macmillan-sword and verseRaisa was only a child when she was kidnapped and enslaved in Qilara. Forced to serve in the palace of the King, she’s endured hunger, abuse, and the harrowing fear of discovery. Everyone knows that Raisa is Arnath, but not that she is a Learned One, a part of an Arnath group educated in higher order symbols. In Qilara, this language is so fiercely protected that only the King, the Prince, and Tutors are allowed to know it. So when the current Tutor-in-training is executed for sharing the guarded language with slaves and Raisa is chosen to replace her, Raisa knows that, although she may have a privileged position among slaves, any slipup could mean death.

That would be challenging enough, but training alongside Prince Mati could be her real undoing. And when a romance blossoms between them, she’s suddenly filled with a dangerous hope for something she never before thought possible: more. Then she’s approached by the Resistance—an underground army of slaves—to help liberate the Arnath people. Joining the Resistance could mean freeing her people…but she’d also be aiding in the war against her beloved, an honorable man she knows wants to help the slaves.

Working against the one she loves—and a palace full of deadly political renegades—has some heady consequences. As Raisa struggles with what’s right, she unwittingly uncovers a secret that the Qilarites have long since buried…one that, unlocked, could bring the current world order to its knees.

And Raisa is the one holding the key.

Hardcover, 384 pages  Published January 19th 2016 by HarperTeen   0062324616 (ISBN13: 9780062324610)

This story ended up being something completely different from what I was thinking it would be. With the title of “Sword and Verse” I was going into the story expecting there to be a lot of fighting, war….well swords. But the usage of the word was unexpected. The book focuses more on knowledge and the privilege of reading and writing.

Raisa is chosen to be a tutor, one of the highest positions that  slave can obtain. This title gives her access to the castle and luxuries most slaves could never imagine. It also places her in the same room as the prince for several hours a day, practising their writing. It is not long before a romantic element arises and they begin a romantic relationship that could see her killed if ever they were found out.

When the prince is to become King and becomes engaged, the relationship fades. There have been uprisings and the people of the kingdom desire to learn the language of the Kings. Believing the way out of their slave-hood is knowledge, they approach Raisa to help their cause. Now Raisa has two reasons to fear for her life. She is stuck between the boy she loves and her people.

The story really focuses on two things: the love between Raisa and the Prince, and the power of language and writing. Raisa feels a powerful draw to writing because it links her back to her childhood and the time spent with her father.

There is a lot of drama in the story as her situation is very dangerous. The longer she stays in her position, the more she finds herself torn between her people and her love for the prince.

I went into the story expecting a very fast-paced, war-ridden kingdom. What I got was a romantic love story about a girl who falls hard for a charming man, and the desire of people to learn. What I loved about the book, and the reason I would recommend it to others, is the battle that Raisa fights within herself. She is a very smart and witty character who has to work her way through several very fraught situations and stay strong when others challenge her. I found her to be very truthful and devoted to what she believes in.

I found that after finishing the story, it still sticks with me; it is something I will read again and recommend to others who like a good dramatic romance.

 



bardugo-Six of Crows coverBelinda_kisses_tnBel:

Cover

I picked up both the audio and the paperback of this book, and they both have the same cover art, an illustration of a crow in flight against a snowy stormy looking sky.

Characters

This is the reason I ended up having to buy the paperback as well as having the audio book. There are sooooo many characters I just couldn’t keep them all straight in my mind.

Favourite

Nina, her sense of humour is in the right place.

Least Favourite

Van Eck because the loser of the year award should go to him.

Beginning

A drug has been invented to exacerbate the abilities the gifted people (Grisha) possess. It’s addictive and detrimental to the health of the Grisha who are forced to take it.

Storyline

A gang of misfits has been hired by some rich guy to abduct the man who created the drug.

Ending

It isn’t the most unexpected ending, but it is pleasing none the less.

Thoughts

This is a substantial door-stop of a book. There’s a lot of action and quite a bit of humour thrown in. I was a little disappointed to realise I really couldn’t keep the number of characters straight in my head, so reading along became my preferred consumption method. I did enjoy the narration provided by the talented team of Jay Synder, David LeDoux, Lauren Fortgang, Roger Clark, Elizabeth Evans, Tristan Morris, and Brandon Rubin. But as you can see, it’s a mammoth cast.

