Friday, April 29, 2016

Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

Title: Running with Scissors

Author: Augusten Burroughs

Published: Picador, 2003 (First published 2002)

Pages: 300

Purchase Links:
The Nile
Book Depository

Summary: The true story of a boy whose mother (a poet with delusions of Anne Sexton) gave him away to be raised by her unorthodox psychiatrist who bore a striking resemblance to Santa Claus. 

So at the age of twelve, Burroughs found himself amidst Victorian squalor living with the doctor's bizarre family, and befriending a paedophile who resided in the backyard shed. The story of an outlaw childhood where rules were unheard of, and the Christmas tree stayed up all year round, where Valium was consumed like candy, and if things got dull an electroshock-therapy machine could provide entertainment.  (Taken from Goodreads)

Thoughts: This book is strangely addictive and somewhat disgusting.  I say disgusting just because of the amount of dirt and things that were in the house Augusten went to live in and it was something I found hard to stomach. That being said, the book really was addictive and I had a hard time putting it down.

Running with Scissors centers on Augusten and his life from a young boy to a teenager. His life is very crazy and so much happens in such a short amount of time. He ends up living with his mother's psychiatrist and him and his family are very eccentric.  There are so many strange things that happen, at times it seems crazy that all of this actually happened to someone.

There are some pretty intense parts to this book. Augusten Burroughs had a very strange life and a lot of it was not good. There were quite a few parts of this book that I was a little shocked at. It's really difficult to write about my thoughts on this book because it's someone else's life and their telling it. I will say that it's very well written and the way that Augusten Burroughs writes is definitely engaging.

Overall, I found Running with Scissors to be strangely engrossing and I definitely feel like I will be reading more of Augusten Burroughs' work. I've already had a look at his other books and they sound very intriguing.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Visitor by Amanda Stevens

Title: The Visitor

Author: Amanda Stevens

Published: Mira, March 2016

Pages: 400

Series: Book 4, Graveyard Queen

Purchase Links:
Book Depository
The Nile

Summary: May contain spoilers! Restoring lost and abandoned cemeteries is my profession, but I'm starting to believe that my true calling is deciphering the riddles of the dead. Legend has it that Kroll Cemetery is a puzzle no one has ever been able to solve. For over half a century, the answer has remained hidden within the strange headstone inscriptions and intricate engravings. Because uncovering the mystery of that tiny, remote graveyard may come at a terrible price.

Years after their mass death, Ezra Kroll's disciples lie unquiet, their tormented souls trapped within the walls of Kroll Cemetery, waiting to be released by someone strong and clever enough to solve the puzzle. For whatever reason, I'm being summoned to that graveyard by both the living and the dead. Every lead I follow, every clue I unravel brings me closer to an unlikely killer and to a destiny that will threaten my sanity and a future with my love, John Devlin.  (Taken from Goodreads)

Thoughts: I've waited to read this book for about four years and now it's finally here. As soon as I spotted it on NetGalley I snapped it up to read as I have been waiting so long. The trouble with waiting so long though, is I had forgotten a lot of what happened in the last book. I was also a little nervous that I wouldn't really enjoy this one after I had been waiting for so long. So I let the book sit for a while.

The things I love the most about this series are the mystery elements and the spooky vibe. I felt like in this book there was a little less of both those things but the creepy parts were still pretty creepy. The mystery aspect of this one was better than what I remember of the third book but I felt like there wasn't a whole lot of emphasis put on this one.

I think the thing that bothered me the most about this book was that I didn't like Devlin and I just thought there was too much weird stuff going on with him. The relationship between him and Amelia felt really awkward and strange that every time he was in the book I felt kind of uncomfortable, like I didn't want him to be there.

Overall, I enjoyed reading The Visitor but it just didn't feel like the previous three books in the series. That being said, I might actually go back and read the first three again at some point before I pick up book five as I really couldn't remember much of the previous books.

Source: NetGalley for review

Friday, April 22, 2016

Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson

Title: Shadows of Self

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Published: Gollancz, 2015

Pages: 383

Series: Book 5, Mistborn

Purchase Links:
The Nile
The Book Depository

Summary: May contain spoilers! This bustling, optimistic, but still shaky society now faces its first instance of terrorism, crimes intended to stir up labor strife and religious conflict. Wax and Wayne, assisted by the lovely, brilliant Marasi, must unravel the conspiracy before civil strife stops Scadrial’s progress in its tracks. (Taken from Goodreads)

Thoughts: I wasn't the biggest fan of the first three Mistborn books, they were enjoyable but they weren't my favourite books by Brandon Sanderson. But I really loved The Alloy of Law which is book four so I was excited about reading Shadows of Self.

