Sunday, 18 August 2019

Reviewing Debut Novel "Relic" by Bronwyn Eley

Title: Relic
Series: The Relic Trilogy
Author: Bronwyn Eley
Publication Date: September 12th, 2019
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In the city of Edriast, there is no deadlier duty than to serve as the Shadow.

As the personal servant of the powerful Lord Rennard, the Shadow's life is all but forfeit. Rennard possesses one of five rare and dangerous Relics – a jewel that protects his bloodline, but slowly poisons everyone else in its proximity. When the current Shadow succumbs to its magic, nineteen-year-old blacksmith Kaylan is summoned to take his place. It's an appointment that will kill her.

As the time Kaylan has left ebbs away, hope begins to fade...

That is, until she discovers a plot to destroy all five bloodlines in possession of the Relics. As her life hangs in the balance and rebellion bears down on Edriast, Kaylan must decide where her loyalties lie – and how she'll leave her mark on the world.

Review


I received an e-ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Eley's strength lies in her ability to evoke sensations and emotions. She describes the experience of being near the relic and the effects it has on Kaylan in such a vivid manner that I was physically recoiling in some moments. The use of language works, making it easy for me to position myself within the scenes and feel as though I was there with Kaylan as well. She was also able to set up the plot and world quite well by the end of the novel. However, I would say that it took me awhile to fully understand how the world worked and why the relic was so important. Furthermore, majority of this first book was dedicated to just setting up for the climax of this series. It's not a bad thing per se, but I was hoping to see some action or scenes that didn't just involve talking. If anything, Eley's managed to build a solid foundation in which I'm hoping will launch us into an action-packed second book that is a lot more gripping and intense.

I struggled to fully love Kaylan as the protagonist, but can acknowledge that there must be more to her than what has been revealed in Relic. I did come to love Markus, but felt like he was written for readers to be attracted to - as really the only male that is of any interest. At first, I couldn't grasp whether Lord Rennard was suppose to be a villain or a flawed character to empathise with and learn to understand. Even now I'm conflicted as to how to feel about him, only because the characters that are around him and seemingly know him aren't also sure how they feel about him either. I'd like to think that there will be more characters revealed in the second instalment that could perhaps be written with more conviction.

The plot line is intriguing and different to many of the other YA fantasy novels out there, in that the protagonist does not support some form of cause (at least not yet) and the desire for power isn't necessarily driven by an individual or group. It really questions human nature and why people fight for what they believe in, which I liked. I'm interested to see where Eley takes this trilogy when it comes to world expansion, character growth and overall plot development. If you're up for exploring a debut Australian author in a world that's questioning its own authority and bound for change - good or bad - definitely give Relic a try!


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Wednesday, 24 July 2019

IT'S BEEN 7 YEARS OF BLOGGING Y'ALL! LET'S CELEBRATE TOGETHER.


PrintedWords& has turned 7 years old. It’s incredible to think that 7 years has passed since I started this blog in 2012, as a hobby to procrastinate from studying for VCE (Year 12 exams) but also to reach out and discover a community to share my love for reading. It’s definitely been a bumpy ride. I had a smooth run for the first 3 years before hitting roadblocks, including reading slumps, lack of organisation and falling off the writing process altogether. The last time I celebrated an anniversary for the blog was in 2016 - PrintedWords& 4th birthday. I missed the 5th and 6th anniversary due to my lack of commitment. In fact, I barely posted anything! It’s definitely been a disappointment for me - as a personal project I was so proud of but have been unable to be consistent with it. I can blame life, sure, I live a life that is constantly go go go, but I see other bloggers who are able to balance both their life and online presence so really it’s not a great excuse. 

To celebrate 7 years of being online, albeit not always present, I wanted to tweak the look of PrintedWords& a little (look I didn't do much honestly), and invite you guys back into this space as I begin to produce new and more consistent content. I think I’ve come to realise that part of the reason why I was never motivated enough to continue blogging was because I felt so pressured releasing blog posts that I hoped would gain thousands of views or read books to review based on its popularity within the book community, not because I liked them. PrintedWords& return really is going to be based on what I like and am excited to share. I’ve always had people look at me weirdly when I tell them the blog name has the “&/and” at the end, but to me, it’s because I’ve always wanted to expand beyond just book reviews. I’ve written travel posts, film reviews, other discussion posts etc and know I will continue to do so. Most of what I write will be book related content, but if there’s something I think is worth highlighting 100% I will share it with you all. 

I had to think hard as to whether I wanted to continue this blogging journey. It would’ve been so easy to pull the plug and call an end to 7 years of writing, but it didn’t feel right. I am still very passionate about reading, writing and being able to discuss it all. So without further ado, this is PrintedWords& new look and I hope you all love it as much as I do. 

Anniversary Giveaway


Of course it wouldn’t be a blog anniversary without some type of giveaway to celebrate! I'll be giving away the thing I love most - books (surprise, suprise)! I want to share with you guys some of my favourite reads in the last few years, that I think deserve more love. The giveaway is international, I'll be relying on Book Depository to ship out to you!

YA Giveaway


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I absolutely loved how whimsical and poetic this was, but also how heartbreaking and haunting the entire read became. It really made me sad, so much that I couldn't forget it. 
Read my full review here.

