Friday, August 12, 2016

Poison City by Paul Crilley Book Review

poison city paul crilley

Gideon Tau (better known as London Town to his colleagues) works in the occult investigative unit in the South African police force called the Delphic Division. Since his daughter was kidnapped and murdered, his life has fallen to pieces. His girlfriend has left him, all he does is work, drink and obsess about who killed his daughter Cally. He has two friends left: his fifty-something year old boss Armitage, another UK ex-pat from Yorkshire, and his spirit guide, a talking dog who loves to watch TV all day and drink sherry all night. Tau's cases have him in contact with all sorts of supernatural creatures, such as angels, demons, vampires and fae. While investigating the death of a low level vampire, Tau finally finds a link to his daughter and has to choose between revenge for Cally or do his job and help save the world.

I really liked this book! I first heard about it in one of Books and Pieces videos, which you can find here. I’ll be honest, the main reason this book intrigued me was because it reminded me of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series, which I love, and while there are some similarities, it’s not a carbon copy. South Africa is a great setting for an urban fantasy and Crilley has done his research when it comes to lore and mythology around the world. While there is a lot of gore and fighting in this, I didn’t find it too unsettling but keep this is mind if that’s not your kind of thing. Gideon Tau is a solid narrator, I did feel like I really didn't get to know him but I think that's partly down to his torment over his daughter's death, that he’s lost who he is obsessing over this. I loved Dog and Armitage! They made me laugh out loud on so many occasions, especially when Armitage cracked jokes about Harry Potter (also, the fact that Crilley mentions that the UK’s version of the Delphic Division is called the Ministry tickled me!). Dog is so snide and dry, most of the lines I’ve highlighted and saved are from him. I particularly like this come back he had after Tau says he has something all figured out

‘London, you haven’t even figured out how much milk to put in your cereal yet. Consider me worried’.

This is a fast paced urban fantasy that has interesting characters, plenty of humour and some dark themes. I can’t wait to read the next one!

I received this digital advanced reader copy from NetGalley. I’m under no obligation to post reviews in exchange for the ARC. All opinions are my own, the reason I wrote this post is because I genuinely think the book is awesome!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

July 2016 Reads

July was the month of the BookTubeAThon, the fourth annual one. You can check out my results here, though I’ll be posting all my reviews below.

July’s Reads

The Life-Changing Art of Not Giving a F**k by Sarah Knight

the life changing magic of not giving a fuck

If the title of this seems to ring a bell with you, it’s because it’s a pisstake of the Marie Kondo book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. In fact, this book’s content style is written in parody as Marie Kondo’s book but the content itself does have a bit of substance. It isn’t a novelty book, while reading it I did write some notes and pick up some interesting tips. There’s plenty of articles about the book floating around with some of these tips. I did find the book grated on me a bit, purely because it’s very repetitive at times and also because for a book about trying to make you give less fucks about something, the fact that the title has fuck censored really annoyed me!

 

The Girls by Emma Cline

the girls emma cline

The Girls is set in California in 1969 and is told from the point of view of Evie, a 14 year old who gets involved in a cult (it's based loosely on the Manson Family cult). The story focuses more on the girls who were often involved in these cults and not the charismatic leader, which most books and stories seem to centre around. In this book the leader, Russell, is more of a side figure and Evie instead is captivated by 19 year old Suzanne and craves her attention and validation. The book has two storylines, the 1969 story as well as another narration of a middle aged Evie. While other reviews I read disliked the middle aged Evie part of the book, I did enjoy it but it did feel a bit disjointed at times. There's no doubt that Cline can write and she has such beautiful sentences at times. But others times it felt convoluted and a bit too forced. Cline also captures the essence of a teenage girl really well, the thoughts and turmoils and what I liked about middle aged Evie was seeing that some of those feelings were still there (like enjoying the attention of others). However I found the pacing of this book too slow for me and it didn't live up to the hype. Not that I wouldn't recommend it to others, it just wasn't for me, but I can see why other people really enjoy this. Overall a 2.5 out of 5 for me [NetGalley]