The book started off really interestingly but one issue I had was that I had trouble remembering what had happened in The Alloy of Law which is also about the same characters. So, I kind of had to second guess myself about some of the characters, eventually I started to remember things again and I was away and reading the book.

The book has a really good mystery, as it opens with a mass-murder and you have no idea whats going on. Eventually Wax gets called to the scene and from there he pieces together bits and pieces to try and figure out what happened.

I'm really fascinated by Wayne's magic use and just the things he does. He's so mysterious and I just feel like I want to know more about him and his past and what he can do.

I really enjoyed reading this book, there was an interesting mix of magic and technology as this has a Western feel to it. I kind of feel like there's something missing from it though. As though there's something more that I wanted from the story that I just didn't get. I just don't know exactly what it is.  That being said, I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series so I will be reading that one soon.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The New Zealand Section: The Killing Hour by Paul Cleave

Title: The Killing Hour
Author: Paul Cleave
Published: Atria Books, 2013

The Killing Hour

Synopsis: 'They come for me as I sleep. Their pale faces stare at me, their soft voices tell me to wake, to wake. They come to remind me of the night, to remind me of what I have done.'
Only Charlie doesn't know what he has done. His shorts are covered in blood, there's a bump on his forehead and on the news it says the two young women he was with the night before were brutally murdered. 
Charlie knows Cyris is the murderer - except the police don't believe Cyris exists. Nor does Jo, Charlie's ex-wife, to whom he goes for help. He desperately wants her to believe in him, and when she doesn't, he knows he must force her. As Charlie goes on the run with Jo bound and gagged in the car boot, he tries to figure out whether Cyris is real or imagined, while the killing hour approaches yet again... (Taken from Goodreads)

Thoughts: This is Paul Cleave's second published novel, the first being The Cleaner. I really enjoyed The Cleaner and was interested in picking up the second book written by Paul Cleave. While this is not a sequel to The Cleaner, it's set in the same place and references the first book once or twice. There are, I believe a couple of references to a character who will be focused on in a later book too. That being said, I don't think you need to have read any of Paul Cleave's other books to enjoy this.

I went into this book not knowing a lot about it, as I didn't bother reading the synopsis. I think that was a really good way to go into the book as I was really surprised by everything that happened. The synopsis doesn't give a lot of plot away, it was just that I had no idea what was happening right from the start.

I really loved this book. I read it in two days in four settings. I genuinely couldn't put it down. The book starts off with Charlie waking up and things are revealed really slowly about what happened and as they get revealed his story just seems so crazy and unbelievable. It's really hard to tell if Charlie was telling the truth or if he was just making up this insane sounding story.

I don't think there was ever a dull moment in The Killing Hour as there was always something going on. There were a few twists and turns that were really unexpected. It really was just a thrilling book.

In terms of the New Zealand aspect of this book, it's set in Christchurch, New Zealand which I'm quite familiar with so it was very interesting reading the book and finding the main character Charlie finding himself in places which I was quite familiar. It's definitely something different hearing about a killer in a place you're very familiar with.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Killing Hour by Paul Cleave. It's so interesting and fans of thrillers should definitely check it out as it has an interesting spin on the run of the mill thrillers that are out there. I am definitely going to be checking out more by Paul Cleave.

Where to Purchase the Book:

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King

Title: The Bazaar of Bad Dreams

Author: Stephen King

Published: Hodder & Stoughton, 2015

Pages: 483

Summary: In The Bazaar of Bad Dreams there is a curio for every reader – a man who keeps reliving the same life, repeating the same mistakes over and over again, a columnist who kills people by writing their obituaries, a poignant tale about the end of the human race and a firework competition between neighbours which reaches an explosive climax.

There are also intriguing connections between the stories – themes of morality, guilt, the afterlife and what we would do differently if we could see into the future or correct the mistakes of the past.  (Taken from Goodreads)

Thoughts: I am very slowly exploring Stephen King's works and I'm finding it an interesting endeavor. In all honesty, the cover of this book is what drew me to it. It's just so colourful and I love it. I also really love the other edition of the book because that cover is very creepy too.

Anyway, on to my thoughts on the stories themselves. Before each story there was commentary from Stephen King about the story and why he wrote it or what he had in mind before he wrote it. I thought it was really interesting and I quite enjoyed those parts.