Middle Grade Giveaway


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Middle grade is a genre I could never, ever be bored of and A Face Like Glass kept me entertained and engrossed from the get go. A very unique and intriguing concept with great writing. 
Look, I'll link my full review even though it's a 7 minute video that I did in like 2013 or something, when I had braces still hahaha.

Adult Fiction Giveaway


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This was my favourite read last year, a full five stars to Neil Gaiman for his writing and story development. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is absolutely incredible and you are doing yourself a disservice if you have not read it, 
Full review here.

I am actually so excited to have reached 7 years! 


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Sunday, 7 July 2019

"War of Mist" Was The Finale I Was Waiting For


Title: War of Mist 
Series: The Omerere Chronicles
Author: Helen Scheuerer
Publication Date: July 25th, 2019

War is here. 

Toxic mist drives all life to the brink of destruction and the conquerer queen, Ines, has her talons in the kings of the realm. Bleak, having discovered her true heritage, must now scour the lands for the one thing that might save them all. 

But the search is a treacherous one - and it will push her to the very limits of endurance. Amidst secrets, lies and the intricacies of battle, Bleak and her companions learn just how far they'll go for the ones they love. But will it be enough? 

As deadly forces grapple for power across the continents, families, friends and allies unite to take one final stand.

Review


I received an e-ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Previous reviews:

War of Mist is the finale to The Omerere Chronicles, and I can wholeheartedly say I loved every moment of it. I wasn’t sure how the third novel would turn out after reading the last two and felt as though I enjoyed it but didn’t fall in love with the storyline or all the characters. I surprised myself by flying through War of Mist in 2 days, not wanting to put it down and feeling a little lost having finished it. 

There were so many positives in War of Mist. Unlike another finales to a series, War of Mist is just slightly shorter than its predecessors, but so much more impactful. It didn't waste time dwelling on unnecessary things such as further world building and new characters when the novel just needed to be fast paced and action filled - and that it was. It wasn't hard to predict the ending (in regards to the result of the war) but the how in getting there was still nerve wracking and intense. The events were also really realistic. It wasn't always peaches and cream for the characters. The plot ebbed and flow, giving me only slight moments of relief before being on edge again. 

I also didn't realise how attached I had grown to the characters, I felt like I had gone on the journey with them and I was a part of their party. In the last two books the characters were spread across the realms and I liked reading through certain characters but this time around I really enjoyed the scenes where all, if not most, of the characters were together. IF anything - and this may sound exaggerated - I felt slight separation anxiety when I was reading about some of the characters but not the others. 

Overall, Scheuerer has produced a series that is well worth the read. The plot was well thought out - I liked that it didn't aim to do too much: a heroine, not realising she is a heroine, wanting to just float through life and then taking on the responsibility to save the realm, although not alone. However, as simplistic as that sounds it offers so much more. I went through the motions with the characters, not just what Bleak learns on her self-discovery and self-growth journey. Instead, every character had an important lesson to deliver, that was reliable and valuable. It wasn't all about just having magic and fighting for power, there were lessons of love, loss, honesty, loyalty and trust - the list goes on. It was also great to read a series that wasn't so fixated on romance as a main element to the plot, or it being so simplistic. Emotions are super complex and Scheuerer portrayed that so well in her writing. She conveyed, through her characters, that being in love or love in general, is never just about two people feeling affection for each other and that would equate to everything working out perfectly. It was so refreshing to discover that in The Omerere Chronicles. Sometimes the person you love isn't someone you end up with or should even be with. Moreover, I liked that romance wasn't the driving force for the characters actions but rather friendships and partnerships are as, if not, more important. 

War of Mist was my favourite read of the three in The Omerere Chronicles. I'm actually so glad I started Heart of Mist and kept reading through to the end because it was well worth waiting for the finale. I was anticipating how Scheuerer would wrap everything up and am deeply satisfied, albeit feeling a whole other range of emotions whilst reading the finale. 


Overall Series


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Thursday, 4 July 2019

The Pilot Episode of Euphoria Isn't Very Euphoric (But That Doesn't Mean It's Not Good)

The Pilot Episode of Euphoria Isn't Very Euphoric (But That Doesn't Mean It's Not Good)


Euphoria is HBO’s latest show, starring Zendaya as 17-year-old Rue Bennett, returning to her family after being admitted to rehab. Despite the title implying joy and ecstasy,  the show is far from out.

According to HBO, “Euphoria follows a group of high school students as they navigate love and friendships in a world of drugs, sex, trauma, and social media.”  The description provided is very much a downplayed version of the show itself, or the pilot episode at least, that recently aired. Sure, the description introduces all the themes explored in the episode, but it doesn’t prepare you for the imagery and scenes that assist in exploring these aspects. 

There are definitely a variety of other shows out there that cover the same topics. So why am I writing about this? Euphoria has stood out to me. It’s brought to the table something that I think is significant and needs to be addressed - navigating life as an adolescent, in high school specifically, with a vast range of external factors that can influence you whilst learning about your own self. 

