Sunday, March 30, 2014

Audiobook Giveaway: "Finnikin of the Rock" by Melina Marchetta

I have joined Cuddlebuggery's Best Series Blog Hop with style, by doing my first giveaway.  A copy of "Finnikin of the Rock" by Melina Marchetta, as an audiobook from Audible. 





Here are the main reasons why Melina Marchetta's books rock: 

A few years ago I stumbled upon a book by an unknown (for me) Australian writer,  On the Jellicoe Road. I was naive enough to open it on a quiet evening and.... *kaboom* my life changed, yes, my reading life took a high and above epic awareness. I learned from Melina that books can have so many layers and undercurrent meanings. Also, how some written words can find a direct line with my core (soul, heart & brain). I didn't sleep that night finishing this book. I didn't realize I was in serious need of a book detox, after doing my graduate degree. I re-read that book the day after, trying to pick up the pieces of my heart and wondering what had happened to me and my lack of knowledge about Melina Marchetta.

As such, I was extremely pleased when I learned about her series Lumatere Chronicles being her EPIC immersion into the High Fantasy realm.  Guess what... Finnikin of the Rock was better than a key lime pie on a rainy day...  better than attending a VIP screening of The Dark Night Rises... better than finding out you can watch all the seasons of Sherlock, non-stop, through Netflix! 

So...  yeah,

Finnikin of the Rock is my precious and EVERYONE MUST read it. Period. 














This is an excerpt from my review of "Finnikin of the Rock" from a couple of years ago:

"This story is set in a land called Skuldendore and describes the lives of those who survived the aftermath of a terrible curse in one of its kingdoms Lumatere. 10 years have passed since Lumatereans were forced to exile as a result from the slaughter of their king and a dark cloud that enclosed the realm. We travel this land alongside Finnikin of the Rock, the son of Trevanion- whom is the captain of the Guard-. Finn is trying to help the exiles scattered in camps throughout Skuldendore. This book starts with a journey where he is summoned by a novice Evanjalin. 


I'm familiar and have worked a lot with human rights issues and displaced communities; and even though this is a fantasy novel, Finnikin of the Rock touches many delicate situations communities face when loss, threats for their life, survival and impotence finds them. You will encounter the need for solidarity, which is very relevant for our everyday life... as you may imagine, humanity and its meanings bleed from these pages!

This is just a brief description of the setting, spoiler free, since Finnikin's world is so rich and complex, I see myself re-reading it over and over again. "


THE GIVEAWAY



Since I feel is my duty to spread the love for this series and its amazing author, I have decided to host my first ever giveaway on my blog in a format I adore, an audiobook. The prize is one (1) copy of Finnikin of the Rock in audiobook form. The delivery method is through Audible. I have been a long time user of this service and I must admit, I love it. Audiobooks make my life richer. Thus I am encouraging the love of written/spoken words with this giveaway.  Another perk: being in an international location helps tremendously for access/price/reliability - Therefore, this contest is OPEN TO ANYONE, however, there is a simple requirement: willing to join (or are already a member of) Audible.COM, to receive the prize (sorry, but I am unable to use my account for audible.co.ukaudible.deaudible.fr ). 



AUDIOBOOK
UNABRIDGED
By Melina Marchetta
Narrated By Jeffrey Cummings
Series: The Lumatere Chronicles, Book 1
Length: 12 hrs and 25 mins
Release Date: 09-28-10



You'll love this book and its narration, the best 12 hours and 25 minutes of your life,


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Besides, you'll have the opportunity to experience a whole new epic world! 



CONTEST RULES


- To enter, please follow the steps from the RAFFLECOPTER form below*.

- The giveaway is International, however the absolute requirement is the willingness to join Audible.COM or have an Audible.COM membership to receive the prize (An Amazon.com account works to sign up). Thus, Amazon's age restrictions apply (owner of Audible): If you are under 18, you may use Amazon.com only with involvement of a parent or guardian. It's free to open an account and you don't have to give any credit card information to open it**.