I do enjoy Leigh’s world building and political ambiance. I also love that her female characters aren’t all complete twits and can hold their own when it comes to intelligence and physical strength.

I’m really not sure if I’ll purchase the second book in the series, but maybe I’d borrow it from the library.

Quote

“I will have you without armor, Kaz Brekker. Or I will not have you at all.” ~Inej talking to Kaz

Bardugo_Shadow and BoneJoelene_tnJoelene

Cover

A crow flying against a mist-grey backdrop with towers sketched into the gaps of its wing feathers. The title font is antiquated and lovely.

Characters

There are rival gangs, rival countries, law-makers, law-breakers, magic-wielders and the magicless. Six people form the major characters – a team put together by teenage criminal, Kaz Brekker, to break into a seemingly impenetrable military stronghold.

Favourite

Way too many to choose from. Inej, maybe. She’s capable, knows her own worth and manages to keep some sort of moral code despite her occupation.

Least Favourite

None of them. They’re all pretty good characters in their own right, even the villains. Though I do hope we get to see Pekka Rollins and Tante Heleen fall.

Beginning

Kaz Brekker and his gang have been systematically destroying any competition to their territory. Apparently, they have done a good enough job to catch the attention someone who has an offer that might just be worth the near certain death they will have to court to claim it.

Storyline

When six people who don’t particularly like each other – and definitely don’t trust each other – team up to infiltrate a never-before infiltrated fortress; it’s going to take all they have to make it out alive and with their prize.

Ending

I don’t see how Bardugo is going to top the stakes in the next novel. This one pushes enough boundaries.

Thoughts

I’m glad I gave Bardugo another try. I liked Shadow and Bone, but Six of Crows has so much more political and emotional depth. It’s amazing how far Bardugo’s writing has come in such a short time. I can’t wait for the next book in the series.

Quote

She felt slightly guilty for eavesdropping on Kaz, but he was the one who had turned her into a spy. You couldn’t train a falcon, then ask it not to hunt.

 

http://www.leighbardugo.com/index1.html

Paperback, 491 pages

Published September 29th 2015 by Indigo (first published July 28th 2015)

ISBN 1780622279 (ISBN13: 9781780622279)

 

 



Key-bottle creekIn this gritty, realistic wilderness adventure, thirteen-year-old Cort is caught in a battle against a Gulf Coast hurricane. Cort’s father is a local expert on hunting and swamp lore in lower Alabama who has been teaching his son everything he knows. But when a deadly Category 3 storm makes landfall, Cort must unexpectedly put his all skills-and bravery-to the test. One catastrophe seems to lead to another, leaving Cort and two neighbor girls to face the storm as best they can. Amid miles of storm-thrashed wetlands filled with dangerous, desperate wild animals, it’s up to Cort to win-or lose-the fight for their lives.

Cort’s parents are separated and his father continually goes to his mother to convince her to come back. On one of these occasions, a hurricane hits and leaves Cort to try to save their houseboat and keep the neighbours safe.

Cort is no stranger to the landscape around their home. His father leads tours on both land and water throughout the area and Cort accompanies him often. When the storm hits,  Cort finds himself swept away along with the neighbours’ girls. They find themselves in a secluded area with hogs, snakes, spiders, alligators and bears who are fleeing the floods. The three try to find safety, but they are outnumbered and  Cort must find help.

The story is very fast paced with constant action. A fun and on the edge-of-your-seat read for Middle Grade/Teen readers. The book also tackles the tough subject of divorce and dealing with emergencies. The writing is well done and really puts you in the southern U.S. Alabama state of mind. I recommend this one for those that enjoy reading stories with family issues or survival stories involving animals and nature. I enjoyed it and think you will to.



 

I read this book with the help of Netgalley.com and I’m so glad I took the chance.

mccarthy-You Were HereThe Goodreads blurb reads…

“On the anniversary of her daredevil brother’s death, Jaycee attempts to break into Jake’s favourite hideout—the petrifying ruins of an insane asylum. Joined by four classmates, each with their own brand of dysfunction, Jaycee discovers a map detailing her brother’s exploration and the unfinished dares he left behind.

As a tribute to Jake, Jaycee vows to complete the dares, no matter how terrifying or dangerous. What she doesn’t bargain on is her eccentric band of friends who challenge her to do the unthinkable: reveal the parts of herself that she buried with her brother.”

