Review: The Wicked Wager, by Anya Wylde

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Remember how I was writing about those books you can get for free every now and again from Amazon, and how most of them happen to be romance? Well, this was one of them. I initially picked it up because the description sounded mildly interesting – and then I got to a line in the first paragraph that made me almost drop the entire thing and not even bother.

“He tilted his head and his naughty ears trembled impatiently.”

Yep.

I don’t mind silly stories, or comical ones, but the writing has to be able to grab me if that’s going to be the case, and I just about found that one line to be too much for me. Thankfully I decided to press on to see if the writing got any better. It did (slightly).

Emma and Richard are meant to be, but before they can they have to convince Emma’s uncle that they don’t need to wait on the wedding and they should be able to get married sooner rather than later. Emma heads over to her uncles place for a few weeks to convince him of their love, and Richard concocts a plan placing him as a gardener within the mansion so that he can be closer to Emma. Of course life never works out that easily, and the couple meet up with lots of complications along the way, including having to convince Richard’s close friend to pretend to be Richard when the uncle invites him over to get to know him better.

The book is an easy relaxing read, but the writing style was not one I was fond of. The bond between Emma and Richard didn’t feel ‘real’ enough, where as the relationship that budded between Catherine and Lord Raikes felt much more ‘real’ (and it felt like there was more focus on them later on in the book even though they were background characters). The book also changed gears towards the end where it felt more like a game of clue (It was Emma in the yard with a candlestick!) instead of being about the various romances going on, almost as though the author got bored of their own story line. I personally wouldn’t classify this book as a mystery since nothing mystery related actually happens until the last 5-10% of the book, but since the author herself calls it that, why not. It just felt a bit out of place and forced compared to the first half of the book.

If you’re looking for a funny, easy read with a bit of romance (all clean) and some mystery, then The Wicked Wager may be just what you’re looking for, especially for the price.

3/5 stars

Review: The Dragon Round, by Stephen S. Power

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This book started out pretty interesting. Tales of swashbuckling adventures, a mutinous crew, and an island where Jeryon and the apothecary from his ship are eventually stranded. The whole first half of the book was about their adventures in survival. Separated at first they find a way to survive and eventually meet up on the island. They create a camp together, and stumble onto a baby dragon hatching. All of these stories I enjoyed a great deal and it reminded me a lot of The Count of Monte Cristo in the way that the first half of the book was about revenge. Jeryon wanted revenge on the ship crew that left him stranded, and he decided to use the baby dragon to seek out that revenge. He starts training it, making plans, plotting his calculated revenge. He gets wrapped up in it.

As much as I enjoyed the first half of the book, the second half left me scratching my head in confusion. Instead of adventures and tales of heroic (and some not so heroic) deeds, it was about politics. Politics of the lands that Jeryon and his apothecary are from. Politics where a war is starting up and people are looking to place blame. The apothecary’s story (her name is Everlyn) is pretty much ignored from this point on and we don’t hear from her any more until the very end. Gone is the depth and personal connection we feel to any of the previous main characters as the focus suddenly shifts without any warning (and in my opinion, without any need). It was so sudden and jarring that a book I would have gladly given close to four stars to dropped down to a 2.5 (I round them up on goodreads). I almost started to wonder if the second half had been written by someone else, or after a long break where the author suddenly decided to change the story. It’s not a smooth transition, and that’s a shame because for the first half of the book there was just so much potential. The abrupt ending, especially, felt (to me) like it was rather slapped on.

3/5 stars

Review: The Song of Kahunsha, by Anosh Irani

299773A friend was giving away some of his books because he’s running out of room, and of course being the book lover I am, I decided to pick out a few to add to my own collection. One of them was this Canada Reads book from 2007 that I had never heard of.

The Song of Kahunsha is about a 10 year old orphan boy who lives in Bombay. One day he learns that the orphanage is going to be shut down, and instead of going that rout he decides to take his fate in his own hands, and sets out to find his birth father who left him on the steps so long ago.

One of the great things about this book is the innocence that Chamdi has, no matter how many hardships he faces. This comes across as a child’s method of coping, and it’s written in a magical way that pulls the reader through his world. His world is one of heartache, pain, and violence but also one of incredibly colours, hope, and belief. He learns that the world is rough, and even though he meets up with two children around his own age, Sumdi and Guddi, things are going to get a lot harder. Together they start collecting money for Anand Bhai, who “turns people into boxes”. Chamdi’s world is further shaken when on the day he is supposed to steal from a local temple, something terrible happens (as if enough had not already happened).

