Mini-Review Monday: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, The Belles and How to Think Like Sherlock.

As a result of a couple of slow reading weeks, today’s Mini-Review Monday post covers the last two weeks. In those two weeks, I read 3 books. Two of these were kindle reads while the third was a hardback non-fiction. Unfortunately, only one of those books was a story I was able to get fully invested in. That was The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton – a lyrical tale of the power and danger of beauty. The other two books I read were just not the books for me. One seemed to have very little happen in it until the end while the other could not seem to decide what it wanted to be. Read on to find out more about how I found the books I read in the last two weeks.

For reference, the way I rate is as follows:

1-Unable to Finish ; 2-Did not enjoy ; 3-Liked ; 4-Really Liked ; 5-Loved

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

With all the hype surrounding Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, I was looking forward to giving the book a go and was lucky enough to receive an ebook copy from NetGalley for review. Unfortunately, as is often the case with hyped books, I did not get as much out of it as I was hoping to. This mostly comes down to the kind of books I do enjoy, ones where there is plenty occurring. Simply put, not much happens in this novel. It is mostly an exploration of the main character, Eleanor, as she starts to break out of her comfort zone, try out new experiences and, ultimately, come to grips with her past. There is no denying that this is a well-written and thought out book, with Eleanor having a beautifully strong voice that is consistent throughout the whole novel. I can see why some people love this book, unfortunately it was just not for me.

Rating: 2.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34200289-eleanor-oliphant-is-completely-fine

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/Eleanor-Oliphant-is-Completely-Fine-Gail-Honeyman/9780008172145?/?a_aid=rosienreads

 

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

The Belles is another book which has received a lot of hype in the last few months, particularly amongst the online YA community. It follows Camellia who is one of the few Belles – a group of girls with the ability to manipulate beauty. In a world where nothing is valued more than beauty, this gives Camellia power and brings her to the very heart of the palace. It doesn’t take long, however, before she is caught up in the politics of the royalty and nobility. Choices must be made and Camellia’s very life is on the line. I enjoyed this book. It is beautifully written with a flowery manner of writing which really brought the world to life. Camellia is also an excellent lead – she is powerful but also stubborn and often makes mistakes. However, it did not quite live up to the hype and there were parts of this book that could have been improved, particularly with regards to the sense of mystery and threat. That being said, I am captivated enough by this world to be looking forward to the sequel and seeing where Clayton takes her characters next. I also received a copy of this book through NetGalley for review.

Rating: 4/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23197837-the-belles

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/The-Belles-Dhonielle-Clayton/9781484728499/?a_aid=rosienreads

How to Think Like Sherlock by Daniel Smith

How to Think Like Sherlock is a peculiar kind of book. It’s a non-fiction examination of Sherlock Holmes, taking the various skills Sherlock displays and discussing them in a manner akin to self-help or skill development books. These are then followed by various puzzles, such as logic puzzles, as ways to test the reader’s proficiency with those skills. As such, it came across as a bit confused as to what the book wanted to be and only contains very top-level examinations of both Sherlock and the skill sets. There was very little in-depth discussion. This may be a good book for encouraging skill development in younger readers, or those with a particular interest in Sherlock Holmes, but it was not really a book for me.

Rating: 2/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16155330-how-to-think-like-sherlock

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/How-Think-Like-Sherlock-Daniel-Smith/9781843179535/?a_aid=rosienreads

 

Chapter Sampler: The Ember Blade by Chris Wooding

The Ember Blade chapter sampler I read contained only the first two chapters. Yet, within those two chapters, I was met with promises of a world rich with history, a story which stretched out across the horizon yet neatly wrapped itself around a single person and characters that were distinct, fully-fleshed and three-dimensional. The books itself is about a boy who lives in an occupied land who, inevitably, gets drawn into a revolution to free the land’s people. While this is the kind of story which features regularly in fantasy novels, I have read a few of Chris Wooding’s books before and enjoyed each of them. I have no doubt the rest of this book will live up to the promises of the first few chapters.

