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text 2018-02-01 00:56
January in Review

January in Review

(Read: 5 / Reviewed: 9)

It's certainly been an interesting, if not a long, month! Phew, I thought January would never end! Fortunately I got through some great books and was able to write two reviews each week. This new routine really helped me stay on top of things. Let's take a look at all the bookish goodness, shall we?

Read

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Splatterpunk Fighting Back by (multiple) - This analogy has eleven individual stories written by different authors. Going in, I was only vaguely familiar with Duncan Ralston, having previously finished Woom. I never would've discovered this had it not been for Horror Aficionados on Goodreads, of who appointed it the January group read with author invite. I was lucky enough to ask some of the authors questions whilst trying to gain more insight into their brutal tales, and I had a blast! The best thing, though? All proceeds of this book go to charity! (Rated: 4/5)

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay - Another one I wouldn't have picked up if not for the Horror Aficionados group. Being the January group read, I was pleasantly surprised by this one! (Rated: 4/5)

The Darkest Torment by Gena Showalter - I started this long-running series in 2011, and it's still ongoing. Whilst I really enjoyed it at the beginning, my enjoyment waned several instalments ago, however I can't just give up without finishing it, can I? Ludicrous! (Rated: 2/5)

What Hides Within by Jason Parent - I found this on Netgalley, and I'm glad I did! Bloodshot Books accepted my request, and I promptly read and reviewed it. (Rated: 4/5)

Morium by S.J. Hermann - I was requested to read and review this novel by the author. Being my last read of January, this one takes priority and will be the first review of February. See my request information here. (Rated: 3/5)

 

Reviewed 

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Blood Song by Cat Adams (WORST READ)
Lockdown by Alexander Gordon Smith
The Taste of Night by Vicki Pettersson
Stephen by Amy Cross
The Devil’s Work by Mark Edwards
Blood Moon by Graeme Reynolds (BEST READ)
Woom by Duncan Ralston
What Hides Within by Jason Parent
Dark Space by Kevis Hendrickson

Other than that, January was a decent month for me personally. I'm enjoying reading more, getting out more, and generally trying to put more effort into my day-to-day life. I thank everyone who made this past month all the better, including the wonderful authors I had the chance to speak to! Here's hoping for a book-tastic February!

Red xx

Source: redlace.reviews/2018/01/31/january-in-review
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text 2018-01-24 11:00
Facts About Me: Top 10 Must Read Books

 

These are my all time favourite books. Where there is a series, I've marked the first book as the best, only because I would never have gone further if the series didn't grab me right from the start. So, in no particular order, some of my all time favourite books.

 

Crocodile on the Sandbank (Amelia Peabody #1) – Elizabeth Peters

Life Lessons (Life Lessons #1) – Kaje Harper

Prince of Hearts (Elders and Welders Chronicles #1) – Margaret Foxe

Spell Bound (The Warlock Brothers of Havenbridge #1) – Jacob Z. Flores

We Met in Dreams – Rowan McAllister

Mythos Christos – Edwin Herbert

To The Highest Bidder (A Planet Called Wish #1) – Caitlin Ricci

Some Kind of Stranger (Blue Ruin #1) – Katrina Strauss

Something Like A Love Song – Becca Burton

Assassin's Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy #1) – Robin Hobb

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Harry Potter #1) - J.K. Rowling

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1) - George R.R. Martin

Withered and Sere (Immemorial Year #1) - T.J. Klune

The Prince's Consort (The Chronicles of Tournai #1) - Antonia Aquilante

Dead Camp #1 - Sean Kerr

Mending Noel (North Pole City Tales #1) - Charlie Cochet

Hesitant Heart (Hampton Road Club #1) - Morticia Knight

The Palisade (Lavender Shores #1) - Rosalind Abel

The Little Crow / The Broken Butterfly - Caitlin Ricci

Some Kind of Magic (Being(s) in Love #1) - R. Cooper

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-01-20 22:01
Blood Moon by Graeme Reynolds
High Moor 3: Blood Moon - Graeme Reynolds

Blood Moon by Graeme Reynolds
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Top Read 2017 * * * * *

Atrocities committed in the name of war. In this incredibly brutal finale, the world attempts to deal with the fact that werewolves are real, and oh-so-dangerous. Security measures are taken and, on both sides, death is dealt to those undeserving. As the body count increases exponentially, difficult decisions have to be made, and extreme action has to be taken.

(WARNING: This review contains spoilers.)

