Mini Reviews: A Thousand Knights Point to Sunkissed Mistletoe and Mistaken Discoveries

Friday, 5 February 2016

As you can probably tell from the title, this post is going to include my condensed thoughts on a range of books (with titles that can make some pretty interesting sentences). 

25244111A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston
Released: 22nd October 2015
Published by: Pan Macmillan
Genre: YA Fantasy
Source: Publisher
Pages: 256
My Rating: 2.5 of 5 stars
Goodreads | QBD | Book Depository
LO-MELKHIIN KILLED THREE HUNDRED GIRLS before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not let her be next. And so she is taken in her sister’s place, and she believes death will soon follow.

Lo-Melkhiin’s court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments. She sees everything as if for the last time. But the first sun rises and sets, and she is not dead. Night after night, Lo-Melkhiin comes to her and listens to the stories she tells, and day after day she is awoken by the sunrise. Exploring the palace, she begins to unlock years of fear that have tormented and silenced a kingdom. Lo-Melkhiin was not always a cruel ruler. Something went wrong. Far away, in their village, her sister is mourning. Through her pain, she calls upon the desert winds, conjuring a subtle unseen magic, and something besides death stirs the air. Back at the palace, the words she speaks to Lo-Melkhiin every night are given a strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister.

With each tale she spins, her power grows. Soon she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king, if she can put an end to the rule of a monster.
Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review 

Though I'm not entirely familiar with the original story which this novel is based on, I can see where it holds its  own as a novel. A Thousand Nights is a story which takes fantasy and weaves it into a time long ago, where ancient ties and rituals still prevails, and there is some sort of powers beyond our realm which affect whole communities. This one was a difficult book to rate in some ways, as while things like the writing where so beautiful at times, there were elements that took away from my overall enjoyment. 

But first, onto the positives! The sense of family and community in this book was an underlying theme throughout, and the sacrifices which the protagonist made in order to protect her sister was an act of bravery for sure, considering Lo-Melkhiin's track record with his last wives. The flashbacks throughout to the protagonists time learning the traditions of her people and sharing positive memories also added to the depth of a person we perhaps don't get to know as well - since we never get to know her name. Here this 'mystery' surrounding the main character to such a degree can detract from the plot (which in itself is very slow moving in parts), though I suppose in a novel where the fantasy is an enigma of its own for our heroine, it is at least consistent. 

While I appreciated the unique style A Thousand Nights is written in for the most part, I think that it did make for a read that is hard to connect with at times. The obscurity of the characters combined with a plot in which there isn't much action until right at the last minute meant that I had a hard time sticking to reading this book just by itself. For me it was something to read in small doses, though eventually it all came together. 

In all, I do have some conflicting views on this book, and I think to truly understand its nuances and unique qualities, it is something that you need to experience for yourself and make up your own mind. 

23306321A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R.R. Martin
Released: 6th October 2015
Published by: HarperVoyager
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Publisher
Pages: 256
My Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
A century before A GAME OF THRONES, two unlikely heroes wandered Westeros… A KNIGHT OF THE SEVEN KINGDOMS compiles the first three official prequel novellas to George R.R. Martin’s ongoing masterwork, A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE.

Before Tyrion Lannister and Podrick Payne there was Dunk and Egg. A young, na├»ve but courageous hedge knight, Ser Duncan the Tall towers above his rivals – in stature if not experience. Tagging along with him is his diminutive squire, a boy called Egg – whose true identity must be hidden from all he and Dunk encounter: for in reality he is Aegon Targaryen, and one day he will be king. Improbable heroes though they be, great destinies lie ahead for Dunk and Egg; as do powerful foes, royal intrigue, and outrageous exploits.

A KNIGHT OF THE SEVEN KINGDOMS brings together for the first time the first three official prequel novellas to George R.R. Martin’s ongoing masterwork, A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE, set in an age when the Targaryen line still holds the Iron Throne, and the memory of the last dragon has not yet passed from living memory. Featuring more than 160 illustrations by Gary Gianni, one of the finest fantasy artists of our time, this beautiful volume will transport readers to the world of the Seven Kingdoms in an age of bygone chivalry.
Thank you to HarperCollins Australia for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review 

I had postponed reading the Song of Ice and Fire series for a while (though I do love the TV show) and so when A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms came up, I thought it would be a great place to start. Set in a time before the better known characters come into play, this is a story that brings to light a budding friendship, some chivalry, and the idea of 'the knight in shining armour' with a twist. 