 

The President’s Hat by Antoine Laurain

the presidents's hat

My sister read this book a few month's ago so when I saw it on NetGalley I decided to request it as she spoke highly of it. And it didn't disappoint! The President's Hat starts with accountant Daniel Mercier having dinner alone at a brassiere when lo and behold President Fran├žois Mitterrand sits next to him! Savouring the dinner and pretending he's the fourth dinner guest, Daniel is delighted when he sees Mitterrand has left his iconic black felt hat behind. After taking it for himself, Daniel discovers the hat makes him feel different and is devastated when he later misplaces it. We follow the journey of the hat and how it affects the lives of all who have it in their possession. It's a sweet uplifting story, I loved the characters and I enjoy books and stories where people's lives intertwine, paths crossing, like invisible string. The book is set in the 80s and has just enough nostalgia that makes it charming, any more and it would have been too much. I sped through this book, reading it in two sittings, it makes for a great summer read. C'est magnifique! [NetGalley]

 

Darkmouth: Chaos Descends by Shane Hegarty

darkmouth chaos descends

This is book three in the Darkmouth series (possibly just a trilogy though, I’m not really sure) and I listed it in my first 2016 Most Anticipated Books post. I can’t really say much about it seeing as it’s part of a series but it’s the continuing adventures of Finn, a 12 year old who is reluctant to become a Legend Hunter (monster hunter to me and you) like the rest of his family. It’s a quick read and I think children from 9 upwards would enjoy this series.

 

 

 

The Muse by Jessie Burton

the muse

I mentioned this book in part 2 of 2016 Most Anticipated Books and after I read it I posted a full review which you can read here. Carribean immigrant Odelle has just started working in an art gallery for the aloof and mysterious Marjorie Quick. When Odelle comes across a painting rumoured to be by Issac Robles, a painted who died in mysterious circumstances during the Spanish Civil War, another narration starts with Olive Schloss, who moves to Spain in 1936 with her parents and is greeted by Teresa Robles and her half brother Issac. The two narrations weave together and reveal the secret behind the painting. It’s definitely one of my favourites so far this year! [NetGalley]

 

Love Poems by Carol Ann Duffy

love poems

For the BookTubeAThon I wanted something I could quickly read at night so I picked this up from the library. I don’t read a lot of poetry but I am familiar with Carol Ann Duffy’s name and it crops up every now and again especially when I watch Jen Campbell’s YouTube channel. I already knew two of these poems, without knowing they were Duffy’s: one from Leaving Cert English and the other was Valentine, a poem my English teacher read out in 3rd year. This poetry collection isn’t full of sappy love poems. Yes, we get sweet, sentimental ones but Duffy also explores themes such as longing, adultry and leaving love behind. If you want to try read more poems, this is a good place to start.

 

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

Oranges are not the only fruit

This book was all over BookTube a year or so ago, as it was part of the Books Are My Bag campaign and Booktubers were given packages for the campaig, this book included. This is a semi-autobiographical story of Jeanette, a girl who is adopted by a religious zealot mother. Jeanette lives a shelted life of homeschooling, destined to be missionary. Until one day she is forced to go to a real school and learns how different she is. When Jeanette develops feelings for her new friend, she’s rejected by her family and church for these ‘unnatural feelings’ and she must decide whether or not to hold onto this faith that tells her she’s a bad person or believe in herself. It’s a coming of age story that felt a bit jumbled for me. Just when I felt like I had a hold of the tone of the story, it would change, with Winterson weaving in myths and legends as a way to tell the story. I didn’t connect emotionally with Jeanette, which might happen if I read Winterson’s memoir Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? which I probably will read in the future.