Still, Chamdi finds beauty. He sees things with the eyes of a child and he’s unable to completely give up his child-like ways, even though he sees evils all around him, evils that the reader understands but that the 10 year old Chamdi cannot.

This isn’t a happy ending book but sometimes you need something deeply emotional to shake you up a little and get you out of a reading rut.

4/5 Stars

Suggestions on Where to Find Free E-Books

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Reading can be an expensive hobby, especially if you like to read books by your favourite authors as soon as they come out. So what about the time in between those authors when you’re still craving a book to read, but don’t necessarily want to shell out $20+ per book? Don’t misunderstand me here, I certainly believe that authors should be paid for their work, and being a writer myself I understand the enormous amount of work that goes into a publication, but I’ve also always been a big supporter of reading and I believe that it should be made available for anyone out there who wants to read no matter their financial standing – thankfully this day in age, with today’s technology, there are many options for low budget reading. You may not always get triple A reading material, but you’ll certainly find some gems.

One of the first things I did when I got my kindle e-reader was browse through the kindle store. It’s pretty easy to get lost, but they have a nice selection of books that are free for you to read, usually the classics. There’s tons of classics out there. If you’re not a fan of using amazon there are other options. One popular one is Project Gutenberg. A good one for free audio books is LibriVox.

Every day I get an email from BookBub and in this email they typically list a bunch of highly discounted books along with one or two free ones. The free ones are not free forever, they’re usually on some amazon deal that lasts a day, a week, or longer depending on the author. This is where you’ll see a lot of “not so great, but hey it’s free” books listed – and it’s a great place to find potential gems. The books are different every single day and this is probably one of my favourite ways to get free books and add to my e-book collection. If you’ve never checked it out before, I highly recommend signing up. One thing to note, if you check off any of the romance books in your preferences, chances are your daily email will be filled with that type of book. It just happens that there’s a large number of them, and they go free pretty often. I’ve got 14 free books in the lats 6 months according to my amazon orders placed, and while they certainly haven’t all been winners, they’re not always horrible and it’s a great way to do some budget reading. There are also a lot of sites like this one that will list all of the current amazon books that are marked as free.

If you’ve got a book review site, a blog, or even just like to write reviews for Goodreads there are even more options for you. You can sign up for a site like NetGalley and apply directly to publishers to read and review the books they have listed. In this case you’re much more likely to stumble across books you will really enjoy since you’re hand picking which ones you review. The books here are all represented by a publisher, and are not self published. Of course the downside in this case is that you may be declined by the publisher, especially if you don’t match the publisher’s requests. There are rules for this type of review, they have to be done in a specific time, and sometimes location is a factor. Publishers may only be looking for reviewers in the US, or in Canada, based on where their book is being released.

I’ve talked about these options before, but if you’re a fan of bundles, there’s the HumbleBookBundle that runs pretty frequently, though you may need to wait until you see books that you enjoy come up. They change each bundle, and the prices are fantastic. There’s also StoryBundle which supports Indie authors. Their bundles are less frequent, so you may want to sign up so you can get notice of when they run.

Another choice that is slowly making its way across cities is of course – your public library. Now this will absolutely depend on where you live. When I was in Ottawa I was able to sign out ebooks from the library web site and download them to my e-reader. Now that I live in a more remote area, I don’t have this available, and I miss it. Not all books will be available this way, and you still have to abide by library rules (they can only lend out as many “copies” as they own, and there may be a queue) but it’s a newer option that I really enjoy seeing come to life.

Have more suggestions for readers on how to get some budget ebooks? Don’t hesitate to leave a comment with your suggestions below!

 

Review: If I had a Gryphon, by Vikki VanSickle and Cale Atkinson

Sam has a hamster – a typical first pet for any child. Unfortunately Sam is a bit disillusioned with this pet and has grand dreams of something… more. Something more exciting. Something like.. a dragon! Except they would be a lot of work, always lighting things on fire, wouldn’t they.

Sam goes through a whole list of mythical creatures that may be perfect for a pet, but finds a fault with them all and in the end decides that the hamster is perfect.