It's no secret that I absolutely adore this bloodstained trilogy with all my heart - each instalment elicited an abundance of excitement, thrilling me with every character and their often perilous ventures. Blood Moon proved to be one hell of an epic conclusion, even if it left me saddened because I just didn't want it to end. It's extremely rare that I consistently rate so high - usually I find highs as well as lows, my overall enjoyment changing, sometimes drastically, throughout a series, but with Graeme's wolf-tastic world, each addition kept me entranced. Not only did it maintain its strong quality of descriptive writing, it continued to surprise, delight and disturb me. There's actually something I feel I need to state, because it's been in my mind and, for me, it holds a lot of significance:

An author doesn't need to be a best-seller, or have a great deal of recognition to be a great writer. I believe it's our job, as readers, to discover the hidden gems out there, to bring acknowledgement to the stories that bring us joy.

It pains me to think of deserving authors going unnoticed, and not even given a chance by the wider community, but I digress. Let's get back to the review, shall we?

There's a lot of characters to keep track of and, I admit, returning after a year since reading Moonstruck was confusing at first. I found myself trying to remember who was who, but it swiftly returned to me the further I went. I daresay these novels are meant to be read in order; context plays a big part in understanding how the war came to be, not to mention the journey each character had to traverse to reach that point. Marie and John were undoubtedly my favourites, as despite being apart for most of the book, they had time to shine in their own individual ways. Marie had to step-up, become what she never thought she'd become, and John had to endure and overcome a great deal.

Of course, amongst the large cast, others stood out as well - Phil and his desperation to return to his beloved wife, and Daniel, who just wanted the best for the pack. Every single one had their own unique personality, and their own agenda that added a considerable amount of substance.

To tell you the truth, it was at times hard to root for either side. Both the human force and the werewolf pack did terrible, terrible things. Just who was the lesser evil? Well, I'm not sure, both were neck-deep in murky waters - the pack just wanted to survive, but in retaliation of their species being killed and imprisoned, they set upon a whole town of human civilians, either savagely butchering them, or turning them into moonstruck. This included children, so I can't quite say the pack was at all innocent in the situation. I felt a whole lot of dread right before that High Moor slaughter; I knew it was coming and the anticipation nearly killed me.

The ending I considered to be bittersweet. I understood why it needed to be so, but I still felt rather bad about it. It was, after all, a last resort, and I couldn't stop thinking about what all those people would lose. I almost had tears it my eyes, and that's another oddity, as most of the time nothing I read renders me so emotional, and if it does, that in itself makes it special.

One more thing, before this review comes to an end. A paragraph in chapter eighteen piqued my interest, specifically, this one:

On occasion, the she-wolf picked up the scent of fresh death in the air, and when the two of them happened across an old stone mausoleum, the air crackled with an atmosphere of malevolence that raised both wolves' hackles and forced them to back track to find another path around the place.

Is it possible that was a hint of another monster? Perhaps it was just me, but I got a vampiric vibe that I just couldn't shake! It's a little - a mere hint - but it certainly stuck out. Since it was confirmed that other creatures did exist, I kept it in mind to pay extra attention for any teasers, and I believe I may have found one.

In conclusion - I was lucky to discover this trilogy, and honoured to read it. Werewolf horror at its finest, and I hope Reynolds one day returns to this world. I'm sure it has much more to offer.

Notable Scene:

Where Amy's pretty face had been, there was only a bloodstained skull. The bone had deep gouges carved into it and Amy's beautiful blue eyes stared out of the gore at nothing. Her friend's body stood on its own for a second, then fell to the floor in a crumpled heap. Anna couldn't help herself. She turned to Matty and was met by a visage from the depths of hell. The boy's eyes were flat, reflective disks in the flicking candlelight. His face is distorted - the bone stretched into a snout filled with row upon row of razor sharp fangs. A mass of bloody flesh and muscle dangled from between those terrible jaws. They crunched once, then swallowed. Matty brought up a clawed hand and wiped his mouth. "Aye, she wasnae wrong. She did have a tasty face."

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© Red Lace 2018

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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/01/20/blood-moon-by-graeme-reynolds
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review 2017-10-30 15:17
DO NOT SAY WE HAVE NOTHING

 

Praised by Alice Munro (whose name is on the back cover), Do Not Say We Have Nothing earned Madeline Thien the Canadian Authors’ Association Award for most promising Canadian writer under the age of 30. Then went on to win a Carnegie Medal, the Scotiabank Prize and the Stanford Travel Writing Award (Wikipedia 2016), but although shortlisted for The Man-Booker and the Bailey’s Prize, it didn’t win. I was shocked. The reviews I’d read suggested a forgone conclusion…It speaks to the humanity that continues even in the harshest, most self-destructively paranoid conditions, and it shows how the savagery of destroying culture comes hand-in-hand with the destruction of human bodies. For this reason alone, I hope it wins the Man Booker prize…(Boland 2016)
 
I found it compelling, important. I thought a close second read would determine why it hasn’t gained a glittering crown. Long, with a rambling, fractured narrative, covers many aspects of the Maoist revolution. The story is told in sewn-on patches, revealed slowly with huge difficultly, almost like a labour. This immediately felt right…as if structure and style represent the dreadful hardships the Chinese people experienced.
 