 

The Burning by Jane Casey

the burning

The Burning is the first in a series by Jane Casey featuring Detective Constable Maeve Kerrigan. The Burning Man is a vicious serial killer in London, brutally beating women before burning them. When the 5th victim Rebecca Haworth turns up, something seems off and so Maeve investigates, hoping to unravel the truth and find not only Rebecca’s murderer but The Burning Man too. I enjoyed this, it’s not a psychological thriller, the pace is slower and we actually find out who does half way through, just not how or why, we wait for those pieces to slot together as the rest of the plot develops. The slowness of this book seems to possibly be because it’s the first book in the series but it does a good job at establishing some characters like Maeve and it has piqued my interest enough that I’ll be picking up the 2nd book!

 

When We Collided by Emery Lord

when we collidedVivi and Jonah are dealing with their own struggles and secrets. Vivi is bipolar and has done something that has really upset her friends. Jonah’s father died suddenly and his mother just sits in her room and cries, leaving Jonah and his 2 older siblings to look after the 3 younger kids. When Vivi arrives at Verona Cove for the summer, she takes a shine to Jonah and his family and a magical summer begins. I loved this book, it tackles a lot: grief, mental illness, personal pain, family. Vivi and Jonah are polar opposites but they work together. I liked the characters, especially Jonah and his sweet family. Vivi can grate a little but I think this has partly to do with how she handles (or doesn’t handle!) her bipolar diagnosis. I am glad there’s a YA book that tackles mental health issues. This isn’t a perfect book, but when I read it it was perfect for me. A fantastic contemporary YA summer novel.

 

Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent

Lying in Wait

“My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it."

These are the opening lines to the book and boy do they grab your attention! Told from 3 points of view [Lydia (who’s husband killed Annie Doyle), Laurence (their 17 year old son) and Karen (Annie’s sister)] the story spans 5-6 years and slowly the story immerges. I read this book as it was the July book of the for the Rick O’Shea book club and I wrote a full review post which you can check out here.

 

 

Ms Marvel Volume 2: Generation Why by G Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphonsa and Jacob Wyatt

ms marvel2nd volume in the Ms Marvel series, following Kamala Khan, a nerdy teenager in Jersey who suddenly finds she has super powers. I liked this more than the first one, as we already had a sense of the characters and the tone of the series. I also loved the cameo from another Marvel character in this! I already have book 3 on order and hope it gets here ASAP.

 

 

 

 

July Stats

Number of Books Read- 11

Ratio fiction to non-fiction- 10:1

Number of eBooks- 4 (The Girls, The President’s Hat, The Muse and Lying in Wait)

Number of Books Borrowed from Library- 6 (The Life Changing Art of Not Giving a F**k, Darkmouth: Chaos Descends, Love Poems, The Burning, When We Collided and Ms Marvel Volume 2)

 

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge Completed

Read a book originally published the decade you were born- Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

Read a book with a main character that has a mental illness- When We Collided

 

And that’s July. Not a bad month really, I’ve only got 4 Book Riot Read Harder Challenges left to complete, just need to pick the books for those challenges. If you’ve read any of the books above or have any questions leave a comment below!

Monday, August 1, 2016

US Beauty Haul

While in America in June I managed to pick up a few beauty bits that I thought I’d show here. If I had had more money to spare, I definitely would have bought a lot more stuff! Alas, I had to bit a bit frugal so there’s always next time. The main places I went to were Walmart, Sephora, Target, Bath and Bodyworks and Walgreens. I didn’t get anything when in Sephora or Walmart, nothing took my fancy.

beauty haul

Clockwise from top left

Warm Vanilla Sugar Shower Gel from Bath & Body Works- It was on offer and I do love vanilla scented items

Maybelline Full N Soft Black Mascara- I LOVE this mascara and I’m so sad it’s not sold over here. I often get others to bring me back this when they’re in America so I had to get another one!

Revlon Nail Polish in Holographic Pearls- This is a holographic top coat and it’s beautiful!

Sinful Colors Kylie Trend Mattes in Kitty Pink- Out of all the Kylie polishes from Sinful Color this one stood out the most to me

Be Joyful Shower Gel from Bath & Body Works- Another one that was on sale, it’s described as ‘fizzy clemintine, frosted jasmine and shimmering sugar’.