The Ember Blade will be released later in 2018.

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34673711-the-ember-blade

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/The-Ember-Blade-Chris-Wooding/9781473214842/?a_aid=rosienreads

 

*I receive a small commission when purchases are made through the Book Depository links.

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Rosie Reviews: Zenith by Sasha Alsberg and Lindsay Cummings

Zenith 2

Title: Zenith

Author: Sasha Alsberg and Lindsay Cummings

Publisher: HQ

Genre: Science-Fiction

Source: NetGalley

Review

Zenith is a book written by authors Sasha Alsberg and Lindsay Cummings. Initially planned to be released in parts, the novel was picked up by a publisher and has now been released as a full-length book. It follows an all-female crew of space pirates as they’re tasked with breaking a man out of the most fortified space prison and return him to his home world. Beyond that, it explores three of the characters’ relationships with their own worlds, one woman’s quest for revenge and, as one would expect from a YA novel, a conflicted romance.

From the very start of Zenith, we are thrown into action. This continues throughout the novel, allowing for some fast-paced reading but with some calmer scenes thrown in to allow for breathing space. The plot itself is a lot of fun and while, for the most part, it does err on the side of predictability, there are definitely some moments of surprise and the world (galaxy?) is rich enough to keep you interested in the story.

For me, a highlight of Zenith was the all-female crew. Despite there being a romantic sub-plot, the crew’s friendship was truly the heart of the book, not to mention they are also truly entertaining to read. Lira was easily my favourite and I enjoyed seeing her home world and being with her on her own inner quest on choosing between friends and family. Andi was also a strong lead, although I did struggle to reconcile the personality and action she displays in her own PoV with the ‘Bloody Baroness’ reputation that she has; this made for a couple of disjointed scenes as a result. I would have also liked to see more of Breck and Gilly as they felt more like side-characters rather than fully-fledged members of the crew despite having each having an implied rich and interesting backstory.

Zenith is a fun space opera, with characters and adventures which will keep you entertained for a long time. While there are a few things which could have been ironed out, particularly with regards to consistency, it is a gripping read and one that will have you rooting for the crew of the marauder as they’re thrown time and time again into various challenges and difficult choices.

Rating: 4/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31394234-zenith

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/Zenith-Sasha-Alsberg-Lindsay-Cummings/9780008228330/?a_aid=rosienreads

 

*I receive a small commission when something is purchased through this link.

Winter Biannual Bibliothon 2018 – Wrap Up

Last week was the Winter Biannual Bibliothon, a reading challenge in which the goal is to read as many books as you can in seven days. The readathon also consists of a few social media challenges, which I didn’t take part in, and some reading ones, which I did. You can find the list of reading challenges and the books I chose for them in my bibliothon TBR post.

In total, I managed to complete six of the seven reading challenges with ‘Read a book under 200 pages’ being the only one I did not quite manage, despite it being one of the ones which should have been easier to complete. Most of the challenges were achieved by doubling up as well. While I did manage to start six books during the bibliothon week, I was only able to finish four of them, mini-reviews for which are below.

I thoroughly enjoyed the week and the fact it gave me a chance to pick up books I probably would not have read otherwise. On the whole I stuck to my TBR, only swapping out The Winner’s Curse for Before the Devil Breaks You as my sequel as I wanted an audiobook for the week. This ended up being for the best as Before the Devil Breaks You ended up being one of my favourite books of the bibliothon. I cannot wait until the next readathon, be it the Biannual Bibliothon or otherwise.

Now, onto the books I read and finished. For reference, the way I rate is as follows:

1-Unable to Finish ; 2-Did not enjoy ; 3-Liked ; 4-Really Liked ; 5-Loved

 

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

My first book of the Winter Biannual Bibliothon was the Penguin Clothbound Classics edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, both of which were including in this binding (the binding also included a rather-long introduction and the original manuscript version of Alice’s Adventure’s Under Ground, neither of which I read). I had not actually read any print versions of this book prior to the bibliothon so going into the Alice stories were an adventure. They were as barmy as I expected, with a lot of nostalgic familiarity with relation to the various adaptions and retellings I have seen and read. It was a fun book and it’s easy to see why it’s so debated with regards to meaning – I’m half-tempted to read it again to see what more I can uncover from it!

