny. Like when Kaitlyn manages to make a whole coat (and shoes was it?) out of leaves from some candles. No really. Oh, and how after Shawn does the hideous thing they just seem too normal around each other.

And lastly (Wow, sorry I didn’t realise how many things I wanted to rant about in this book – I did enjoy it honest!) the way it ended left me a bit miffed. I felt like there were too many unsaid things, I needed closure. I needed Kaitlyn to spill all to Micah and see his reaction. But I guess that’s what book 2 is for….

After everything is said and done…I will definitely be reading the next in the series, Air. So Terra Harmony obviously didn’t do such a bad job. And I love a book I can rant about, if you haven’t noticed.

Details: Kindle Edition, 1st Edition, 279 pages. Published September 26th 2011 by Terra Harmony
My Rating: 3 out of 5 Unicorns
Is it a keeper? Hmm not sure. I want to read the next one and see, but at the moment I’m glad I didn’t buy the paperback.
If you liked this try: The Skulduggery Pleasant Series for a child friendly adventure with some elemental magic thrown in.

More Flaws Than a Broken Mirror? Throne of Glass (ToG #1) by Sarah J. Maas

Click image for Goodreads.
Click image for Goodreads.

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her… but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead… quickly followed by another.

Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

I don’t think I’ve ever had so many issues with a book yet still loved it. But that’s what happened with Throne of Glass. I absolutely loved the settings and the descriptions in the book, the salt mines sounded horrific and the glass castle sounded beautiful and exciting so I enjoyed the world that Maas created in that way but in other ways it fell flat.

I instantly fell in love with Celaena though. She survived the impossible and came out of it relatively unscathed albeit with a bit of an attitude. She’s a kick-ass, smoking-hot assassin and she knows it, and feels the need tell everyone she is such. I usually find narcissistic characters unbearable but for some reason with Celaena it was OK. It kind of suited her and I felt like she deserved to love herself a bit.

The main issue I had with her was that as the story develops she never quite lives up to her infamy, and no one treats her the way I thought they should. She’s taken out of the deadly salt mines and given a chance at freedom if she competes in the competition but she is so infamous as the deadliest assassin in the kingdom that her identity has to be covered up, yet she’s still free to roam around the castle and make friends with Princesses? It doesn’t make a huge amount of sense, but I went with it anyway.

I enjoyed the relationship dynamics between Celaena and Prince Dorian (what is it with all these princes with stupid names?? Po, Maxon, now Dorian…really!?) Dorian doesn’t seem too bothered that Celaena could kill him with her bare hands, and considering that the contestants are now dropping like flies, he never seems to even doubt her. Which is nice I guess, if not stupid.

Celaena on the other hand comes across as being pretty compassionate for an assassin but she’s still quite icy when it comes to love. We’re never entirely sure if she likes Dorian as much as he likes her, or if her close friendship with Chaol, Captain of the Guard, will turn into something more. To be honest, she doesn’t really seem to care either way. She wants Dorian, but we don’t know if it’s just lust or something more. She’s certainly a character of contradictions – she might be an assassin but she’s a book-loving, dress and shoe-obsessed assassin who doesn’t even seem to enjoy fighting all that much, or really be that good at it.

I liked how fast-paced Throne of Glass was and I was never bored, but I did wish that some of the ‘tests’ that the competitors faced were a bit more imaginative and dangerous. I expected each round of the competition to be a fight to the death so we could see Celaena’s skillz in action, but most of them were harmless tasks like archery which I found a bit lame. However, the gruesome deaths of the other competitors and the mystery and magic surrounding them was enough to keep me interested and entertained.

I haven’t read the prequel novellas yet, and I hope that between those and the following books in the series we’ll discover more about Celaena and how/why she became an assassin in the first place to help us understand her and believe in her more. I also hope that this is just the beginning and that the world Maas has created has something more to offer – I’m sure it does.

Somehow, despite all of its flaws and beyond all reason I absolutely loved Throne of Glass. It didn’t hurt that Maas is a Buffy fan either. Or that her initial idea came from one simple thought – what if Cinderella was an assassin sent to kill Prince Charming (I kind of wish her idea hadn’t evolved so much!)?