Sinful Colors Star Struck Collection in Rocket Out- This top coat is packed with white red and blue stars and silver glitter. It was perfect for 4th July!

Maybelline Color Blur Matte Lip Pencil in I’m Blushing!- I was drawn to this as it’s a new product and hadn’t heard about it. It has a lip colour on one end and an eraser at the other. So you can wear the colour like a matte cream pencil all over or place the colour in the middle of your lips and smudge and blur it out with the eraser to create a softer smudged look. The bluriness doesn’t really work on me as I have tiny lips but I still really like product.

Pop Beauty Nail Glam in Mint Magic- I’ve wanted this for SO long, it’s a bright mint green. I have loads of mint green shades but this so bright and vibrant, almost neon like.

I’m happy with my little haul, I wish I had found more nail polishes but I’m glad I got my hands on what I did! If you’ve tried any of these or like the look of anything let me know in a comment below

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent Book Review

Lying in Wait

This book certainly captures you from the very first sentence

'My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it."

Well that grabbed my attention! It's 1980s Dublin and Andrew and Lydia are a respectable couple, who look to have it all: beautiful grand house and estate called Avalon, Andrew's career as a judge, their 17 year old son Laurence. But underneath they have many secrets and struggles. When drug addict and prostitute Annie Doyle winds up accidentally dead by their hands, Lydia and Andrew try to cover it up by burying her in the garden but not everything can be swept under the rug and slowly a loose thread unravels the truth.

The story is told in 3 different perspectives over 5-6 years: Lydia (who knows what happened and is desperate to keep the truth from her son and to keep him with her in Avalon), Laurence (who's obese and relentlessly bullied in school but who has picked up on the atmosphere at home and has suspicions) and Karen (Annie's sister who refuses to give up hope and is determined to find her sister). I do like multiple perspectives so I enjoyed this but I did find there was quite a lot of repetition across the stories at times, which felt a bit tedious unless it was also uncovering new information. Nugent has crafted some well thought out characters. I liked Laurence and felt sorry for him, I rooted for him as he had horrible parents. I also liked Karen and rooted for her too. Lydia is a piece of nasty work, straight off I didn't like her (I don't think anyone is supposed to like her!). She will do almost anything to protect her reputation and to get what she wants but she has layers due to her upbringing and is no doubt an interesting villian, she does make you think.

Nugent effortlessly weaves the story together and just when you think you've figured something out, you'll get thrown a curve ball! We get hints of the 80s without being bombarded by it, from Live Aid, Prince Andrew and Fergie marrying and Chris de Burgh's Lady in Red to leaving a marriage with no chance of divorce and the implication and social stigmas of that as well as women being institutionalised due to falling pregnant out of wedlock. Class, race, appearance, self control and control over others are big issues, sometimes in subtle ways and often with dark humour. This is a fast reading, twisty turny page turner mystery that will keep you guessing to find out the reason to WHY this happened and how all the pieces of the jigsaw finally fall into place. [NetGalley]

Friday, July 29, 2016

BookTubeAThon 2016 Results

Last week was the 4th BookTubeAThon and it seems I’ve fallen into a pattern. The first year in 2013 I completed all the challenges, as I did last year too. When I did it the 2nd year in 2014 I didn’t fully complete the challenges, which happened this year too. I was on track until the Friday, when I went visiting family and when I got home for the weekend I spent most of my reading time playing Heads Up! with my family. No regrets!