- The giveaway will run March 31st at 12:01am to April 6th 11:59pm EST. 

- The winner will be announced on this site and will be notified by e-mail. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Please join me and these other 37 awesome blogs' giveaways who are promoting EPIC SERIES, by visiting the links below - Best Series Blog Hop hosted by Cuddlebuggery.
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*This contest and its administrator (me) is in no way affiliated or sponsored by Audible. I just love the audiobook platform! ** All information provided will remain private and in no way will be used, distributed or sold for anything. Not even a rendez-vous with Benedict Cumberbatch.

I am ready for you, lovely book!

Ann Aguirre is one of my "to-go" fantasy reading authors who isn't shy of trying lots of genres (adult and YA) and is by far the most prolific writer I know. She has made my reading take new directions. I first encountered Sirantha Jax and her totally slow-building, mindblowing Grimspace romantic sci-fi series. Then, I got the pleasure to read her YA dystopian adventures from the Razorland trilogy. She has a lot of witty, crafty stories going on, and her twitter account will give you hours of entertainment. 

A month ago she announced on her website an exciting giveaway, to encourage bloggers to familiarize with her books, in an effort to encourage readers and reviews. She is always keeping up with her author-reader bond.

I am excited that I got picked up, as being in an international location is not always that easy to receive such bounties. 

So, last week (almost for my birthday - yay!), I received a signed copy of "Bronze Gods", the first instalment from the Apparatus Infernum series, she co-authored with her husband, Andrés. 

























Isn't this pretty?

I am so excited to start this book!


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"Are you going to tell me where we're going?"

The Wizard’s Promise (The Hannah Duology, #1)The Wizard’s Promise by Cassandra Rose Clarke
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3 and a half stars.

This book is set in the same world as Cassandra Rose Clarke's books from The Assassin's Curse series. I loved that series. I loved the characters, I loved the writing style and I loved the setting. As such, I was extremely happy when I learned that The Wizard's Promise could revisit these places.

However, I have to say, it felt short.

This book tells the story of Hannah, an untrained witch who is a fisherman's apprentice, for a guy named Kolur. She is obligated to join Kolur in a fishing trip that takes an unexpected course. This sounds intriguing... yes, and fun too. But that unexpected course, ends up being completely open ended throughout the book.

Let me begin with what I found to be the most positive parts of this story: I love the narrative and style. Clarke is very smooth and crafty with her storytelling. You end up believing and visualizing everything she writes. The worldbuilding is very rich and flawless. I tasted the sea, felt the wind, smelled the fish and touched the sails. You end up travelling with Hannah in Kolur's boat.

But the so-so part in this story that I was iffy about, and annoyed, is perhaps that everything was secret and Hannah remains frustrated throughout the book because no one tells her the reasons of her predicament. In sum, we practically learn nothing, I ended up getting irked about this lack of information, in addition to the absence of connection (and sometimes empathy) with Hannah. I really felt nothing for her, taking in account that I usually have strong emotions towards the fictional characters from the books I read. But this is in no way critical to the enjoyment of the story. I liked it. I want to read the second book. I am curious enough to wonder what's going to happen to Hannah, but I just wished this book gave more clues and it didn't feel so incomplete with information.

I am introducing in my book reviews a Fictional Meals section, highlighting some food items characters have, interesting dishes I want to try and some curios ones.

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In this book, there are two:

The Start of Spring cake : made from hand-picked berries, baked by Hannah's mother with help from Hannah and her brother Henrik.


The Tuljan delicacy, Lisila fish : "The lisila was a sort of stew, with a creamy white broth that shimmered like moonlight. It smelled of herbs, fragrant and grassy like summer." It is said in this story, that once you try it, you won't want to eat anything more. When Hannah samples it, she said that the "flavour was savory and so complex I couldn't quite define it (...)" sounds yummy, right?

