Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Silent Kookaburra by Liza Perrat

SUMMARY (from Goodreads): All eleven-year-old Tanya Randall wants is a happy family. But Mum does nothing besides housework, Dad’s always down the pub and Nanna Purvis moans at everyone except her dog. Then Shelley arrives – the miracle baby who fuses the Randall family in love for their little gumnut blossom.

Tanya’s life gets even better when she meets an uncle she didn’t know she had. He tells her she’s beautiful and could be a model. Her family refuses to talk about him. But that’s okay, it’s their little secret.

Then one blistering summer day tragedy strikes, and the surrounding mystery and suspicion tear apart this fragile family web.

MY THOUGHTS:

The beginning felt a little slow, but that later on proved necessary as it provided the fine cues for the rest of the story.

I was initially wary of the first person POV. However, Liza Perrat manages to pull off 11-year-old’s language and rationale with great authenticity and without impoverishing the story. Quite the contrary, the style imbued with local linguistic flavour only enriches it.

While Tanya’s uncle was the sort of a bad person that made me root for the mobsters to take him out, I couldn’t help myself thinking that had he received some help and support, he might not have become what he had. The victim-turned-perpetrator stereotype doesn’t sit well with me: some victims do turn out just like their abusers, but it is not inevitable if the people close to the victims and the society at large offer them proper help.

I loved how in The Silent Kookaburra Perrat seamlessly and with great insight incorporates a number of issues which are still current (or which are, really, current in every age.) These range from poverty, domestic violence, depression, loss of a child, alcoholism, superstition and prejudice against immigrants and people of other religions, and probably some more that I forgot about.

Tanya herself has a lot on her plate, dealing with alienated parents (from each other and the children), bullying, low self-esteem, having to grow-up early, and being the target of the mysterious uncle who says all the right things to make her feel good but has nefarious intentions towards her.

In several ways, I could relate to Tanya, and Liza Perrat captured her struggles in a very genuine manner that truly resonated with me.

At the end of the story, one of the main mysteries of the book remained unresolved. But that is just life; we don’t always get all the answers.

And finally, I loved that Tanya got her happy ending, albeit it was a bit clich├ęd, and that certain prejudices were overcome for the good of everyone involved.

RECOMMENDATION: The Silent Kookaburra is an incredibly rich story set at the beginning of the era I would consider ‘modern’ that provides a wealth of food-for-thought for everyone not afraid to dig into some, perhaps uncomfortable, but still very current and important issues, and is, therefore, a very compelling read.


The author has sent me a free copy of The Silent Kookaburra in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Summer Palace (Captive Prince short stories #2) by C. S. Pacat

The Summer Palace is a short story that serves as an epilogue to Kings Rising, with Damen and Laurent meeting at the summer palace for a well-deserved respite from trying to consolidate their positions and secure the future of their people.

The story of their reunion is a triple wonder as it offers glimpses into the aftermath of the final events of Kings Rising while allowing Damen and Laurent to finally enjoy their time together and at the same time process – with each other’s help – some of the hardest parts of their past.

(Except for one; but I think it was the right choice of the author not to cramp everything into such a short story and leave that out, either for some future story or for the readers’ own imagination, not to mention that dealing with everything in the span of one evening would have been too much for the characters, as well.)

As such, The Summer Palace is utterly touching; it made me both laugh and shed a tear. I didn’t think that I could love these two fictional characters more than I already had, but after this story, I do. I so do.

And against such beauty, I cannot possibly hold a few missed typos against the author, so all five stars it is, because all in all, The Summer Palace was brilliant, better than I could have ever imagined.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Labyrinth of Stone by TA Moore

SUMMARY (from Goodreads): Ten years ago the Black Rapture transported thousands of people, seemingly at random, from Earth to the strange, inimical world they call the Labyrinth. Will Teller was one of them. Surviving that meant joining an army and becoming better at killing than he's comfortable with. It's enough upheaval for anyone's life. The only problem is, apparently no one told his commanding officer that.

Pride, and heart, stung by abandonment, the icily controlled General Nathan Kearney has decided that Teller can either find the wayward lover, or he can take his place in Nathan's bed. That's pretty good motivation for a straight guy, only thing is - Teller's sexuality seems to have gone a bit Magic-8 Ball on that issue. Suddenly Nathan's starting to look pretty good, and the only question is whether or not Teller wants to be the consolation prize?

MY THOUGHTS:

I should probably reread Labyrinth of Stone to do it proper justice – and I’ll definitely give it another go – but since I don’t see the time for a reread in the near future, this will have to do for now.

In Labyrinth of Stone, TA Moore blew me away with her masterful world-building, once again, with the gritty, raw imagery of the alien, dystopian setting and its distinct quirks. The same goes for her characters: rough, complicated, hardened by circumstances, yet softened by distinct quirks and dry humour.

What I missed in the Labyrinth of Stone was at least a hint of a resolution to two of its major mysteries, but I can live with it.

All in all, Labyrinth of Stone is a fascinating story for its plot, setting, characterization, and relationships between various characters. With the way TA Moore crafts her words, sharp and eloquent, it was a delight to read.

RECOMMENDATION: If you are into no nonsense m/m Sci-Fi romance, I absolutely recommend you check out Labyrinth of Stone.


Sunday, January 01, 2017

Happy New Year!

A picture of baubles with a 'happy new year' inscripition.

