The Last Namsara | Kristen Ciccarelli

In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be darkness—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death-bringer.

These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up learning in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.

Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her.

Published 2017 by Gollancz, 416 pages.

My Score: ⭐️⭐️⭐️  3/5 stars

I found this book on my trip to Adelaide that you can read about here! For the first three-quarters of the book I couldn’t put it down. I was hooked, and it was such easy reading! I haven’t read a YA fantasy in ages and I forgot how fun they can be. The only reason it lagged a bit at the end was the protagonist became a bit pesky and couldn’t see what was pretty obvious… but I guess that’s YA – is it ?? I’m not sure, I used to love these kinda novels but lately I have found them all lacking something and I think its the maturity (pretty lame word, perhaps street-wise-ness (probs not a real word) but you get what I mean) of the protagnoists.

Setting: Set in a kind of medieval fantasy where the Drakors rule, their slaves are the Skral and their enemies are the Scrublanders. And there are dragons, of course. They used to ride and live alongside in peace with the dragons, but then they turned on the Drakor and in turn the Drakor began hunting and killing dragons. The physical world itself isn’t gone into in great depth, but the stories and myths and legends in their world is. That what makes this book such a beautiful read I think. The dragons are enchanted by the stories, drawn to them irresistibly. It’s a neat concept. Some chapters are purely stories from the old days which link into the story line.

Characters: Protagonist is a tough chick with a massive scar across her face and body from a dragon attack when she was young. Now she hunts them. I really liked her at the start, but towards the end she just seemed to naive to what was happening around her. The other characters are not fleshed out so much, even her love interest isn’t really explored which is a pity – you don’t become invested quite enough in the characters.

Plot: This plot was very well done, with lots of twists and turns. A bit more foreshadowing would have been great, but it still has a good pace and keeps you turning the page. Bit of a clique ending, but that’s cause I’m not a fan of ‘fate’ matches.

Overall – it was written so beautifully! The language, descriptions, stories, it was a delight to read. Especially when she described Tormind through Ashas eyes. Freckles as stars and all that. V sweet! Sadly no book bf like I was hoping 😅

 

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Adeliade | Girls Weekend Away

Whenever I visit a new city for the first time I will buy a ‘souvenir read’ – a book by a local author. It’s instead of a key ring that I will never use, or a fridge magnet which is too weak to hold up a chinese take-away menu.

But I didn’t in Adelaide. I completely forgot, eeep.

As mentioned above, it was a girls weekend. That is code for a really boozy indulgent gossipy amazingly fun couple nights away. It went so quick and it’s not until I am sitting at the airport now nursing a well-earned hangover and dreading the upcoming jetstar flight that I have realized my error! Adelaide airport does have an incredibly well-stocked bookshop compared to some of the other airports in Australia, cough cough *Gold Coast* – but still no staff could tell me about any local author books!

So I just picked one I liked the look of…

It was only published this year by a debut author from Ontario. It is has an epic cover (don’t judge a book by its cover ahhhh but I can’t help it…too pretty!) plus the blurb on the back is intriging…

Asha is a dragon-slayer. Reviled by the very people she’s sworn to protect, she kills to atone for the wicked deed she committed as a child – one that almost destroyed her city, and left her with a terrible scar. 

But protecting her father’s kingdom is a lonely destiny: no matter how many dragons she kills, her people still think she’s wicked. 

Even worse, to unite the fractured kingdom she must marry Jarek, the cruel commandant. As the wedding day approaches, Asha longs for freedom. 

Just when it seems her fate is sealed, the king offers her a way out: her freedom in exchange for the head of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard. 

And the only person standing in her way is a defiant slave boy . . . 

I’m hoping it’s not too young adult-ish and there is a decent romance in there. I haven’t had a good book boyfriend in a while. I am still finishing Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for book club (it’s a great read so far) so I will start The Last Namsara when I’ve finished.

Anyway, as for Adelaide …. you stole my heart a wee bit – beautiful wine country!!! McLaren Vale, Barossa, Adelaide Hills and more 🍇🍷 I loved the city too, it was very quaint. A town/city. Full of cute bar and restaurants, easy to get around and lots of parks, greenery etc. The botanical gardens are perfect for a lazy wander, and right next to the National Center for Wine! It has a wee museum with the history of vino in Australia and a trendy cafe/bar with enomatic wine dispensers. You get an oyster card-type thing to use and then you pick n’ choose tasters of whatever wine you like. Very clever.