Challenge: Read a Book That Was Mentioned in Another Book/Movie/Show

Rating: 4/5

Pages Read: 242

Otherworld by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller

Otherworld was the group book for the bibliothon and was also my second read of the week. The book is set in a world where virtual reality is at the forefront of gaming and technology; the graphics are almost life-like and players spent hours inside the game. Behind that though a new technology is being developed, one which puts your very life on the line as you play. I did not know what to expect going into Otherworld but, on the whole, I’m pretty pleased with the story I got. It was fast-paced with regular developments to the stakes and to the world itself as we discover what is going on alongside Simon, the main character, as he tries to find his best friend who is trapped in the VR world. Unfortunately, the story is heavily let down by the fact Simon is simply so unlikeable that I ended up not really caring for him at all, and the other characters were not developed enough to counteract that. There were also a couple of points where the story felt confused. On the whole, however, it was a fun, gripping read that explored the terrifying potential of virtual reality, it is just unfortunate about the characters.

Challenge: Read the Group Book and Read a Book You’ve Never Heard of Before

Rating: 3.5/5

Pages Read: 355

 

Nation by Terry Pratchett

Prior to picking up Nation, I had not read any of Terry Pratchett’s books which were not set in the Discworld. As such, I went in not really knowing what to expect. What I got was something magical. Nation is a children’s book, but it can easily be read by any adult and it would be a rare adult who read this book and did not get anything from it. Nation is an exploration of identity, belief and what it is that makes a nation. It follows Mau who returns to his homeland to find it demolished by a tsunami. Slowly, he starts rebuilding with the help of Daphne, a girl ship-wrecked in the same tsunami. Of course, this book is written in Pratchett’s usual wacky style, which only makes the story even more delightful.

Challenge: Read a Backlist Title

Rating: 4.5/5

Pages Read: 410

 

Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray (narrated by January LaVoy)

One of my favourite series is The Diviners by Libba Bray – it is fun, spooky and completely gripping. When I found out that the third book in the series was out, I immediately downloaded the audiobook and it was everything I could hope it could be. I loved being back with the Diviners, despite them being put through so much in this novel. Bray does not hold back at all, and each of our favourites ends up with challenges to face. Numerous topics are tackled in this book as well, including sexual assault, racism and politics. January LaVoy is a fantastic narrator and I cannot imagine this series being read by anyone else; there is enthusiasm in her narration while also capturing the tone of every scene perfectly. This book would have received 5 stars if not for three reasons: for the most part I found Mabel’s story line a little dull, it did feel more of a set up to the final book than a contained story and there were too many epilogues for my liking. None of those, however, will do anything in the slightest to stop me from reading the fourth book. If you haven’t read this series, I highly recommend it, especially if you’re into historical fiction (this is set in the 20s) with a strong supernatural flare.

Challenge: Read a Sequel and Read a Book About Mental Illness

Rating: 4.5/5

Length: 21 hours and 26 minutes

Pages Read: 552 pages

Mini-Review Monday: Herald by N.F. Houck and The Cleaner by Mark Dawson

Since last Monday, I have read a total of three books and am just about to finish a fourth. However, this week is the Winter Biannual Bibliothon week and so the books I am reading for that will discussed in next week’s blog post. That way, I can wrap them up together. So today, I have two books to discuss. One is a paperback retelling of Ancient Greek Mythology through the eyes of Hermes. The other is an audiobook thriller of a government agent who leaves behind a life of murder to save a family from a life of crime.