The first episode alone introduced issues that many would find relevant, but have become taboo topics, such as:
  • Mental health
  • Substance abuse
  • Healthy/unhealthy relationships
  • Sex and intimacy
  • Self-esteem and body image
  • Digital age - including use of social media, dating apps and pornography
It also explores more familiar themes such as family ties, love, trust, morality and loss. 

Euphoria is hard to watch. It’s confronting and shocking, and initially I found it to be the reason why I like this show. It didn't shy away from showcasing issues that many would rather pretend didn't exist and that ignoring it could make it go away. Generally, mass media representations of any of these topics are quite negative and promote the need for further control and prohibition. Instead, Euphoria addresses the why. Why do adolescents resort to substance abuse? Why do they commit to relationships that produce more harm than happiness? Why do they submit to peer pressure? And on, and on, and on. The show tries to address these questions because no one else ever seems to want to.  Most of the time we align kids, teenagers, young adults who are "troubled" as "deviant" and require punishment rather than trying to understand what has reduced them to being identified as just their actions. Understanding the why can provide answers to how - how to intervene and help.

The show does feel like it bundles together all these topics, put them under a microscopic lens and enhances them. It feels sensationalised for the sake of entertainment, but despite the first episode covering a variety of issues, it's not as far fetched as many other drama shows tend to be. Real life people do have the same experiences as the characters on the show. It’s absolutely terrifying to even consider let alone acknowledge but the problems are there. Rather than ignoring them, as a community, we should be encouraging younger people to speak up about these real life topics.

My only criticism though, and why I might reconsider watching every episode in detail, is that, despite being about teenagers in high school, I'm not sure the show is suited for teenagers. There is a lot of nudity, drug and alcohol taking, sex scenes and other scenes that may trigger trauma in individuals. I felt super uncomfortable 30 seconds to 1 minute into the second episode with the amount of nudity involved.

Euphoria is attempting to be different. It's attempting to stir reactions and create some noise amongst the heavy proliferation of images and videos of drugs, sex and violence in the media that young people have to navigate through. I appreciate its effort, I really do. There are 3 episodes out already and I will mull over as to whether I will continue to watch the show, for the sake of seeing how successful the show is at raising awareness and addressing these important themes. The website does offer support resources, which I love to see with any show that wants to create social justice change.

You can stream Euphoria on HBO for free or through Foxtel Showcase (in Australia).

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Sunday, 16 June 2019

"Where The Captain Goes" Took Me On A Journey


Title: Where The Captain Goes
Author: Sean Carney
Publication Date: April, 2017
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When her daughter is bitten by a vampire, a desperate mother seeks the aid of an old, disgraced ship captain to sail them across the border and into the mountains towards their only hope of a cure. But will they find what they seek? Or something else?



Review



Where the Captain Goes wouldn’t necessarily be something I would’ve picked up for myself had it not be for the fact that Sean Carney is, yes, someone I know but also that I’ve been looking to read more from local Melbourne authors. Carney originally wrote a play based upon Dracula before deciding to write a sequel to the play in form of this novella. He does state in his preface that there is no need to watch the play to understand what happens in this story and thankfully that is the case as I have yet to see the play myself.

The novella is short. I zoomed through it in about 45 minutes, during a train ride. Yet, for how short it was I was captivated by the plot. What I loved most about Where the Captain Goes is that it knows it has one story to tell and no more. It doesn’t try to do more than what it promises and instead, I set sail with the Captain and Mary feeling as though rather than being a pair we are a trio. This came down to Carney’s vivid writing, managing to transport me into the Gothic world in which Dracula and other vampires supposedly exist. If anything I was glad the train ride was long as I was emotionally involved and wanted to reach the end as I had spent the entire time wishing for some sort of happy ending. Carney delivered on the tone as well - grim and sinister.

I did find (and I’m not sure if I was reading too much into it) that it also explored the lengths to which humans - or we - will go to achieve what we truly want. It follows that up by questioning whether actions can be justified by the intentions behind them, which gave me much to think about. 

Where the Captain Goes is a great, short read and was a unique experience for me. I couldn’t a find fault because of its length but also in that I found it to be very well written and enjoyable. If you are a fan of gothic, horror stories and want something to read one night definitely give this a go!


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Monday, 10 June 2019

Review: Reign of Mist (The Omerere Trilogy #2) by Helen Scheuerer


Title: Reign of Mist 
Series: The Omerere Trilogy
Author: Helen Scheuerer 
Publication Date: September 13th, 2018
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The realm's darkest secret is out. 

The cruelty of the capital and the power-hungry King Arden have scattered Bleak and her companions across the continents. 

On the run in a foreign land, Bleak finds herself tied to some unexpected strangers. When the answers she yearns for are finally within reach, she must face the hard truths of her past, and take her fate into her own hands before it's too late.

Meanwhile, secrets and magic unravel as a dark power corrupts the realm. Bleak's friends are forced to decided where their loyalties lie, and who, if anyone, they can trust.

But one thing is certain: war is coming, and they must all be ready when it does.

Review


I received an e-ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review


Reign of Mist is the second instalment to The Omerere Trilogy and it’s the book that brings most of the answers for the questions I, and the characters, had in the first book but also builds up towards a finale that I am so ready to get my hands on and find out how everything wraps up! 