Fantasy isn't normally a genre I read a whole lot of, but this book was altogether enjoyable. Dunk and Egg made an endearing pair, and the obstacles they encountered along the way made for quite a few interesting developments. Political intrigue, brushes with the law and a few hints at possible romance also characterise the plot, while the illustrations serve to highlight key moments.

The illustrations themselves were artfully done, and made this story seem almost like a fairytale (though not quite as glamourous). At times when the prose may have been a bit too dense, or the plot going slow, these served to keep me interested and reading on until the closing pages.

In all, while this novel wasn't perfect for me, the intricacies of Westeros which it portrays from the beginning will definitely enlighten and interest existing fans of Martin's series. 

25800990Sunkissed by Jenny McLachlan
Series: Ladybirds #3
Released: 13th August 2015
Published by: Bloomsbury
Genre: YA Contemporary
Source: Publisher
Pages: 302
My Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Following on from Flirty Dancing and Love Bomb, Jenny McLachlan's next book is perfect summer holiday reading for fans of Geek Girl and Louise Rennison.

Kat can't believe her family are sending her to Sweden for the summer. But without her friends, or even a phone signal, can Kat make it on her own? In a land of saunas, nudity and summer sun, Kat soon realises she has nowhere to hide. It's time to embrace who she really is, underneath what she's been thinking people want her to be. Especially if she's going to win the heart of mega fit Swede Leo!

Can Kat find her inner strength and prove she's got what it takes? Kat soon finds that when you're surrounded by phosphorescence and wonder it's easy to sparkle. Or maybe that's what happens when you fall in love . Or maybe you only shine when you're true to yourself.
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review 

The Ladybirds series is back again with Sunkissed - another fun, cute and heartwarming read from Jenny McLachlan. What I love about this series is the fact that it doesn't just provide a 'light' read which still has real substance, but has a strong focus on friendship and the positive message of being true and comfortable in yourself. 

What makes this book a stand-out from the rest of the series is definitely its setting - a small Swedish island where the locals live with the basics...and perhaps not the ideal for fashion conscious protagonist Kat! The inclusion of Swedish language added a small glimpse into the culture and made it seem more realistic, which is always a plus. Seeing Kat's transformation from someone who couldn't live without all her usual gadgets to appreciating her time away and undergoing some deeper self discovery made for an engrossing read.

The romance itself wasn't something which really struck a chord with me, but as a novel on the younger side of YA this didn't really bother me. Leo was a character likable enough, but really this is a story about the girls - their friendship and personal growth. I continue to wholly recommend this book to anyone who wants a fictional island getaway with a positive message at heart. 

23848552Mistletoe and Mr. Right by Lyla Payne
Released: 6th October 2015
Published by: Bloomsbury
Genre: NA Contemporary
Source: Publisher
Pages: 302
My Rating: 3 of 5 stars
In "Mistletoe and Mr. Right," Jessica (not Jessie) takes a flying leap and follows her boyfriend home for the holidays for Christmas break, sure that Ireland will provide the perfect backdrop to the beginning of their happily ever after. But it turns out his family--and his gorgeous ex-girlfriend--don't feel the same way, and the only person making the trip worthwhile is the local farmhand, who has a way of showing up when Jessica needs him most . . . and least.

The holiday hijinks continue in "Sleigh Bells and Second Chances," when Jessica's best friend makes her own way across the pond! Christina Lake does not want to be away at Christmas, but it's her duty to babysit one of London's hottest bands at their last-minute concert on Christmas Eve . . . even though she had a fling with Cary, the band's lead singer, that never officially ended. Now forced to reconnect, Christina is starting to think that maybe London is exactly where she's supposed to be to get the perfect New Year's kiss--at least until she finds out that he's been lying the whole time. Can Cary find a way to prove himself before the clock strikes twelve? Or will the New Year ring in a new romance?

 Lyla Payne wraps up two perfect holiday novellas, ties them with a ribbon of romance, and tops them with a light dusting of snow. Perfect to curl up with under the tree. Just add hot cocoa!
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review 

These two romantic novellas are sweet, easy reads which are perfect for the holiday season. Though they both don't stray too far from what is the 'expected' NA drama, they are nonetheless sure to appeal to romance readers. From an Irish farm to to a celebrity affair, this book offers two very different settings, although both protagonists experience similar developments before finding their 'mister right'.

I have to admit, in both instances the plot was quite predictable. While there were some surprise twists, especially in the case of Mistletoe and Mr. Right, in all I think from close to the start it was easy to see who Jessica would end up with. Her relationship with Brennan seemed really stiff, although as a character I think she had her redeeming qualities. I think the point is to show that despite how orderly and intelligent a person may be, they still could end up with the wrong guy. I did sympathise with Jessica's awkwardness at times and tendency to get herself in difficult situations, though the romance which eventuated wasn't really one I was excited about. Perhaps it's because of the relatively short span of pages that the plot develops, but either way I was hoping for more. In Sleigh Bells and Second Chances there was definitely more of a flirtatious vibe, and the band aspect came into play as well, though I didn't really buy into that romance as much as I had hoped to.