This book is fantastic for parents to read to their children. It teaches them about creatures that they wouldn’t usually hear about, animals that are not your typical pet. The ending resonated particularly well with me, as Sam decides that the hamster is the perfect pet even after going through the list of mythical ones. A good lesson in the grass is always greener on the other side. I think geek parents would be particularly enthralled with this book, and highly recommend it. My version was in black and white on my e-reader, but I enjoyed the images for what they were. They’re not especially high quality, but I feel that the book doesn’t need it, the story really does speak for itself.

5/5 stars

 

Review: My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

15451058 As I mentioned in my previous post, this year I want to branch out from my typical genres. I want to explore books that others recommend to me, and not just those that I stumble across in my travels. On that note, I joined a book club set up by Emma Watson on GoodReads, and the first book on the shelf was this one. I don’t read a lot of non fiction. In fact I’m pretty sure the non fiction books I have read I could count on both hands. I didn’t go into this book club expecting anything other than having my mind and perspective opened up a little bit, and that’s exactly what the book did.

It’s a telling of the life of Gloria Steinem, and it just so happens to take place during a time in the world when the movement for equality was just starting out. What I found fascinating about this book was not the particular details about her life, nor her history growing up – but her interactions with others. Some of the sections of the book really made me think about things in a different way, see a new perspective, and that’s what I loved about it.

In one section that really moved me and opened up my mind, Gloria is talking with the American Indian and Alaskan Native Caucus.

“As one Native delegate said, “Other Americans have histories and families and gene pools in their home countries. If French or Arabic is forgotten in America, it’s still being spoken somewhere. We have no other country. If our languages are wiped out, they can’t come back. If we disappear here, that’s it.””

This quote really stood out to me. It was something I had never thought of before, and clarified why being able to keep their culture was such an important thing. The next moving quote is when Gloria is describing the lives of the various taxi drivers she had listened to over the years. This entire chapter was particularly moving for me, but one conversation stood out from the rest. She’s driving around New York City after 9/11 and talking with a taxi driver.

“There were also anonymous graffiti that had appeared as if by contagion all over New York with the same message: Our grief is not a cry for war. “Thats how New Yorkers feel,” the driver said. “They know what bombing looks like, and they know what hell it is. But outside New York, people will feel guilty because they weren’t here. They’ll be yelling for revenge out of guilt and ignorance. Sure, we all want to catch the criminals, but only people who weren’t in New York will want to bomb another country and repeat what happened here.””

Wow. Now, I know this quote probably doesn’t capture how 100% of New Yorkers felt, but that quote is so incredibly powerful and spoke to me on a level that I hadn’t anticipated.

It’s hard to describe how I felt as I read through this. It reads less as an autobiography and more like a novel, if that makes sense. It didn’t feel like what I was reading could possibly be real, or have possibly happened, and yet, it did. She teaches us to take the time to listen and makes the point time and again that ‘listening circles’ are powerful. All in all it was not what I was expecting (but then again, what was I expecting is hard to pin down) and quite an enjoyable read that really made me think.

4/5 stars

Do You Bookclub?

15451058 The start of a new year is a great time to find motivation to do all sorts of projects that you may not otherwise think about. That includes promising to do more reading, too. Lately book talk has revolved around Emma Watson starting a book club on goodreads that anyone can join. Not only is this fantastic motivation from a celebrity but she’s ready some pretty amazing books, too. She clearly states that the club is going to focus on books about equality, as it pertains to her work with UN Women. The book club holds the logo “Feminism is for everyone” and the first book up for discussion is ‘My Life on the Road’ by Gloria Steinem.

I have been wanting to expand my reading and so I joined the reading group and I also picked up the book this weekend. I haven’t gotten very far into it yet, but I’m excited. The group has over 80,000 members which does make for incredibly busy discussions. I don’t plan on participating a great deal but I will lurk and read some of it. A lot is nothing to do with equality or women’s rights at all, but are Emma stalkers, hoping that she’ll open communication with them.

We need more book clubs like this. They don’t necessarily have to be the exact same subject, but we (society) needs to be encouraging people to read and we need to offer motivation for people to branch outside of their comfort zones in what they read – without judgement. I don’t care what people are reading as much as I care that they ARE reading.

The club seems to be very well rounded. There are some members who have read thousands of books and recorded them to Goodreads, and others who have only one or no books recorded. I’m interested in seeing what books make the list, and what others think about them.

How about you, do you belong to a book club?