Other things I would recommend – We did a biking tour of the McLaren Vale. On mountain bikes we visited vineyards, cellar doors and craft breweries. It was an amazing way to see the countryside and wine taste 🚴‍♀️🍷

Ren and Ky 🥂
All three 🌸
Ren and Ana’s buys from the popup bookstore at the market.
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Kushiel’s Dart | Jacqueline Carey

The land of Terre d’Ange is a place of unsurpassing beauty and grace. It is said that angels found the land and saw it was good…and the ensuing race that rose from the seed of angels and men live by one simple rule: Love as thou wilt.

Phèdre nó Delaunay is a young woman who was born with a scarlet mote in her left eye. Sold into indentured servitude as a child, her bond is purchased by Anafiel Delaunay, a nobleman with very a special mission…and the first one to recognize who and what she is: one pricked by Kushiel’s Dart, chosen to forever experience pain and pleasure as one.

Phèdre is trained equally in the courtly arts and the talents of the bedchamber, but, above all, the ability to observe, remember, and analyze. Almost as talented a spy as she is courtesan, Phèdre stumbles upon a plot that threatens the very foundations of her homeland. Treachery sets her on her path; love and honor goad her further. And in the doing, it will take her to the edge of despair…and beyond. Hateful friend, loving enemy, beloved assassin; they can all wear the same glittering mask in this world, and Phèdre will get but one chance to save all that she holds dear.

A girl at work recommend this novel to me after I pestered her about what she was reading every morning and afternoon in the lunchroom. And now I understand why she couldn’t put it down! It’s an amazing world made up of cunning poets, deadly courtiers, heroic traitors and a truly seductive villainess. There are so many sacrifices, betrayals, conspiracies, double agendas and colorfuly characters.

At the beginning it is hard to get into, mainly just hard to get a grasp of all the different characters and their relationships to each other. But about quarter the way through they all began lining up in my mind and it made for a much more enjoyable read. It reminds me of Game Of Thrones in a way – so much politics, different lands, sex and murder! But I thought it would be much more steamy, especially given the protagonist is raised as a courtesan.

There is a sweet love story running alongside the novel, but it’s definitely not the main focus. Sadly. I think it would have been nicer if there was a little more about Phèdre and her love…no spoilers but you will work out who it is pretty soon on in the novel! I actually feel kind of sorry for him, there are two more books around these characters and I can see what trouble he will have…eeep.

It is the world building that is truly impressive in this novel. I think it is roughly based on medieval times – due to what courts system they use. And there is definitely viking-esk people. But Carey has created a whole new religion too. I would love to see this book turned into an HBO series. I’m sure there is a million fandom sites that have already picked all the actors, oh see here!

I read this on my kindle and I didn’t even realize it was a whopping 900 pages long aahhh. That’s the sign of a good read for sure. It only loses a star-ish because it was rather confusing at the beginning, and I wanted more romance between the characters that were in love, not just paying ‘patrons’. It is so intriguing though, I love the story line and the world.

My Score: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 3.5 stars

ps. Oh I actually just found this. It is a really good overview of the world and characters with no spoilers if you do intend to read the books, or if you start reading and find it a bit confusing like I did.

pss. If you’d like to give it a read, you can buy it here Kushiel’s Dart (Kushiel’s Legacy Book 1).

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Rebecca | Daphne du Maurier

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again . . .

The novel begins in Monte Carlo, where our heroine is swept off her feet by the dashing widower Maxim de Winter and his sudden proposal of marriage. Orphaned and working as a lady’s maid, she can barely believe her luck. It is only when they arrive at his massive country estate that she realizes how large a shadow his late wife will cast over their lives–presenting her with a lingering evil that threatens to destroy their marriage from beyond the grave.

This was Rose’s book club choice for September and it was a goodie! Picking a classic is always dicey as not everyone is into them, but Rebecca didn’t read like a classic. In fact, it is hard to believe that it was written in the 1930’s, the themes and characters are so progressive and risque. Apart from the nameless protagonist who was so bland and unimpressive that even du Maurier did not feel the need to give her a name in the story, simply calling her the second Mrs de Winter.