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This book was provided by the publisher, Angry Robot through NetGalley in exchange for Lisila stew an honest review. Thank you!

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Monday, March 24, 2014

"Those girls seemed as dangerous as books that unexpectedly killed their protagonists"

The Poison EatersThe Poison Eaters by Holly Black
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am a fan of Holly Black's dark creepy writing, where characters find themselves in very sad dark places. So, imagine my happiness when I found this audiobook and that Holly herself narrates this compilation! I took great small pleasures with this book, listening in short walks, errands, and taking little moments, making it almost a year to finish.

During the course of this year I have a handful of memories of these stories: some where just forgotten, some lingered and others I am already re-visiting.

There are 12 stories in this book:

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
A Reversal of Fortune
The Boy Who Cried Wolf
The Night Market
The Dog King
Virgin
In Vodka Veritas
The Coat of Stars
Paper Cuts Scissors
Going Ironside
The Land of Heart’s Desire
The Poison Eaters


From these, I loved the first one, which also became a full length standalone novel, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, The Night Market, The Coat of Stars and Paper Cuts Scissors. These are all dark, gritty, sad, happy and hopeful.

I personally believe that the beauty of this collection is how each character must challenge or face a obstacle that forces them to make choices and learn something about themselves. It also has superb descriptions, events and surroundings, so different from one another.

Matilda, from The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, is scared about her infection and wants to keep away from everything and everyone she knows so she wont pass her vampiric disease. But then, she restores to highlight how horrible and un-human is this disease once it hits you, in an attempt to shatter any romanticized notion of vampirism. This tidbit is a wonderful place to start with Holly's stories.

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Tomasa from The Night Market, is a true heroine. Her sister is sick because and enkanto's spell. Her determination and resourcefulness are a true beauty to enjoy. I loved the ending of the story!

Rafael Santiago from The Coat of Stars, is also a tale of bargaining with supernatural characters, but a tale of love. I found it smart and crafty! I really really liked that we have queer characters in here.

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Justin from Paper Cuts Scissors, wants to understand why his girlfriend left, as she disappeared inside a book. He is a library student, who is scared of books and is hired to classify a massive underground library. I found this particular story fascinating. The notion to change books, endings and events sounds fun! It reminded me at some point of Woody Allen's movie Midnight in Paris. I was mesmerized by the classification of books in sections according to the ten broad categories of the Dewey Decimal Classification System, used in this story.

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My favourite quote from this story comes from Justin's musings when describing who he was going to library school with and how he avoided the hipster kind of girls: "Those girls seemed as dangerous as books that unexpectedly killed their protagonists". It made me chuckle. You may listen to this story for free HERE

In my experience, this book shouldn't be read in one sitting. It is perfect for keeping you company in odd life moments when you really can't devote many hours. I will miss having this unfinished title in my audiobook library.


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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Audible freebies to keep you company

The JesterThe Jester by Michael J. Sullivan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fun little piece of fantasy. I found this story free as an audiobook at Audible.

It really got me curious about Riyria! This was a short 50 minutes story nicely narrated. In this short, surprisingly there is a lot of character development and crazy events. I was pleased to have this story with me during my errands on this rainy day.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

"If you are accepted, your life may end early and in torture"

Knight AssassinKnight Assassin by Rima Jean
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3 and a half stars

I love olives! Those delicate green (or black) small pieces of delight. I've been known to finish off an entire can in one sitting. I always steal the olive from my husband's Martinis... and he graciously accepts my poaching. That is a sign of pure love.

Why am I discussing olives in this space? Well, I was hooked to this book within its first pages after reading how Zayn, our seventeen year old main character, helps her mom with the harvest of their olives trees. Ahhhh that was so pretty to imagine, those descriptions are filled with different tastes, sights and smells. Furthermore, I was captivated by some of the dishes Zayn ate: eggplant relish with a stack of triangular-cut slices of flatbread; also a platter of figs, dates, grapes, cheese, olives and bread with a lemon sherbet. Yes, I'm obsess with food and reading -some books give me the best inspirations for cooking.