For reference, the way I rate is as follows:

1-Unable to Finish ; 2-Did not enjoy ; 3-Liked ; 4-Really Liked ; 5-Loved

 

Herald by N.F. Houck

Herald is book that went beyond my expectations. I have read books similar in concept before, whereby a figure from mythology has been taken as a main character and narrates the mythology from their own perspective, and none have ever truly grabbed me. Herald takes that concept, solidifies it, and then raises the bar. It follows Hermes (bias warning: Hermes is one of my favourite gods in Ancient Greek Mythology) as he, with the help of the Muses, writes down his history and his involvement with varying episodes in the mythology. Not everything is covered and, while numerous different events in the mythology are included, the main focuses of the book are Hermes’ role as an Olympian, his relationship with mortality and his relationship with Aphrodite.

It would be very easy for a book such as this to be heavy, yet Houck manages to take the reader through the mythology with a light, readable hand. Indeed, I found reading Herald to be quite a comfortable read, as if opening the pages were akin to curling up beneath a blanket with a fire blazing. The material is handled respectfully, and it’s very easy to see that Houck knows what they’re writing about. The main strength of the book, however, was the characters. Despite it being a book about gods, none felt domineering while also emitting a steady strength that identified them as gods, despite their almost-human like personalities. I would recommend this book for anyone interested in Ancient Greek Mythology, even if it’s just a small, passing interest.

Rating: 4.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/485398.Herald

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/Herald-NF-Houck/9781411671690/?a_aid=rosienreads

 

The Cleaner by Mark Dawson (narrated by David Thorpe)

The Cleaner is the first book in a, currently, 13-book-long series which follows a man called John Milton. In this first book, Milton is an assassin for the government who tires of his job and decides to leave, something which does not go down very well with the boss. He saves a woman from suicide and ends up trying to help her and her son, who has got himself mixed up with the local gangs. Essentially, it’s a book about a man wants to stop taking lives and tries to start saving them instead.

I will start by saying that the narrator for this book was great – he captured a lot of the emotion in the story, was easy to listen to and was vital in keeping me interested in the story. My main gripe with The Cleaner is simply that it wasn’t the book I was expecting it to be going in, but I don’t think it was the worse for it. I was expecting a book with a focus in the agent part of Milton’s life, his PTSD following a life of murder and him being on the run from the government. Instead, the book leant heavily on the gang story-line and Milton’s efforts to help Elijah and Elijah’s mother. While this was a little slow in places, and Milton did not often act as one would expect an ex-assassin to act, I definitely preferred it to the parts of the book which focused more on Milton’s past life. While I’ve not read the rest of the series, The Cleaner feels like a good set up for the adventures Milton has coming up for him. It was an entertaining read and it’s easy to see why there are so many books in the series. I would recommend this book for anyone who likes a book about a killer with a heart, especially if you want a series that will keep you occupied for a while.

Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33016744-the-cleaner

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/The-Cleaner-Mark-Dawson/9781492354253/?a_aid=rosienreads

 

Chapter Sampler: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

If there is one book I keep seeing everywhere at the moment, it’s The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton. The Belles is a book about a world where beauty is controlled by a small group of girls known as Belles who have the ability to manipulate the appearance of others. Camellia is one of the Belles and desires to be the favourite, chosen by the Queen to serves the royals but, as you’d expect, things may not be entirely what they seem. The sampler contains the first two chapters and the first thing to hit me was how descriptive Clayton’s writing is. Instantly, her world came alive in a flurry of colour. Carmellia makes for an entertaining and likeable lead and the first two chapters leave me curious for more about the power she holds, and the world she lives in. I finished the sampler and immediately wanted to see what would happen next.

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23197837-the-belles

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/The-Belles/9781473223967/?a_aid=rosienreads

 

*I receive a small commission when purchases are made through the Book Depository links.

Mini-Review Monday: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo and The Widow by Fiona Barton

It’s a new year and, as such, I thought I’d try something a little different. Last year, the only reviews I posted were those where I had received a book through NetGalley in exchange for a review. This meant that my thoughts on all the other books I read often went unheard.