Happy New Year, reading and otherwise, to all of you who stumble across my humble blog!

I'm going to kick the new (reading) year off with Bout of Books 18.0, as for the rest, I'm not making any plans or resolutions (reading-wise), so we shall see how it goes.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Cat Diary: Her Majesty’s Last

Cat Diary was a weekly-turned-occasional feature about adventures of my cat, appropriately nicknamed Her Majesty the Cat because she was basically the real mistress de la casa.

This year, I was planning to do a yearly overview through her eyes, but, alas, it was not meant to be. She got very sick just before Christmas and after two trips to an emergency vet and a few days spent at the clinic, we found out she most likely had a serious heart condition with several additional complications.

I brought her home on Christmas day for observation and tried to give her every comfort I could, but she was very weak and she wouldn't eat anything, so the vet and I agreed it would be best to spare her further suffering and yesterday was her last day.

A collage of pictures of a sleeping cat

Here is a collage of a few pictures from the better moments of her final days.

While I am very sad to have lost a beloved friend and companion, I am consoled by the fact that I could at least somewhat pay back all the joy she brought into my life by letting her go and be at peace. I like to think she is having fun enjoying the endless entertainment of happy hunting grounds, now.

Hence, despite the sadness, I choose to remember her as happy and lively and up to her usual shenanigans, like in these pictures below from earlier this year. 

A collage of cat pictures

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Virtual Advent Tour 2016: Favourite Holiday Songs

I'm not feeling the Christmas spirit all that much yet, perhaps for the lack of snow (which sort of became the norm lately – a proof of the climate changing if you ask me, because snow for Christmas used to be a given when I was a kid), but at least it is cold.

Another prerequisite of this time of year are winter songs and Christmas carols. Listening to those is definitely a way to get into the holiday spirit, so I decided to share some of them with you to spread the merriness.

So, you are all invited to sit back, close your eyes (or not) and relax for a little while. In no particular order:

Christmas Lullaby



Let it Snow


Winter Wonderland


O, Little Town of Bethlehem


White Christmas


That's it. I hope you've enjoyed.
What about you? What are the things that bring out your festive spirit?

This post is a part of Virtual Advent Tour, organised by Sprite at spritewrites.


Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer

Cover of The Chemist
Having worked for a secret government department, the protagonist of The Chemist lives on the run, hiding from her previous employers who want to kill her for what she learned through her work. The stakes of survival get raised higher than ever when her former handler contacts her with one last assignment, offering her a way to clear the target off her back. And thus, the chemist starts to unravel a knot of secrets, launching into a thrilling and utterly compelling story.

Unsurprisingly, The Chemist gripped my interest from the start and held it to the very end, and I lost hours and hours of sleep to it because I couldn’t put it down – I just had to know what happened next!

Now, I would love to rave about this book, but I think a major part of enjoying it goes to being unspoiled about it, so I am in a dilemma what to say about it.

I have to say I loved the main three characters. No, they aren’t perfect: they are certainly flawed each in their own way, but that’s what makes them feel real, and Meyer excels at bringing them to life and making us root for them (or, in case of the bad guys, root for their demise.) That extends further than humans: I am not much of a dog person, but with the way Meyer wrote the dogs, they grew on me so much!

Of course, I loved the dynamics between the characters, especially between the main trio (No love triangle! That’s definitely an upside of The Chemist), whom I liked very much as intriguing individuals, as well.

On first impression, I was slightly underwhelmed by the ending, maybe because it wasn’t as intense as the rest of the book or because it was what I expected it to be. But it was a good ending, very much in Stephenie’s style, and I liked it.

All in all, The Chemist (a stand-alone, which is another upside to it) is a highly suspenseful, gripping story, full of danger and intrigue, but also newly found love and friendship, and I got drawn right into it all while reading.

Therefore, the bottom line is that I loved The Chemist very much, but I am terrible at reviewing without spoilers and since I don’t want to lessen your enjoyment of the book with those, I can only poorly express my far-from-little appreciation of this book, with which Stephenie Meyer remains one of my favourite authors.


Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Virtual Advent Tour 2016: St. Mary

Again, it is time for Virtual Advent Tour, organised by Sprite at spritewrites.

In Catholic calendar, the 8th of December is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, one of the most important celebrations in this merry holiday month.

Immaculate Conception by Murrillo
(source)
Commonly, people think that Immaculate Conception refers to the conception of Jesus, but it is not so.
The Immaculate Conception, according to the teaching of the Catholic Church, was the conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the womb of her mother, Saint Anne, free from original sin by virtue of the foreseen merits of her son Jesus Christ. The Catholic Church teaches that Mary was conceived by normal biological means, but God acted upon her soul (keeping her “immaculate”) at the time of her conception. (source)

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a very special day to me because it was my late grandmother’s name day, and on this day, all the fond memories of her are especially present in my mind.

My grandma Mary was a warm, caring person, knowledgeable in the way countryside people are – for example, she knew natural remedies for all ills – and although I didn’t get to see her more than a few times a year, I felt very close to her, nevertheless.

Along St. Nicholas’ day (December 6th), the celebration of St. Mary’s Immaculate Conception is the day that signifies the beginning of Christmas time, my (everyone’s?) favourite time of the year. If only it didn’t go by so fast! Maybe we can slow it down with great virtual advent posts? ;) I’ll have another stop here for you on December 16th