This is a book with really dark themes and though the topic is heavy, Cori executes her ideas in a respectful, heart wrenching manner. I loved the combination between using graphic novel, graffiti art, and traditional book formats, depending on which character is narrating at the time. Each voice screaming to be heard and each making you care about their plight.

You’ll find yourself cheering from the sidelines as the story arc rises to its pinnacle, and I promise there’s a roller coaster to make it through to the end.

Well worth the time and money for anyone who thought John Green’s books were a little too tear-inducing, but still want to step outside their comfort zones.

http://www.corimccarthy.com/

Hardcover, 400 pages

Expected publication: March 1st 2016 by Sourcebooks Fire

ISBN 1492617040 (ISBN13: 9781492617044)

 



Mandy Wrangles_2_tnMandy’s swooning over this recipe book!

 

 

 

Evans-Not Just Jam by Matthew EvansWarning: giving a balanced review of this little book without any of the oohing and ahhing it prompted upon landing in my hands will be almost impossible. I’ll admit I’m a sucker for a beautifully presented book – whether it be a work of fiction or fact – and Not Just Jam is just that. I’m also a sucker for food preserving (ugh, I hate waste, and it’s a fun way to get the best out of a suburban veggie patch) with a special interest in long-lasting sauces and chutneys. Not only is Not Just Jam a sturdy hardcover with full-page colour photographs for every recipe, but it’s just the right size and weight to hang on to with one hand while you’re stirring a pot of delicious fruit or vegetables, ready to seal into sterilised jars. It’s the type of book that should last the ages (even with the inevitable sticky and stained page-corners) and be passed down to another generation, filled with recipes that evoke memories of ‘home’ and happy times.

Author Matthew Evans is known as Australia’s favourite tree-changer. As a former chef and food critic, he now lives and works in Tasmania as a smallholder, food writer and activist. He’s the star of the SBS TV series ‘Gourmet Farmers’ and has written 11 books including The Dirty Chef, Real Food Companion, Winter on the Farm and Summer on Fat Pig Farm. With credentials like those, obviously Evans knows his stuff. Not Just Jam is his latest offering, and along with the glorious presentation, Evans also proves he can come up with entertaining and super-simple recipes that will work for both those experienced in food preserving as well as absolute beginners.

The book starts out with some general tips on sterilisation and the science of preserving food, without being over-whelming or scary. Lots of books on preserves will recommend a hundred and one different pieces of ‘essential’ equipment, but Evans just gets right down to basics, proving how simple it can be to fill your pantry with jams, relishes and sauces without the need for expensive gear.

The first chapter does cover jam-making, and my favourite recipes have got to be The Quintessential Raspberry Jam (though our home-grown raspberries don’t often last long enough around children to gain the 1kg required) and the Chilli Jam, which is recommended to use with seafood such as mussels and prawns, as well as plain old fried eggs.

Mint Jelly will be the first recipe I’ll give a go, though. Even those with a black gardening thumb can grow wild mint, and we battle with it in our strawberry patch. There are literally four ingredients in this one, and it’s a great way to use up that crazy mint. Blueberry and Balsamic Jelly also sounds intriguing, especially when it’s recommended to swirl through icecream.

So far as actual fruit and veggie preserving goes, I’m looking forward to checking out the Cumquats in Brandy (because we also have a crazy cumquat tree) as well as the Dill Pickled Cucumbers. I’ve tried these a number of times before without much success, but this recipe looks like a winner. The Indian-Style Salted Lime Pickle and Beetroot Relish are more great examples of basic, yet mouth-watering recipes with only a few ingredients and little time needed to devote to something special.

For something a bit swish, try the Five-Spiced Pear Paste (served with cheese and crackers, oh my), or the passionfruit curd, which I wish I knew about six weeks ago when our passionfruit vine was dropping more fruit than we could eat or give away. There’s even recipes here for good old Worcestershire Sauce and a traditional Tomato Passata.

While I’d definitely recommend Not Just Jam for a Mother’s Day or birthday gift, at a RRP of just $35, it’s well-worth purchasing for anyone with even a passing interest in cooking or self-sufficiency. And did I mention it’s gorgeous?

 

Not Just Jam by Matthew Evans

Hardcover, 208 pages

Published by Murdoch Books

ISBN – 9781743365816

 


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