One of my goals this year is to focus on reading the books I already own but have yet to read (which I have an entire bookcase of) which means that the NetGalley reviews will be fewer and farther between. With that in mind, I thought I would re-introduce Mini-Review Mondays. In these posts, I will give a short review of all the books I read in the preceding week (likely to be around 1-2 books), along with a brief commentary on a book’s chapter sampler (of which I have many lying around).

Without further ado, let’s begin. For reference, the way I rate is as follows:

1-Unable to Finish ; 2-Did not enjoy ; 3-Liked ; 4-Really Liked ; 5-Loved

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

I first listened to Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo last year, as an audiobook. Unfortunately, by listening to the book, I ended up missing a lot of the nuances of the story and, in places, parts of the story itself. This meant that it did not quite click as well as I had originally hoped. Fortunately, a friend of mine convinced me to pick up the book again, but in a print format. And I loved it.

Six of Crows is a book about six criminals and outcasts who must work together to break into an impenetrable prison and retrieve someone imprisoned there. It is also much more than that. Every character in this book felt alive while reading, and the prison break serves as a backdrop as you see them develop before your eyes. The representation in the book is brilliant and the story got so under my skin that I ended up dreaming about it. I am so glad I decided to give Six of Crows a second chance and I’m already tempted to start if for a third time.

Rating: 5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23437156-six-of-crows

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/Six-of-Crows-Leigh-Bardugo/9781780622286/?a_aid=rosienreads

The Widow by Fiona Barton (narrated by Clare Corbett)

The Widow by Fiona Barton is an audiobook I have been listening to for about a month and it contains the interesting concept of being about the wife of the perpetrator rather than the perpetrator themselves. In this instance, it’s a case of a paedophilic kidnapping. The main suspect of the case dies before they can be brought to justice and so the press and police turn, instead, to the suspect’s wife in the hopes that she would be able to reveal the truth and help them locate the missing girl.

The book is told from multiple perspectives and follows varying storylines as they intermingle, gradually revealing more and more to the reader. Admittedly, some of the storylines worked better than others. I thoroughly enjoyed the police investigation part of this, while press’ perspective did not really grab me at all. Even the widow herself was a little touch and go at the start, although she gradually became more and more interesting as the book went on. All in all, it was a good story with an emotional punch. It just, unfortunately, did not really work as well for me as it could have.

Rating: 3/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36068039-the-widow

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/The-Widow/9780552173070/?a_aid=rosienreads

 

Chapter Sampler: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Given how much I enjoyed Six of Crows, the choice as to which chapter sampler I would read was fairly simple. Crooked Kingdom is the second book in the Six of Crows duology. The sampler contains the first two chapters and, even though it’s only been a few days since I finished Six of Crows, I thoroughly enjoyed being back in Ketterdam with the gang. Bardugo’s way of writing really brings a story to life (these two chapters were proof enough of that) and Crooked Kingdom started off strong, with plenty of both action and character. I cannot wait to get my hands on this book and continue on with the story.

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22299763-crooked-kingdom

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/Six-of-Crows-Crooked-Kingdom-Leigh-Bardugo/9781780622316/?a_aid=rosienreads

 

*I receive a small commission when purchases are made through the Book Depository links.

Rosie Reviews: Tribe of Mentors by Timothy Ferriss

Tribe of Mentors

Title: Tribe of Mentors

Author: Timothy Ferriss

Publisher: Penguin Random House UK, Ebury Publishing

Genre: Non-Fiction, Advice

Source: NetGalley

Review

The subtitle of Tribe of Mentors is: “Short Life Advice from the Best in the World” and the book does not hold back. Within its pages are an incredible number of interviews with people from a wide range of industries (from business to journalism to body-building), each imparting wisdom and advice gained through their own experiences.