But going back to this book's themes besides food, I found it refreshing to have a Muslim kick ass heroine whose character growth shines within this book. She manages to finally find an understanding of her own abilities while slowly mending what's broken in her soul.

There is of course that astonishing and surreal background where this book occurs. The crazy times of the 12th Century, when the crusades were happening and Jerusalem was quite a contested place, ruled by a leper, King Baldwin. We get to meet Saladin and learn a bit about his reign. We get to train with a cryptic ruthless order of assassins, where we find out about the Assassin's Creed


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Ezio Auditore da Firenze killing crusaders!


We get to drink fragrant calming tea. Ah, also, we've got this cute Saxon guy who'll keep us worried!

I liked this book. It was original and highly entertaining... And it had a map! Too bad I only found out about it in the end, as it's located on the last page. It would have been very helpful while I was reading!!

Fear not! I'll do you a favour and add it here for your reading convenience:

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You're welcome :)

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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Review: Ender's Game Special 20th Anniversary Edition


Ender's Game Special 20th Anniversary Edition
Ender's Game Special 20th Anniversary Edition by Orson Scott Card

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



Hhhooolllyyyyyy guacamole, this was intense, stressful and mind blowing! No wonder you're still famous and quite refreshing. I was glad I decided to listen to you in preparation for the movie!

A new kind of soldier
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This book was just crazy! I can't believe I hadn't read it before. Almost all the sci fi novels I've read touch in one way or another with themes portrayed in this book. I'm now ready to watch the movie! Yay for Harrison Ford and Asa Butterfield!!

---EDIT:

The movie was even more amazing!!!! I like a sci-fi combination of book-movie I am able to share with the husband!

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Friday, March 7, 2014

That time a book made me uncomfortable

Sins & Needles (The Artists Trilogy, #1)Sins & Needles by Karina Halle
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Beware, this is more of a personal reflection than a review

Drug cartels suck.
The exotification of the drug cartel culture sucks.

Living in a country tainted by this socio-political-economic issue has taught me a lot about this reality, and guess what, it sucks.

So what does this relate to my opinion about Karina Halle's book?

EVERYTHING

Literature is a excellent communication medium. An author's ability to describe what they think and imagine to a wide audience is a trait I admire. I find it fascinating that within stories you're able to both let your heart and mind fly. You can learn new things, cry, rile up, forget, remember... Etc. I've mentioned before that reading is simultaneously a space and place. However, books are also mediums for (re) production of representations of society. I'm a trained anthropologist, thus my brain is usually in observe-analyze-question mode.
Halle's book -and so far what I've noticed about
The Artist Trilogy
- touches the themes of drug lords and all the socio-cultural issues that is surrounds in a too cliché-romantized way. For example, Javier is this dark God just because he is sexy and dangerous. This is not okay. This drug cartel reality is definitely horrible and sad. I am not advocating for denying it's existence, quite the contrary, I view the role of authors feeding our brains with lots of real life issues. I read a lot about bullying, inequality, racism and violence, both in my fiction reads and my non-literary life. I embrace the need to highlight how these are part of or society and I am a strong believer that these issues must be addressed; either by studying them, creating strategies to find solutions or alternatives... advocating for change or simply WRITING about them, making an issue known is a very important step. But here is exactly why I feel that this series does not contribute to any of the above scenarios for change, it simply stereotypes them in a fantasizing way. I've witnessed the horrible effects, the violence produced by drug cartels and its culture. I have seen the aftermath of bombings (cars, airplanes and buildings). So much to the point these horrific events have been naturalized in my surroundings, making it an everyday life experience of my friends, family and people in my country.

It bothers me to read about Javier and how simple Ellie points out his murderous ways. I don't know how else could it be written, but I felt uncomfortable reading this book. I skimmed the prequel: On Every Street and I read the blurb of the sequels. By then I had enough.