Details:Paperback, 420 pgs. Published Aug 02 2012 by Bloomsbury.
My Rating: 4 out of 5 Unicorns
Is it a keeper? Definitely!
If you liked this try: Graceling.

WWW Wednesday!

Happy Wednesday everyone!

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To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently Reading:

Water (Akasha #1) by Terra Harmony.
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I’m not LOVING this so far but I have the feeling it is going to improve.

I’m also reading The Mysterium: The Black Dragon by Julian Sedgwick which I received from Hodder via World Book Day.

Click to view on Amazon
Click to view on Amazon

East meets West; past meets present; criminal minds meet skilled artists – welcome to the Mysterium, a circus with dark and thrilling secrets at its heart.

Twelve-year-old Danny Woo is half-Chinese, half-British. His parents are performers in the Mysterium. Following their death in a mysterious fire, Danny is sent to live with his aunt Laura, an investigative journalist. When Danny’s school is closed after an explosion, he joins Laura on a trip to Hong Kong. She is researching the Triad gangs; he is trying to understand more about his cultural background.

But Laura disappears, and Danny is plunged into a dangerous quest to find her – which opens the door on the past he could never have imagined, and which leads him to question everything he has ever known about his past.

Just Finished I finished Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas which I loved. I’ll get a review posted soon.

Up Next: Hemlock Grove by Brian McGreevy
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An exhilarating reinvention of the gothic novel, inspired by the iconic characters of our greatest myths and nightmares.
The body of a young girl is found mangled and murdered in the woods of Hemlock Grove, Pennsylvania, in the shadow of the abandoned Godfrey Steel mill. A manhunt ensues—though the authorities aren’t sure if it’s a man they should be looking for.

Some suspect an escapee from the White Tower, a foreboding biotech facility owned by the Godfrey family—their personal fortune and the local economy having moved on from Pittsburgh steel—where, if rumors are true, biological experiments of the most unethical kind take place. Others turn to Peter Rumancek, a Gypsy trailer-trash kid who has told impressionable high school classmates that he’s a werewolf. Or perhaps it’s Roman, the son of the late JR Godfrey, who rules the adolescent social scene with the casual arrogance of a cold-blooded aristocrat, his superior status unquestioned despite his decidedly freakish sister, Shelley, whose monstrous medical conditions belie a sweet intelligence, and his otherworldly control freak of a mother, Olivia.

At once a riveting mystery and a fascinating revelation of the grotesque and the darkness in us all, Hemlock Grove has the architecture and energy to become a classic in its own right—and Brian McGreevy the talent and ambition to enthrall us for years to come.Leave a comment with your link 🙂

Top Ten Tuesday #1 (Castles)

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Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish.

This is my first ever Top Ten Tuesday post! I’ve been meaning to jump on the wagon for a while…better late than never. Thanks to The Broke and the Bookish for hosting.

This week’s topic was Top Ten Books With X Setting and I’ve decided to go for my Top Ten books with a castle setting (or at least featuring a castle)…because, y’know, I’m a bit obsessed with castles. Click on the images to go their Goodread pages.

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1. The Enchanted Castle – E. Nesbit A rose garden, a maze and an enchanted castle…what’s not to like.

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2. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardbrobe – C.S Lewis Two castles for the price of one! There’s the White Witch’s icy castle with ‘long pointed spires, sharp as needles’, and Cair Paravel with its four empty thrones.

1911374 3. King Arthur and his Knights at the Round Table Camelot is clearly the king of all castles!
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4. The Neverending Story – Michael Ende The Ivory Tower definitely counts as a castle, right?

14976 5. Return to Labyrinth – Jake T. Forbes I LOVE this Manga series of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth. The Castle beyond the Goblin City is epic!

13519397 6. Throne of Glass – Sarah J. Maas The protagonist Celeana thought the idea of a glass castle was ridiculous – I think it’s amazing.


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7. Seraphina – Rachel Hartman The Kingdom of Goredd not only has a beautiful castle but also some pretty unique Dragons.