Do Not Say We Have Nothing  opens in Vancouver in 1990. Marie’s father has killed himself in Hong Kong jumping from a high building, and Marie (also called Li-Ling) and her mother take in a young woman from China. Ai Ming arrives at their home without ‘papers’. 10 year-old Marie is enamoured by the teenager, but ask as she might, cannot discover what has happened to her. Marie tries to get closer by showing the girl something that belonged to her dead father…
 
The notebook with her father’s writing, the Book of Records, was easy to find. I picked it up, knowing it would please her. But when I offered the notebook to Ai-ming, she ignored me. 
I tried again. “Ma told me it’s a great adventure, that someone goes to America and someone else goes to the desert. She said that the person who made this copy is a master calligrapher.”
Ai-ming emerged from her coat. “It’s true my father had excellent handwriting, but he wasn’t a master calligrapher. And anyway, no matter how beautiful the Book of Records is, it’s only a book. It isn’t real.”
“That’s okay. If you read it to me, I can improve my Chinese. That’s real.”
She smiled. After a few moments of turning pages, she returned the notebook to the bedcover, which had become a kind of neutral ground between us. “It’s not a good idea,” she said. “This is Chapter 17. It’s useless to start halfway, especially if this is the only chapter you have.”
“You can summarise the first sixteen chapters. I’m sure you know them.”
“Impossible!” But she was laughing…(Thien 2016)
 
Politics, time, place and generations of characters are intertwined within the story, and echoed in the handwritten ‘Record’ of the extract above. It was like reading a half-lost Chinese legend, or a guide to survival under hopeless oppression. I loved the way stories and music are powerful threads connecting the lives and times of a Chinese family. Often, I felt I was reading Dostoyevski. I agreed it wasa beautiful, sorrowful workthe mind is never still while reading it…(Senior 2016)
 
At the core of the story is a true event. In 1968, the director of Shanghai Conservatory of Music, He Luting, was dragged from his office by Red Guards, physically abused in front of TV cameras and accused of ‘non-revolutionary thinking’ over his  approbation of Western classical music. He did not confess, as most did, instead, crying out, “shame on you for lying!” (Isobel Hilton 2016). Thien incorporates this into her story.
 
I have this idea that … maybe, a long time ago, the Book of Records was set in a future that hadn’t yet arrived,” one characters says (Thien 2016). The covert record, written by hand and passed secretly from writer to writer, allows them to express what they cannot tell. Almost entirely unrevealed on the page, I thought the notebook was a metaphor for the half-lost history of three generations. 
 
Bach’s Goldberg Variations (always played by pianist Glenn Gould), becomes the score in our head. – the words echoing the complex counterpoints in the music. It’s a symbol, I believe, of how brilliant creativity is suppressed and punished in the Cultural Revolution (CR), but also of how music is universal. Early in the novel, Marie says…I was drawn toward it, as keenly is if someone were pulling me by the hand. The counterpoint, holding together composer, musicians and even silence, the music, with its spiralling waves of grief and rapture…(Thien 2016) She might be talking about the story she’s about to unfold.
 
Tieananmen Square in the 80s
We only find out Ai-Ming’s full story as the book progresses to its climax in Tiananmen Square. However, this is the beauty of close reading, and doing so made me sit up. There are a lot of clues in that first chapter in Vancouver. I had tried to keep them in my head on my first read, but it was almost impossible. The sweep of the book wipes them away. It’s only at the end, as things come to a head, that we learn how Ai-Ming and Marie are intrinsically connected.
 
Marie narrates short sections of the novel as an adult, in the present day. She’s become a mathematics professor, which links with the contrapuntal nature of music and story. She’s still seeking the truth about her family’s history. Meanwhile, the lives of the families of two sisters over fifty years of Chinese revolution is revealed in a wide-ranging viewpoint, allowing one after another of the characters to catch and take up the tale. It’s never clear who is in charge of this omniscient-like third person. It might be Ai Ming, remembering all she knows of the Book of Records, even adding to it. Maybe this is all Marie’s story, told at the end of her quest. Or perhaps the overarching view is Thien’s herself.
 
I became intimately involved with these lives, the ambiguities of the story, and the glorious sounds of music; Chinese and European, violin and piano. From Vancouver we go back to the colour and gaiety of the 1940’s, where two teenaged sisters entertain by singing in provincial teahouses. We follow Big Mother Knife and Swirl through the land reforms, re-educations, the arrival of the Red Guard and the Cultural Revolution, and on, to the protests at Tiananmen Square in 1989.
 