Scheuerer’s strength is in her writing, more specifically in her world building. The world has expanded further, following on from Heart of Mist, with each city and its landscape written in such vivid and magical way. Yes, I did use the word magical, but it’s so true! It was so easy for me to imagine the expansive, wintery land of Havenesse with its mountainous ranges coated in thick layers of snow. I easily fell in love with how pretty the land was but also how, not just Havenesse but the other lands in the realm, had specific areas that made them unique. 

I also really liked that there was no dawdling at the beginning of the book - the plot picked up from where it left and didn’t take its time to try and explain what happened previously or who each of the characters were. Scheuerer chooses instead to bring up what happened in the first book in different forms of conversations with other characters or having characters reflect on how far they’ve come, which I thought was smart. There was a lot of action in Reign of Mist. A lot. The storyline included a huge number of on-edge, intense moments that did keep me flicking the pages. However, by the final third I felt like I had already gone through so much and still wasn’t over yet, and I was suspecting that there was more action to come. It felt like Scheuerer wanted the characters to do everything and anything to keep the plot interesting but also put the characters through testing moments to show their character development and strengths/weaknesses. At times, I felt like some moments weren’t necessary or could’ve played out at a different time further along or before it actually happened in the book.

Surprisingly, or maybe not considering I did say I was anticipating this in my last review, I grew to really like Bleak. I wanted to read from her perspective more and would’ve felt content following Bleak through half of the book. There was a lot of jumping around between characters, the same characters as Heart of Mist, but some perspectives I didn’t care for as much. For instance, I loved Dash’s storyline in the first book but in Reign of Mist I wouldn’t have noticed if there was less of him only because  it felt like he added nothing as a character to the plot. There are new characters to learn about and love. Queen Eydis is an absolute GIRL BOSS so keep an eye out for her.

Overall, I enjoyed the direction of the plot in this series and the character revelations. I got to the cliffhanger and was caught by surprised and think Reign of Mist was a great read on its own, adds to the intrigue of the overall storyline and builds up to what I’m expecting to be a great finale. There was a palpable energy that I picked up in the last 100 pages and I’m super excited! 


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Wednesday, 5 June 2019

The Waiting List: June 2019 Releases

The Waiting List is a feature hosted by PrintedWordsAnd, where I list some upcoming releases for the month that I'm most excited about!

June 2019 Releases



I'll Never Tell by Catherine McKenzie - June 1st
Five siblings return home after their parents pass away to determine what to do with the Estate. However, before they can make a decision they need to solve the mysterious death of Amanda Holmes 20 years ago.

Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian - June 4th
Young Adult, LGBTIQA/Diversity read that deals with not only reconciling with the characters' identity but also with key issues regarding AIDs.

Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett - June 4th
This is one of those novels that I didn't think I'd pick up but that's also why I'm really intrigued to read it. Jessa-Lynn Morton finds her dad dead after he suicides. After that she has to step up to support her family as well as trying to balance her relationship between her brother and his wife, who she is in love with as well. 

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong - June 4th
Not only has On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous has received a lot of love so far, it's piqued my interest because of the context behind it. I come from a refugee family, with my dad's family escaping Vietnam during the war. Despite that I haven't read a lot of stories regarding this era and I am really excited to get to this.

The Forgotten Sister by Caroline Bond - June 6th
17-year-old Cassie sets out to find her birth mother, but she might not have been ready to discover what is really the truth behind her adoption.


Storm and Fury (The Harbringer #1) by Jennifer L. Armentrout - June 11th
Latest series from a well-known author, Storm and Fury is the latest YA paranormal read.

Mrs Everything by Jennifer Weiner - June 11th
Weiner sets her story in a historical context, following 2 sisters with different dreams and pathways, but ultimately attempting to navigate how to be a women in their era.

One Night at the Lake by Bethany Chase - June 18th
June and her fiancé Ollie head to his family lake house 7 years after they visited last time with Ollie's then girlfriend and June's then best friend Leah, who disappeared. I'm sorry what?! Did she steal her best friend's boyfriend, what is going on? Yeah that was legitimately my initial reaction.

The Stationary Shop by Marjan Kamali - June 18th
A romance tale where two people felt destined to be together and reunite 60 years later to answer questions on why it didn't work out between them in the past.

The Art of Breaking Things by Laura Sibson - June 18th
(Trigger warnings for sexual/child assault, trauma and substance abuse)
Sibson takes this YA contemporary novel, The Art of Breaking Things, to explore family responsibilities and relationships and dealing with trauma. I do think this will be super confrontational but know that I'll gain something out of it.

What Are You Looking Forward To In June?


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Sunday, 2 June 2019

Talking Personal: Favourite Bits of 2019 So Far

The last time I wrote a Talking Personal it was in December, 2017. 2017?! The whole point of the post was to say that I'm getting right back into blogging but also that I would catch up with you guys after New Years 2018. L O L. Who I was kidding? Anyways, hi, I'm here, I'm alive. Let's get right into it!

2018 was a complete dud of a year in terms of posting. To be fair though, I blogged about my Europe trip and that comes pretty close to a Talking Personal doesn't it? I also wrote a wrap up to 2018 so we're going to dive straight into 2019!