7180320 8. Castle of Shadows – Ellen Renner I’ve only read the first book in this series but I loved it. The Royal Castle of Quale is as grand as it sounds.

1635042 9. Beauty & the Beast I’ve had this book for years and it’s every bit as beautiful as the film.

237012 10. The 10th Kingdom – Kathryn Wesley I love this book, it brings so many different fairy tales together set in a fantasy world and also modern day New York.

What would be in your top ten books featuring castles? Leave a comment with your TTT link!

Preview: The Hamstead & Highgate Literary Festival, Sept 15th-17th

The Hamstead & Highgate literary festival is now in its 5th year. I managed to catch a few events at last year and really enjoyed it so I thought I’d highlight some of the great things coming up this September. The festival takes place in Ivy House, London NW11 7SX and you can book online or call 020 8511 7900

Top authors and celebrities scheduled to appear include Ruby Wax, Nick Ross, Maggie O’Farrell, Tracy Chevalier, Sathnam Sanghera, Gill Hornby, Marcus Burkemann, Shelina Permalloo, Miles Jupp, Charlotte Mendelson, Mark Billingham, Countess of Carnarvon, Daisy Waugh, Kate Figes and Baroness Gillian Shephard, to name but a few.

Returning author Tracy Chevalier said; ‘Hampstead and Highgate Literary Festival has the feeling of a local event, yet with national players. I am very pleased to be returning.’

Here is my pick of events:

Sunday 15th Sept:
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Like Mother Like Daughter
Deborah and Lottie Moggach talk to John Crace
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Deborah Moggach’s new book, Heartbreak Hotel is a warm, wise and funny romp in the Welsh countryside, which will appeal to the legions of fans who enjoyed the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Lottie Moggach’s Kiss Me First is a moving coming of age story hidden within a harrowing mystery. While Lottie explores a lot of dark territory-suicide, alienation, innocence betrayed–she has also written an unexpectedly warm-hearted novel.

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Almost English
Charlotte Mendelson talks to Claire Armitstead
£7

In a tiny flat in West London, sixteen year-old Marina lives with her emotionally delicate mother and three ancient Hungarian relatives. Imprisoned by her family’s crushing expectations, traditions and un-English pride, she knows she must escape. But at Combe Abbey, an English public school, she realises she has made a terrible mistake. Man Booker nominee Charlotte Mendelson talks about her perfectly balanced observations of human nature captured in all its hideous glories to Guardian Books and News Editor, Claire Armitstead.

Monday 16th Sept
Mad Girl’s Love Song: Sylvia Plath & life before Ted
Andrew Wilson talks to Henry Kelly

£7
Fifty years after her death, Andrew Wilson explores the life of Sylvia Plath before her marriage to Ted Hughes, in an intimate portrait of the brilliant and tragic literary enigma based on her early poems, letters and diaries. Drawing on exclusive interviews with friends and lovers and using previously unavailable archives and papers, this is the first book to focus on the early life of the twentieth century’s most popular and enduring female poet.

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The Complexities of Motherhood and Family Life
Gill Hornby & Hilary Boyd talk to Lisa Jewell

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Gill Hornby’s The Hive is wickedly funny, but is also a fascinating and subtle story about group politics and female friendship. In Hilary Boyd’s Tangled Lives a happily married woman in her early 50s, with three grown children, guards a dark secret. And in Lisa Jewell’s new novel, a tragedy tears a family apart but something happens that calls them back to The House They Grew Up In …

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The Detective
Mark Billingham & Robert Ryan

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Complex individuals both alienate and inspire those around them. In the Sunday Times, best-selling author Billingham’s, The Dying Hours, Detective Tom Thorne, having stepped out of line once too often, is back in uniform and he hates it. Patronised and abused by his new colleagues, he is forced to investigate alone. In Robert Ryan’s new book Dead Man’s Land, Dr John Watson, Sherlock Holmes’ sidekick, is finally forced to take centre stage. Ryan’s Watson must for once step out of the shadows and into the limelight if he’s to solve the mystery behind inexplicable deaths.