Big Mother has three children, including a boy called Sparrow, who becomes a musical prodigy. Swirl and her husband, Wen the Dreamer, have a girl, Zhuli. Wen is the ‘master calligrapher’ and principle contributor to the Book of Records. He and Swirl are caught up in the punishments devised to expose counter-revolutionaries… anyone deviating from the norm of communist orthodoxy. They are tortured and given hard labour in a desert area of China, where they barely survive. The young Zhuli is sent to find her aunt in Shanghai. She takes up the violin under the influence of her cousin, the shy composer, Sparrow, and is destined for great things, until the Cultural Revolution rises up. At the Conservatory, Zhuli becomes unable to cope with the humiliations, brain-washings and destruction of music and musical instruments….students began writing essays asking, “What good is this music, these empty enchantments, that only entrench the bourgeoisie and isolate the poor?”(Thien 2016). Some musicians form a clandestine resistance group, and this seems to finally topple Zhuli. She kills herself. 
 
In Moa’s China, history is manipulated or suppressed unless it toes the party line. And so, from the safety of Canada, Thein has attempted to tell the entire truth, using music as her theme. It feels off-key, literally, to write about musicians when so much of the history is political. They quietly go about their business of writing, playing and teaching music. They have brilliant minds, but are quiet people, not necessarily politically articulate.
 
Sparrow becomes deeply intimate with a piano student, Kai, whose family didn’t survive the starvation times of the Great Leap Forward. But Sparrow is unable to consummate their love, perhaps because of his timid reserve, perhaps due to the shock of Zhuli’s death. Kai is determined to live whatever the cost. Ruthlessly, he compromises his art and prospers as a musician, lauded by the establishment, while Sparrow, who cannot dishonour classical music, is forced to leave the Conservatory, reassigned to work in a radio factory for thirty years.
 
And what of the Book of Records? In an interview, Thien explains…It’s a book with no beginning, no middle and no end, in which the characters are seeing an alternative China where they recognise mirrors of themselves and which they write themselves into.” She is speaking literally as well as metaphorically. “The act of copying is different in China because part of the art of calligraphy is that you learn to write as the masters did. It’s a lot about breath and pressure and line. (Armistead 2016)
 
When I surfed the net, I discovered the notebook is an allusion to China’s most celebrated work of pre-history, Shiji or the Historical Records. Like the novel and the notebook, the Shiji is non-chronological, fractured…overlapping units that interpret rather than document. Completed in 91BCE  it was kept hidden for fear of the wrath of an emperor who had had its author, Sima Qian, the ‘grand astrologer’ castrated. (Vioatti 2014).
 
I followed one family for sixty years, across vast Chinese landscapes, puzzling about the ‘book of records’, carrying Baroque music in my head through 450 pages of traumatic experiences and moral complexities. Although it’s not an easy book to read, and I wasn’t alone in finding I always wanted to read on… Thien's reach—though epic —does not extend beyond her capacity, resulting in a lovely fugue of a book…(Chalfant 2016).
 
China has always been a dangerous place to state the truth, rather than toe the line. Then chose characters with great gifts, extraordinary yet quite ordinary, who fall foul of the absurd doctrines of a regime. Through them, I understood the consequences of Mao’s revolution on both the Chinese national identity, and the personal identities of its people.
 
The duplicitous Kai finally agrees to help Sparrow’s daughter, Ai-Ming, to escape China, but soon after Marie meets her, Ai Ming disappears into the USA. Marie is still searching at the end of the book. As if both girls, mirror-images of the girls who sang in the teahouses, resonate what the previous generation had to go through; to disappear emotionally or physically, or to wander, in search of reasons and identity. There’s no final answers, especially as to why it did not win the Booker. That is a puzzle as great as the Book of Records.
 

 

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review 2017-07-30 17:53
Ligeiramente Perigoso (Portuguese Edition) - Mary Balogh

 

I loved this story so much, that I'm giving five stars to an historical romance and I couldn't care less!
Honestly you guys, I don't remember the last time a story has kept me from falling asleep.
I've been sleeping so much lately, that one of these days, I'll wake up and find that I've grown roots and thorns... just to be on the safe side. That, or I'll be turned into a cat...

This, OH GOD, I don't know if it was the undertones of Pride and Prejudice (it helped), but I fell in love with these two characters from the moment a drop of lemonade is involved ;)
Wulfric, the Duke, with his aura of "stay away from me peasants", and Christine, who is _mostly_ a tornado of joy and happiness; but not in a silly way, were amazing characters.
I loved their characterization, and how their romance slowly evolved. There's a lot of walking, and talking through the countryside, with the characters getting to know each other.
As for the hot and heavy parts, there's only two sex scenes in this book, which was a relief considering how some "historical" romances lately are just a long _and boring_porn book fest.
I'm not going to say that I've loved all this author's books in this series, because I haven't, but the ones I liked, I really liked them... not this much as this one, because this one pretty much rocked the all kind of "adorbs" chart.
You should read it! ;)

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