Books Read

bookatubeathon

Love Poems by Carol Ann Duffy

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

The Burning by Jane Casey

When We Collided by Emery Lord

Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent

So I finished the first 4 books (in the order I finished them but not started) and I started reading Lying in Wait on the Sunday. I knew I wouldn’t finish it but it’s one of the Books of the Month for the Rick O’Shea bookclub so I wanted to get it started. Here are the challenges I completed

Read a book only at night- Love Poems

Read a book only than you- Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

Read a book found through BookTube- Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

Read a book with yellow on the cover- When We Collided

If I had chose my books differently I would have maybe completed most of my challenges, two of my books didn’t fit into any catagories. I was also hoping to get some of the graphic novels I have on request at the library but they didn’t come in on time. I had hoped to finish all the challenges so I’m disappointed I didn’t but I still had fun doing this readathon, I always enjoy when BookTubeAThon time comes around. Until next year!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Muse by Jessie Burton Book Review

The Muse book cover, second novel by The Miniaturist author Jessie Burton

I really enjoyed The Miniaturist last year so when I saw that Jessie Burton had a new book out I was intrigued. I mentioned it in part 2 of 2016 Book Releases I’m Anticipating. I read the blurb and while it sounded interesting (two women from different eras that have a mysterious link), it didn't hook me immediately. But seeing that I really liked The Miniaturist I thought I'd give it a go. And I am SO glad I did!


We start in 1960s London with Caribbean immigrant Odelle, who has been living in London for 5 years and aspires to be a writer. When she is offered a week's trial as a typist at an art gallery, she decides to take a chance and quits her job at a shoe shop. She quickly becomes intrigued and captivated by Marjorie Quick, her eccentric, aloof boss. Odelle comes across a painting that's rumoured to be an Issac Robles piece, a talented Spanish painter who died in mysterious circumstances during the Spanish Civil War. While everyone else is very excited about this painting, Quick has a strange reaction upon seeing it and Odelle begins to wonder if Quick's secrecy is tied to history of this painting. Olive Schloss is the daughter of a Viennese Jewish art dealer father and English heiress mother. She follows her parents out to Spain in 1936 and they're greeted by Teresa Robles and her half brother Issac, who spot an opportunity to take advantage of these wealthy foreigners. Teresa becomes their housekeeper while Issac is their part time gardener. When Olive's mother Sarah discovers that Issac's secretly paints, she requests he paint her and Olive as a present for her husband Harold. Olive has a secret of her own but then again, so does everyone else in that household. Art, passion and secrecy all come to the forefront as everyone tries to gain the attention and affection of others while also hiding their secrets. Adding to this is politics, as clashes occur in Germany as well as Spain being on the brink of a civil war, which creates more tension.


The story crosses back and forth between these different times but it's not a seamless crossing. Not that it's a bad thing, it just means that bits and pieces of overall story come out, until you can piece it all together near the end. If you're anything like me you'll be guessing all through but even if you manage to guess correctly, there's still loads in here that I didn't see coming! I enjoyed being in both worlds, I really warmed to Odelle's character as the novel progressed and she grew. She's smart, strong, talented and ambitious but also has doubts and knows that even if she works hard to become a writer, she will face stumbling blocks because she is a woman and also because she is an immigrant. We see similar features when it comes to Olive, who is also talented, an immigrant and knows she is at a disadvantage because she is a woman. But they're not mirror images of each other and they have plenty of differences too. While Olive is still an immigrant, she does have a lot more privilege and coupled with her being younger than Odelle, she comes across as naive and self centred at times.


While I enjoyed the Spanish side of the story, it was a tiny bit slow at times but I loved all the twists and turns! Jessie Burton weaved such an intricate story and oh boy does she know how to turn a phrase or two! When Odelle speaks about her co-worker's boyfriend she says 'Pamela wore Billy like a medal, but thinking of the men I'd seen there, I wondered if he was more of a bronze than a gold' which tickled me. I also liked Odelle and Quick's relationship, how Quick tries to encourage Odelle's talent. I read a review somewhere that suggests that the plot is heavy handed and Burton has suffered from a case of 'second story syndrome'. I don't think that at all, I think Burton has succeeded in writing a fantastic follow up that lives up to the same standards as The Miniaturist and confirms that she's a great writer. [NetGalley]

Monday, July 18, 2016

American Roadtrip! Las Vegas, Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam

Last week I had a post showing some of the things my boyfriend and I did on holidays when we were in LA. We also went on a road trip as my boyfriend really wanted to go to Las Vegas. And so I decided if we were going to Vegas, I wanted to go to the Grand Canyon! So we rented a car and off we went for three days.