Rebecca was the first Mrs de Winter and the true protagonist, or force behind the story. She was a strong woman who lived beyond the grave…sounds kind of creepy, the novel definitely had gothic vibes. Mrs Denvers was another forceful character, some of her monologues were downright possessive and creepy, I got nervous reading them! I can’t wait to watch the Alfred Hitchcock film based on the novel and see which actress plays her.

Overall, Rebecca was an amazing read. The language is very flowery and descriptive, hard to get into at first – but once you’re in deep you can’t stop reading. Plus so many shocks and twists I completely didn’t expect! My mind was left racing after I finished the last chapter…

So safe to say it was a good one to discuss over brunch at Rose’s. Gorgeous sunny morning in Brisbane, I love the brunch book clubs because the food is so so good. Pancakes, muffins, cinnamon scrolls, caramel coco yogurt and mimosas 🥞🍓🥐🍹

Book Club Score: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 (It was a tad too long for everyone I think)

My Score: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

ps. If you want to read it you can get it here 💁🏻 Rebecca (Virago Modern Classics Book 300)

The brunch crew
Rose n’ her pick
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I’m not dead….

I’m not dead…I have just had the most intense semester of uni, work has been so busy and then chuck in the mix an epic 5 week UK/Euro trip! …the poor blog has been left neglected. Although I am pretty sure no one reads this anyway, but hey I like writing it so that’s okay!

I have managed to read a bit though, always make time for that. Below are a few of the books I got through, I will work on posting the reviews in the next week or so!

In a Strange Room – Dalmon Galgut

Kitchen – Banana Yoshimoto

Kushiel’s Dart – Jacqueline Carey

Caleb’s Crossing – Geraldine Brooks

Rebecca – Daphne du Marnier

📚

ps. cute pic from valfre – I love her work!

 

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Burial Rites | Hannah Kent

In northern Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnusdottir is condemned to death for her part in the brutal murder of her lover. Agnes is sent to wait out her final months on the farm of district officer Jon Jonsson, his wife and their two daughters. Horrified to have a convicted murderer in their midst, the family avoid contact with Agnes. Only Toti, the young assistant priest appointed Agnes’s spiritual guardian, is compelled to try to understand her. As the year progresses and the hardships of rural life force the household to work side by side, Agnes’s story begins to emerge and with it the family’s terrible realization that all is not as they had assumed.

This was Renee’s book club pick, it is a based on actual events, the last woman to be executed in Iceland. The tale is moving and pretty devastating – but all written in beautiful prose. The research behind this novel is so rich and it comes through in the writing and sense of place you get while reading. I actually felt cold whilst reading* parts of the novel, like I was in the middle of a northern Iceland winter huddling in the baðstofa with Agnes and her story. It is based on true events, so I knew she was going to be executed at the end (not a spoiler, relax), but I couldn’t help to hope that there was going to be some surprise twist, or miracle, and she would live. Ahhh. You really become invested in the characters and story while reading this.

As it goes for a book club pick – great choice! Nearly everyone finished it in time, and we all had a good discussion of what we thought, or what we would do differently if we were in Agnes place (good old captain hindsight, haha). It was a brunch bookclub on a gorgeous sunny winter morning on the Teneriffe bend of Brisbane River, super pretty. I should have taken more pictures, but here’s a cute one of our host Ren, with Bradley and Rose in the background eyeing up the mimosas!

Overall, excellent bookclub pick and read in general! There is also a eerily beautiful trailer for this book that you can check out here.

My Score and Bookclub Score: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

*actually listening, it was my first audio-book experience eeek

 

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To audio-book or not to audio-book…

I listened to my first audio-book this week and these are my thoughts!

It had been a long time coming, my partner listens to audio-books all the time and raves about them. So I thought, because I have a million (well, pretty much) books to read this semester for uni, I would ‘audio-book’ the book club read for this month, listening to it in the car on my way to work and back. There’s a couple points I would like to bring up.

Firstly – I think audio-books will shortly be banned from listening to whilst driving, especially good ones. I was so caught up mid novel, hanging on every word between Toti and Agnes (unsure if that’s how you spell their Icelandic names, ah the drawbacks of an audio-book) that I nearly went into the car in front of me (I think that in parts like those, when I am reading, I probably start skimming frantically find out what happens) or I would look up and suddenly realize I am home with no recollection of the driving.