The structure of the book is based on each mentor answering a specific set of questions (the same set was sent to nearly all mentors, although some did have a few variations). This sent a shiver of trepidation through me when I first learnt of it, as I was worried that the book would turn out to be repetitive and dull to read. I need not have feared. Not all mentors answered all questions, and Ferriss reshuffles them from person to person to aid with flow, as well as breaking the mentor profiles up with other segments (for example, examples of how to say no) to help reduce the repetition. Above that, however, the answers were interesting and varied enough that I did not care that the questions were the same. I was able to keep on reading through the answers, absorbing everything as I went.

As is to be expected, some of the mentors appealed to me more than others. But there are so many included in the book that it would be hard-pressed for any reader to not find one they connected to. The inclusion of people from multiple backgrounds and fields was interesting (although some fields were certainly more represented than others) and I found myself fascinated by the experiences of people in areas I would never have even considered before. Of the advice given, there were a few common recurrences (meditation and sugar-free diets were regular appearances, along with a certain few books) but, on the whole, everyone had something unique to offer. Reading it from cover to cover is probably not the best way to approach Tribe of Mentors as it does veer on the long side and could possibly be a little shorter but, that being said, cover-to-cover was how I read it, so it is possible.

With it being January and, with it, the time of resolutions, this book is a book you would want on your shelves. It is easy to dip into, and is incredibly motivating. It is also a book you want to keep coming back to, either to revisit certain ideas or to find something new to try. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to push themselves a bit further in life, work or even in their hobbies.

Rating: 4.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36200111-tribe-of-mentors

The Book Depository (I receive a small commission when this link is used): https://www.bookdepository.com/Tribe-of-Mentors-Timothy-Ferris/9781785041853/?a_aid=rosienreads

Rosie Reviews: The Forever Ship by Francesca Haig

The Forever Ship

Title: The Forever Ship

Author: Francesca Haig

Publisher: Gallery Books

Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Dystopian

Source: NetGalley

Review

Francesca Haig’s The Fire Sermon trilogy has easily been one of the best series I have read this year, so much so that I did something I rarely do and read the second book almost immediately after finishing the first. Now, I have had the chance to read the third, and final, book in this trilogy: The Forever Ship. It did not disappoint.

In this book, the stakes are even higher; with Cass’ visions of fire moving ever closer to being reality and the freedom of the Omegas as a people growing ever more scarce. I loved that Haig does not shy away from the hardship of war; the reality of starvation, violence and death is never far from the surface and the themes of oppression, war and power resonate throughout. Yet, for all the bleak atmosphere, there is hope, and this is one of the reasons why I could not stop reading. I needed to see the characters survive and I wanted to see that hope bear fruit.

Speaking of characters, there is something about the way Haig writes which makes each of the characters step off the page. It was brilliant being back with Cass, Piper and Zoe. Even Zach’s increased presence in this book helped keep me interested, particularly in the ethical and moral arguments he presents. We also get to see more of the secondary characters, and even some new ones. Yet, for the large cast of people in this story, each one comes across as real, so much so that if I close my eyes, I can almost see them. It is the way they’re written which makes this world so much more real and, as a result, so much more terrifying.

While the second book captured more of the history of the world and setting up for this final book, The Forever Ship does a peculiar trick of both expanding outwards and inwards at the same time. We learn more of Elsewhere, and the world which exists beyond that which Cass and her team have only known. Yet, at the same time, we are seeing more exploration at an individual level – we’re seeing the views of the people that live in this world while also learning more about the characters we’re following.

All in all, I thought this was a brilliant ending of the trilogy. It stayed true to the core of the first book yet also allowed the reader to experience entirely new feelings and adventures while joining Cass and her friends on their journey. My only main issues are that, at times, the novel does struggle a little with pacing and the ending did not quite work for me, although I can see and appreciate why Haig ended it as she did.

If anyone is interested in starting a new dystopian series, particularly one which will make you think and leave you emotionally reeling at the end, then this is one I’d heartily recommend.

Rating: 4.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35011657-the-forever-ship

The Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/The-Forever-Ship-Francesca-Haig/9781476767208/?a_aid=rosienreads