Not much has happened if I'm going to be completely honest. I decided this year isn't the year to travel, so instead I've been looking into local events. I haven't done a lot exploring around Melbourne considering I live here so it's been pretty fun and exciting. It's also great that I get to recommend the different things that I've done to people I know!

Summer Highlights


  • Celebrating New Years Eve/New Years with a great bunch of people 
  • Seeing the Sciencework's moon installation - I hadn't been back to Sciencework's since 2006 
  • Going to an Australia Day event at Riva St Kilda - I'm not a huge music festival person, but this was so fun! 
  • Seeing Jorja Smith was incredible, she is amazing live.
  • The AFL season started again and that will ALWAYS be a highlight for any year.
  • I went to Moomba for the first time and actually really liked it. The layout around Birrarung Marr coupled with how nice the weather was that night made for such a great end to the summer.


 

  • The "Sunset Safari" at Werribee Zoo, which involved an African drumming workshop, the opportunity to see the animals after closing time and an African banquet that was delicious. The Werribee Zoo has a number of events popping up that's worth looking at.
  • I went to two different trance/hardstyle events, which, if I was honest, I would not expect to see myself there. The first one was "It's A Fine Night" and the second one "Paradigm". I did go to see two artists that I really like - Vini Vici and Mandragora
  • I also made it a mission to get to as many beaches as I could during the summer and I'd have to say it was a success
Other than those events, I had my last week of classes ever in my Masters this week and am en route to graduating if I manage to get all my final assessments in, so huge fingers crossed situation going on right now.

That's what my first 6 months for the year has been like! I had a great summer, exploring my home. Winter has kicked in, or more like fly kicked me in the face, because of how cold it's quickly become. I'm not 100% sure what the next 6 months will bring, but I guess that's part of life, being completed unexpected. Hopefully the next time I get to writing one of these I'll have a lot to talk about as well.

How has the first half of 2019 been for you?


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Monday, 27 May 2019

"A Good Month for Murder" is More Than Just a Good Read


Title: A Good Month for Murder: The Inside Story of a Homicide Squad
Author: Del Quentin Wilber
Publication Date: June 7th, 2016
Twelve homicides, three police-involved shootings and the furious hunt for an especially brutal killer - February 2013 was a good month for murder in suburban Washington D.C. 

After gaining unparalleled access to the homicide unit in Prince George's County, which borders the nation's capital, Del Quentin Wilber begins shadowing the talented, often quirky detectives who get the call when a body falls. After a quiet couple of months, all hell breaks loose: suddenly every detective in the squad is scrambling to solve one shooting and stabbing after another. Meanwhile, the entire unit is obsessed with a stone-cold "red ball", a high-profile case involving a seventeen-year-old honor student attacked by a gunman who kicked down the door to her house and shot her in her bed.



Review


I was expecting A Good Month for Murder to read almost like mainstream crime shows - fast-paced, gruesome and nail biting. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by the way Del Quinton Wilber narrated the different cases. 

My favourite part about AGMM is that it didn’t need to dramatise or sensationalise each case to grab my attention. Wilber kept his narration at an objective level, detailing each case as it happened. The murders and care real life, there’s no doubting these killings happen, but he also includes the context behind them. The deaths occur in low-socio economic areas, mostly by minority groups, but instead of fixating on the usual discourse of minority youths or groups having “deviant” natures and drawn to crime, Wilber’s narrative outlines the background of the individuals and the circumstances that could have led them to committing the crime or becoming a victim. It conveys further issues that lack addressing in most Western societies, such as drug abuse, lack of job opportunities and lack of support or resources available for residents in disadvantage areas. 

I also liked that the voices of the detectives were included. Wilber showcased each detective involved not only to relay the hard work each officer contributed but to also make them personable and relatable. It’s hard, especially in a US context, to really like police officers following news reports of police abuse and miscarriage of justice. The media coverage on police shootings have negatively impacted the image of police squads and their ability to deliver justice and safety. However, police officers in this recount, though not always perfect, attempt to treat each case with respect and the impact it has on them at a professional and personal level. Homicide cases are not easily solvable, as crime dramas seem to portray, as so I found AGMM to be realistic in that sense as well.

The book is structured so that the recounts are not chronological. I’m moving in and out of the 12 cases, which keeps me engaged but also wanting to know more. I flew through AGMM, reading it in a day and a half. Not once was I ever confused about which case I was reading, and despite finishing this at the end of 2018, I can still recollect details of some of the cases. Wilber was thorough in his description and never fluffed about. It was easy to visualise and recall the events of each case. 

If you want to get into true crime or are already a fan, definitely give this a go!


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Wednesday, 22 May 2019

25 Books I Want To Read This Year


My aim this year was to read 25 books, a feat that seems small but something I’ve been struggling with for close to 4 years now. I’ve stopped trying to pressure myself to read just for the sake of reading, but it’s now become something I’ve started to neglect and I don’t like that one bit. Instead, I’ve curated a reading list for 2019 that I want to refer to in case I end up straying away from the reading path. Again.

My two friends and I have also attempted to establish a book club. Essentially we have a number of books we want to read together, which has helped with knowing what I want to read this year. Some of them will be part of this list a well!