Usually with a lot of short story collections it's a mixed bag of good and not so good. This case was no exception. There were four stories that stuck out in my mind as really good. The first one was good once it got past all the pop culture references. My eyes kind of glazed over when he was mentioning Justin Bieber and I started to tune out so when there was actually some horror aspects I was really taken aback as I'd kind of forgotten what I was reading. Other ones I really enjoyed were the ones about the Kindle, a boy with a hat and the warring neighbours. They were all really good and kind of addictive. Especially the Kindle story.

Overall, I don't want to say too much about this book but I thought it was quite an interesting mix of stories. Some were horror and others would fit better in other genres. I would definitely recommend it for those who enjoy King's work.

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling

Title: The Casual Vacancy

Author: J. K. Rowling

Published: Back Bay Books, 2013

Summary: When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty fa├žade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils...Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity, and unexpected revelations? (Taken from Goodreads)

Thoughts: I've been putting off reading this book for a long time after hearing that it was nowhere near as good as Harry Potter. Initially I just figured that I'd pick it up sooner but I think as time went on I began to convince myself that this book was the worst book in the world and that when I finally did get around to reading it I would absolutely hate it.

I finally managed to pick it up and told myself to at least try the first page. I read the first page, then the second, then the third and from there I continued to read. No, The Casual Vacancy isn't anything like Harry Potter but I never expected it to be.

I found all of the characters to be really unique and interesting. I enjoyed seeing how one man's death affected a large number of people and in various ways.

The Casual Vacancy reminds me a little of George Elliot's Middlemarch which follows different characters lives from different socio-economic backgrounds. In a way, The Casual Vacancy was like a modern version of Middlemarch.

I usually struggle to read character driven novels as I find the characters tend to have quite boring lives and annoying personalities but I felt with these characters there was never a dull moment. There was always something interesting happening.

I wasn't sure how the book would end but I was pretty shocked by how it did end but I was pretty shocked by how it did end as it wasn't at all what I was even somewhat expecting. It was definitely like a slap in the face.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas

Title: Dangerous Girls

Author: Abigail Haas

Published: Simon & Schuster UK, 2013

Pages: 388

Summary: Elise is dead.
And someone must pay.

Anna, her boyfriend Tate, best friend Elise and a group of close friends set off on a debaucherous Spring Break trip to Aruba. But paradise soon turns into a living nightmare when Elise is brutally murdered.
Soon Anna finds herself trapped in a foreign country and fighting for her freedom. As she awaits the judge's decree, it becomes clear that everyone is questioning her innocence. To the rest of the world, Anna isn't just guilty, but dangerous. As the court case unfolds the truth is about to come out, and it's more shocking than you could ever imagine... (Taken from Goodreads)

Thoughts: I've been watching a lot of How to Get Away with Murder lately so I was looking for a book with court cases, and an unfolding mystery that will reveal it piece by piece and have a twist at the ending. I had a feeling that Dangerous Girls might fill that need and I was partially right.

This book started off quite interestingly with a transcript of the call to the emergency services after the group of friends discover Elise's body.  I was sucked into the story for the first couple of chapters but once I got past the first couple I felt like the story slowed down a little. It did pick up again towards the end and I found myself just sitting in my chair waiting to get to the point where it's revealed what happens. I did feel like the end of the trial was pretty tense. For the last quarter of the book I was definitely glued to the page just desperate to finish it.

I had an idea about what I was hoping the ending would be and who had killed Elise but at the same time I also had a feeling that the author would spin a different ending to the one I was hoping for and I was right. I was a little disappointed at that as I felt like it was a little too predictable.

Overall, I thought Dangerous Girls was quite enjoyable. I did find it was a little predictable for the most part but it was an interesting read none-the-less. I would suggest it for fans of thrillers and murder mysteries.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Legend of the Jade Dragon by Yasmine Galenorn

Title: Legend of the Jade Dragon

Author: Yasmine Galenorn

Published: Berkley, 2004

Pages: 288

Series: Book 2, Chintz n China

Summary: Tarot cards seldom lie. So when they predict chaos and bad luck for her last client of the day, Emerald gets more than a little worried. He leaves behind a charming jade statue of a dragon--but promptly dies in a hit-and-run accident outside of her shop. When other terrible things begin to plague Em and her family, the only explanation is the jade dragon. To thwart its evil spell, she'll have to follow a trail of heartache all the way back to China's Ming Dynasty--and its ancient--and sometimes harsh--mysteries.  (Taken from Goodreads)

Thoughts: I've been reading a few heavy fantasy books lately so I was wanting to read something a little more light and fun so I decided it was time to pick up the second book in Yasmine Galenorn's Chintz n China mysteries series.