Secondly –  You can’t listen to audio-books whilst tired or hungover. If you fall asleep listening (this was not while I was driving, don’t panic) it is super pesky trying to go back and figure out where you fell asleep, and avoid spoilers. Then if you listen whilst hungover, somehow you don’t seem to appreciate the words as much and your mind wanders (thinking of food, mainly) and the same thing happens trying to go back and find your ‘pre-hangover’ listening point.

But overall, I liked the audio-book experience. Especially to pass time during activities or places where it’s inappropriate to whip out a book. For example, I listened at work while doing stock-take and while going for a walk down the beach. But it’s not as satisfying or rewarding as sitting down with a good book! And they are ridiculously expensive. I used the free one month trial at audible thankfully. But I think if I were to purchase the audio-book it would be around $40 😧

Ps. The book I listened to was Burial Rites by Hannah Kent – review to follow!

Pss. You can try the free one month trial and score some free audio-books here – Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

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On Writing | Stephen King

A Memoir of the Craft…

Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

Well I couldn’t put this book down. After having studiously avoided Stephan King novels for the majority of my life (mistakenly watched the film IT when I was a kid and still having nightmares), I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed this read – and probably – how much I have been missing out on by not reading his fiction!

It begins with fragmented tales of his childhood and growing up, which have in someways shaped his writing. Then the second part is advice, and speaking about the language – as he calls it. It is extremely useful, and entertaining to read. It is part tales, part how-to and part examples. It is written for everybody, you don’t have to be seasoned writer in order to gain a lot from reading it. The third part was about his near-death accident, and coming back to writing afterwards. At the end there are hundreds of book recommendations too.

His final parting message was – write a lot and read a lot. After shouting out for non-scary Stephan King reading recommendations on Insta, I have decided to go for Carrie. It was his debut novel, and I am far from high school now, so hopefully it doesn’t scare me too badly.

My Score: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

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Sundays at Astrology 101

So I haven’t posted in a while (although I have nearly finished this fab book that I will be posting about shortly) and I thought I would write a little something about the Astrology 101 workshop that my friend and I went to the past Sunday.

I have always been interested in star signs and what-not. Whenever I read them in a magazine, or in the newspaper, I seem to be able to relate the reading to something that has been happening in my life. More or less anyway. But yes, that’s because they are sooo vague and open to interpretation. I knew there was a lot more going on with ones star sign – rising signs, moons sign etc etc. So off we went to Astrology 101!

We had to provide our exact time, place and date of birth beforehand so ‘Dr Brad’ could generate our personal astrology charts. Dr Brad was the extremely flamboyant professional sorcerer, osteomancer, carteomancer and astrologer who was running our workshop (the only reason I knew what osteomancer and carteomancer meant was from reading The Bone Season haha).

He gave us a wee spiel about the background of astrology, how ancient it is – people have been reading the stars as far back as history allows us to see, its pretty nuts. Then he went over each star sign, and the significance of the position of the planets in your birth chart, and the positions of your twelve astrological houses. And then there was your rising sign, descendant sign, the lower heaven and midheaven. It was all so freaking more complicated than I imagined. And I think we only scratched the surface.

For the last hour of the workshop we were given flashcards and asked to investigate our own astrology charts, while ‘Dr Brad’ came around and sat with us all for a bit. This part was just quite frustrating because none of us really knew what to do, and we all just wanted our personal chart deciphered by him. The only thing I figured out is that I have a really strong rising Aries sign, which accounts for why I don’t fit the Virgo traits sometime. Oh, and that I am in my 28th year so Saturn is rising and pretty much going to fuck with everything happening in my life, so I better ‘make some goals and stick to them gurl’ to quote Dr Brad, haha.

Overall, it was a fun way to spend a couple hours on a Sunday! And it has made me even more interested in Astrology. When we asked ‘Dr Brad’ when the next class (Astrology 102) is happening, he said he doesn’t know because he is a Pisces that his mind is all over the place and he hasn’t organised it yet…lol. So we will see. He also said that he generated our personal astrology charts on a $300 program that is super complicated, but I found a free online website that generates the exact same chart he gave me – if anyone wants to check it out here.

xxx

 

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