25 Books I Want To Read This Year


The following 5 books are all non-fiction, and a genre that I'm trying really hard to get into and read more of - especially motivational/self-help and true crime and history
2. Boys Will Be Boys by Clementine Ford
3. Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

I'm playing catch up with these series, except for A Face Like Glass. I am so behind with YA series, especially with ones that I've loved and were really anticipating but never ended up picking up the continuation.
6. Obsidio (The Illuminae Files #3) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff'
10. A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge **


11.  The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
I'm really keen to read this due to the political climate that this revolved around, but also because I haven't seen the movie adaptation and want to read it first
12. The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
13. Call Me Evie by J.P Pomare
14. Maus (Complete Collection) by Art Spiegelman
15. Harry Potter by J.K Rowling**
I'm not 100% sure I'm going to read the entire series again or just pick my favourite one and read, but definitely for the month of July!

I've had most of these books (17-19) on my TBR list for forever! They're all really well-known and much loved so I do have high expectations for these reads.
16. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley **
17. 1984 by George Orwell
18. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
19. We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
20. Where the Captain Goes by Sean Carney 
Local Melbournian, Sean Carney writes horror themed stories, and I'm kind of very excited to dabble in his works starting with this one!

I do like Adult Fiction and think it's a good break from YA, which I tend to read more. I'm also disappointed that I haven't picked up Kate Morton's new novel yet, considering she's one of my favourite authors.
21. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
22. The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton
23. Atonement by Ian McEwan**
Jane Eyre is kidnapped from her novel in this alternative universe and Thursday Next, renowned literary detective, must dive into Bronte's world to save her character. If you read that and didn't immediately want to read it then I'm sorry but I'm shaking my head at you right now.

What Are You Reading This Year?



** indicates re-read
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Sunday, 19 May 2019

Review: Heart of Mist (The Oremere Chronicles) by Helen Scheurer

Title: Heart of Mist
Series: The Oremere Chronicles
Author: Helen Scheurer
Publication Date: August 31st, 2017
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In a realm where toxic mist sweeps the lands and magic is forbidden, all Bleak wants is a cure for her power.  Still grieving the death of her guardian and dangerous self-medicating with alcohol, Bleak is snatched from her home by the Commander of the King's Army, and summoned to the capital. But the King isn't the only one interested in Bleak's powers.

The leader of an infamous society of warriors, the Valia Kindred, lays claim to her as well, and Bleak finds herself in the middle of a much bigger battle than she anticipated.




Review


I received an e-ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

When I was approached by Helen to see if I was interested in delving into her high fantasy series, I took a quick squizz on Goodreads to see if Heart of Mist would tickle my fancy. I was intrigued and readily agreed, hoping that I would be pulled back into the world of fantasy and a new world with new characters. 

What I liked about Heart of Mist is that it dives straight into the plot, instead of plodding through the character's background and the world's history in the first half. I loved that I got to learn about the characters whilst the world expanded as they traveled through the kingdom. It made the plot flow well and I wanted to keep on reading to know more about the characters and the world they were in. 

Bleak is the main character in Heart of Mist, but as interesting as her mysterious upbringing was, I found that I was more attached to the side characters. I couldn't tell if it's because Bleak was written as sullen and unlikable, or that I personally found her to be not as enthralling. Instead, my favourites were Fiore, a soldier in the king's army and Dash, the son of the king's servant. I haven't learnt much about Fiore, but Dash was intriguing and exciting to read through. I think it's his recklessness and wanting to prove himself, but also the fact that by the end of the book, Helen reveals something really important about him that has made me want to keep reading the series to follow his character arc! Even Swinton, Bren and Henri were really enjoyable to read through and about. The fact that I remember most of the characters as well, means that Helen was able to make them memorable and with a voice of their own. 

I am really excited to continue with the series, as the last third of Heart of Mist picked up and I was a lot more engaged emotionally. I want to know what happens to the characters, the world they're in and the overall outcome. There's potential for me to eventually like Bleak - I'm anticipating it actually. Helen was able to build a strong world and impressionable characters. The lead up to the next book also left me on edge and I'm honestly thankful that Heart of Mist has nudged me out of my very long slump and I'm ready to dive right back into reading again.


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Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Why You Should Travel Solo At Least Once In Your Life

Why You Should Travel Solo At Least Once In Your Life


In 2017, I found myself alone in two different countries (Japan and Korea) for 17 days. That was not what I had planned, but it paved the way for my love for solo travel. So much that I booked a 5 week trip to Europe last year, travelling through 9 different countries, and loving every incredible moment of it. 

When people say you should travel alone once in your life, they’re not wrong. It’s a cliche, (at least I think it’s a cliche expression right?), but it’s so true. It’s absolutely daunting and no one ever chooses to really be alone when they have the option of experiencing different cultures with others, but what you gain from travelling solo makes everything worthwhile. Here are the reasons why I love solo travel and why you should embark on a journey alone once in your life:

Meeting New People 


I’m fairly sure this would make the top of the list for a lot of people who have travelled alone. You are guaranteed to meet some exciting people who are either travelling alone or with some friends, or locals in the area. The friends I’ve gained from both trips and my travel abroad semester has brought me so many memories and utter joy. In fact, I can safely say some of the people I met will surely be life long friends, friends I can catch up with on the other side of the world and still have a laugh and reminisce on our old times whilst creating new memories. One of my favourite people I met in Europe last year and he holds a special place in my heart. It’s also a great excuse to jet off on a holiday once in a while and I love that I get to experience the different countries through a local’s perspective - Berlin was a great example with my friend Lan who hosted me and took me around the city!