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This year the organisers, the London Jewish Cultural Centre in partnership with the Ham&High, have also added a Kidsfest on Sunday 15th September with a host of ‘kid for a quid’ events and activities designed to engage and entrance young readers from 6+.

Here’s my pick:.

Ruby Redfort and Other Friends
With Lauren Child

Kid For A Quid – £1
Adults – £5
Age range: all ages
Bestselling author Lauren Child talks about her latest creation – Ruby Redfort, the thirteen year-old, super smart secret agent who is always cool in a crisis, as well as some of her other favourite characters, including Charlie and Lola as well as Clarice Bean.

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Horrible Histories Paradoxical Panel
with Neal Forster, Laura Crowe & Ben Willbond

Kid For A Quid – £1
Adults – £5
Age range: 7+

Meet the producer and performers of both the stage and screen shows of Terry Deary’s much loved Horrible Histories. Hear how these stories are brought to life; the challenges of turning facts into fun and the different techniques used in adapting them for screen and stage.

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Judith Kerr’s Creatures
Judith Kerr celebrates her life & work with Julia Eccleshare, tea & jam sandwiches!

Kid For A Quid – £1
Adults – £10
Age range: 8+
In celebration of her 90th birthday, Judith Kerr, author of The Tiger Who Came to Tea, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit and many other iconic books, talks about her life and work with Guardian children’s book editor, Julia Eccleshare.

Through her lavishly illustrated new retrospective, Judith tells her own story, and of the ‘creatures’, that spring to life from the pages of her books.

All of that and loads of creative writing workshops to boot. If you live in London I highly recommend it. Visit the website here.

Thanks to Sara Miller at the LJCC

Favourites Friday #8: Under The Dome and those pesky trust issues!

I’ve read some pretty bad reviews of the TV adaptation of Stephen King’s Under the Dome but I’m really intrigued to see it. I used to be a fan of his when I was a teenager but I feel like I kind of grew out of it or something (which is hilarious when you consider which books I love to read now *cough* Twilight *cough* The Selection). So I was surprised by how much I loved Under the Dome. Here’s a review I wrote some time ago for some website or other.

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As far as Stephen King fans go, I’d say I’m barely on even the spectrum. I’ve never really trusted him as an author since that part of It when it just goes batshit, (you know the one…right?) or the end of Cell which was such a let-down I wanted to throw the book out of a window and demand the twelve hours of my life back that it took me to read it. He seems to have a problem with endings, that or I just have a problem with his endings.

So when it came to UTD – a mammoth tome even by King’s standard – coming in at over 1000 pages, I was understandably hesitant. I’d given him a wide berth since Cell but one trusted friend plus one enthusiastic book seller convinced me to give it a go, and once I’d got past the quite frankly daunting list of characters that would give George RR Martin a run for his money, the opening chapter had me hooked with a capital H.

UTD is the story of Chester’s Mill, Maine; a small, relatively normal town which is suddenly enveloped by an invisible and seemingly indestructible dome. The dome not only cuts the inhabitants off from the rest of the world but also hacks off a few body parts and slices a woodchuck in two in a suitably bloody fashion as it slams down. As you’d expect, panic ensues and the pages actually fly by.

At its core, UTD is a story about a community and its power struggles, and I almost hate to say it – politics. Like all good microcosms of society there are good guys and bad guys and their varied reactions to the bizarre situation leads to incidents of rape, arson, murder, even a bit of Necrophilia, and thanks to King’s stunning characterisation it’s all entirely believable, enthralling, and disturbing.

I might have to rethink my trust issues; I even enjoyed the ending. A lot.

I’ve only read this once, because y’know- long! but I’ve been longing to read it again ever since I finished it which is a sign of a true favourite.

It’s almost Friday, let’s channel Vonnegut!

We’ve almost made it to another weekend. Hurrah! I’ve spent most of the evening reading the new issue of SciFi Now- one of the only magazines I ever buy (it has a great books section you guys) and this month has a feature on the great Kurt Vonnegut, highlighting his best and most bizarre novels. Blissful evening reading!

Anyway I was reminded of the following quote that I think we should take into the weekend with us. (And Beyond!) 🙂

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Image courtesy of Quoteswave.com