In all, despite the mediocrity of these books for me personally, I think that in the hands of a different reader looking for a couple of short romantic stories in the holiday season they would be more enjoyable. 

Year of Mistaken Discoveries by Eileen Cook
Released: 25th February 2014
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Genre: YA Contemporary
Source: Publisher
Pages: 272
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
As first graders, Avery and Nora bonded over a special trait they shared: they were both adopted. Years later, Avery is smart, popular, and on the cheerleading squad, while Nora spends her time on the fringes of school society, wearing black, reading esoteric poetry, and listening to obscure music. They never interact...until the night Nora approaches Avery at a party, saying it's urgent. She tells Avery that she thought she found her birth mom, but it turned out to be a cruel lie. Avery feels for Nora, but returns to her friends at the party. Then Avery learns that Nora overdosed on pills.

Left to cope with Nora's loss and questioning her own actions, Avery decides to honor her friend by launching a search for her own birth mother. Aided by Brody, a friend of Nora's who is also looking for a way to respect Nora's legacy, Avery embarks on an emotional quest. But what she's really seeking might go far deeper than just genetics.
Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review 

A bond between best friends is a special one - which makes it all the more devastating when it ends. In Year of Mistaken Discoveries, Eileen Cook does not only explore the repercussions of losing someone who you can relate to in one of the deepest possible ways, but finding the essence of who you are, and who you are meant to be. 

The inherent conflict between what you do versus what is expected of you is explored through Avery really well. This is something which a lot of teenagers experience, so I thought that they portrayal of her at the start as a 'people pleaser' wasn't too uncommon, and therefore made her relatable. After Nora's suicide, she isn't quite the same, and though in many ways she retracts into herself, it was nice to see her come back with a renewed vigor to find her birth mother (even if there were other motives at play). The flashbacks to the girls time together when they were younger added a note of wistful nostalgia, and went to show that in many ways Nora was still remembered and one of the key reasons behind Avery's mission.

The romance was a one which was no case of insta-love, but more of a bond which developed because both people were focused on a common goal. This is a story which explores the connections between family, the continuing impact of the past on the present, and hopefulness of the future. I'll definitely be looking forward to more from Eileen Cook after reading this!

24464110Signs Point to Yes by Sandy Hall
Released: 20th October 2015
Published by: Swoon Reads
Genre: YA Contemporary
Source: Publisher
Pages: 288
My Rating: 3 of 5 stars
If only Jane’s Magic 8 Ball could tell her how to get through the summer. With her “perfect” sister, Margo, home for her “perfect” internship, Jane is not going to be able to spend the summer writing fan fiction, as she had planned. And her emergency babysitting job requires Jane to spend the whole summer in awkward proximity to her new crush, Teo, a nerdy-hot lifeguard with problems of his own. With his best friend out of town, Teo finds himself without anyone to confide in…except Jane.

Will Jane and Teo be able to salvage each other’s summer? Even the Magic 8 Ball doesn’t have an answer…but signs point to yes.
Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review 

This is the type of book which is, in a word: fluffy. In three words? Fluffy and cute. In more words than that? Well here's the full review:

Signs Point to Yes is an adorkable novel which epitomises the 'awkward-romance-where-we-both-like-each-other-but-will-have-lots-of-gawky-encounters-before-anything-happens' kind of setup. Both Jane and Teo are quite benign characters on their own, but they do have some unique qualities which lets them stand out as tangible characters. Jane has her fandoms and Teo has a really great relationship with his younger sisters which was nice to see. Through the mix of perspectives I found I did get to know what each person was thinking on a level to allow some decent character development, though I can't really see how Margo, Jane's older sister really made much of a difference to the plot. As a sub-plot, perhaps, but I didn't take much from her sections. Though Ravi, Teo's best friend, is hard to connect with at the start (and not all that likable), Teo's friendship with him was able to continue (even after a few talking-to's).

In the end, when it comes to romance, with a pinch of chance, a spoon of cuteness, and the right environment to make it happen - that calls for a pretty good recipe. We certainly might not all rely on an 8-ball to dictate our fates, but in this case I'd say the signs point to yes for you to give this book a try!

1 comment :

  1. Great reviews Eugenia :) Sunkissed and Year of Mistaken Discoveries in particular sound like great reads!


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