First off we left LA and headed for Vegas. It took us 4 hours to drive there. At first I was nervous about the drive, as the drivers in LA can be a bit erratic! But my boyfriend coped really well at driving on the other side of the road! The trip there was tiring so by time we checked in I really needed a nap (so rock ‘n’ roll!) so after that grabbed something to eat and walked down the Vegas Strip at night. As we were staying at the Circus Circus hotel, we walked down as far as the Bellagio to see the fountains, stopping along the way to look at the other hotels, specially the canals in the Venetian. Vegas is a whole other world! It’s great for people watching and if you’re a party person, you’ll probably love going there! I’m not, so I found it a bit overwhelming but I did enjoy the people watching aspect and all the crazy hotels. The heat though! At midnight I was still in a t-shirt because it was so so warm out. It was glorious standing by the fountains and other water features because it gave some relief!

 

vegas hotels Circus Circus, Bellagio, Venetian Hotel with canal, Bellagio fountain show

Clockwise from top left: Circus Circus hotel, Bellagio Hotel, canals inside Venetian hotel, Bellagio fountain show

 

The next day we got up early to drive to Grand Canyon! We decided to go to the Southern Rim as I’d heard the views there were the best but it did mean it took us 5 hours to drive there. And 5 hours back! Was it worth it though? Yes it was! In hindsight we should have stayed the night closer to there as it was a lot of driving but I’m just so happy we went. It truely is breath taking and I really want to read up more on the history of the place. We also got to travel on parts of Route 66, including posing with some vintage cars at a gas stop.

grand canyon, American flag at half mast

American flag was at half mast at Grand Canyon (and most other places) because of the tragic events in Orlando, Florida at the weekend

When we arrived back in Vegas that night we ate at our hotel, had a few drinks and gambled to help us wind down after the long day. Unfortunately I didn’t win the jackpot otherwise I’d be off somewhere right now! We had a well deserved lie in before checking out, hitting up the breakfast buffet and gift shops before leaving the hotel. We visited the famous Vegas sign, the one thing I really wanted to do in Vegas. It was a good half an hour wait in the swelting sun but it’s a Vegas must do!

Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada sign

Before truly leaving Vegas, we visited Sin City Knit Shop so I could pick up some yarn as a present to myself! Then we headed back in the direct of the Grand Canyon but only for an hour. On the way there the previous day we past Hoover Dam but didn’t have a chance to stop. We decided we’d detour there before heading back to LA. The first thing we did was go on the Memorial Bridge, which looks down over the dam. It is THE windiest place I’ve ever been! Then we went to have a look around Hoover Dam itself. We were too late to do any of the tours but there’s still enough to look at and read without doing that. It’s actually pretty fancy looking! There’s so much beautiful Art Deco design and the doors are gold! Probably not real gold but there’s such an element of decadence. The heat that day was unreal. LA was hot too but being by the sea seemed to make it easier. Being in the desert the heat was unrelenting!

 

hoover dam

View from Memorial Bridge, look down on Hoover Dam; View from Hoover Dam looking up at Memorial Bridge; vintage cars at Route 66 gas stop

After Hoover Dam, we drove back to LA, stopping at a Walmart for some essentials and to stretch our legs. I never looked at the food section when I was in there and I’m kicking myself as I probably would have found some interesting Oreo flavours! I was too busy looking at the beauty bits and obsessed with finding nail polish heaven which I didn’t find. I wanted rows upon rows of shelves of nail polishes and didn’t really come close. But I did find some beauty bits which I’ll share later in the week. After returnign to LA, we had two more days there’s before our flight home. One of those days was at the Emma Cline book event in Skylight Books which I’ll also be blogging about soon!

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