I went into this book expecting a light and fun mystery with a slight paranormal aspect and that's exactly what I got.  The mystery in this one was quite interesting as it was more to do with bad things happening to Emerald and her family.  I had my guesses about who was behind it all and I have to say that my guesses were correct which was awesome. In books like these I find guessing is half the fun. 

I did find that some of the things Emerald did were a little annoying. Just the way that she treated some of her friends and stuff but that was just a minor thing.

Overall, I had a lot of fun reading Legend of the Jade Dragon and would love to read more in the series. Unfortunately, I think this could be a difficult task as the books don't appear to be in any of the bookstores I normally frequent. That being said I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for the rest of the series.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The New Zealand Section: An Introduction

As you may or may not be aware of, I am from New Zealand. I was born here and have lived here all my life. When I was younger I read a lot more books by New Zealand authors and this was due to being exposed to them in school and from librarians who thought it important to highlight books written by authors from New Zealand.  This was due to being exposed to them in school and from librarians who thought it important to highlight books written by New Zealand authors. I recently took a step back and looked at the books I read and found the amount of books by New Zealander's to be severely lacking.

One of the main reasons for this is because I haven't actively been looking and have only found new reading material from sources outside of New Zealand. Another reason for this is because I feel as though it's really hard to track down books by authors from New Zealand, or even to find information about the different authors.

So, I have done a lot of searching of several different resources to try and find more books by New Zealander's. Why? Because I want to read more books (both fiction and non-fiction) by authors from New Zealand.

So every second Wednesday I will be posting up a spotlight on a book by a New Zealand author. Some of these will be books about New Zealand and set in New Zealand and others will just be written by New Zealand authors. This is because I want to make it a personal goal to be better read up on New Zealand literature. The other reason for this new feature, is because I want to highlight more New Zealand literature to a wider audience.

Just in case you were looking for more books by New Zealander's you can also check out this list here of every New Zealand book I have featured on the blog:

Monday, April 4, 2016

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

Title: City of Stairs

Author: Robert Jackson Bennett

Published: Broadway Books, 2014

Pages: 452

Series: Book 1, The Divine Cities

Summary: Years ago, the city of Bulikov wielded the powers of the Gods to conquer the world. But after its divine protectors were mysteriously killed, the conqueror has become the conquered; the city's proud history has been erased and censored, progress has left it behind, and it is just another colonial outpost of the world's new geopolitical power. Into this musty, backward city steps Shara Thivani. Officially, the quiet woman is just another lowly diplomat sent by Bulikov's oppressors. Unofficially, Shara is one of her country's most accomplished spymasters — dispatched to investigate the brutal murder of a seemingly harmless historian. As Shara pursues the mystery through the ever-shifting physical and political geography of the city, she begins to suspect that the beings who once protected Bulikov may not be as dead as they seem — and that her own abilities might be touched by the divine as well. (Taken from Goodreads)

Thoughts: I've been in the mood for fantasy quite a lot lately so when I was looking for my next fantasy fix I decided to go with City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect with this book but I was hoping for something different as the premise sounded really good.

It took me a little bit to get into the story and I think that was just because I wasn't used to Robert Jackson Bennett's writing style.  I wouldn't say his writing was bad it was just different to what I was used to. I guess I felt like it was less emotive writing and it felt more like he was just writing the facts. The other thing that took me a while to get my head around was just who was who. Everyone had different names so it took me a little bit to get used to which people held which position and which part in the story.

City of Stairs is quite a slow burning book and as I was reading it, I kept wondering how the book would end as I had no ideas. Once the book got quite close to the end things picked up pretty fast, and things just started happening all of a sudden.  I found those bits to be quite good and there were a couple of things that surprised me quite a bit.

I actually thought this book would be more of a murder mystery but the book was more a focus on other events that happened. I don't want to give too much away about things but it definitely took on an interesting focus. The magic system was pretty unique and the ideas about miracles and the divinities was really fascinating. I am keen to find out more about the world.

Overall, I quite enjoyed City of Stairs. After the way that this book finished I'm curious about reading the next book in this 'series', City of Blades. I'm especially excited about it being from Mulaghesh's perspective as I thought she was quite an interesting.