This is why my 2 star rating does not reflect the literary prowess of the author, jut the plot of this book and its development. I am a Karina Halle fan. I really enjoyed the book Donners of the Dead and I am happily waiting (or crying because it will end) for the final book of the awesome  Experiment in Terror series.

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Thursday, March 6, 2014

“It’s amazing how many times we need to go against our survival instincts to survive.”

World After (Penryn & the End of Days, #2)World After by Susan Ee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What would you do in Penryn's World After?
I think I would spectacularly fail as I have zero self-defence training... and sometimes I lack preservation instincts too. But this is the beauty of World After, it takes you into a familiar place without all the baggage. After reading a lot of angel and dystopian books, I feel this one is just fucking awesome.

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Everything is so messed up in her world it seems so hopeless to act; but believe me when I tell you, Penryn makes this scenario into something worth fighting for! Her determination is glorious and her sense of humour is just perfect. I laughed out loud so many times while listening to this, people just stared at me :)

This books starts immediately after the ending of Angelfall and will take you to unexpected places.

(I'm actively avoiding any plot descriptions and I don't want to spoil a thing).

I savoured this book in its entirety, as I decided to try the audio version and I couldn't imagine a different experience! I even ended up buying the audiobook of Angelfall expecting a re-reading in the future, as the voice of the narrator is perfect. She makes you feel that you're inside a teenager's head! I definitely recommend this format!

Ohhh Susan Ee knows how to make good finales! The ending of book was spectacular! It was so well detailed and described I felt I was seeing every-single detail. **Bravo** Susan Ee for your vivid storytelling and imagination.

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Sunday, March 2, 2014

Breaking the laws of nature

Tangled SoulsTangled Souls by Jana Oliver
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I adore animals. This book has the most well described, adoring and cutest furry (and feathery) characters I've read in a while. I know, this is a very strange way to start up a review of sorts, regarding a paranormal romance book; but let me just enjoy these adoring characters for a while :)

If -cough- when you decide to read this book, be ready to fall in love, not only with a sexy Irish personal investigator, O'Fallon, a powerful Wiccan, Gavenia; but with a smart-ass bird, a demanding black cat and a loyal puppy.

This book is told from different POV's, primarily Gavenia and O'Fallon. It is set in L.A. showing us the story of Gavenia, a Wiccan practitioner who also has the ability to see ghosts and help them transition into another plane. Its narrative switches towards O'Fallon, a PI who has lots of baggage to carry with a heavy attitude. The story is so twisty (in a good way), making these two collide when their paths get tangled. It is. Paranormal romance, as such expect a great build up in the chemistry of these characters :)

I am going to be vague and leave the plot as it is, as I was so enthralled by this book I didn't even bother reading the whole blurb. I think my ignorance before starting this book, made a huge difference as I was surprised by it's take.

I am a fan of Jana Oliver's Demon Trappers series. She has excellent storytelling skills that flow gracefully inside Tangled Souls. This is a cool standalone book that a very talented author kindly decided to share in a self-pub way! I admire this enthusiasm and better yet, the background explanations she gave pointing out that this book took 10 years in writing!

I got deliciously lost in this tangled story. I was impressed by all the layers it had and the complex themes it touched. You get entrapped in issues about: addiction, scepticism, forgiveness, acceptance, religion, loyalty, bigotry, trust and love. I'm a happy camper as this was really good!

I see myself thinking about these characters sometime in the future, wondering about their story (past, present & future), and their dilemmas. They are very well written!!!

I'm so happy I found this book. I wished there was more about these characters, as there are tons of questions it left unanswered.

I guess I'll just have to find a good sandwich-plate-sized cinnamon roll from Red's Dinner, and try to coax Jana Oliver to spill some of these things that will certainly nag my curious brain.

.... Or just have some cookies and enjoy the mystery!

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