Being Alone


This is kind of a weird point, but for me, travelling alone is great because I’m alone. I get to do things at my own pace, decide where I want to go, what I want to eat and when it’ll all happen. Planning a trip for yourself means you know you will make decisions that will make you happy and excited because it’s what YOU want to do. Seriously, experience it once in your life. It may sound selfish but you also need to put yourself first. Sometimes it is hard to say no to a friend or to prioritise someone else’s needs before yours, so let yourself enjoy a trip that you perfectly catered for yourself.


Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone


Travelling alone isn’t easy. Meeting new people and enjoying your company requires you to really step out of your comfort zone and it’s this challenge that makes me fully appreciate being alone in a different country. You’re forced to make conversation first, extend an invite to join you for a night our or lunch during the day. I find that my confidence has greatly increased since finding that I enjoy travelling alone. So often we’re use to someone approaching us or walking straight past someone, even if they could potentially be a great friend in the future. Moreover, the activities you get up to could well be things you never thought you could accomplish or even enjoy alone. I loved that I was able to hike the tallest mountain in Seoul, go on a pub crawl through Paris and attend a 4 day, 12 hour night festival in Barcelona. It also forces you to be okay with being alone. You’re not always going to be surrounded by people, I found that there were days where I would just be by myself and my thoughts. Honestly, it made me appreciate my “me” time whilst also being able to reflect on my surroundings and myself. I did learn a lot about myself, as cliche as that sounds.


Have You Ever Travelled Alone Before? Do You Plan On Travelling Alone?


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Sunday, 5 May 2019

"Monsters of Verity" is Another Tick to V.E Schwab's Name


Series: Monsters of Verity
Author: Victoria/V.E Schwab
There's no such thing as safe in a city war, a city overrun with monsters ...

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city - city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent - but he's one of the monsters. one who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who's just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August's secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

Review


I’m surprised but I also don’t know why I’m surprised as to why I thoroughly enjoyed Monsters of Verity when V.E Schwab hasn’t disappointed me so far. In her other series, Shades of Magic, I wrote that I was smitten in my review and I can now pinpoint that what I’m really smitten about is her writing. Schwab writes in such a compelling manner, that I find it hard not to love the characters, the plot and the world. 
The world is developed in such a strong way, with rich history behind each city to make it realistic. When Schwab decided to expand the world, I liked that she didn’t invest too much time trying to explain how relevant the new city is only because it’s a minor stopover and not necessarily something readers need to fixate on. I find that some fantasy novels take it a little too far and I do get confused trying to keep up on the different places with different names. 

Plot wise, I did notice that the first half of both books were slightly too slow for me. When I started This Savage Song I had to keep pushing myself but once it reached the halfway point it picked up and became addictive and engrossing. The intensity peaked and I flew through the last half pretty quickly. The continuation in Our Dark Duet wasn’t as slow, but I found that getting back into rhythm didn’t happen until after the first quarter of the book. What I did love about the plot was how realistic it was. Not from the fantasy perspective but from the implications of war and the consequences of bad actions. There is an array of emotions that are exhibited and I felt it all - from the happiness to sadness, grief and loss to pain and healing, it made me really appreciate the storyline only because Schwab wasn’t trying to please every reader by making everything sweet and dandy. 

The strongest element in Monsters of Verity though, are Schwab’s characters. Kate and August are written with so much depth, they become memorable and convincingly relatable. It’s hard not to fight for them and believe in them. I just wanted the best for them and to be happy all the time, which meant I was really invested in the characters and for that Schwab has succeeded in delivering a fantastic series. I’m not a fan of reading novels that make me feel detached but through the characters I was captivated. 

I’m excited to see what else V.E Schwab has to deliver, especially after experiencing this series and how emotional I was after reading it!

Individual Ratings

This Savage Song: 4/5
Our Dark Duet: 4/5

Overall Series Rating


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Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Travel Diary: And So It Ends, In Beautiful Geneva

 These are a series of posts covering my 5 weeks in Europe, and each country I see in bite sizes. Or as my best friend likes to say, “speed touristing.” I visited most places for 4 days, with the exception of Germany and some day trips. This is my way of taking you guys on my adventures through Europe, giving you guys my thoughts on each place and any tips I’ve picked up!

And So It Ends, In Beautiful Geneva


Alas, we have reached the end of my five week trip … that happened almost a year ago. Yep. Guys I am back to complete my bitesize travel posts. 

Five weeks of flying through Europe made me really appreciate ending my trip in the beautiful city of Geneva. It was the perfect opportunity for me to wind down before heading home. I had 4 days to discover Geneva, which, thankfully, was enough time as the city itself is quite small. I was also grateful that I had a friend to stay with, making it a lot more convenient to visit different sites in the city and learn how to access public transport. We spent our days walking around the city, seeking out look out points and having picnics in the local parks. Geneva isn’t a cheap place to travel to though, much like the rest of Switzerland. I barely ate at restaurants, instead accompanying my friends on her grocery trips and grabbing local cheese and bread, coupled with fruits and other cold meats. Look, if there’s cheese involved I cannot complain.


Geneva being crazy expensive also didn’t help when I wanted to do a final shopping trip. I picked up a bottle of perfume for almost AUD$250, eeeep. Luckily, Lyon is just a two hour bus ride across the border. I booked myself a ticket and spent a day in France, planning to just eat and shop to my hearts content before I left. The amount of croissants I consumed could be considered alarming, but we’re not going to go there. I found a really cute restaurant for lunch, which changes their one item menu daily. There’s a communal feel that, despite eating alone, I felt welcomed and comfortable as everyone in the restaurant was sharing the same meal and experience. If you’re not up for dining in, there’s also a takeaway option that’s packed into a lunch box as well! I walked and window shopped, finding a shop with an immense amount of French wines, before picking up some more skincare I didn’t get the chance to buy whilst in Paris. Lyon itself is also quite pretty. I found that I liked being there more than when I was in Paris.


Both Geneva and Lyon are quiet cities, perfect for spending some alone time or just wanting to relax and enjoy the scenery. Places do close super early in Geneva, with most shutting just after 5 or 6 and on Sunday being closed - just to keep in mind. Public transport is easily accessible but walking is also a great option to take in your surroundings. Even flying into the city is breathtaking with the Alps and Lake Geneva is in full view through the plane’s windows.

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Monday, 14 January 2019

Travel Diary: Primavera Sound 2018 in Barcelona


These are a series of posts covering my 5 weeks in Europe, and each country I see in bite sizes. Or as my best friend likes to say, “speed touristing.” I visited most places for 4 days, with the exception of Germany and some day trips. This is my way of taking you guys on my adventures through Europe, giving you guys my thoughts on each place and any tips I’ve picked up!

Primavera Sound 2018 in Barcelona



I can’t really say I visited Barcelona because I barely saw any of it. Instead, I went to Barcelona to attend the Primavera Sound Music Festival. I extended my Europe trip just to attend this because the line up was insane, or to be specific, A$AP Rocky was headlining and that was all the persuasion I needed. 

Barcelona was the only place I visited where I didn’t have a friend to visit, and was the first time since Stockholm where I had only my company to enjoy. It made the whole experience a lot more interesting. I was use to eating by myself but going to a festival alone was a first. 

I got to Barcelona a day before attending Primavera Sound just to settle in and sightsee a little. By sightsee I mean seeing what Barcelona’s night life is like. There are a ton of clubs along the beach to hit up, most very well-known. I opted for Opium, which is located right next to Shoko and Pacha (yes, the same club as the one in Ibiza), both popular clubs as well. You can get free entry as well - I just googled which club to go to and it came up with websites to receive free entry! I’ve been clubbing alone before so to me that wasn’t anything new. Barcelona is a city that really never sleeps, it was easy to go to and from the place and feel quite safe being alone.

Heading to the music festival I knew exactly which artists I wanted to see and what time to get there. Preparation 101 guys. The place also has a great range of food selection and various drink stands. It is cash only though, but there are ATMs available to withdraw. Parc del Forum is huge!! There are stages everywhere and there were times I, and other people, would have to sprint to stages not to miss artists we wanted to see. 

The artists I came to see were: 

Day One - Kelela, Vince Staples and CHRVCHES

Day Two - The Internet and Tyler, the Creator

Day Three - Lorde, Arctic Monkeys, A$AP Rocky and Skepta

Hands down day three was the best! I ended up being “adopted” by an English group, who were there to see Arctic Monkeys, and then found a group from Ireland whilst at the A$AP Rocky stage. We saw Skepta together and didn’t leave the place until 6AM. All artists I saw were amazing, had great stage presence and were great at hyping the crowd.

I saw other artists here and there, whilst running around trying to find stages and artists, but don’t quite remember. I do remember seeing Bjork for a bit and never thought I’d be seeing such an artist live, so I enjoyed that! The festival had a great line up, with artists I listen to now and didn’t even know was playing! Primavera Sound has released 2019’s line up so check it out! It runs over a number of days from 6PM to 6AM. 

The last two days there I tried to see as much of the area I was in, mostly Placa del Catalunya. I had a friend from Canada who was also in Barcelona so we ended spending most of the 2nd last day together, eating and playing board games in a cafe. A great way to end a crazy few days!

Accomodation

This is a fancy hostel, with a huge lounge area, modern rooms and a rooftop pool! Do expect it to be on the pricier end of hostels.

Places I Ate At

All I did was brunch in Barcelona, which was really strange.


Flax and Kale and Teresa Carles are from the same company, focused on promoting healthy and organic meals. Teresa Carles is vegetarian/vegan only! Caravelle had a line every time I tried to visit but I finally got a spot. 

I did try La Taperia de el Nacional, which is a tapas place that I loved; the concept was that the waiters would run around yelling out what tapas plate they had and we would have to raise our hands if we wanted it. 

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